HISTORY

Old Ignatians Football Club

Old Ignatians began life in 1972 when it fielded a team in the SAAFL’s A7, drawing together a disparate group of players and dominant personalities that would guide the club through a very successful first decade. Jay Hogan, a hard-hitting and fearless left-footer was instrumental in the club’s formation, and is often referred to as ‘Club Founder’ being the inaugural playing coach.

Stars in the inaugural season included Jay Hogan, Michael “Tom” Kelly, Chris McCarthy, Chris Mellows, Trevor Overy and David Harben who became a century goal kicker. The playing list had originally been restricted to alumni of St Ignatius College until it was discovered that one of its players, Roman Nowosilskyj, was not a former student but in residence at Aquinas College, fortunately run by the Jesuits. Aquinas students were then to become an integral part of our Club, both as a social centre and an excellent recruiting ground for Iggies in its formative years. This important relationship has grown into a key part of the club and also Aquinas College. 

In its debut season, Iggies saved its worst until last, scorching the competition every week until it lost the Grand Final. Doubling in size and being promoted to A5, the club had a September to remember, capturing flags at seniors and reserves level. 

Ignatians quickly became known for their quirkiness. Their weekly newsletter, the Dropkick, was packed with features about the club, quotes of the week and less than kind chatter about rival clubs. Eyes were often raised in official quarters about some of the content, but the defence was usually that people outside the club would never understand what those inside the club couldn’t comprehend themselves. Peter Teakle, Paul Griffin, Peter Ward and Michael Fitzgerald shared editing duties over many years and were responsible for christening many players with strange new nicknames (and changing them once they had stuck!). In recent years Adam Alessandrini has been chief editor and taken the humble newsletter into the digital era. 

The club’s victory song, adopted in 1973, is “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and despite it being sung on thousands of occasions at hundreds of celebrations through the years, it seems no-one actually finished writing the lyrics. 

Ignatians 1974 season in A4 was one of ultimate disappointment. The club surprisingly lost the first semi-final to finish fourth, but rebounded with purpose in 1975. With its biggest recruiting class in the Wolverines’ history, Ignatians won a massive victory in the Grand Final over Henley High after beating them by a point two weeks earlier. Honours came again in ’76 when they torched Brighton High OS in the finals to win their third senior flag in five years and jump into A2. Steve Duddy, Mark Griffin, Greg Smith and Mick Coghlan were stars of the era.

In its first stint in the second tier the team was again coached by Peter McCarthy, who had held the clipboard since ’73 but had resumed a decorated playing career thereafter. Ignatians made the four in Div 2, but with many players retiring, moving on or just losing form, the late 70’s saw an end to the successful era. The one-way ticket to the northern terminus had expired.

One of the initiatives of the period was the Destructo tour to the (then) VFL Grand Final. From humble beginnings in 1978, the annual pilgrimage to the MCG grew into a monster in the early ‘80s and ‘90s, with the tourists donning specially made tour apparel and one year cutting a song in a Hindley Street recording studio. In recent years Destructo has been re-born, with senior members staying at high class venues such as The Westin and Hyatt, while the youngsters enjoy all that the finest back packer establishments have to offer. 

Iggies were relegated twice in three years but found their feet again in 1981 under coach and former champion player Michael “Tom” Kelly. The revival was built around several stars from the mid-seventies – mosquito men Brian Norcock, Dick Duddy and Michael King, the great goalsneak David Harben, the impassable defender Kym Dreyer, the bustling mid-field genius of Joe Di Pinto and skipper Marco Nowosilskyj. The club won two premierships and celebrated long and hard. Six weeks earlier, the club, along with Scotch OC, had become embroiled in the infamous “Game that never was” affair, featuring on the front page of The News. However, that drama was soon forgotten as success returned; shortlived though it was.

Following the A4 & A4R Premierships of 1981, Ignatians lost a host of players to retirement, and struggled throughout the early – mid 90s. There were highlights, however. Still remembered today was the famous clash against Rostrevor Old Collegians in the mud at SIC. The crowd was large and as the visitors entered the arena, from the balcony, strains of organ music filtered across the turf. The music did not cease with the first bounce and it drove the top-ranked ROC’s to distraction and defeat.

Still, Ignatians were relegated to A4 and endured limited success until the appointment of Brian Ferrari as coach in 1989. He recruited several players, most notably ex-SANFL players Chris Toome and Andrew Moulds, and they had a pronounced effect on the on-field culture of the club for years to come. Toome won the A4 medal, but was injured in the second semi final and missed the Grand Final, which Ignatians narrowly lost to Kenilworth FC.

The A Grade came third in A3 in 1990, and after finals appearance in the following years, was relegated to A4 in 1993. Under new coach Ian Knight, and the recruitment of Tom Warhurst, who won the A4 Medal, Iggies reached the Grand Final in 1994 only to lose to Hope Valley FC. The SAAFL revamped the Divisions in 1996 which saw Iggies finish in the middle of the Div 1 league (equivalent to Div 2). When the Divisions were revamped again in 1997, Iggies were cruelly back in A4. Under new coach Peter Ward in 1998, Iggies made the Grand Final on the back of a large influx of talented school players, but lost to Pembroke OS in a tight contest. Stars of the 90’s included: Christopher Lucas, Saul Heffernan, Mark Frinsdorf, Cliff Flower and enigmatic forward Pete Flower.

The following year Iggies came 4th in A3, with Kristian Segale winning the League Medal, but then struggled for some years due mainly to a reduction in the flow of recruits from St Ignatius. In the mid 2000’s the Club focused on re-establishing and strengthening its ties with the College. Led by Captain Carlo Calabrese for three years, this drive saw a significant influx of school leavers join the club. Peter Tyson, Adam Alessandrini and Craig Frinsdorf, the A3 Medalist of 2008, were the stars. With sons of former players starting to graduate and join the club, an important milestone was reached in our development.

Former player Dave LeMire was appointed Club Coach in 2009, with Cliff Flower his assistant. Aided by some shrewd recruiting, and comprehensive planning, Dave was able to develop a premiership team. In 2010, the A Grade was victorious against the highly fancied Prince Alfred OC in the A3 Grand Final, its first A Grade Premiership since 1981. Nathan Romeo, Andrew Whiteman, Adam Alessandrini, Patrick Connellyand Stephen White were the standout performers. Ignatius teacher Joe Pedler joined the club in 2010, and his impact was instrumental in improving the Club.

With a strong emphasis on enjoying the social and off-field aspects of a footy club, it’s no surprise that Ignatians’ B Grade side has often excelled. In an unbelievable period of dominance, the B Grade won five straight premierships from 1994 – 1998. Club legend Pete Ward coached the victorious team of 1996, as well as stints coaching the A and C Grade teams. During this five years of dominance, 57 players won premiership medallions, the team won 94 out of the 102 games played, and had hundred goal seasons from Phil Smith and Tim Rice. Three players played in all five premierships, the captain Brad Thomas, Bevan Ferrari and club games record holder John Vagnarelli (394 games) who added a 6th premiership medallion in 2009.

The club entered a C Grade side in 1977, and after grand final losses in 1983 and 1989, won its first Premiership in 1995, coached by Peter Ward & Richard Scollin, and superbly led by Captain Tom Sexton. The C’s beat Kilburn FC by 35 points in the Grand Final after losing the second semi final by 102 points. The C’s won their second premiership in 1998 under coach Brendan Daw, who played in the 1995 premiership, and added another in 2009 under Tom Besanko, whose young team defeated the highly fancied SMOSH team. The C Grade’s three flags have come against teams that had 19-0, 18-1 and 18-1 season records going into the Grand Final.

The club fielded a D Grade at one point in the 1990s. The team hardly won a game and holds all records for the club’s heaviest defeats, but is fondly remembered by those involved, principally for the antics of coach Kevin “Tassie” Ward, his Bedford Truck “taxi”, and the pet snake he kept in his esky.

Old Ignatians have been proudly and generously sponsored by an array of Adelaide’s finest hotels over its life. The longest term major sponsor was The Norwood Hotel (Adrian and Leon Saturno) and in more recent years The Bath Hotel (Franzon Family) has partnered the Club as its Major Sponsor. The Club has also had many loyal sponsors over its life, with the longest term being Garry Minuzzo who has sponsored the club for most of its existence. A full list of our generous sponsors is featured on our website www.oifc.com.au/sponsors, and the club greatly appreciates the support of our sponsors.

In recent years, under the leadership of Peter Zollo, new initiatives including the Family Day Lunch, Wine Promotion (courtesy of Serafino Wines) and the Business Lunch have significantly increased our supporter and sponsorship base. The Annual Business Lunch has grown into one of Adelaide’s most highly regarded events, and showcases the professionalism of our Club. Recent guest speakers have included: The Hon Jeff Kennett Malcolm Blight, Stuart O'Grady, Michael Voss and Greg Ritchie.

Our stronger position has enabled the Club to invest in major facility improvements at its home oval, including: new light towers, an automatic irrigation system and major upgrades to the change-rooms, ladies toilets and spectator facilities. A new memorabilia room has also been created, showcasing the club’s heritage. The support of the McEntee family has been instrumental in these developments.

On the eve of its fortieth birthday, the club appears to be in a very good place for continued success. It enjoys a fruitful relationship with St Ignatius College, as well as with Aquinas College. Its facilities continue to improve thanks to the support of its hard working committee and loyal supporters and sponsors. 

© 2023 by Old Ignatians Football Club

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