Lakers feeling right at home

Kinglake's return to country football has paid dividends on and off the field. The Weekly Times’ Roslyn Lanigan reports.

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Kinglake’s return to country football has paid dividends on and off the field. The Weekly Times’ Roslyn Lanigan reports.

This time last year, Kinglake was a football club on a fast train to nowhere.

The senior team couldn’t win a game and the club had lost the support of the community.

Lakers president Cameron Caine said they were dark days for the mountain club.

“Last year we had 20 people turn up to our jumper presentation day,” Caine said.

“Nobody cared.”

But nine months of hard work from the Lakers committee has turned the club’s fortunes
around.

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After 12 years in Northern Football League, a metropolitan competition, Kinglake has re-
turned to the Yarra Valley Mountain District league.

On Saturday, the club marked its return to country competition with a 126-point win over Yea.

It was Kinglake’s first senior victory in 20 months.
“It was unbelievable,” Caine said.

“You couldn’t get a car park any-where near the ground.”

Caine said he hadn’t seen a crowd as big at Kinglake since 1995.

“That was when we were winning,” he said.
“We won the grand final in 1994 and were runners-up in 1995.”

It was then that the club made the fateful decision to move into the Northern Football League, then known as the Diamond Valley [Football] League.

“A lot of locals thought it was the wrong decision for the club to move into the metro league,” Caine said.

“We lost our supporters in droves.”

Kinglake’s stint in the Northern [Football] League was mostly an unhappy one. The club had little success and felt it didn’t belong among teams from suburbs such as Greensborough, Heidelberg and Bundoora.

“We’re just a little rural township and we couldn’t compete with the power of the metro teams,” Caine said.

Late last year, Kinglake’s committee decided the key to on and off-field success was playing against other country towns.

The committee adopted the motto “Re-create in `08” and set about a return to the Yarra Valley league.

In a bid to get the community back on the bandwagon, the club set up a competition for local school children to help design the club’s new jumper.

The winner, nine-year-old Trent Allen from Middle Kinglake Primary School, came up with a unique design featuring mountains, the main element of the Kinglake landscape.

The club presented Trent with his own guernsey and a Sherrin football for his design effort.

All participating students were given a goodie bag and urged to come along to Lakers games this season.

Caine said the decision to return to a country league had turned the club around.
About 120 people stuck around for a drink and a chat in the Lakers clubrooms after an intraclub match last month.

On Saturday, spectators ringed the ground and the crowd was up to three-deep in places.

Caine said he spotted faces he hadn’t seen at the football for 12 years.

“The talk around the town has been incredible,” he said.

“We’ve got sponsors knocking on our door wanting to get involved in the club again.”

VCFL chief executive Glenn Scott said he was “pretty pleased” with Kinglake’s return to the country football fold.

“I think they’ll fit in very well in the Yarra Valley league,” he said.

“They’re a country town and it makes sense that they’re playing other country towns.”

Caine said the Yarra Valley Mountain District league committee had welcomed the club back with open arms.

“They’ve been terrific, just brilliant,” he said.

“We’ve only got seniors, reserves and A and B grade netball at the moment but we’re hoping we’ll get a third netball team and junior footballers in the future.

“Success will breed the interest for even more people to come back to the club.”

After a long stint in the football wilderness, Kinglake supporters are hopeful that success isn’t too far away.


First Published by The Weekly Times, Football Supplement, 16 April 2008.
Republished in the Lakers Lip Vol 18 No 1 April 2008.

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