Breeding ground of footy talent

Team shot of Noble Park's famous 1941 premiership team.


By Nick Creely

The Noble Park Football Club has been a staple of the Dandenong area for as long as anyone can remember.
The famous sporting club, which plays its home games at Pat Wright Oval on Moodemere Street in Noble Park, is considered to be one of Victoria’s most successful breeding grounds for VFL/AFL players and has a rich history of senior and junior premierships.
Noble Park established its first football team in 1918 – almost 100 years ago – under the presidency of Frank O’Brian.
The team played in the Under-21 competition of the Berwick Association and later joined the suburban leagues, Caulfield and Oakleigh Association and the Dandenong and District Football Association (DDFA).
Back in those days the club played in Richmond colours and was known as the Tigers.
During the tough Depression years of the 1930s, fierce rivalries with local powerhouses such as Springvale and Dandenong were formed, and that spurred the club on to its first bit of success in 1934, when it was the runner up in the DDFA.
1935, however, remains one of the most famous years in the club’s history with the Tigers winning their first premiership under the coaching of R. Turner.
It kick started a successful decade of glory with the club winning premierships under famous coach Haig Davidson in 1941, 1944 and 1945, before again winning in 1947, its fourth premiership in the space of six seasons.
After the club achieved three more premierships in the 1950s (’51,’52 and ’53), the DDFA folded at the end of 1953.
With Bill Norman in charge of the Tigers, Noble Park joined the Eastern Suburban League in what turned into a tough transitional period for the club.
In 1959, the Noble Park and Harrisfield Football Clubs merged and were known as Noble Park Harrisfield Football Club, adopting the North Melbourne colours for the first two years, before transitioning into the Blue and Gold seen today and becoming known once more as simply the Noble Park Bulls.
It sparked a mini run of success with back-to-back premierships in 1961 and 1962 in the Caulfield Oakleigh District League before, in 1964, the club joined the Federal Football League, remaining there until 1982.
In the famous Blue and Gold, the club had arguably one of its most stunningly successful eras, winning one senior premierships, two reserves flags and a further five Under-18 premierships.
During this time, Noble Park had many champion players, with legends such as Dennis McGrath (1972 Seniors Best and Fairest), Doug Esnor – who kicked more than 350 junior goals in just three years – as well as the legendary Alan Campbell all playing for the club.
During the early ’70s, the Noble Park Football Club also built its social club.
Largely due to many hard-working volunteers, eventually the fully licensed Noble Park Football Social Club officially opened on 16 March 1978 in what was another landmark moment in the club’s history.
When the Federal Football League ceased to exist at the end of 1981, the club joined the South East Suburban Football League to instance success and fear among opposition clubs.
In a span from 1982 to 1992, the Bulls won seven Under-18 premierships, seven reserves and a further six senior flags, but it isn’t regarded as the most successful period of the club’s history.
In conjunction with the Eastern Suburbs Churches Football Association, the South East League formed what is now known as the Southern Football League in 1993, with Noble one of its founding clubs.
The Bulls’ hunger for more silverware took them to great heights through the 1990s with the club winning a staggering 14 premierships in a row across its seniors, reserves and Under-18s, with club legend Paul ‘Smiley’ Brightman actually playing in all of its wins.
After a new challenge, the Bulls then joined the powerful Eastern Football League in the new millennium, where it still plays today in the competition’s Division 1.
The Bulls have won four senior premierships since the turn of the century, including a reserves flag.
In 2017, the Bulls missed out narrowly on making finals in the seniors, and went through a rare season without any premierships.
However, the club remains one of the most powerful local sporting organisations in the south-east and Victoria.
The club’s annual Seniors Best and Fairest award is named after legendary Bull Peter Reece who coached the club to back-to-back flags in ’96 and ’97, while the Reserves and Under-19s awards are named after Paul Brightman and David Spence respectively.
Notable names such as Glenn Archer, Stephen Milne, Mark Bayes, Tony Morwood, Brian Mynott, Darren Milane and Adam Treloar are all past players of the club and either current of former VFL/AFL champions who have come through the club’s junior and senior ranks.
Others, such as James Gwilt and Kyle Martin have all returned to the club recently after successful AFL careers.