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|If we were to transport the members of
the Mount Waverley Football Club back through the decades
to its first season, I wonder how many would recognise
their own team and ground?
It was 1925. A Model T Ford truck, loaded with men dressed in bright red with a white sash tacked over the chest, laboured over the narrow pot-holed roads en route to maybe St Kilda Life-savers, or Collingwood, for a social match. The owner and driver of the truck, Frank Seller, was also the secretary and treasurer of the club, and the manager of the team. During the week, the truck took his apples and pears to market - the only motor truck in district among the horse-drawn vehicles. Talk about a hard worker! But lots of hard work was what was needed to establish the club.
That same year, the year it all started, had beens filled with plenty of hard work for the whole bunch of people who wanted a football game. First there had been the need for a ground. A scrubby piece of hard ground on the top of the High St Rd hill was in Council possession. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works had its eye on one part for a reservoir. The other had been given over to the community for recreation. With a will, the people hed cleared the land of all the scrub, rocks, gullies, etc and levelled it roughly so that their first game could be played. All the work was done by hand and horse - there were no tractors then.
But what about goal posts? There was no money for bought posts, so they went off to the bush paddock to the south (now Valley Reserve), seeking straight saplings. They were not easy to find, but finally four goal posts were standing, and the easier task of finding the shorter behind posts was completed as well.
Now for a changing room! A tin shed was put up. It had
three walls and a roof, and a dirt floor. The club tacked
up a chaff bag curtain over the front, and another to
divide it in two for the two teams, and they were ready
to play "home" games. And
The team, you say? Who was on the team? Several sets of brothers was common, and all ages of players, too. To name one family alone, the Cornells provided two wing players. One, Ray, was only 14 - and his younger brother Ken was the boundary umpire. He was 9! They were "men" young in those days.
There was no water or electricity laid on, and it would usually be quite dark and cold by then, so the crowd dispersed fairly quickly after the game to shower, then eat and review the highlights, at home.
After a couple of years of social games, Mount was ready to join a league. Having had their fill of the tough city teams, they decided to stick with country ones like themselves, and joined Mountain District Association. Games could be in Mt Evelyn, Monbulk, or Silvan, as well as closer ones - Burwood, Ferntree Gully, Belgrave. In those days everyone was at work until noon on a Saturday, and then after a quick dash home to pick up lunch and gear, would gather by about 1.30, pile into the motor truck, and be off. The game started when the away team arrived. Many miles of twisty rutted roads might separate them from their objective, and going up into the Dandenongs could be very chilly. One day it started to snow in Belgrave just as they were arriving!
The following year the MMBW started work on the new reservoir, and Mount had high hopes of winning some extra players from among the workers. They didn't get many as most went home for weekends. When the Great Depression hit the next year, the team was not able to get enough players, and had to close down. However they re-formed within five years, this time with the Federal league. Another team had red and white uniforms, so Mount chose royal blue with a white V in front. By then there were several motor trucks to help with transport, and lots of supporters would catch the open-air "buses" to the game. In their second season with the Feds, Mount won Best Conducted Club!
However travelling was still deemed excessive, and in 1937, after only three years with Federal, Mount Waverley decided to join Oakleigh-Caulfield District league, and again their colours changed, this time to the familiar navy blue with white monogram. Remember Ray Cornell? He played for Mount for 14 seasons, under all three colours and 12 coaches in those early years, and after all his playing and umpiring days were over, still hardly missed watching a game. Allan Pepperell was another who was always busy for the club, organising things and taking on roles and keeping everyone cheerful.
The club was of course much more than the players alone. Many people were involved with fund-raising, for example. There were card nights every second Tuesday, once the pavilion was built, and dances every Saturday night in the old Horty Hall on High St Rd. Mrs Pepperell was always the life behind these - the pianist for all the different dances (without score - she played all the various types and tunes from memory). At the concerts, two or three times a year, she masterminded the show, trained the performers in skits, and choreographed the Footballers' Ballet (always good for a laugh!).
Another family that feature largely on the history of the club was the Tuhans. Jim Tuhan, like young Ken Cornell, started as a youthful boundary umpire, and as soon as he was old enough, started on his marathon effort of 350 games across 19 seasons, all for Mount. He was also club treasurer for 12 years, and continued working behind the scenes for over 50 years. Not only that, but his wife, both parents, uncle and son were all active members and all became life members. No doubt there are other contributors who should be mentioned in a longer piece - many had input into the club. Such was the spirit of giving in those early MWFC families.
The club continued on through the 1950s to now - with changes of name and membership. Refer to the current club for more details of its recent history.