NOSTALGIC: Robinvale will hold their 20-year premiership reunion next weekend. All three Senior football sides, plus netball and junior footy grades, won flags in 1997. Leading the celebrations are Senior premiership player David O’Connor, Reserves premiership coach Nick Foster, Senior premiership player Joseph Zappia, and Senior premiership co-captain Don Falvo. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
AS Father Time continues to flick over the calendars, stories of yesteryear seem to get taller.
The bonds of premiership teams, however, remain as strong as ever.
Robinvale will experience that first-hand next weekend for their 20-year Sunraysia Football and Netball League (SFNL) premiership reunion.
The Eagles claimed the ultimate victory in all three Senior grades of football in 1997, the only club in the competition’s history to do so.
The club’s B Grade netball and Under 15 football teams also won flags to round out a brilliant season.
The celebrations at John James Oval coincide with the current Robinvale-Euston side hosting Red Cliffs in their heritage round in honour of the legend the oval is named after.
Under coach Simon Jorgensen in his first year at the club, the Eagles Seniors led Wentworth by just two points at three-quarter-time in the ’97 play-off.
A massive 11 goals to three in the final quarter, however, saw them fly home for their first premiership since 1991.
Club legend Don Falvo, who co-captained the premiership with Darren Atkinson, said John James Oval, formerly Riverside Park, was the place to be in Robinvale.
“The support from the town was massive, and the club was the hub of the town for a while,” he said.
“On the Monday we got on a truck and had a parade down the main street and the whole town got involved.
“You can win individual awards, but at the end of the day, when we get together for the reunion and it will feel like ’97 again. That’s what it’s all about.”
Don and fellow Senior premiership players Joseph Zappia and David O’Connor praised Jorgensen for bringing the whole club together.
“Simon came in as a well-renowned coach in the area, and he got us to gel together to win the ultimate prize,” Don said.
“He could mix with anybody, it didn’t matter if it was a bloke down the street or the club’s best player.”
“While he was the same age as most of the players, he was also able to separate himself from the playing group when he needed to be the coach,” David said.
“For a young coach he was very modern in his thinking and very professional for that era,” Joseph added.
“He actually lived with four or five of the boys so he was in constant communication with the group.”
Don said the club should have won more premierships under Jorgensen’s rein.
“We played in three grand finals from ’97 to 2001 and we probably should have won all three,” he said.
“I still get along with ‘Jorgo’ pretty well, and I know some of the stories that he’s got, I can’t remember them. I reckon by 3am Sunday there will be some pretty outrageous stories.”
Depth of players was certainly no issue in 1997, which also saw a strong crop of juniors come through the ranks.
“1997 was a massive celebration because the whole club was doing so well,” Joseph said.
“You could tell the celebrations were a lot bigger and there were a lot more people involved because it was a little bit out of the ordinary.”
“The depth around the club was great and we actually had a good group of juniors come through that year who went on to play Senior football for the club,” David added.
“That helped set the club up for their premiership tilts over the next few years.
“I don’t think there were many people in Robinvale for the next week or a lot of work done either.”
Reserves coach Nick Foster said his side went into their grand final against South Mildura as the underdogs, but came away with an impressive victory.
“We had to do it the hard way by winning the semi-final then the prelim final,” he said.
“Everyone was switched on, and it was great day for the Reserves side.
“There was really good depth there at that time. I actually turned over 43 players in the Reserves, which shows you how good our depth was.
“As far as I know we will have most of our numbers coming along for the reunion.”
John James Oval has always provided a strong home ground advantage, and with the reunion teams in tow, it might prove to be the case again.