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History of the Heatherdale Junior Football Club

The Jets Junior Football Club is a merger of Heatherdale Junior Football Club and Heathmont Junior Football Club - an association which began in 1998.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long before AusKick, which evolved out of the VicKick program, Heatherdale Junior Football Club was providing junior intraclub matches every Saturday morning.

The club had an overflow of junior players and there were not enough teams in local competitions. So, Heatherdale decided to stage its own games at Heatherdale Reserve. This underlined the forward-thinking approach of the club, according to former stalwart Rex Ablett. Ablett was speaking ahead of this week’s 40th anniversary dinner celebrating Heatherdale’s formation by Ray Wallridge.

“We had so many players we had our own competition on a Saturday morning,” Ablett said.“We had six teams of full numbers of boys and girls. My first three years of coaching was in those Saturday morning intraclub matches. “It was before the clinics of what was VicKick and then became AusKick. “Because of the size of the ground down there, the interest of the players and the wonderful committee persons of that era, who had such vision and were such good managers, we were able to conduct that sort of level of community activity for children.”

Heatherdale amalgamated with the Heathmont Junior Football Club in 1998 to form the Jets Junior Football Club, a feeder to the Heathmont (EFL)‘s under-18 and senior sides. Heatherdale believed the future success of the club was in the Eastern Football League.

Since its inception, the club had teams scattered around in the Doncaster and District Junior Football League, Waverley and District Junior Football League, Nunawading Junior Football League and Knox Junior Football League.  Heatherdale needed senior teams, which Heathmont could provide, before it could join the EFL.

Ablett, who served two stints as president and has been a coach and committee member, said the Heatherdale/Heathmont union had been a win-win for both clubs. “Heathmont have been very generous and allowed the right freedom that a junior football club needs to have,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful and harmonious relationship since 1998.” Ablett’s ties to Heatherdale extend back to 1971/72 when his eldest son started playing.

He was still heavily involved with the club long after his sons had moved on.  Ablett received a citizenship award and an Australian Sports Medal in 2000. “It’s very family-oriented and a good environment. There were very good people there and a very disciplined committee structure I was happy to be party to,” he said.

The first noteworthy VFL/AFL footballer from Heatherdale was Mark “Jacko” Jackson with other league footballers including Clinton King, Jess Sinclair, Jason Saddington, Paul Salmon and Peter Bedford.  AFL umpire Scott McLaren was also a junior at Heatherdale as well as a number of senior EFL umpires.

In 1967 Ray Woolridge took his eldest son Peter for a kick of the footy at Eastmont Primary School.  Whilst they were having a kick another boy asked if he could join in, then at the end of the kick asked "will you guys be here next week, if so I'll bring some friends".  So he did just that.  Each Saturday morning more and more boys arrived, Ray and Peter turned up at the same time each Saturday and pretty soon some of the dads started coming down for a look and wanted to get involved.

 

In 1968 Ray organized four sets of Jumpers: Blue, Black, Green and Red and games were played amongst those teams.  The Blacks won the first premiership coached by Barry Dennis.

 

The Heatherdale Junior Football club was formed in 1969. A team - Under 13's was entered into the Melbourne Boys League. The distance traveled was vast, and the opposition mostly aggressive. In 1971 the club entered teams into the Doncaster & Districts Junior Football League.

 

In 1972 we had four Under 11's teams and one of those teams - coached by Frank Horsnail, won the club's first Premiership.  Frank, was also a long time curator of the Heatherdale Reserve, Purches Street, Heatherdale.  It was also this year that saw the new pavilion used for the first time.  The founder Ray Woolridge was President for the first three years, 1969-1971. Ray then went on to coach the Saturday morning competition.

 

In 1974 he took on the Under 10's, a role that he did for a long time and was famous for.  Kids would come from up to 20 km's away to play at Heatherdale, to be part of the spirit that Ray had instilled and the encouragement of every boy was a joy to parents. Ray's unique style of coaching saw him win four Premierships and Runners-up, 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1979. Ray went on to coach until 1990 and was also a trainer at Vermont for 10 years; he was affectionately know as the 'Godfather' for the way he looked after the kids in his charge.

 

During the late 1970's and early 1980's the club was unofficially the largest junior football club in Australia with some 450 boys playing each week.  This equates to about 18 teams. The club wore purple and gold stripes and was known as the DALES.  They competed in the D.D.J.F.L until 1998 when a merger was done with Heathmont Junior Football Club.  It's important to note that Heatherdale had a larger percentage of kids at the time of the merger. It wasn't a popular move at the time, but, the then committee had run out of steam. Most age groups were short on numbers as the area had grown older; the earlier success the club had enjoyed was far from being as it once was. Heatherdale was a proud club and saw many great people pass through its doors, all who have many great memories.

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