HISTORY LAVINGTON PANTHERS CLUB HISTORY
30 Years in the O&M
During the six decades prior to its entry to the Ovens and Murray Football League in 1979, Lavington participated in no fewer than half a dozen different competitions, winning a total of four senior premierships. The side was especially strong during the 1930s, contesting the finals most years, and winning a Central Hume Football League premiership in 1938 thanks to a 17.23 (125) to 5.6 (36) grand final annihilation of Bethanga. In both 1934 and 1939, Lavington finished runnersup.
After World War Two Lavington competed for a time in the Chiltern and District Football League, where the closest it got to claiming premiership honours was consecutive losing grand final appearances in 1955-6. In 1958 the Saints as they were known at this time crossed to the Tallangatta and District Football League where they would spend the better part of the next two decades, firmly stamping themselves as one of the competition’s leading clubs in the process.
The side claimed consecutive senior flags in 1965-6, went top again in 1971, and reached a fourth grand final in 1974, only to lose to Tallangatta. It was around this time that Lavington first applied to join the Ovens and Murray Football League, but despite the application receiving the VCFL’s endorsement, the OMFL turned it down. As a result, the OMFL’s affiliation with the VCFL was revoked,but this was of scant consolation to Lavington, which had to wait until 1979 before the OMFL finally relented, and allowed the Blues, as they became known at this time (Myrtleford having prior claim on the Saints monicker), to clamber aboard.
Given that the OMFL represented a considerable elevation in standard, it was not surprising that Lavington took a season or two to acclimatise. However, in 1982 the club eloquently announced its arrival when both seniors and reserves reached their respective grand finals. On this occasion, only the reserves made it over the line, but the senior team would not have long to wait. Indeed, Lavington’s seniors would emerge from the 1980s as the decade’s most successful side, as the following table reveals:Grand Finals of the 1980s:
The first of Lavington’s two premierships came at the expense of Albury in 1983, after the Blues pulled away in the last quarter of the grand final to record a convincing 38 point win, 18.18 (126) to 12.16 (88). The second was won against North Albury three years later, when Lavington, having been firmly on top all day, emerged victorious by 59 points, 19.15 (129) to 10.10 (70).
The 1990s got underway in extremely promising fashion when the Blues reached their seventh grand final in nine seasons, but after leading Wodonga by 13 points at three quarter time they failed to register a goal in the final term, whilst allowing the Bulldogs to rattle on 5.7, and win by 20 points. The match attracted headlines for all the wrong reasons after a tempestuous opening term in which a series of ferocious brawls broke out. Footage of some of the incidents even found its way onto overseas TV news programmes.
The Blues contested two further grand finals in the 1990s, against Albury in 1996, and Wodonga Raiders in 1998, but at no stage of either match did they seriously threaten victory.
It was a vastly different tale in 2001, however, as Lavington contemptuously brushed aside the grand final challenge of sentimental favourite Myrtleford to record a crushing 60 point win, 21.21 (147) to 13.9 (87).
The club’s most recent senior flag, in 2005, was in some respects the most memorable in its history. With the grand final opposition once again provided by Myrtleford, the Panthers, as Lavington were by this time known, appeared to be in control for most of the match, leading at every change by 17, 12 and 7 points. However, the final term saw the Saints mount a rousing fight back, and with just seconds remaining they were hanging on grimly to a 5 point advantage. Then, in what, depending on your affiliation, was either a fairytale ending, or the final chapter in a horror story, Lavington skipper Darryn McKimmie, playing his 200th senior match, snared a major virtually on the siren to secure a 1 point win, and the premiership, for the Panthers.
Lavington enjoyed another creditable season in 2006, getting as far as the preliminary final, but the side plummeted to 7th (of 10) in 2007 after managing just 6 wins for the year. In 2008 the seniors qualified for the finals in fourth place before overcoming Corowa Rutherglen by 8 points in the qualifying final and losing to Wangaratta in the first semi. The reserves meanwhile ranked third heading into the major round but were ultimately placed fourth after losing their second semi final clash with Albury.
In 2010 the football club entered a rebuilding phase. The continued promotion of local youngsters, although providing many highlights throughout the season, resulted in a ladder position of 8th, with the reserves scraping into 5th and acquitting themselves well in the finals before losing in the cut throat semi. The thirds finished just out of the finals in 6th. A-Grade netball missed the final series, however B and C were involved, with C-Grade unfortunately being defeated in the Grand Final by North Albury.