Three teams, three flags, one club

One for the ages: Morwell took out the 2013 Gippsland League Grand Final in one of the great upsets of all time. Photographs supplied





ANY year ending in three seems to be a successful one at Morwell Football-Netball Club.

The Tigers gathered recently to celebrate three premierships from three separate decades.

Generations collided in the Morwell FNC social rooms, as players and officials from the club’s 1983, 1993 and 2013 senior Gippsland League triumphs regaled stories from those memorable days.

While each game was played amid a different backdrop, they all saw a premiership cup return home to Tigerland.

Those cups were proudly on display at the reunion, each symbolising a different journey to the Gippsland League summit.

Coaches Alan Lowe (1983), Lachlan Sim (1993) and Harmit Singh (2013) were all on hand, reacquainting themselves with the silverware they had helped deliver.

As the playing careers of some in the yellow and black is now but a memory, with multiple flags spread across different eras, the notion of ‘success breeds success’ was hard to refute.

1983 – Start of a Dynasty

THE Tigers of the early 1980s set the tone for what was to follow.

Morwell put together a strong home-and-away campaign in 1983, ending the regular season equal-first with Bairnsdale.

Under first-year playing-coach Alan Lowe – generally regarded as one of the greatest centre half forwards Gippsland has ever seen – the Tigers won through to the decider in devastating fashion, after disposing of the Redlegs with relative ease in the second semi-final.

However, their path to the premiership was far from straightforward, as injury and suspension played their part.

Up against arch-rival Traralgon, in front of a record crowd that paid $8500 at the gate ($32,000 today adjusted for inflation), the Tigers held off a defiant Maroons to win by six points 12.14 (86) to 11.14 (80).

Lowe hit the post late in the piece to tie the scores, before Stephen Allison made himself the hero, kicking the winner at the 27-minute mark.

It was Morwell’s first senior flag since 1966, and the closest Gippsland League Grand Final since 1974.

The win set the wheels in motion for Morwell to win further premierships in 1985 and 1988, making it three flags in six seasons.

The 1985 flag was of particular note, as the Tiger’s won what looked to be an unwinnable Grand Final after trailing by six goals at three quarter time.

1993 – Sim City

A SENIOR-playing coach at 23 years of age in a major league?

It happened.

Not only did it happen, it ended with a premiership.

Morwell, somewhat controversially, landed Lachlan Sim as playing-coach in 1993. Sim had won the Trood Award and Rodda Medal as best player in the Gippsland League in 1988 playing for Moe.

Sim started his coaching career after a year playing with West Adelaide in the SANFL, following his AFL days with the Brisbane Bears.

After finding his feet as a playing-coach, Sim took the Tigers to the top of the ladder with a 15-win, three-loss record after the regular season.

Like the team 10 years before them, the Morwell side of 1993 was pitted against Traralgon for the premiership.

In an eerily similar margin, the Tigers of ’93 won the Grand Final by 12 points, 14.13 (97) to 12.13 (85).

Youngster Dean Caldow announced himself on the biggest stage of all, kicking seven goals in a best-on-ground display.

The win gave Sim the perfect start to his coaching career, and denied Traralgon winning four flags in a row.

Morwell followed this with another flag in 1996 and then a runner-up finish came the following year.

The Morwell teams of the mid-90s are regarded as some of the strongest ever seen in the Gippsland League.

2013 – The Miracle in the Mud

THIS one still definitely happened.

Morwell might not have been the best team in 2013 – but they certainly were on Grand Final day.

In one of the greatest boil overs in league history, the Tigers stunned the local football world by defeating Sale 17.15 (117) to 5.6 (36).

Such a score line only serves to highlight how well they played – Sale went into the Grand Final with 32 consecutive wins under their belt.

The Magpies were coming off a flag in 2012, and history appeared certain to repeat in 2013 after they completed another dominant home-and-away season.

The Magpies finished on top of the ladder for the second year running, with a percentage of more than 200.

Sale ended up three wins clear of its nearest rival, and also won five games by more than 100 points – one of those 100-point wins came the week before finals against Morwell.

The Tigers lost the qualifying final to Maffra, but defeated the Eagles a fortnight later in the preliminary final to book a date with Sale.

Morwell was given little to no chance, but a muddied Ted Summerton Reserve made for a different outlook for the Grand Final, which was played on a Sunday.

Some Sale players were reportedly displeased with the Sunday timeslot, complaining it would delay their inevitable premiership celebrations.

However, Morwell, under first year player-coach Harmit Singh, had something up their sleeve.

Legend has it former Collingwood and then Morwell player Tarkyn Lockyer showed the team vision of how Collingwood set up for kick-ins and looked to replicate its style. Whatever instructions were given clearly did not fall on deaf ears, as David defeated Goliath by 81 points.

During the second quarter, the Tigers kicked seven goals to none and had the scoreboard reading 12.6 (78) to 1.3 (9) at halftime.

Disbelieving spectators were left to rub their eyes to make sure what they were witnessing wasn’t a dream, and it’s likely a few Morwell players and staff members were forced to do the same thing.

Future Morwell coaches Joel Soutar and Boyd Bailey (Morwell’s current coach) kicked four and three goals respectively.

The Tigers went back-to-back, winning again in 2014.

Back together: Members of Morwell’s 1993 premiership gather next to the flag.
Way back when: How Morwell’s 1983 premiership triumph was covered in the Express.