The Tigers, originally known as Bulli-Woonona began in 1971 as part of the Illawarra Junior league which also comprised Kully Bay (now Port Kembla), Shellharbour, Dapto, Wollongong and Berkeley-Unanderra. Each Club had only one Junior team (U/15’s); the Senior League did not commence till 1975.
Bulli-Woonona were one of the top Junior teams right from the start and in 1971 contested the Grand Final losing narrowly to Kully Bay . Coached by Trevor Wilson, the team had a host of star players including Ricky Caldow (represented NSW), Joe Barker, Peter Pilcher and Warren (Docca) Poole, a foundation member who later became a Senior club legend and life-member. Other notable players of ’71 were Alan Tate & Danny Harris. Also hanging around was a skinny 7 year old kid who became one of the most passionate Tigers ever, eventually rising to Senior Club President & life-member; his name: Ken (Frog) Kervin.
The Tigers home ground was Slacky Flat, actually the inside area of Bulli showground, surrounded by the dog and trots tracks. It was the best facility in the League with a great surface, grandstands and generous sized change-rooms. Bill Scott was President, a role he held for 10 years with support from Burt Fraser, the Cooper, McPherson and Sullivan families. Bill Scott’s son Gary, and later Ian, played. Gary was regularly locked in the greyhound boxes during training. Perhaps the most memorable face of the Tigers was Ricky Caldow’s mother, Merle, a charming lady who was #1 supporter, constructed banners and raised funds through a Ladies auxiliary.
In 1972 the comp became U/16’s and Bulli-Woonona turned the tables with an outstanding premiership victory. Docca’s brother Bubba had joined along with other star players such as Steve Hill, Lee Veech and Gary Hynd. The Tiger spirit was so strong that a great many of the class of ’72 continued through to the senior League and formed the nucleus of 1st grade Grand Final teams in 1979 & 1980.
By 1973 there were U/13’s, U/15’s and U/17’s comps and new players kept joining. Among them was our long-serving statesman Greg Burke, the first of 5 Burke brothers to distinguish themselves with the Tigers. One of these, Phil, joined in ’74. One of the coaches went by the surname of Trinca and he brought his outstanding son Trevor to the Club. Trevor also represented NSW. Another important servant was Terry Hansen, Coach & taxi-service to the Juniors – old-timers can still recall Terry’s station-wagon carrying a near-full team to the footy! Terry also had an unusual half-time pep-up tactic – he’d give the boys a shot of brown Muscat wine on those cold winter days. Although the U/17’s were unsuccessful in ’73 and ’74, good players kept coming through. For example, Alex Parsons who went on to become the youngest ever Reserve grade B&F and brother Bill, now the Club President. Both are life members having served in a multitude of roles over the years.
Senior football was looming and changes were in the air – the Club was on the move from Slacky Flat to eventually settle at Hollymount Park.
However, the Tigers were forming a distinct culture, one that embraced all-comers, gave everybody a fair go and did not tolerate cliques or inflated egos.
It was the basis of the Club as we know it today.