A Transitional Period.
After the gradual expansion of the Junior League from 1971-74, The Illawarra Senior League began in 1975; University replacing Berkeley-Unanderra. Remarkably some of the Clubs seemed to have mature age players coming out of the woodwork.
For example, Wollongong , Dapto & Port Kembla had a host of interstate players who had settled in the area. Other Clubs such as Norths & Shellharbour relied more heavily on their Juniors coming through and to some extent were undermanned.
Thus in the early years of the Senior League those 3 strong Clubs went on to win the first 8 premierships between, although Norths, Shellharbour & Uni all narrowly missed flags.
Norths were gallantly fielding 2 Grades which meant that many players “doubled-up” on a Sunday (original day for Seniors), some even played U/17 on Saturday and backed up for the Seniors.
The Tigers were always competitive in the 1 st four years of Seniors but could not make a Grand Final. One mature age player that did come to the Club was arguably our best ever full-back, Daryl Noack & he went on to win the 1975 1 st Grade B&F. A lasting image of Daryl is his 60m drop kicks out of the goal square and his beautiful high-marking.
Of course, our Junior sides were still performing very well, perennial finals contenders & won their share of pennants. A jockey-sized fella by the name of Daniel Sullivan was playing way above his body weight and another Club icon, Frank Haggarty began as a Junior in the late 70’s. Wayne Casey & Anthony (Weapon) Gray were also prominent.
The first player to come from the Juniors and win the 1 st Grade B&F was also one of our best ever Centre Half Backs: the brave Lee Veech. Lee’s no-nonsense style of play and his total honesty endeared him to all players and supporters. The fact that the first 2 major trophies were won by backmen gave you an idea of where the ball was most of the time.
But things were changing by 1977 as Allan Keogh (midfielder) won the award. A new crop of Juniors was rising up : talented players such as Steve Bower, Peter Anderson, Michael O’Halloran and George Osadczuk.
Club legend Noel Burton was just hitting the Senior scene, his awesome strength & deceptive speed made him one hell of a package. His brother Peter was even faster, also strong and more athletic. Another notable Junior primed for 1 st Grade was Andrew Simpson, remembered mainly for his panel-van!
But the most precocious talent emerging from the Tiger Juniors was one Kim Capps (Best & Fairest 1 st Grade 1978,79). “Cappsy” appeared to have the ball on a string, he had uncanny anticipation and despite his very unorthodox kicking style, he was highly effective.
Yes, things were on an upswing by 1978 the year when another Club institution arrived, Max Avery. And they were about to get much better!