The Glory Days.
In 1983 the Tigers got the Coach they needed. Ian Kelly had been a top player in the combined South Coast League during the 70’s then became a successful Coach with the Wollongong Club Junior & Senior teams. Kelly managed to entice some players back to Norths who had either semi-retired or had gone elsewhere. He instilled a self-belief into the whole Club with his obvious knowledge of the game and his subtle humour.
The Tigers would go from game to game in a full size bus which had been bought from Dions and painted in black & gold stripes. Greg Burke was an unsung hero in this regard having purchased the bus, he also maintained it. The arrival of the bus with 40 players piling out of it really showed opposition teams that we had come to play and was a great unifying symbol. After the close shaves of the 79/80, the core group that had come right through from the Juniors had been largely sustained and was bolstered by some other excellent players. Aboriginal player Artie Edwards was an absolute stand-out, considered by many to be in the top handful of players ever seen in this League. Remarkably, he was pipped for the 1983 B&F by Mick Smith, a hard working defender who combined beautifully with players such as Veech, Poole & Shute. South Australian born Greg Carey was a rock for us in the centre and on-baller Brendan Cope added hardness around the packs.
Eventually we made it to the Grand Final against Wollongong on their home ground. The game was a thriller, tough early with the obligatory rough stuff which always pervaded in a Wollongong-Norths clash. Lee Veech had done a masterful job in containing their star CHF Gary McQuinn but the Tigers were slightly down. Ian Kelly switched Lee to the forward line where he booted 2 telling goals. The game came down to a set shot by Brendan Cope with 1 min 28 sec to go. From an acute angle, Brendan calmly slotted the major. Norths got the resulting centre clearance and hung on for an historic win. It must be said that it was a total Club effort, although the Reserves did not win a flag they provided the back-stop which supported the 1’s. Cass Jaye took out the Reserve Grade B&F in a very competitive year.
The 1984 season dawned and on paper we had an even better team than ’83. Young gun Wayne Dennehy was really hitting his straps and new recruit Wayne Cope (Brendan’s brother) was clearly the best player in the League. But it’s not easy winning back to back flags, there was a partial sense of complacency. Don Gray, the new 1 st Grade Coach had to try and keep a lid on it, all the while being on a “hiding to nothing”. Fortunately, Don is a wonderfully warm person, also very knowledgeable about footy and the guys really wanted to play for him.
Despite several major injuries the Tigers once again made it to the premiership decider. With 8 goals to Wayne Cope we had Wollongong covered most of the day but somehow that got it back to within 4 pts at the finish, the Tigers prevailing 13-12-90 to 13-8-86 at Uni Oval.
1 st Grade Best & Fairest in ’84 was Wayne Cope, while Reserve Grade B&F went to Dan Sullivan.
Consecutive 1 st Grade flags, a strong Reserve Grade back-up, the world was our oyster.
But things can change quickly.