Pennant Hills AFL Club History

Pennant Hills ‘Demons’ play in the oldest traditional strip of the Melbourne Football Club, which is navy blue and red, and we are also known as the ‘Demons’ like our sister-club Melbourne, in the AFL.The club motto is: ‘Every Heart Beats True’ and at Penno those who have experienced our club culture certainly know that to be a valid motto.
The Club has been one of the most successful clubs in the Sydney AFL, in the past 6 years winning 5 Sydney Championships (awarded to the most successful club in a single season over all three grades) and being runners-up in three Senior Premierships, as well as winning two Reserve Grade and four U/18 premierships.

Last year we capped off an extraordinary year in which ALL four teams (Seniors, Reserves, Thirds & Under 18s) all played off in their respective Grand Finals – with the Seniors breaking through for the clubs first ever Senior SydneyAFL Premiership.

Pennant Hills has a reputation for producing exceptionally talented young players, many of whom have played at the highest level in the AFL competition

A Brief History

Australian Rules Football was established in Pennant Hills in 1966 with the formation of the Junior Club. It was inevitably realised that a Senior Club would be required to provide football for the players after they completed their junior football.

Kerry James and the late Ern Holmes were instrumental in forming the senior Club. In 1971, its first season, the club played in the third division and finished third in the competition.

In 1972 the club played in second division and finished fourth. In 1973 and 1974 the club was runner up. The first premiership was in 1975. During 1975 and 1976 the club experienced a winning sequence of 33 games.

Ken MacRae became involved in the club in its fledging years both as a player and as a club official, being club president from 1976 to 1981. Ken served the AFL in New South Wales as chairman of the NSW Football League for a number of years. Ken has maintained his interest in the club as a sponsor and for many years as the provider, at no cost, of all necessary first aid and medical supplies.

Ern Holmes passed away in 1985. He had played an active role in the club’s affairs up to the time of his death. In 1989, the number two oval at Pennant Hills was named the ‘Ern Holmes Oval’ in recognition of his lifetime contribution to sport in the Pennant Hills area in general and Australian Rules Football in particular.
Kerry James not only played football but was Captain / Coach in 1971 and Club President from 1972 to 1975. Kerry has maintained a close interest in the club and has been a sponsor.

During 1975 and 1976 the club made numerous applications, all unsuccessful, seeking promotion to first division [now Premier Division]. In early 1977 it became apparent that the South Sydney club would be unable to field a team in first division. Pennant Hills, with only 30 days before the start of the 1977 season was invited to play in first division. The club’s dreams had been realised, however a condition of playing in first division was that the club had to field an U19 team.
The first game for Pennant Hills in the 1977 first division competition was at North Sydney oval against North Shore. Pennant Hills won with a 29 point victory.
In 1982 the club’s first grade team finished ‘runners up’ to East Sydney. The game was played at the Sydney Showground, then at Moore Park. Grand Final day was wet and miserable. The club’s chance of winning its first premiership came to a sudden stop when, right on full time, the ball stopped in the mud right in right of the goal mouth.

Recruitment and influx of players

Folklore says that in the early days, players and officials would stand at the traffic lights in Pennant Hills and flag down interstate registered vehicles seeking players for the club.

The 1980’s saw the merger of many Sydney based companies with their interstate offices and branches. These mergers resulted in many ‘footballers’ and their families transferring to Sydney and living, in particular, in the Hills district.

The club had developed a reputation as a ‘warm and friendly’ family orientated club. As a result both the junior club and the senior club benefited from an influx of players and parents, especially from South Australia.

Former Hawthorn player, Wes Smith, played for the club during 1976 -78.

Pat Wellington, a former Essendon player, came to the club in 1980 as a result of an active recruitment drive which offered employment provided by a club member.

Russell Mathison [now a member of the federal parliament] was another recruit as was Gary Spillane.
A similar recruitment drive in 1990 was advertised in the Melbourne Age and resulted in club icons, Danny Ryan and Tony Regan, joining the club.
During the 90’s the club’s reputation resulted in an influx of more players from South Australia namely Trevor Clisby, Kim Klopp, Peter Bennett, Tim Noonan, Greg Byrne and Richard Gerke. Adam Grossman came to us from another Sydney club. These players certainly had an influence on the standard of play and came at a crucial time in the club’s history.

Junior Clubs

The club established itself as the feeder club to the senior football for the active and strong junior clubs at Pennant Hills, Westbrook and Hornsby. The support of these clubs in the development of the senior club has been and still is greatly appreciated. The club has benefited from the coaching and development of the players in the junior clubs. The club also attracted junior players from the Central Coast wanting to play a higher standard of football.

NSW AFL Hall of Fame

Rod Miles has been admitted into the Hall of fame. Rod began his career as a senior player in 1972 as a 16 year old. He won the club’s best and fairest award in 1972 and 1973. He played 233 senior games only to be surpassed recently by Chris Yard. Rod has coached the U18 team and has continued his involvement in the junior club as a coach and committee member.

Home Ground

Ern Holmes Oval has been and will always be the spiritual home of the club. In the 1970’s it apparently was fairly basic as an ‘aussie rules’ oval. Improvements were effected, including expansion of the amenities block.

The club officials saw the development of Cherrybrook as a suburb as the possibility of the development of a ‘full size’ AFL oval for the club. The proposal was defeated by public rumour that the Sydney Swans would use the ground as its home ground. Despite such rumours the ground was developed and used by the Westbrook Junior Club as its home ground.

The club, after the set back of Francis Greenway Oval [now Mike Kenny Oval], planned for the expansion of Ern Holmes Oval to a full size oval [extra width was required] and an upgrade of the amenities block.

Over the years many plans were considered however a lack of funds and the location of the ground within the congested Pennant Hills Sports Complex meant that any expansion and improvement was virtually impossible.

The ground became famous for its intimacy with the supporters being close to the boundary and also the excellent viewing from the ‘hill’.
Despite the fact that other clubs in the SFL and their supporters had no objection to playing at ‘the Ern’ the NSW/ACT AFL Commission decided that the ground was not suitable for Premier League football.

In 2011 the dreams of the club from the 1980’s became a reality when Mike Kenny Oval, with the cooperation of Westbrook Junior Club and Westbrook Giants Baseball club and the financial support of the AFL, Hornsby Council, the club and the other users of the ground, resulted in an upgrade acceptable to the NSW/ACT AFL Commission. Mike Kenny is now the home ground of the club.


The club has benefited from sound administration to the envy of other clubs in Sydney Football.
In its fledging years it was ably administered by Kerry James and Ken MacRae.
Tony Yard and Lindsay Thomas, who both provided sound administration and leadership, were Presidents from 1990 to 1997. During this time the club’s finances improved to the extent that funds were set aside for the improvements to the ‘Ern’.

During the mid 90’s the AFL undertook a thorough investigation of the football and its development in New South Wales. A new commission was established in 1996. Ross Howarth was appointed as commissioner and served in that role for many years.

The new NSW/ACT AFL Commission provided, over a number of years, Sydney first division clubs, with financial support which enable the club to engage professional administration support and a business manager.

The club benefited from Leo Browne’s business accruement from 2001 to 2006 when he provided wise counsel and direction for the club. Leo and his companies have been extremely generous financial supporters of the club.

Since its inception the club has won the League’s ‘Club of the Year’ award on many occasions.

Sydney Swans

The club has been, and still is, a source of talented players for the Sydney Swans.
Terry Thripp became the first local Sydney player to be recruited by the Swans in 1983. David Brown was recruited in 1988.
Keiran Jack has been the most recent recruit.
When the Swans fielded an U19 team Iain Sherrin, Wayne Hartley, Justin Kerley, Chris Yard, Peter Dixon and Tony Renshaw were members of the team.
Club players have played, and still do play, for the Swans Reserve grade team in ACT competition and now in the NEFL.
AFL players
The following players have or still are playing for AFL club’s:

Terry Tripp – Swans
David Brown – Swans
Stephen Carey – Swans
Lenny Hayes – St. Kilda
Mark McVeigh – Essendon
Keiran Jack – Swans
Brandon Jack – Swans
Kieren Briggs – GWS
Braeden Campbell – Swans
James Peatling – GWS
Ray Hall and Jarrod McVeigh are listed players from the Junior Club
Scott Reed and Blake McGrath are with the Collingwood and St. Kilda clubs respectively.
A truly magnificent effort for a Sydney AFL club.
Pennant Hills has been described as a ‘hot bed’ of aussie rules in Sydney.


The club has been blessed with hundreds of volunteers over the years, too many to mention any one specifically. The contributions, be it, score board attendant, canteen, timekeepers, strappers, committee persons, team managers, team coaches, runners, water persons and others, however small or large, have all contributed to the club being the leading club, that it is, in Sydney Football.

On field successes

U19’s – 1993 and 1994
U18’s – 1996, 1999 and 2003
Reserve Grade – 1994 and 1996
Division Three – 1975, 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2008
First Grade – 2000, 2006 and 2008
Women Division 2 – 2022

Phelan Medalists – First Grade Best and Fairest Player
1983 – Mick Toy
1988 – Gary Spillane
2007 – Charlie Richardson
2008 – Matthew Carey
2011 – Kieran Wright
2014 – Alex Goodall
2019 – Ranga Ediriwickrama
2022 – Stephen Wray

Rod Podbury Medal – Best on Ground in First Grade Grand Final
1996 – Chris Yard
2000 – Barnaby Howarth
2008 – Scott Reed

Kealy Medal – U18’s Best and Fairest Player
1980 – Brendan Heelan
1987 – Damien Maloney
1988 – Stewart Williams
1992 – Patrick Matthews
1995 – Grant Broderick
1997 – Simon Collins
2002 – Dean Connors

Sanders Medal – Reserve Grade Best and Fairest Player
1982 – Jim Demster
1993 – Stephen Monahan
1997 & 1998 – the late Doug Sholz

McFarlane Medal – Third Division Best and Fairest Player
1976 and 1977 – Peter Mathers

Sydney AFL Leading Goal Kickers
Premier Division
2004 and 2005 – Laine Spencer
1995 and 1996 – Randal Green
1984 – Steve Bird

Reserve Grade
2006 –Hayden Benger
1997 – Ken Couchman
1996 – Stephen Brown

2006 – Daniel Jacob
1994 – Ian Wheatley
1996 – Stephen Brown

Division Three
2001 & 2008 – John Rakic.