Balmain Tigers AFL Club

From 1909 Balmain we were unable to field a full team every week and for the years 1910, 11 & 12 only competing in the Reserve grade competition only and played in three grand finals for one premiership. In 1913, Balmain combined with their neighbors, a team called Northern Districts based at Ryde, and once again played in the first division under the name of Central Western. In 1915 the name changed back to Balmain and for two years we were one of the leading clubs. In 1916 we lost one game throughout the year and then lost the grand final to Paddington, whose star player on the day of the grand final was an ex-Balmain player, Wally Messenger – the brother of Dally Messenger. (Wally also played in a Rugby League test match for Australia).

The club disbanded in 1918 due to the First World War. Many SFL players enlisted and sadly many were killed in action. Anthony Steptoe was the first Balmain player killed during the war. He came to Balmain from the Maitland area and was killed in action at Lone Pine during the Gallipoli campaign. From 1919 until 1925 Balmain again played in the SFL and fielded a Reserve Grade team as well. During these seven years we managed to win only 16 games. For 1926 the SFL restructured under a “District Scheme” and there was no place for Balmain. In the next 23 year period the club reformed in 1947 and played in the SFL from 1948 until 1987 without much success, making the finals just twice, with a best result of runners up under the coaching of former VFL St Kilda star Barry Breen in 1983. Reserve grade and third grade both got to one grand final each in this period, both lost these games by less than a goal.

At the end of the 1987 season we were thrown out of the SFL and played for the next six years in the SFA (The second division of Sydney Football). We played in the grand final every year, winning three. For season 1992 we were undefeated. In 1994 we were invited back into the SFL and in a disastrous season we lost every game, mostly by huge margins. 1995 saw one win and 1996 five wins.

These seasons were the prelude to the club’s most successful years with back to back premierships under Steve Bird’s coaching. 1997 gave us our first ever Senior Premiership in the First Division, 1998 gave us our second with Reserve Grade being runners up. 1999 saw us in our our third grand final in a row and in season 2000 we again made the final series. The club has produced six Phelan Medal Best & Fairest winners: Ray Moore 1976, Bob McDonald 1970, Max Hodgson 1976, Frank Gleeson 1985, Mark McKenzie 2000 and Troy Luff 2002.

The first Balmain player recruited by a VFL (AFL) club was J.B Stephensen who was cleared to play with Essendon at the beginning of the 1907 season. He played 10 games for them. J.B Armstrong played for Balmain in 1922, 23 & 24 and then played 14 games for St Kilda in 1925. Neil Davies played three games for Richmond in 1955. Paul Feltham was with Balmain in 1969 and subsequently played 135 games with North Melbourne and Richmond and then coached Brisbane for half a season in 1989. Ray Hall, played 99 games for Richmond and played in the Balmain under 19s in 1996 2006 Balmian became a partner club with Fremantle Football Club and are now known as the Balmain Dockers Australian Football Club. They play in the Fremantle club jumper. Local junior club North Ryde also became a Fremantle partner at the same time.

Private secondary School St Andrews become a part of the Fremantle Community program and proudly were the Dockers jumper in their school competitions. The original club colours were a Navy blue jersey with a red sash. In 1948 the colours were a white jumper with two black vertical stripes and a BFC badge sewn in the middle. In the 1960s the club adopted the yellow and black and has had several variations in style. In 2008 The Dockers will wear the “White” away jumper with the purple anchor to complete the full Fremantle transition wearing both light and dark jumpers when required.

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