About NAFNC

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The North Albury Football Club came into being in 1937 when it catered for various age groups up to under twenty-one level. After the war, the club embraced senior status and, competing in the Chiltern and District Football League, captured a premiership in 1946, which proved to be its only season in the competition. Since 1947 the Hoppers have been members of the powerful Ovens and Murray Football League, basing themselves initially at Albury Sportsground but in 1962 relocated to Bunton Park where the club still plays today. Expected to struggle at first, the Hoppers surprised most by reaching a grand final in only their second season in the Ovens & Murray under former Carlton champion Keith Shea. Opposed to co-tenants Albury, North gave as good as they got in the 1948 grand final for four tempestuous, gut-wrenching quarters and ultimately emerged victorious by a single straight kick, 9.16 (70) to 8.16 (64) with Teddy Washington & Terry Slater kicking 3 goals each whilst club legend Arthur Pickett starred in a best on ground performance. The 1950s brought three grand final appearances. 1950 saw the signing of Hawthorn star Don Wilkes to coach the Hoppers whist the arrival of 16yo school-boy star Don Ross had heads turning. The Hoppers lost the 1950 grand final to a then powerhouse Wangaratta side that boasted names like Mac Holten & Norm Minns. The Hoppers were brave going down by 16 points, Norm Benstead doing everything to get his team across the line booting 7 goals, a club record for most goals in a Grand Final. The following season Don Ross became the youngest winner of a best & fairest by taking out the 1951 Keith Shea Medal as a 17yo, Ross signed with VFL club Footscray the following season.

The club won its first Ovens & Murray reserves premiership in 1954 under Captain/Coach Len Egan. The triumph over Wangaratta in 1955 saw the club win its second Ovens & Murray premiership under coach Tim Robb. Club champion Lester Yensch, a 2 time Keith Shea Medallist booted 4 goals up forward whilst Vin Bourke, Tim Robb, John Star, Billy Barton, Les Braunack and Arthur Pickett where instrumental in a stirring 10 point win. North made the big dance the following season in 1956 but were overpowered by a determined Albury outfit, with Yensch kicking 3 goals in the grand final. He also won the Leagues leading goal kicker award that season with 71 majors. 1958 saw the arrival of a young Stan Sargeant who kicked 8 goals on debut as an 18yo. Sargeant would go on to win the Hoppers leading goal kicker award a record 15 times on his way to becoming the Ovens & Murrays goal kicking record holder of 1096 goals, a record that still stands today. Stan was our first inductee into the Ovens & Murray Hall of Fame in 2006. 1958 saw the emergence Brian Leahy who won the clubs best & fairest at only 15 years of age, a record that will almost certainly never be equalled. ’Wrecka’ as he was affectionately known, went on to play 79 games for Melbourne in the VFL including the 1960 premiership win against Collingwood, at the age of 17 years and 233 days he became the 2nd youngest premiership player in VFL history. 1959 saw Ovens & Murray Hall of Famer Don Ross return from Footscray to coach North Albury after a 129 game career for the dogs which included a premiership in 1954 and a best & fairest in 1956. 1963 saw Fitzroy recruit David Sykes win the clubs first Morris Medal, Sykes also captured the clubs best & fairest that year. The ensuing couple of decades were bleak times for the Hoppers which saw losing grand finals in 1973 against Benalla despite a 4 goal haul from Stan Sargeant and the efforts of Frank Hodgkin, and 1975 against the Wangaratta Rovers. Club champion and Ovens & Murray Hall of Famer John Smith won the Morris Medal in 1973 becoming the clubs 2nd winner.

The 1980s brought a dramatic change in fortune as the club’s senior grade side contested every finals series bar one for the decade. The Hoppers, coached by giant ruckman Col Trevaskis came from 5th to secure the clubs 3rd Ovens & Murray Premiership in 1980. A feat which has only been achieved once since, by Corowa Rutherglen in 2003. The Hoppers prevailed in a tense, tight Grand Final coming from behind at half time to defeat the Wangaratta Rovers by 20 points, with coach Col Trevaskis claiming best on ground honours. Nevertheless, behind the scenes the club was enduring a hard time financially, and in 1984 was forced to cut players’ wages, a move which was not universally accepted. One of the players who objected was club skipper John Smith who packed his bags and joined Wodonga. Ironically, North Albury ended up meeting Wodonga in that season’s grand final, and impoverished as they were off the field the Hoppers proved themselves masters on it in recording a tense but thoroughly deserved 3 point win in the grand final with 1984 Morris Medallist Rudy Yonson snapping a goal over his shoulder just minutes before the final siren sounded. Yonson, who would go on and spend the 1985 season with the Sydney Swans in the AFL also captured Norths best & fairest that year. North Albury’s “Rags To Riches’ premiership win has gone down in Ovens & Murray folklore and is no doubt the most historic & defining moment in the clubs’ history. A third grand final appearance for the decade came in 1986, but Lavington proved to have the Hoppers’ measure on that occasion.

Netball was introduced into the Ovens & Murray in 1993 and it didn’t take long for the Hoppers to announce themselves as a powerhouse across all grades. North Albury won their first A Grade premiership in 1996 after playing in 3 losing grand finals. They again played in grand finals in 1997 & 1998 but were beaten by Myrtleford & Lavington respectively. North made their 7th grand final in a row in 1999 and ultimately claimed victory over Yarrawonga. North Albury won back to back A grade grand finals in 2007 & 2008. In an impressive record the Hoppers have also won seven B grade premierships and nine C grade premierships to be arguably the most successful netball club in the Ovens & Murray to date.

Brett Kirks’ outstanding season in 1998 saw the champion midfielder gain a spot on Sydney’s list the following season. Kirk who won the clubs best & fairest that year was a short priced favourite to take out the Morris Medal but in a bizarre twist did not poll as most thought he would. Kirk went on to play in Sydney’s 2005 premiership, captain the club and become one of the all-time great swans. North Albury contested just one senior football grand final during the 1990s, but it was a victorious one. Opposed to arch rivals Albury, the Hoppers claimed the 1999 premiership in fine style with a 17.12 (114) to 14.3 (87) triumph. The Hoppers where coached by former Wodonga champion and now Ovens & Murray Hall of Famer Ernie Whitehead. With only 5 points separating the teams at 3 quarter time Corey Lambert, who claimed the 1999 Morris Medal starred as the Hoppers ran riant to kick 5 goals to 2 in the final term to overpower their opposition. Lambert collected the Did Simpson Medal for the best player of the grand final. The turn of the century saw North Albury confirm its status as one of the OMFL’s leading clubs claiming its second reserves premiership in 2000 with victory over the Wodonga Raiders and further grand final victory for the seniors in 2002. Coached by Corey Lambert, the Hoppers crushed a star studded Wangaratta Rovers outfit 21.11.137 to 13.11.89. Simon McCormick was the star with 5 goals and collected the Did Simpson Medal for his efforts. 2004 saw North Albury make yet another grand final but were overpowered by a superior Wodonga outfit.

North Albury slipped down the Ovens & Murray ladder in 2005 & 2006 to miss the finals in both seasons. After a brilliant career as a player and coach which included coaching the clubs most recent premiership Corey Lambert stepped aside at the end of the 2006 and was succeeded by Travis Hodgson, a 3 time best & fairest winner and 2 time premiership star for the Hoppers. Hodgson returned to Bunton Park after coaching rivals Myrtleford to back to back grand finals in 2005 and 2006. 2007 saw the Hoppers, under Hodgson surprise most when they finished the home & Away season in 3rd spot and secured the double chance. The Hoppers stunned 2nd placed Yarrawonga in the qualifying final at Wodonga’s John Flower Oval on the back of a match winning performance from young midfielder Joel Mackie. North earned the right to face premiership favourite Wangaratta in the Qualifying Final at the WJ Findlay Oval. North went into the match as clear underdogs even with Morris Medal winner and Wangaratta champion Jon McCormack missing through injury. Wangaratta got out to as much as 25 points in front in the third term and it was looking likely that the flag fancies would advance to the grand final as expected. But a chase down and tackle that sticks in the minds of those who were there, by club great Robbie Murray in his 200th game stopped a certain goal and swung the momentum, and on the back of a sublime performance by champion centre half forward Dan Leslie the Hoppers fought back to claim a famous 10 point victory and advance to the 2007 grand final. Unfortunally the Hoppers were outclassed by a Jon McCormick inspired Wangaratta on grand final day, in a match that was fiercely contested. The Hoppers missed finals in the following two seasons under Hodgson, but returned to finals action in a big way the following season by finishing third, falling to Yarrawonga in the Preliminary Final. High profile recruit Damian Cupido put in a performance that will go down in the history books, when he kicked 10 goals on a cold wet afternoon at the Albury sportsground in the 1st semi-final against the Wodonga Raiders, the most by a North Albury player in any final. 2011 saw Travis Hodgson step aside as coach. Bob Craig, a well-respected coach within the league after coaching Yarrawonga to a drought breaking premiership in 2006 arrived at Bunton Park. The Hoppers just missed finals in Craig’s first season, and the following season collected the dreaded wooden spoon. 2013 arrived and so did arguably the clubs two highest profile recruits in recent memory. Brownlow Medallist and 3 time premiership star Jason Akermanis signed on as coach, and a short time later the club secured the services of St Kilda star Jason Gram. North returned to finals that season but eventually bowed out to Wangaratta Rovers in the Elimination Final. 2013 also saw champion skipper Dan Leslie finally collected his first Keith Shea Medal, in his 13th season at Bunton Park.

January 2014 saw the club announce at their general meeting that they had struck significant financial trouble. A host of the clubs established stars left and the club had somewhat entered one of its darkest periods. People outside the club had the Hoppers being thrashed every week and spending a few years down the bottom end of the ladder. But true to the clubs’ fighting spirit, a hard working committee, loyal supporters and players that played for the jumper, Akermanis lead a young inexperienced side to 7 wins and came within just one game of playing finals. 2014 also saw Jaqueline Newton become North Albury’s first winner of the Toni Wilson medal. 2015 saw Akermanis in charge again and a Hoppers outfit that didn’t have any real ‘A graders’ return to finals action.