In 1963, Dr Graham Webb, a teacher (and avid lacrosse enthusiast) at Eltham High School, introduced the game of lacrosse to his students in a very casual and informal way. The seed of an idea had been sown and it quickly germinated into an occasional interschool game against other high schools. As is often the case with novel ideas, interest in the game by those directly involved was high and the appetite now having been whetted, further competition was eagerly sought by both teacher and students.
Dr Webb not only organised further inter-school games, but he also discussed the student’s interest in the game with other lacrosse identities who lived in the area. As a result of these discussions it was decided to form a new club and use the nucleus of the school team along with a few older experienced lacrosse players to enter a team in the Victorian Amateur Lacrosse Association competition in 1964. Two men stood out as the club’s key administrators in these formative years Bob Russell and Fred Durham. [It is interesting to reflect that both of them are still active supporters of the club today and together with Graham Webb they are recognised as the “founders” of the Eltham Lacrosse Club. It is also worth noting that three players from the clubs early teams – Peter Jarvis, Hugh Russell and Alan Montague can still be seen around the club today.]
For the next ten years the Eltham Club fielded senior and/or junior age teams with moderate success at the lower end of the grading structure. Then in the early 1970’s, just when the club was looking its most fragile, a new group of administrators and players emerged to revive the club. Some of these people were from other clubs but now lived in the area (such as Neil and Rob Traeger, John Good, Keith James, Alan Black, Hugh and Alan Roche and Bo Trainor) and some were homegrown products (like Peter Jarvis, Hugh Russell and Alan Montague). Although up to this point the club had produced some very fine individual players over the years it had not won a premiership and could hardly have been called a force in lacrosse.
This period in the club’s history (i.e. during the early to mid 1970’s) changed its fortunes, at least for a short while. The club was runnerup and then premiers in consecutive years; was promoted up a grade to A-Reserve; fielded two senior teams for a while; started regular junior recruitment drives and fielded extra junior teams; helped get a women’s lacrosse team started in the area. Unfortunately the enthusiasm waned almost as quickly as it developed and by the late 1970’s the club was once again near extinction. However one good aspect remained from this buoyant period and that was the number of keen, dedicated and industrious lacrossiers and ex-lacrossiers that were still loosely associated with the club, but nonetheless keen to help it out of its difficulties. People like the Roches, John Good, Alan Black, John Easton, Kendrea Kendall, Marty Mottau, Ken Hickey and Keith James to name but a few who, along with the old stalwarts named previously, were to provide the backbone for the next wave of interest in reviving the club.
Despite a lot of recruitment effort by Peter Jarvis and Chris Morris during the mid 1970’s, by 1978 the club consisted of only one Cgrade men’s team and an Under 16 boy’s team. If not for the success of Alan Montague and Alan Roche in recruiting enough boys to field an Under 14 team in 1979, the club would have shrunk to one solitary senior team. This new batch of young recruits from Montmorency High was to be the turning point in the club’s history. The parental involvement and interest in the club and the game which these parents showed (and which was skilfully nurtured and promoted by the willy club administrators) was in fact to be the start of a permanent turn around in the clubs fortunes. The following two years saw more juniors and more parents involve themselves in the club. These new lacrosse devotees both inspired and reinvigorated many of the old club stalwarts and this new found confidence and energy was soon translated into fresh ideas and a fast expanding club. People like Roy and Alma Jellie, Bill Buchanan, Lee Thornbury and Judy Emery formed the basis of an early parents support group.
Unlike previous efforts at building the club from the top down, this period saw a very different approach. This time it was a bottomup plan. A deliberate and sustained attempt to develop a large base of talented youngsters was organised by Ray Shannon through a massive junior recruitment program. Thanks to the work of a very large number of helpers, most of whom are still connected with the club today, the size of the club has increased tenfold and so has the quality of the teams fielded. Much credit for this revival goes to those tireless helpers named above and the many newcomers such as Margaret Cobern, Syd and Wendy Myers, John and Helen Wearne, Neil Dennis, Chris Aldridge, Bill Jellie, Jeff and Mary Montague, Steve Mavric, Jeff Fry, Marino Colautti, Brian Hayton, Rod Barrkemp, Paul Clough, Peter and Helen Stiglich to name but a few of the key personnel of that era.
Since then Eltham Lacrosse Club has continued the consolidation of its strong position within the lacrosse fraternity and is now one of the largest, if not the largest, lacrosse club in the world. It fields on average 15 teams each season, spanning mens, womens and juniors. Its under age teams frequently dominate in most grades with many State team representatives in its ranks. The club now fields mens teams in the state’s three highest grades and is working towards achieving a similar strength in womens lacrosse.
Much of the thanks for the clubs current strength is due to a new group of administrators and supporters who in the 1990’s have carried on the good work of their predecessors and have added initiatives like regular touring teams of juniors (both boys and girls) to the USA and Canada and the fabulous social atmosphere created in the clubrooms after games…but that is another chapter in the clubs history which I shall leave to a later time for our historians to develop.
Although we would all agree that there are still many things to do before Eltham can claim it is the best club in the State, it has certainly come a long way since the shaky times of the past and it can, with some certainty, now claim it has secured a permanent spot in the lacrosse fixture. This was not always the case, so feel proud of the club’s achievements and honor those who put us there.
Eltham Women joined the women’s competition then known as the Victorian Women’s Amateur Lacrosse Association, in 1982 with an entry into the Under 16 girls competition. A full team of local schoolgirls took part in the first team representing Eltham. In 1980 President Ray Shannon asked Kendrea Kendall (Lacrosse Victoria Life Member) to be the Women’s Director. After some preliminary work in 1980-81 Eltham Women were up and running in 1982. Eltham Lacrosse grew out of the demise of Montmorency Lacrosse Club which ran from 1975 to 1981.
Since Eltham Women’s entry into the competition back in 1982 we have had teams compete every year since. Women’s teams have entered in A and B Grade over the years and have won a number of premierships in both Senior and Juniors including 5 years straight in A grade.
Eltham Women have seven life members, 5 of who still play for Eltham . A Life Member at Eltham Lacrosse is a player who has played more than 200 senior games for the club.
A number of Eltham women have proudly represented Victoria and Australia in both junior and senior competitions. We also have many junior girls who are currently playing and participating in State and National squads.
Eltham Women continue to be an ever present force in the Lacrosse Victoria Women’s League and will continue to be in the future. We have been running a local schools competition for over 30 years, which has driven successful recruitment at Junior and Senior levels, 2011 marked Eltham’s 30th Anniversary in Women’s Lacrosse and we will be celebrating many more in years to come!