By Chris Cavanagh (Local Newspaper Article 1991)
AIRPORT West Football Club will celebrate 50 years of history in June.
The club, formed in 1961, hopes to see as many former players, volunteers and supporters attend the celebration, which will be held at the Moonee Valley Racecourse on Saturday, June 18.
When the Eagles first took flight the club only had an under-17s team, with the first Airport West senior side taking the field in 1964.
The inevitable hidings came in the Eagles’ debut year, but things turned reasonably quickly and in 1966 they played off for the C Grade premiership.
Having won the under-15s title in 1965 the club’s first premiership pennant Airport West was growing in stature and was soon promoted to B Grade in the senior Essendon District Football League.
Names such as Thomas, Duckett, Phair and Deimos had begun to emerge and the club was building a solid foundation.
In the early 1970s the Eagles played off for several B Grade titles and, despite not having a flag, the EDFL decided to promote the club to A Grade.
After some near misses in their first couple of seasons in the top flight, the Eagles finally captured their first senior title in 1976 with success in the A-Reserve decider.
In 1978 Airport West made it two flags in three years with victory in the short-lived A3 competition.
The club hit some turbulence in the early 1980s when many of its original members moved on.
The Eagles struggled for a time and were relegated to B Grade in 1982.
But, like fans had become accustomed to, Airport West rallied.
Some exceptional footballers, names like Wilson, Kirk, Mackley, Kent and Brown, had toiled their way through the club’s junior ranks and were emerging as senior stars.
In 1985 the rejuvenated side took flight again and captured the B Grade pennant, thus returning to the top division for 1986.
A golden era was emerging at the Eagles with more top players coming through the juniors, such as the Jones brothers, Eaton, Gentile and Tornese. Soon the club was readying itself for a serious crack at an A Grade title.
With former Carlton Victorian Football League premiership star Des English appointed coach in the early 1990s, and a new level of professionalism in place, the Eagles went back-to-back in A Grade in 1992-93. The club also captured the A-Reserve flag in 93, capping a terrific two years.
Things levelled out again though, and, 10 years after its back-to-back success, Airport West was again relegated to B Grade in 2003. It remains there today.
Although not having played in A Grade for eight years, Airport West has still enjoyed some success in recent times.
The highlight was a thrilling one-point B-Reserves premiership in 2009, while at junior level the club won under-16 and under-18 flags in 2004.
For now, says Eagles secretary John Penaluna, the short-term aim is for the senior side to rise again and win a B Grade flag.
And from there, another crack at reliving the A Grade glory of 92-93 awaits.
* ALL past and present Eagles players are welcome to attend the club’s 50th anniversary celebration at the Moonee Valley Racecourse on Saturday, June 18 (7pm-1am).
The after-party will be held at the Solei Bar, Club and Lounge (690 Mount Alexander Rd, Moonee Ponds).
Highlights of the night will be the announcements of team and coach of the half-century, and player and administrator/volunteer of the decades.
Tickets are $150 per person, including pre-dinner drinks and nibbles, three-course meal, beer, wine and soft drink.