Port Douglas AFL Oval

It all began in November 1988 with Christopher Skase developing The Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas. It attracted 100’s of tradesmen to this tiny village. Andrew Smith, a passionate Aussie rules follower was frustrated that you could not get AFL on the TV or watch a game locally.

Andy Smith paid for a highlight package to be flown up each week from Melbourne and played it at the Central Hotel each Tuesday night. The support overwhelmed him. He spoke to the president of the AFL Cairns regarding forming a P.D side and was advised to call a meeting and see what response you get. This occurred in Nov 1988 at the P.D Surf Club with 60 interested people attending. At the end of the meeting it was agreed that we would call for nominations to form a club and hold our first general meeting, in 21 days.

The committee was formed on this day. That was the easy part – we had 3 months to find a ground, jumper colours, emblem, 60 players, form an Incorp. and most importantly, raise funds. Andy Smith had a meeting with Chris Skase who pledged $20,000 to kick start the club. We raised $40,000 in 2 months and eventually had 120 registered players for the first year in 1989.

With legends like Killer Davis in the ruck, Walpole at fullback (both ex Footscray), Davidson roving, Evans taking screamers at full forward, coach Gary Dunkinson was ready for history in the making. Our home ground was at the Mossman Show Grounds, where we played the first game under lights in front of 6oo excited spectators and some curious locals, who had never witnessed the game, and we WON. Melinda Heider took on the role as medico, strapping both teams. She continued this for many years. With Caroll Evans and Marta Smith holding crèche (Sam Evans and Fiona Smith were toddlers) while running the canteen, and Jayne Macleod standing at the admission gate, we were up and running.

The change rooms were an old shed divided down the middle by a 6 foot wall. Opposing players were often seen chatting over the wall. As the ground was shared by Mossman Sharks we had to pull out their goal posts prior to each game and replace them straight after. While playing in Mossman we would loose approx. 10 footballs per year, kicked into the sugar cane. There was no storage space at the ground. The canteen, change rooms, equipment, etc., had to be packed up and taken back to Port after each game. V/P Ernie Baxter and his wife Merilyn donated their house as a club room, and many good fundraisers were held over the following seasons.

Andy Smith opened his house to the players and had 68 players stay over the first season, which continued for the next 20 years. Young players of note were Rod Davidson, Dave Evans, and Graham Harvey who are still involved to the present day.

In 1990 a pilot strike crippled the town. No work, no players! We managed a senior side only. Under new coach Robert Hubbard we crawled into the G/F against Centrals only to be totally outclassed by over 90 points. Hubbard committed to ’91 and we worked hard to eradicate the memories of our first G/F. With the pilot strike still effecting the area, President Smith arranged a deal with AFL Cairns to use Cairns Reserve side Westcourt Demons as our Reserves. Logistically it was going to be hard with their home base 70 kms from ours. Hubbard made it work, and there were several days we met at Ellis Beach and trained. Between the two clubs we went on to win the Senior and Reserves Grand Final in 1991. The Seniors were undefeated for the year. 1992 saw the normal normal exit of players and changing of the committee and coach. Glen “Popeye” Dwyer arrived as coach and brought several players with him including Brett Oakley who won a B&F that year and again in 1998, and went on to play for 12 seasons.

We recruited sufficiently to field two sides. A new player to arrive, Simon James, would also go on to be a legend of this club, winning every award the league had to offer. Terry Macleod took over as President and although success was difficult the club had a good season. 1993 saw Bomber legend Leon Baker arrive as coach and with the arrival of ex-bomber Shaun Duncan and demon wiz Chris Farrelly (who went on to win league B&F) things looked good for the upcoming season at Mossman. Unfortunately injuries played a big part and we didn’t quite reach our potential for the season.

1994 saw Terry stand down as President and Leon went out to pasture. New on the block, Ray Hepner took the tough job running the club and appointed Russell Shields (ex-Hawks) as coach.

Once again it was a new look side. Andy Smith had spent 4 years campaigning local council, state and federal government to establish a local sporting complex in Port Douglas, and in 1993 the old tip site was approved as our new home. We trained at the P.D State School while preparations were underway to get the oval started. The Crocs began the season on fire, winning most games and were early favourites for the flag. Late in the season, the wheels fell off and there were rumblings on the committee, as in-house disputes threatened to spoil the unveiling of our new era. We were bundled out of the finals in what was a sad end to such a promising year. Graeme Muir was a stand-out winning the club B&F and also took it out in 1997. The good thing to come out of 1994 was the commencement of our Junior club under inaugural president Wayne Hicks, V/P Andy Smith, Caroll (secretary) with Dave Evans and Bob Deen as the committee. Paul Lucas a local councilor and tireless worker in assisting A.S to get our oval ,took over as President and stability came back to the club. Nearly!!!!! The club held several working bee’s to remove the debri and level our new oval.

New problems were: not erecting it over contaminated ground (old tip site) which meant soil testing and many meetings. With that done the oval was grassed and ready to play our first game in ’95. Paul Lucas personally, with old mate Bruce Davidson put a temporary picket and rope acting as a fence. The old Mossman goalposts were transported over and erected. Then we were notified that an Aboriginal claim had been put on the area and no further work could commence. No clubrooms, showers, toilets etc., meant no funds, no footy.

Andy Smith brokered a deal with Cairns AFL to supply demountable toilets, showers and changerooms located near the existing skateboard ramp. Locals donated time to install temporary septic tanks, grease traps etc which were all run by a generator. Ernie Baxter could not imagine a game without a bar, and so negotiated with Quicksilver to loan us a massive aluminium frame, which was erected on the hill as a canteen, grandstand and of course, a bar. It had 12 tarps covering it and local concreter Woody poured a massive slab to keep us out of the mud. It seemed we could not be stopped, but with all the dramas we needed a football team. Former coach Popeye put his hand up to assist as coach, and yes, we struggled in our demountables and on the field, but had some wonderful times as a club. With much letter writing, Paul managed to allow the building to commence and in 1996 the Crocs were up and running again.

Steve Noonan the V/P in ’95 took over the reins as President and was very enthusiastic in implementing new ideas and recruiting. New coach Wayne “Moose” Henwood, ex-demon and Sydney player, arrived in town with near hysteria. He was a man mountain with a much likeable personality.

The committee recruited heavily, with old stalwarts Evans, Davidson, Rick Brown, Lynton Heffer, Oakley and James still making up the basis of the side. Noonan and Moose combined over the next two years to gallantly go down against the doggies in the ’97 Grand Final. 1998 saw A.S come back as President with his mate Ernie Baxter stepping up as V/P again.

The club was running thin with volunteers and Steve Noonan was employed as part time football/admin manager. He proved successful raising funds and taking a lot of the work load off an already overworked committee. Mick “drippings”Jennings took over as coach for ’98, ’99 and put together a competitive team. But once again finishing second to Saints in ’99. The best player in ’99 was Damian Clarke who was up from Frankston (VIC VFA). He dominated the centre half forward position, kicking some absolute booming goals.

2000 began with long time follower Peter Smith putting his hand up for Presidency and, with his wife Pauline, and mates Sue and Bob Slade worked tirelessly with new coach and ex Norths and Sydney player, Jason Love, to build on our players ranks. Unfortunately Love was found not suitable in the coaching role and was sacked prior to the season. Then Smith introduced a mate of his, Ian Wilmott to the club who went on to coach our club in a very professional manner, winning possibly the most exciting Grand Final seen in North Queensland – beating the previously undefeated South Cairns, with the kick after the siren, to win the 2001 Premiership. Also a pleasing part of the year was the under 18’s winning their Premiership that year, which looked good for our future. 2002 was always expected to be a Premiership hangover year, but credit to Wilmott and new President Rob Barnett, we had a good season. Unfortunately we lost several recruits and the coach at seasons end. Barnett employed ex-Heidelberg legend Andy Viola to the coaching job and he was instantly on the phone recruiting.

After his first season and seeing what was required to win a flag, Viola upped the ante on recruiting, and with Andy Smith back as President, put a side on the field only to find North Cairns under disposed ex-coach Love, were running hot. New boy Matt Shaw won the B&F in 2003 and went on to win 2 more and become another Crocs legend. In the second semi, Viola outsmarted Love to go into the G/F after winning by 95 points. When the two sides met in the 2004 G/F Love and his team attacked our players after the national anthem, rendering the G/F a no-result. The Norths players received nearly 400 games suspension after the act, and Love was banned for 8 years. 2005 saw many of the battered ’04 players commit to the club to bring the home the Cup home that we believe was ours in ’04.

Viola unfortunately suffered a terrible blow succumbing to a previous injury and had his lower leg amputated. His courage inspired his troops and it would take a great team to stop the Crocs now. The Crocs were in the top two all season and made it into the G/F against Sth Cairns with a player Timmy Karpany, recruited from Darwin, putting himself into the history books by kicking the winning goal after the siren to repeat our 2001 success.

2006 brought, once again, a new coach. After the departure of Viola, Brad Cooper, who had been instrumental in our ’05 Premiership, took up the reins. Moderate success was had, as we had lost several Premiership players in the off-season. 2007 and 2008 saw a new combination, and longtime committee man John Cameron, put his hand up for the top job and appointed Paul Cox from Seymour as new coach.

The club was in the rebuilding mode in Cox’s second year. He found his side very competitive and fell just short of a spot in the 2008 G/F. A plus was the introduction of triple B&F winner Cayden Beetham who was ex-St Kilda.

2007 saw the naming of the B&F medals as the Andy Smith and Ernie Baxter medals.

John Cameron stayed on in 2009 for his 3rd year as president and decided to cut the playing budget, and take the pressure off the club. Shaun Valenta was employed as coach and did a great job with very little cattle in the paddock to work with. Several younger players were introduced and gained valuable experience over the season. Beetham won his 3rd B&F.

Local character Scotty “Surebet” Ewart took over the role as President in 2010 and a new committee was elected with positive ideas and an aggressive fundraising approach. They appointed past Premiership coach Andy Viola and put together one of the best sides to wear a Crocs jumper, in years. With skipper Evan “Budda” Hocking leading from the front and Daniel Smith proving a great addition, as was local boys Sammy Boxall, Mitch Nicholson and newly appointed Ass. coach Kane Ubergang the Crocs went undefeated over the home and away season. Unfortunately some injuries at the wrong time of the season saw us lose the G/F. Smith won Club and league B&F in 2010

2011, with Surebet and Viola still holding the top jobs, the Crocs introduced several young players, and with the Shaw boys back in form, had a great season, finishing 3rd to the eventual premiers Hawks. The Reserves, under new coach Darren Wall were unlucky to dip out in the G/F, being favorites for the flag. Daniel Smith won his second B&F and his second league Crathern Medal for the League B&F.

2012 with Surebet and Andy Viola both retiring from their positions at the club, and several players retiring or leaving town, challenges are ahead. Brad Cooper was appointed as Senior coach and Darren Wall Reserves. Both Senior and Reserve teams produced excellent seasons and everyone around the club was optimistic that that elusive premiership flag would be ours. Kurt Bradshaw was our club B&F winner. Unfortunately we fell just short.

In 2013 the club was saddened, as indeed was the whole town, by the loss of co-founder of this club Ernie Baxter. His contribution to the Port Douglas Crocs will forever be remembered and his passing is sadly mourned.
Brad Cooper was re-appointed as Senior Coach with Lynton Heffer in charge of the Reserves, and Jimmy Buckley manager of football operations. Andy Smith stayed on as President. Coach Coops recruited well in the off-season and Captain Adam Boone lead a very competitive team onto the field each week. It was an exciting year, as we celebrated our 25th Anniversary. It was tremendous that so many past players made the effort to return to the club and celebrate the occasion with us. A highlight of the celebrations was a veterans match. Golf, an evening at the Tavern, and a fantastic night of reminiscing at the clubrooms after a home game, rounded out a brilliant and unforgettable weekend.
Dylan Wearmouth had a great season and won the club’s Best and Fairest. Our Reserves were runners-up in Grand Final.
2014, in a stellar season the Crocs did what no club in CAFL history had ever done. Premiership flags in Seniors, Reserves and Colts. Coach Brad Cooper had recruited brilliantly drawing quality footballers from all over Australia. In the first half of the season the coaching squad of Coops, assisted by Adam Boone and Heff worked hard to blend the squad into a potent force. This they did! Come finals time the boys were invincible. Senior team B&F winner was Tom Clough as, in a nice touch of history, Andrew “Bucket” Macleod followed in his father’s footsteps and took out the Reserves B&F. In due recognition of 25 years of service Andy Smith was made a life member of the Cairns AFL.
2014 Premiers Seniors, Reserves and Colts!
In 2015 Greg Nicholson took on the role as President and Barry Lea as Vice President.
The Crocs 2015 season unfortunately resulted in a stumble at the last hurdle. During the home and away series both Seniors and Reserves teams played extremely competitive, winning football. The club was entitled to feel optimistic in winning back-to-back flags. But it wasn’t to be.
In 2016 Greg Nicholson had the Presidency for his second year, ably assisted by Chris Bradsworth as the Vice President. Brad Cooper remained Senior coach and Andrew Macleod Reserves coach. An exciting and successful year! Our inaugural Pink Day to support breast cancer was an amazing success involving and supported by much of the community. Our mighty Crocs looked fantastic in their bright pink jumpers! A successful Blue and White Ball was staged to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Crocs first Premiership. It was great to see so many past players return to celebrate at the Croc Pit. We finished the home and away season on top of the ladder, but had to go through to the ultimate game the hard way. We lost the second semi final, then had to re-group to win the Preliminary final. Having re-gained the right to play in the Grand Final Coach Coops and his boys were determined not to let this one slip. Our boys staged a brilliant performance! 2016 Premiers!
2017 was a banner year for the Port Douglas Crocs. Under the leadership of incoming President Chris Bradsworth, the club managed to equal its performance of 2016, and in fact went one better. With both Seniors and Reserves teams bringing home the Premierships! Captain Kye Chapple had another stellar year, again kicking 100 goals for the season. 2017 Premiers! Seniors and Reserves !

And now a fivepete with 2018, 2019 and the Covid year of 2020 five senior flags in a row !