Words and photos by Derek Mott
The Newman National Football League commenced in 1972 with three teams. Originally, the teams were known as Hill (load and haul, crusher, drill and blast, full time on the hill, shift fitters and shift electricians), Workshops (general workshop, shovel and drill electrical, haulpac workshops, power station, crusher area, drill shop and shovel maintenance) and also Town & Admin (township, administration, contractors and school teachers). Town & Admin defeated Hill to win the inaugural premiership.
The competition was arranged in order to give the towns people a game of football, with the hope that it was an even competition. This would be almost essential in a small community, where the dominance of one team could have been detrimental to the spirit of the game and social harmony.
In 1973, the teams were given new names: Hill became Tigers (blue and gold, then blue and white panels in 1974, before adopting their current black and gold from 1975), Workshops became Saints (black, red and white panels), whilst Town & Admin became Centrals (maroon, before changing to maroon and gold from 1974).
In 1975, a fourth team, Pioneers, entered the competition. Initially, all new players were directed to the club, but later in 1975, the club’s defined player pool was OHP production, mine planning, survey, ore grading, blasting and laboratory. They wore red and blue guernseys, with their first five seasons yielded five wooden spoons. They only became competitive with the adoption of an ‘open zoning policy’ in 1980. Pioneers went on to win five straight premierships between 1980 and 1984, aided by this policy.
Tigers won their first title in 1975, following a 27-point grand final win over Saints. The evenness of the competition in its first decade was attributed to the zoning policy adopted upon the NNFL’s formation. Premierships were spread evenly in the 1970s, apart from Pioneers. The three foundation sides shared the first eight premierships, with Centrals and Saints winning three and Tigers winning twice. The Saints’ back-to-back triumph of 1973-1974 was special because they both from third place (bottom) at the end of the home-and-away season.
Tigers (odd years) and Saints (even years) traded premierships between 1985 and 1991, with neither club able to win back-to-back successes. Both clubs contested each Grand Final between 1986 and 1991, a streak broken when Centrals defeated Pioneers in 1992. The Lions won three out of four flags between 1992 and 1995, winning back-to-back in 1994 and 1995.
The Saints were a force between 1993 and 2008, contesting all 16 grand finals and claiming a hat-trick between 1999 and 2001 and two in a row in 2003 and 2004 in a seven-premiership haul during this era. A Tigers’ boom period overlapped the Saints run around this time, with the men in black and gold playing off in eight of the 11 grand finals between 2005 and 2015, including a hat-trick between 2007 and 2009. Either Saints and/or Tigers have played every grand final since 1993.
Saints are gunning for a hat-trick of premierships in 2016, having defeated Centrals and Tigers in the past two seasons. The 2014 decider had to go to extra-time after Saints 13.6 (84) and Centrals 12.12 (84) were deadlocked after four quarters. Saints kicked 2.1 to a behind to secure their 14th flag with a 12-point win.
The league has a top-three finals series (preliminary final and grand final).
At the 2015 AGM, no nominations were received for the NNFL presidency, meaning that the four club presidents shared the role. It was a tough year, with a downturn in the town which resulted in the season being reduced to 12 games, with 16-a-side on the field playing shortened quarters of 17 minutes to accommodate Saturday night double headers. This year, the League has a full committee, led by president Mick Kendrick and vice-president Craig Hoyer, a Swan Districts and Hawthorn player in the early 1980s.
From the 44 seasons of NNFL football, Saints (32 grand finals) and Tigers (28) both have won 15 premierships, Centrals have won eight flags from 19 appearances, with Pioneers won six flags from nine Grand Finals.
The highest score in a Grand Final came in 1993, when Tigers kicked 25.20 to defeat Saints by 118 points. The lowest tally was 2.2 by Centrals against Saints (16.12) in 2004.