Calivil United to toast 1968, 1998 and 2008 premiership heroes

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CALIVIL United will celebrate the anniversaries of three past premierships when it clashes with LVFNL rivals Newbridge today

The Demons will mark the 50th, 20th and 10th anniversaries of their 1968, 1998 and 2008 premiership wins at their home at Calivil Recreation Reserve.

The triple reunion arrives at a critical point in the reigning premier’s season, with the sixth-placed Demons fighting to snatch a spot in the top five ahead of this year’s finals series.

Two of the premierships being celebrated came during eras of huge success for the Demons.

The 1968 flag win against Bridgewater was the first in a three-peat and was won during a period in which the Demons were rarely out of the grand final picture.

Premiership coach Cyril Freemantle, who was in his first season at the helm as playing-coach, said the win was atonement for the club’s loss to Mitiamo the season before.

“We were very disappointed to lose the grand final in 1967 – our coach was out, so was our best player and we played with an injured ruckman,” he said.

“We let that one slip, but we didn’t want to let the next one slip as well.

“It was very unfortunate they were beaten in ’67 by a goal when Peter Barnett was coach.”

Freemantle said the Demons and Mean Machine ended the home and away season with a win apiece against each other, while Calivil United was first through to the grand final with a second semi-final win.

The Demons trained at Mitiamo – the grand final venue – on the Thursday before the game; Freemantle recalled the ground being ‘hard as a brick’.

“We used to wear leather stops in those days and they were rattling on the ground it was so hard,” he said.

“We didn’t have irrigation on the grounds like they do now in those days.”

He credited the Demons’ tall brigade as being pivotal in the win.

“We had very good big men; in those days there wasn’t an abundance of over six-footers,” he said.

“We had a big guy called Hedley Lourie and another guy Trevor Tonzing (vice-captain), Laurie Maxted and Norris Lea – they were a big advantage on that day.

“We were a young side, who mostly grew up together and went to school together at East Loddon and, other than Trevor Tonzing, we were all district kids.

“We got into a grand final in ’63 and were beaten, won in ’64, lost in ’67 and we won ’68, ‘69’ and ’70 and were beaten by Inglewood in ’71 – it was a successful period.

“Unfortunately we had a period of non-success until 1990, so we were a long time in the wilderness.”

The Demons would go on to win three flags in the 90s, with the 1998 triumph being led by captain-coach Gavin Exell.

Calivil United’s 2008 premiership is best known as being the last in a history-making run of six straight grand final wins.

That record has since been eclipsed by Bridgewater, which won seven consecutive premierships from 2010-2016.

While one-sided, the Demons’ 6.17 (113) to 6.9 (45) triumph against Pyramid Hill at Newbridge is also well-remembered for being filled with drama.

The match included a head-count, three players being stretchered off the ground and two players being yellow carded.

With the Demons leading 3.5 to 0.3 early in the second quarter, a head count was called, with the Bulldogs found to have 18 players on the field and not the 17 they required after a player was yellow-carded late in the first term.

The result was never in doubt from the moment the Bulldogs score was wiped and the Demons added a quick goal through ruckman Shaun Lourie to kick 29 points clear.

Coach Andrew Freemantle recalled standout performances from Steve Blake, who was awarded the VCFL Medal for a best afield effort in defence, Nic Balic with five goals and Matt Smith, who went on to play with Strathfieldsaye and is now lining up with Collingwood’s VFL team.

Midfielder Ross Maxted booted two of the first five goals to set the Demons on the path to victory.

Calivil United went on to contest the next two grand finals, losses to Mitiamo (2009) and Bridgewater (2010).

Freemantle was able to draw comparisons between the Demons’ golden run of the 200s to that of the 60s and early 70s.

“We all grew up together; the side was full of good locals – it was just a freak time in the club’s history,” he said.

“To win six flags in a row was just a great time for everyone involved at the club.

“The thing I can say is as the years go on the memories get more fonder.”