Australian Football has been played on the North Shore of Sydney for over 100 years. The first known organised club was North Shore, which was founded in 1903. North Shore continues to play in the major Sydney Competition.Little is known about Junior Australian Football on the North Shore until the formation of the North Shore-Warringah Junior Australian Football Association, which held its inaugural meeting at Forestville Community Hall on 12 March 1969. Representatives of the soon to be formed Manly-Seaforth, St Ives, Warringah and Forest Districts clubs were in attendance. These four teams competed in the first year of the Association, with teams in the Under 11’s, Under 14’s, and Under 17’s.
In 1970 teams from Pittwater and Chatswood-Lane Cove joined the Association, fielding teams in the Under 11’s and Under 13’s competitions. Both Chatswood-Lane Cove teams finished last, each with one win from ten games. In 1971 that Club fielded Under 13’s and Under 15’s teams and in 1974 an Under 17’s team was added. In 1975, numbers for this new Under 17’s team were low, so they formed a combined Chatswood-Forest 17’s team with surplus Forest District boys.
The Chatswood-Lane Cove team played at Gore Hill Oval. In 1975, Chatswood-Lane Cove’s last year, Gore Hill Oval was lost to Australian Football, and Chatswood-Lane Cove was forced to train at Northbridge Oval. However, they were unable to sustain enough parental support and were disbanded at the end of 1975.
Rod McLean, then a first grade player with North Shore, formed the Willoughby Wallabies (as they were then known) in 1977 with an Under 13’s team. The colours were green and gold. Rod was assisted by another North Shore player, Paul Graham. They trained at Willoughby Park and played at Gore Hill Oval.
An Under 11’s team was added in 1978 and an Under 15’s team in 1979. Recruiting was always a problem in those days, as players were scrounged up for the Saturday contest. In 1980 the Club was unable to field an Under 15’s team but was able to in 1981.
The Club reached a peak in the mid 1980’s with full teams and some 111 registered players. But the Club soon went into a period of decline, along with the Sydney Swans.
In 1990, with Club stalwarts Sue and Peter Thomson no longer being available to run the Club as their sons had passed the playing age, there was a paucity of administrators to take over. Things looked grim.
Under pressure, John Lambert, the then Under 11’s coach, whose youngest son by that time was 18 or so, was press ganged into the Presidency on the basis of support from at least 5 other fathers. Some of the families from those dark days are still with the Club and it was these true believers who helped work the way forward.
The Club was weak- some 35 players, and not really viable. At this time the Macquarie Club was facing similar difficulties and it was resolved that a coalition is formed to field composite sides. The strategy was to give both Clubs some breathing room to re-establish themselves. The coalition lasted 3 years until we were able to stand on our own two feet again.
Since then a determined recruiting effort at Willoughby has seen us emerge as a strong force in the Sydney Harbour competition.
The Club continues to produce outstanding footballers who have gone onto State, representative and senior level. Our first player to make the Swans is Lewis Roberts-Thompson who was drafted by the Swans from the NSW-ACT U18s with the 29th selection in the 2001 AFL Draft.
Auskick, for players 6 to 8 years of age, has emerged as a strong part of Willoughby Club, with an extensive recruitment of players through local schools.
In 2011, the Willoughby Junior Football Club and Mosman Junior Football Club decided to put joint venture (JV) teams in place for the older age groups. The clubs believe the ability to field between 2 to 3 teams across the divisions in each age group provides the right levels of competition for the varying levels of talent and contributes to both clubs objective to maximize the number of juniors playing AFL. We also believe this joint venture can provide more focused development of our playing group and closer link and pathway into senior AFL football.
JV teams exist for the Under 13 – Under 17 age groups in 2014. The teams are known as the Willoughby Mosman Swans and play in red white and gold jumpers.
Fast forward to 2017 and the Club is booming and with the redevelopment of Gore Hill set to be completed in time for the 2018 season.
The challenge is to continue to develop the infrastructure of the Club so that the Club remains strong, both on and off the field, whilst also ensuring that the Club’s values to develop the character of players in a spirit of good sportsmanship in a family atmosphere remain the Club’s pre-eminent focus.
The Club is looking to nurture and develop as many footballers as possible. All boys and girls are welcome.Although the Club is now strong financially, the Club continues to require the assistance of as many parents and supporters as possible to contribute and get involved with our great game. Don’t wait to be asked- pitch in and help.