The pride of the Lions

Pakenham coach Michael ''Jock'' Holland (centre) celebrates with predecessor Dan O’Loughlin, left, and defender Tom O’Loughlin after the 2009 grand-final victory over Doveton.

By Nick Creely

Pakenham has won an astonishing 30 senior football premierships – each of them just as famous as each other.

The Lions will celebrate two of their most glorious premierships on Saturday, with the 1989 and 2009 flag sides to be honoured with a huge crowd expected to descend on Toomuc Reserve.

The Lions host Doveton in a crunch Division 1 clash at home on the weekend, with former grand final heroes of both the ’89 and ’09 premierships set to watch on and reflect on the past.

With official proceedings set to take place prior to the senior football, the Lions will welcome former premiership players from all corners of the world, including Danny Monckton from New Zealand and Stewart ‘Froggy’ Fraser from Thailand.

Brian Jagoe was at the helm as president when the Lions broke through for their 2009 glory (the club’s 30th senior premiership), breaking a seven-year drought, and he’s looking forward to welcoming back past players and officials in what will undoubtedly be a special day for the football club.

“We’ve got all the guys coming to the reunion from the ’09 side, and we’ve got most of the supporter staff coming, and those who worked in the kitchen,” he said.

“We used to have anywhere between 100 to 150 meals each week – the kids came up, and the place was just jumping as most football clubs do when you’re winning.

“It’s going to be a fantastic day.”

Jagoe rates the 2009 Lions as one of the great sides of the modern era, and explained just how much anguish and hurt the group went through to achieve the ultimate success.

“It (the 2009 glory) all stems back to 2008 – we went through undefeated that season, and got defeated in the second semi by Narre Warren, and my kids and grandkids were young at that stage, and everyone just kept out of my way, I had a dark cloud hanging over me at that stage,” he said.

“I just bit my tongue, we were 37 points up at three-quarter time, and got beaten by a kick, so it was a slow burn for us.

“Some of the guys were looking ahead to the grand final and not the game, but I just bit my tongue.

“I didn’t even go to the grand final, I went up to watch a kid play in the Gippsland League grand final.”

But as Jagoe says, “flags are not just given to you – you’ve got to earn them”, and the Lions steeled themselves for another tilt in ’09, inspired by a stern chat from club legend and coach Jock Holland about a month before finals.

“It all started a few weeks before the finals, we played Keysborough at home, and they kicked a lot of goals, and we never got back in the game, it happens sometimes,” Jagoe said.

“It was Jock (Holland), he sat the group down and said ‘we’re going to start playing finals footy from now, because our best 21 is the best in the league’. And we never looked like losing games from then on, and that was Jock, and the mindset he had.

“He’s a pretty strong-willed character.”

Jagoe rates the 2009 grand final – in which the Lions thumped Doveton by 58 points at home – as the biggest grand final in the history of the old Mornington Peninsula league.

The Lions had many champion names stand tall on the day – Dan O’Loughlin snared the VCFL Medal as best afield, and Dean Blake was superb through the midfield and picked up the media award, while the likes of Tom O’Loughlin, champion defender Nathan Brown and skipper Jared Goldsack stood tall.

For O’Loughlin – one of the greatest players in Pakenham history – it was particularly memorable. Not only was it his last flag in a glittering career, but he entered the match under severe pressure from the opposition camp.

“This one does stand out in my mind because the word was that I was washed up as a player, done and dusted, and a lot of that chatter was coming from the Doveton camp,” he told the Gazette in a Beer O’Clock interview in May, 2018.

“But we came out and won it under the great leadership of Jock Holland, who reinvented me as a tagger.

“It was probably the most satisfying win of my career, although I wasn’t feeling too good at the end.

“One of the Doveton blokes gave me a ripper to the ribs in the last quarter and said ‘enjoy your celebrations now’. I finished the game with a few broken ribs. We still celebrated though.”

And for Brown, in particular, it was a day he had patiently waited for over some agonising years; with the champion full-back the victim of some shocking luck previously after missing out on that premiership medallion four times.

“It’s hard to put into words,” he told the Gazette moments after winning the flag in 2009.

“I lost two and missed playing in the 2000 and 2002 premierships so I didn’t know if I was ever going to get one. You won’t get this medal off me for a long time now.”

The 1989 premiership glory was in the middle of a stunning period in the club’s history in the West Gippsland Football League – it was the third of a fourth-peat, with the club winning the 1987, 1988, 1990, and of course ’89 flags.

The Lions defeated Drouin by 23 points at Cora Lynn in ‘89, leading for most of the day as forward flanker Tony Paynter put on a show with six goals, while rover Darren Hillard played superbly.

One man who was in the thick of the action in arguably the club’s most successful period, Greg ‘Taurus’ Marshall, a former club president who was chairman of selectors at the time, said the talent at the club during that period was endless.

“Within that side, we had Mark Carney, Darren Hillard, Greg Atkins, and we had two blokes that were drafted by league clubs, Adam Ladbrook and Tony Paynter,” he said.

“We had some seriously good players back then, Danny Monckton played in five premierships and in 1989, it would have been Travis Murphy’s first year – he never played a thirds game, and went from the fourths to being in the 20 in that grand final.”

Taurus’ love for Pakenham is obvious, he’s seen it all – and been a first-hand witness to the glory days of one of the most successful sporting clubs in Australia.

“I’m 68, and according to my mother I went to my first Pakenham game at two-weeks-old, and I still follow them, and still get involved a bit,” he said.

“I love it.”

While Taurus’ memories are fuzzy from grand final day, one thing that sticks in his memory is the bond between the players, something that is still evident, even today.

“I can remember 2009 better than ’89 – the one grand final I remember most is ’87, my cousin, who was a trainer, ran into a Lang Lang footballer on the ground, and that caused one hell of a melee that day,” he said.

“Those days, there was always a blue on grand final day, it was terrible, really.

“From memory, we played really well that day, and had some fine players.

“But what I can say is, they were very close-knit, and great mates, even today – there’s a heap of the blokes going to the pub for lunch on Friday, and there’s just such a tight-knit group, and they were mainly local kids,” he said.

The 1989 side was coached by Neville Powles, who would go on to achieve even more glory the following year, with Taurus describing him as one of the great coaches in Pakenham history.

“I loved the bloke,” he said.

“He had a terrific year when we won the following year in 1990 – we didn’t have a ruckman, and he played for us in that position in the grand final.

“He was a great leader, and just meticulous as a coach.”

Pakenham’s premiership reunions will kick off from noon upstairs in the RL ‘Cracker’ Jackson Stand this Saturday.

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