By Tyler Lewis
Pakenham champion Dan O’Loughlin can’t remember much about the 2000 and 2002 premierships he captained.
But there are two things the legendary midfielder can remember clearly from that era: a noose as a welcome sign to the MPNFL and his star-studded midfield.
After becoming seemingly invincible at the turn of the millennium, the Lions moved from the West Gippsland competition to the then stronger MPNFL.
Upon the move, the Lions were greeted with a rather confronting welcome.
“I remember that year probably more specifically, because we played our first game at Doveton and we got to the ground and they were just built differently,” O’Loughlin said.
“They were real men; we just thought ‘what have we got ourselves into here?’.
“We walked into the rooms and they had a noose hanging from the rafters in our change rooms.
“After a few beers that night with their players, it turns out it wasn’t anything to do with us, it was just something that was there as a bit of a joke.
“They were wonderful people; we ended up matey with a lot of the teams, especially Doveton.
“But walking in there and seeing it… it was quite confronting.”
Before getting to that confronting day at Doveton, O’Loughlin was a key factor in why the Lions were there in the first place.
It all started in 2000, and despite being the face of the Lions side that lost just once during the year, O’Loughlin admitted he thought that an off-field indiscretion would derail his side’s chances.
“My recollection is terrible,” he joked.
“2000 was the year we had a bit of heartache in that the coach we started with, Chris Denereaz, didn’t see the year out.
“It was quite a tumultuous year and to be honest, after about nine rounds, there was no way I thought we could go on and win the premiership.
“He (coach Denereaz) was quite direct in his coaching methods, which was something we hadn’t seen a lot of, he got a few players off side. We were as fit as we’d ever been, we won our first nine games and then he resigned or the club asked him to step down.
“We just thought from there on it was going to be a wasted year, but from then on, we just rallied and came back – it was probably a really special win in the end.”
Leaving the West Gippsland competition came with a bit of discomfort to O’Loughlin, given he and his mates grew up in that league.
“I just remember a time where Pakenham was probably growing quickly and a lot of our counterparts around the league felt a bit threatened by how quickly it was growing,” he said.
“As disappointing as that was, we moved on pretty quickly into our new league.
“It was shattering to leave all that behind because that was where we grew up as kids in that West Gippsland comp, that’s what we had known – so to leave that behind was pretty disappointing.”
While his memory of the premierships themselves are quite foggy, it’s crystal clear when it comes to the boys he played alongside in the engine room….it was a golden era.
“That’s a no brainer,” he said.
“We were blessed to have one bloke in there and that was Jock Holland, if he was in the middle I knew I was going to get a kick at some stage.
“He was supported by blokes like Glenn ‘Sunny’ Wouters, you could go on and on… there was a really good mix.
“Jock Holland was the common denominator for our success, along with Lincoln Withers… I think he pretty much won the grand final off his own boot, he was a freak.
“Anytime you could watch him (Withers) play at his best, you would just sit back and watch it, he was a class above any of us.”
Although his side was simply scintillating in a confronting era of footy, O’Loughlin revealed his side was driven by proficiency, fitness and sheer passion for that Lions jumper.
“We weren’t a physical side, we knew we had to be as skilful and as quick as we could,” he said.
“That was sort of our weapon, maybe some opposition sides used the physicality side of things against us, but it was never our go.
“As a team we were fully united, we had blokes that had no social connection whatsoever, but as soon as that Pakenham Football Club jumper went on, there was an expectation that you were committed 100 per cent to each other.”
A highlight of Saturday’s reunion of Pakenham’s 1982, 1990, 2000 and 2002 premiership sides was the announcement of Danny Monckton as a Life Member of the club.
For more photos of the big day…turn to FOOTBALL 14.