From the Record: Wagga Tigers

“We’re the Tigers of Old We’re Strong and We’re Bold”

Douglas Connor – 6th May 2017

Generations of Tigers Return to Robertson Oval to Celebrate Anniversaries of Success

We’re the Tigers of Old, We’re strong and we’re bold.
That’s the message bringing generations of Wagga Tigers back to Robertson Oval this Saturday to celebrate four of the club’s greatest premiership successes. The reunion event coincides with the Tigers first home game, and is not only a celebration of last year’s premiership wins in senior and reserve grades, as well as wins for the club’s netball sides, but a walk down memory lane for many of the club’s former players.

Players from premiership winning sides from 1957, 1977, 1997 and 2007 will return to Robertson Oval to reminisce on their successes and to cheer on the new generation of Tigers eager to fill some very big shoes. The club will unfurl its premiership flags from last season’s success, and honour its past players with a function after the game, including a Q and A with players from each of the premiership winning sides.

Players from all four sides are expected to attend, some travelling many hours for the chance to rediscover old friends and memories.

While the inaugural premiership success in Tigers colours came in 1957, the club’s roots to the area date back to the early 1860’s, winning their first premiership in 1887 under the club name the Federals. Speak to a member of the club about the teams of old, and you will hear tales of heroes, and the premierships being celebrated have slowly become the stuff of legend within the club.

One such club legend is Doug Priest.

Priest coached the Tigers from 1972-1976, a period in which he led his side to a premiership and two third place finishes before stepping aside to a playing only position for the 1977 season, during which he received the Best and Fairest Award from the club.

Successful as he was, Priest is quick to sing the praises of the man who took over the reigns as coach that year. “When col Anderson came to the club, he came from South Australia and he was a very very good player”. “We had a very good side as it was and when Col came onto our side he virtually completed the side and made us excellent.”

“He was a great coach… we had a mixture of experienced players and very good young players, it was a good period for the club”.

From talking to Priest, it is clear how closely his family and footballing life was linked through his beloved club.

“My family has been strongly connected to the club – my father played in 1947, so we go back a fair way. Both my sons played in the premiership sides of 97 and 07. We’ve had some pretty exciting years. ”

Growing up surrounded by the club, Doug’s son Steven knows how important the tradition and history of the Tigers is to its community. While too young to remember his father’s victory in 1977, memories live on from being a junior player watching the Tigers play in finals throughout their successful mid-eighties period.

However, it is not only in memories that the clubmen of old live on. Indeed, one member of the premiership winning side of 1957 is still working his way around the club to this very day. “There’s a handful from the 57 side, one guy Neville, Nifty, he’s unbelievable! He’s about 90 years old and still does the strapping from time to time. He’s like an energiser bunny, just one of those guys who just keeps going and going.”

Steven has many fond memories of his time with the club, including being involved in a series of premierships, in a period which saw the Tigers win the flag 7 times in less than ten years through the mid-nineties, under the careful guidance of mastermind coach Terry Daniher.

It is an unlikely premiership against all odds in 2007, also being celebrated on Saturday at the reunion, that Steven pinpoints as being particular memorable. “The 2007 team had an amazing year, we were short players and financially for the club it was dire straits. But for the guys who turned up and put in the effort, it was amazing. Coming away with the premiership like that, very memorable year.”

This pride is echoed by 2007 coach Matt Walder, who will be a regrettable absence at this weekend’s reunion, with a coaching role in Coolangatta needing his time on the day.

“It was a bit of a unique circumstance, we were in Canberra, and there was a lot of uncertainty whether we would stay in the ACT AFL or come back to the Riverina League.”

“That wasn’t finalised until late January or early Feb and between that with all the confusion we lost 23 players of our senior list.”

“You adapt to the changes, deal with the losses, we finished third- had to go the long way and finally we won it!”

The club has undoubtedly been successful in recent times, and consistently in the past, and it is important to honour those players and their achievements. However, Saturdays reunion seems more like a celebration of the incredible culture within the football club, and the lasting bonds created by its members spanning generations.

“Were a very proud club, proud of our junior club, we’ve been successful and we are passionate about our club culture and the history there.”

“We don’t necessarily have the biggest following from week to week but a lot of people consider themselves Tiger people, and whether they are here in Wagga or elsewhere we are proud of the journey the clubs had” said former club President Scott Bance.

Looking to the future and it’s hard not to feel some made harder by the loss of several key players, but the Tigers have history on their side.

Wins in the seventh year of nearly every decade since 1957, with a tight grand final loss in 87’, might lead you to believe that 2017 could very much be the year of the Tiger. Once again defying the odds.

Former premiership coach Matt Walder believes that for his old club, anything is possible.”

“The fabric of the Wagga Tigers footy club, the ambition and the motivation from within that club. From the hierarchy to the players, it’s a good place to be, it’s the self-motivation and the sacrifice of the boys to get the ultimate result.”