Glenhuntly Athletic Club is a result of the merger between the men's club and the women's club which took place in April 1995. Each separate entity has had a unique place in the development of athletics in Victoria since 1921.
History of the GAAC (Men's Club)
The men's club was formed in 1921 from a group of footballers interested in keeping fit over the summer months. Its early years saw a rapid and phenomenal rise to the top, winning a premiership in only its second year in competition in C Grade (1922-23), and quickly following this with a B Grade premiership (1923-24) and then an A Grade premiership in only its forth season (1924-25). Throughout the 1920s we remained the dominant track club, winning two more A Grade premierships (1927-28) and (1928-29) and being runners-up twice; once on run off.
The club was able to boast a string of Victorian Champions, the first being the club's founder Alf Hunt (Javelin, Pole Vault and Decathlon) who was also our first Victorian record holder. Other champions were Orm Wescott (sprints), our first representative in the Australian Titles, Herb Bascomb (440 yds) our first international representative and Australian record holder. Herb represented Australia at the first Empire Games in Canada in 1930, finishing sixth in the 440 yds. Allan Elliston (440 yds Hurdles, 880 yds) was another to earn many tiles and records. Our winter cross country runners, while keen and enthusiastic, did not figure prominently during this period.
The club was able to boast its own clubhouse at Glenhuntly Reserve adjacent to Caulfield Racecourse and were administered by very competent and enthusiastic officials. Among these were presidents James Whitelaw, Bill Ryan, Allan Wallace and Bob Davis. Boxing and wrestling were part of club activities. As we moved through the depression years we found it difficult to maintain our club depth and status as a A Grade club.
Bob Davis and Bill Ryan worked very hard and were instrumental in assisting the Glenhuntly Women's Club to form in 1929, one of the first clubs to do so, and both men acted as advisers and ensuring a successful start. Bill was also to become involved in establishing the VWAAA.
During the 1930s the men's club spent most of its time as a B Grade club in track and field, and while we were not successful in winning a premiership, we finished runners-up on four occasions in the latter years leading up to the Second World War in 1939. It was a very friendly club with many pack runs from members' homes into the country-side around Malvern and Ormond, as well as smoke nights, dances and picnics. The men's and women's club often joined socially on these occasions.
Our outstanding performers during this period were Keith McCluskey (walks), and George Maslen (hurdles), both of whom won titles and represented Victoria. Ivan Loel was our all rounder, winning the state discus title, while Royce Foley (sprints and field) and Maurie Burke (middle distance) were others to stand out.
The war years were a struggle but we survived with a small but enthusiastic group of young athletes, supplemented with returning servicemen. Frank Taylor, Gus Theobald, Royce Foley, Bob Davis, Allan Wallace, Maurie Burke, Reg Hall, Horrie Duncan and Don Carr all were instrumental in ensuring that the club survived. Titles were suspended for this period but we saw a build-up of juniors towards the end of the war.
Immediately following the end of the war, the club grew quickly in membership and won an F Grade premiership as well dominating the three junior sections; winning two premierships. Neil Morrison, Arthur Mead, Bill Johnston, Wayne Treloar and Geoff Marriott were all fine young sprinters who were coached at the club by Roy LaFontaine and won the state relay titles. In 1947 Gus Theobald was instrumental in establishing the Glenhuntly vs Western Districts Annual winter challenge, an event which was conducted for the 50th consecutive year in 1996. Gus Theobald was also having success over the longer walks, winning the Victorian title over 50km and Royce Foley had taken to the Hammer Throw with success. Keith Lyons, George Nevitt, Peter Colthup and junior Don Elliot emerged as prominent distance runners of the period following the war. These members were involved in a successful table tennis team, an activity fostering club spirit.
Handicap racing was popular at this time with many a club handicap race being run on the racecourse or at half time at the football. Cross country running was becoming more of a focus for many at the club and by 1951 we were successful at winning the D Grade 5 mile and 10 mile championships; the only two championships at the time. This was to be a forerunner of our climb to be a successful power in the winter. By this time the relay from Caulfield to Healesville and the Chelsea to Brighton were very popular events which brought the club sprinters into winter events with the distance runners and created many happy occasions for the club. By the time of the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956, we had begun to show promise in the winter cross country and with young recruits including Trevor Vincent, Alan Irwin, Bruce Simmons, and later Tom Worell and Tony Cook, we developed into an A Grade force that would dominate Australian distance running for the next four decades.
A recruit from Western Australia, Don Keane, Australian Walk Champion, was to become our first Olympian and also our third Australian record holder. 1957 saw a black day for the club when our home for 30 years was destroyed by fire; and much memorabilia and happy times with it. Hard work by some dedicated members saw it back in operation quickly. While our junior track teams won a premiership in 1958 we still struggled in B Grade until 1960.
The nineteen sixties were to continue our dominance in the winter events with regular premiership wins and many individual titles. This decade saw Trevor Vincent and Tony Cook lead the way with Commonwealth Games selection with Trevor being our first gold medallist in an international event; The 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games. Teenage high jumper, Lawrie Peckham joined these two distance runners in Perth, and was later to go on and captain Australia at future Commonwealth Games and Olympics, winning two Commonwealth gold medals and a silver medal.
Following the Perth Commonwealth Games, the club was boosted by the recruiting of World Record holder Ron Clarke M.B.E. who went on to break 17 world records and gain bronze at the Olympics and silver medals at the Commonwealth Games. Ron was universally acclaimed as the best distance runner in the world and his involvement with our club was a huge boost to our image. Pat Clohessy, John Coyle, Keith Wheeler, Henk Van Wijngaarden and Tony Benson all joined in this period to give us a depth in distance events unparalleled in Australia, and perhaps the world. Arthur Bottrerill, Eric Sigmont, Peter Buller and Phil Hutton were other long term members to join in this period. On the track we were back in A Grade, decentralised to the Mentone Dolamore Oval, and very competitive without winning a premiership. We recruited well interstate with Phil May, Trevor Bickle, Dave Prince, Harry Giles, Mal May and Pat Green all competing in the late 60s. We did show depth and promise in the mid sixties with a C and D track premiership but we were never really considered capable of defeating a rampant Box Hill on the track. Never-the-less we had many stirring contests and were always in there with a chance in they faltered.
As the club entered the 1970s, the committee were seeking better facilities for our members with the transfer of our interclub teams to a more central Olympic Park and increased activity in persuading the Caulfield Council to assist us in attaining our own athletic headquarters. The willingness of our prominent senior members to involve themselves in this quest saw the club successful in attaining our present facilities at Duncan Mackinnon Park. We began this decade in fine form, winning both road and cross country premiership in the winter; an occurrence that became a regular happening. We assisted with the formation of the Caulfield Little Athletics Centre with veteran Royce Foley prominent, and we had foundation members in Peter Colthup O.A.M., Gus Theobald B.E.M., Jim Conway and Bill Coyne in the emerging Veteran's movement.
The club continued to attract many outstanding athletes and in particular this included some very talented Juniors in Bob Walczak, Tim O'Shaughnessy, Robert Decastella, "Blue" Connellan and Bruce Petts. Pat Clohessy A.M. was very active at this stage as a coach, president and recruiter. Max Binnington emerged as a top hurdler from the west and this attracted a sprint training group, led by Bruce Shaw, which was to alter our fortunes on the track. These athletes included Peter Fitzgerald, Vin Plant, Make Doyle, Peter Donlon and Ray Rigby. Australian and Victorian titles were amassed as the club featured many outstanding athletes.
But, as had been the case for the last 50 years we were still unable to win an A Grade track premiership. Chris Wardlaw, Andy Hill, Dave Chettle and Hugh Wilson led the distance runners in what was an exciting era for the club. Peter Fizgerald, Max Binnington and Chris Wardlaw were 1976 Olympians. Max was to compete in three Commonwealth Games for a silver and bronze medal. In the latter half of this decade, the club was settling into its new home and building its membership base. Theo Veenandaal and Rob Gilfillan were others to stamp their mark on the club. This was particularly so in the juniors where the work of Leo Aarsman and Paul Curtis was to change our fortunes significantly for the next decade. Our walkers were also very active in both summer and winter with three of them becoming Centurions; Clarrie and Ian Jack, and Bill Dillon walked 100km in less than 24 hours. The decade closed with the club in a sound state; prominant on both track, field and cross country and with a junior squad that was threatening to dominate the competition.
The club entered the 80s with a great deal of enthusiasm with Robert de Castella and Chris Wardlaw going to the Olympics in Moscow and our junior team (U13) winning the Association premiership; our first since the 1960s. The club was sponsored by radio station 3DB and many of our athletes were prominent around the national fun run circuit. Peter Bourke was to emerge as another sub 4 minute miler and he went on to gold at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games. Who can forget the magnificent sight of Robert Decastella in the Games marathon, running down the leaders to take Gold and the hearts of all Australians?
Gary Minihan was outstanding in earning bronze at Brisbane over 400m and was a Los Angeles Olympian. Dale Horrobin was prominent in hurdles and won a national title. During this time Chris Wardlaw was establishing himself as a popular and knowledgeable coach and he has developed an excellent reputation as a top coach over the 80s and 90s. The World Veteran titles were dominated by Gus Theabold and medals to Trevor Vincent and Hans Meiselbach saw the Hunters feature prominently in the sport at all levels. In particular, our junior membership skyrocketed under the watchful eyes and enthusiasm of Leo Aarsman and summer track premierships, national and state titles, individual and relay were testimony to our outstanding band of young athletes. Stephen Foley and Jeff Coole were fine performers for us during the winter months. Max Binnington was honoured with the Edward Flack Award by the AAU and Gus Theabold by an M.B.E.
Our winter athletes continued to dominate the fields and fields with our senior teams consistent premiership winners. Adam Hoyle led many of our teams during this period and competed in the World Cross Country championships on several occasions. On the track we got to within our closest effort of Box Hill just going down by 8.5 points. Enthusiasm was growing to finally roll them and some excellent junior potential in Shane Naylor, Lawrie Dalton, Peter Baxevanis and Brett Vanderwyk as emerging juniors we all thought in would not be too long. It eventually occurred on 1987 when our team held off the might of a determined Box Hill to take our first A Grade track premiership since 1929; 58 years apart. Tony Wilson and Steve Crowley were becoming outstanding contributors. Many of our senior members and officials assisted the club in organising major fun runs around Melbourne; these proving excellent fund raisers for the club. Shane Naylor was proving an emerging force in sprinting winning both the national U20 and Open 100m titles in the one year. We were unable to emulate our A Grade Premiership on the track but it was evident that we were very strong in the lower grades and juniors; winning regularly at the venue. It was an exciting time for the club as we continued to dominate the winter season; club spirit was high and the future bright as the junior section continued to provide a great grounding for our young athletes.
This decade began with the Commonwealth Games in Auckland and we had some excellent efforts from Par Scammell, Rohan Robinson, Peter Baxevanis, Shane Naylor and Peter O'Doneghue (bronze for NZ) in these games. Pat Scammell continued to dominate middle distance running over 1500m and 800m, competing at four Commonwealth Games and Olympics. Our junior contingent continued to impress with Rohan Robinson winning the World Junior 400m Hurdles titles and a young Tim Forsyth finishing second in the High Jump twice at these championships. Tim was successful in winning gold in Victoria Canada and a magnificent bronze in Barcelona.
Significant during this period was the coaching of Joe Carmody who, with a strong band of Latrobe Valley boys regularly traveled to interclub to compete with the club. Their efforts certainly added depth and skill to our track teams at all levels. We had a wealth of talent and the future looked secure. Tragedy hit the club in August 1990 when our esteemed member, 93 year old Gus Theobald was killed in a car accident and soon after long serving club president and official Bob Davis died. Both men had given outstanding service to the club.
We continued to dominate the winter seasons, entering our fourth decade as the leading club, but we were finding it more difficult to stay at the top. Ballarat and Doncaster were proving strong challengers with their many youngsters. We had our own band of youngsters led by Julian Paynter, Anthony Neal and Michael Power, so we hoped to be able to answer their challenge. Another A Grade premiership in 1993, our fifth, gave us another boost and while we have tried to emulate this feat since, we have not been successful.
At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, outstanding performances from Rohan Robinson (5th in 400m Hurdles) and Tim Forsyth (7th in High Jump) gave us added encouragement for the future. Domenic McGrath and Duane Cousins have established themselves among the top distance walkers in Australia while Julian Paynter competed at the World Cross Country and Atlanta Olympics.
History of the GAC
(from 1995, when the men's and women's clubs merged)
The Sydney Olympics were the highlight of 2000 with Glenhuntly providing more competitors than any other club in Australia. Our best performance came from Sonia O'Sullivan who took a silver medal in the 5000m behind Gabriela Szabo, one of the best races of the Games.
The winter season of 2001 saw Glenhuntly take four premierships, in men's divisions one, two and three, and women's division three. Added to this was our incredible double clean sweep of all races in men's divisions one and two, a feat never before achieved by any club in Victorian competition. We also took 2nd place in our first year in women's division one, a fantastic sign for the future. To demonstrate our strength, Glenhuntly runners Craig Semple, Mark Thompson and Nick Harrison took the first three places in the Athletics Victoria overall men's championship, and Susie Power took out the women's crown.
Other fantastic performances of 2001 were by Nick Harrison, who finished 23rd (first Australian) in the world championship marathon, and Susie Power who took the bronze medal in the Goodwill Games 10,000m.
2002 saw the club celebrate its 80th anniversary in style. A memorable function was held at the Bentleigh Club and included speaches by Olympic Medallists Brenda Carr and Ron Clarke, as well as the announcement of the hotly debated Team of the 20th Century.
For additional history see below