It proved to be another uninspiring season in the testimonial year for Don Harrington, who played 250 games with the Blues, and was a model of consistency over so many years. The club again failed to live up to expectations and finished well out of the four in sixth position, with five wins and a drawer.
The under 19s finished in seventh sport and the reserves, with all hopes now resting with them, ended the season in forth spot. The team, under the direction of Graeme ‘Barney’ Howard, who replaced Bob Cheek, coasted home against Wynyard by 26 points in a semi-final which had been postponed for a week because of wet weather. The team advanced to the pre-final but was unlucky to come across an in-form Ulverstone side which won by 28 points.
The seniors again fronted up in the night series, beating East Devonport comfortably but going down by 11 points to Devonport in the pre-final.
Kevin Mathews won the senior Best and Fairest award from Ross Plapp and Phil Lade. Eddie Murdoch won the reserves award on a count back from Stephen Deverell and Barry Good the under 19s. Ron Revell won the Union’s Certificate of Merit for his contribution to the Penguin Football Club as head trainer.
Mr A. J. ‘Tony’ Graue was elected President and ‘Charles’ Brandenburg continued as Secretary. Former Ulverstone player and NWFA Gowrie Park coach, Barry Gossage was appointed coach. Gossage was not the most brilliant player to have graced a football field but he was a fast mover, rugged and had a wealth of experience behind him. His record in country football was expected to be a big asset to the club.
The season for the Blues was disappointing, with no side making the finals. The seniors could only manage three wins to finish on the bottom of the ladder, and both the reserves and under 19s finished well behind in fifth position. The seniors had only the night series left to gain some satisfaction and, although the games were played at Penguin, they had yet to win a premiership.
The format for the night games had been altered this year with only the bottom four Union teams competing. Penguin met Devonport in the first semi final and won comfortably, 10.16 to 5.11 to progress to the pre-final. Ulverstone was their opponent and the Blues had little trouble to win their way to the grand final, 18.13 to 6.16. Penguin found it could not match Wynyard in the grand final, giving the Cats their second in a row. It was unfortunate that this year was the last of the night series, as Penguin had outlaid a lot to get the series off the ground. Great credit had to go to Bill Fielding and his hard-working committee, which had the foresight to introduce it, but the falling off of attendances had been the death knell of the series.
Brilliant centre half back Rick Smith capped off a great season by winning the club’s Best and Fairest. R. Howe won the reserves award and M. Dunn the under 19s. G. Dunham and M. Fielding were joint winners of the under 17s award.
The only landmark of the season for the club was in the June 26 roster match against Burnie, when the club kicked 1.6, its lowest score since 1949.
Local publican Jack Masters took over the reins with ‘Charles’ Brandenburg as secretary, but he was forced to step down because of ill health and was replaced by Michael Dunn.
Gossage took on his second term as senior coach and saw a marked improvement in the club’s form on field. It won almost half its games but, like the reserves, finished in seventh position. The under 19s were even bigger improvers, taking second spot on the ladder behind Ulverstone, which had gone through the season unbeaten. Meeting Ulverstone in the second semi, the Blues could not match the overall strength of their opposition and were beaten by 27 points. In the pre-final against Wynyard, Penguin set up another clash with Ulverstone, beating the Cats easily by 52 points. But there was no stopping the Robins. Who proved to be one of the best under 19 teams around, winning 15.8 to 9.6.
Senior vice captain and centre half back Rick Smith scooped the awards pool taking out the NWFU Wander Medal, the Advocate-Fitzgeralds award and the Examiner award. His wins were well deserved following a great year of football and he earnt high accolades from supporters as well. A. Deverall won the reserves award and Peter French the under 19s. Trevor Rees and Arthur Groom were presented with Life Membership and Trevor Rees also received the NWFU Certificate of Merit.
It seemed that whenever the club changed coaches its fortunes diminished instead of improving. This was the case again this season when former Collingwood and Victorian star Ricky Watt was appointed coach with Jack Masters and Don Harrington at the administration helm.
Watt had a one-year contract with an option of a second. Former reserves coach Vern Drake took up the senior appointment with Cooee and Adrian Collier was appointed reserves coach. Penguin recruited ruckman Leon Clarke but lost the services of Phil Lade, who retired, and Terry Owens.
On paper, Penguin looked a good side, but its on ground performances left a lot to be desired. The seniors finished last with only three wins and a drawer for the season. The reserves finished seventh and the under 19s again made the four. The side met Wynyard in the first semi final and recorded a comfortable 17 point win to progress to the grand final against Cooee. But luck was against the young side, which went down by only 9 points in a great effort. The under 17s made the finals and after a good win in the first semi-final against Ulverstone lost to eventual premier Cooee in the pre-final.
Penguin lost a great supporter and stalwart with the untimely death of Charles Brandenburg on July 17.
Ricky Smith again won the seniors best and fairest to give him three in a row, the first Penguin player to achieve this feat. Trevor Howard won the reserves award and Maurice Feilding the under 19s.
The season saw the introduction of the Queen competition by the combined Union clubs with the club’s first entrant being Vicki Groom (later French).
Club stalwart Don French and Mrs G. Fielding were honoured with Life Membership.
The under 19s achieved a grand final this season to give the club a glimmer of hope for the next few years. Players who shone out in the grand final against Ulverstone, with Penguin winning 6.2 to 3.6, were to be future stars – Stephen Willcox, Chris Fielding and Peter French. But most of the credit for the win had to go to Gerry Howard who had proved to be a successful coach for the young Blues and he had formed a good relationship with the players.
The senior side, with former reserves coach Leon Clarke in charge after Ricky Watt was not reappointed, finished last with only two winning games for the season. The reserves finished seventh and the successful under 19s side on top of the ladder. There was only percentage separating Penguin from Ulverstone and Latrobe. In the second semi-final against Ulverstone, inaccurate kicking cost Penguin a run straight into the grand final, going down by 13 points.
Miss Kailyn Deverall was Penguin’s Queen Quest entrant. Greg French, Maurice Fielding and Chris Fielding took out the three best and fairest awards with Chris also winning the Union’s Bern Tolland Memorial Medal. Greg French also won the best first year player award.
Jack masters continued in his second term as President and Don Harrington was appointed Secretary.
Jack Masters continued as President for his fourth term with Joe Spencer taking over as Secretary to replace Don Harrington. Barry Gossage was appointed coach after an absence of two years and it was doubtful if he could lift the Blues as his previous appointments had not been successful. Terry Owens was reserves coach and David Hodgetts the under 19 coach. Phil Lade came out of retirement and it was hoped that with efforts of the young players promoted, they could field a balanced side and show marked improvement on the field.
The seniors again failed to make the finals winning only three games to take out the dubious distinction once more of wooden spooner. Both the reserves and under 19s made the four, both finishing in third position and a play off in the first semi. The reserves kicked 23.17 to Cooee’s 11.12 to progress to the pre-final, while the under 19s were not so lucky against Latrobe. The reserves could not progress past the pre-final and were beaten by 11 points by Devonport.
Penguin entered Julie Revell as its Queen Quest entrant and during the latter part of the season married Bruce Howard, the first time any queen had changed her name since the start of the quest.
Greg French again won the seniors best and fairest and likewise Maurice Fielding the reserves and Garth Barrett the under 19s.
Former player and best and fairest winner Jack Conway took over the reins as President in a year that was to see the club hit back in the biggest possible way after so many inglorious seasons, making way for the grand final.
Conway, who came to Penguin with Bob Parsons, like what he saw and decided to stay. Over the years his name has been synonymous with the club and he has been a great help both as a player and committeeman. Dennis Adams was Secretary and Warren ‘Putt’ McCarthy, the successful Cooee under 19 coach for many years, was appointed to the senior role.
The club recruited heavily and made every endeavour to prove to coastal followers that it was a worthy contender in the competition, not the easybeats in past years. Jack gathered together a hard working and enthusiastic committee. His daughter Lorraine was the club’s Queen Quest entrant and together with the committee raised over $22,000 to help the club’s commitments.
Penguin showed improved form by winning the lightning premiership, the first to be introduced as a pre-season pipe opener. All teams showed marked improvement to give Penguin the lift it so thoroughly deserved.
At the end of the roster series the ladders showed Penguin seniors in second spot, the reserves forth and the under 19s on top of the ladder. The seniors in the last roster match kicked 25.28 against Latrobe to record the highest score for the club. Playing in the first semi final against Wynyard, the reserves fell by the wayside by 48 points. The under 19s went to the Latrobe ground for the second semi and won their way to the grand final beating Ulverstone 10.7 to 6.6. The seniors proved to be no match for Ulverstone and lost by 30 points but they were ready for the clash against Putt’s old side Cooee at West Park. Putt won the toss and kicked with the breeze and the Blues were never headed, winning by 23 points and earning the right to play off in the grand final for the first time in 43 years.
The under 19s set the scene early that grand final day by beating Ulverstone by 8 points to win their third premiership. The majority of supporters outside Ulverstone were right behind the club, underdog for so many years. It proved to be a windy day and finals nerves appeared to have to many of the Penguin players. The club kicked poorly to finish with 7.19 against 14.9 and it proved a hard pill to swallow after the extremely hard work which everyone had put in.
Wayne Manson won the senior best and fairest, Nazza Haywood the reserves and Garth Barrett the under 19s.
Mrs M. Franklin and L. Ling were honoured with Life Membership.
Ask any old Penguin supporter which year sticks the most in their mind and they will quickly say ‘1977’. What a year it proved to be! All the hard work, heartbreak and elation would soon prove to have been worth it, thanks to the dedication from Putt McCarthy, who was re-elected coach, and from the dedicated bunch of players. Administratively, Jack Conway was still President and Don Harrington Secretary. Player wise, the club lost the service of promising ruckman Marl Williams to North Melbourne, but in exchange gained the services of Barry Valentine from Brunswick. Ricky Watt, after several successful seasons with East Devonport, returned to the club to be a part of a great year. Anne Thow was the Queen Quest entrant and although she and her committee did not raise same amount as previous years, it all worked well for the club’s finances. The unlucky side for the year was the reserves, which missed out on making the four, while the seniors finished in third spot and the under 19s just scraping into the four on percentage from East Devonport.
In the first semi final against Ulverstone, the under 19s put in a dismal performance after being only one point down at half time. The team could only manage another five points for the match while the opposition piled on the goals to score ten majors.
For the Penguin senior side, East Devonport put up some strong opposition till orange time but the Blues showed their true ability in the last quarter to win by 17 points. Scores were 16.12 to 12.19. The pre-final was played at West Park with premiership holder Ulverstone looking for consecutive flags. Penguin kicked with the breeze in the first quarter, led all day and just managed to hang on from the fast finishing Robins to win by only 2 points, 13.15 to 12.19.
So the stage had been set for the grand final and the return trip to the Devonport oval. Against his old team, Putt won the toss and kicked with the assistance of the breeze to lead by 11 points at the first change. Cooee fought back and headed the Blues by 9 points at half time but a good thirs quarter by the Blues saw them open up an 18 point break at the last change. Cooee threw everything it had at Penguin, but after 45 years nothing was going to stand in the way of the Two Blues who ran out winner by 4 points, 11.18 to 11.14. Players and supporters openly wept after the match as the trials and tribulations of the club had finally been overcome. No higher praise could be given to everybody concerned in the memorable win. In any club history it is natural to reward those players who contributed to the win.
Celebrations at the club and in the town continued till mid week and it was back to serious training for the Northern State Premiership against Scottsdale. The honour of the club was more than at stake as they were carrying the Union’s hopes as well. Penguin again lifted itself for this match beating Scottsdale comfortably 15.19 to 12.13.
It proved to be a great season for Valentine, who won the senior best & fairest, Tony French taking out the reserves and promising youngster, Andrew Baldock winning both the club award and the Bern Tolland memorial award for the NWFU best & fairest.
No doubt the club spent plenty to win the flag and would probably take several years to wipe off the debt, but the price of satisfaction after so many years had been worth it.
As in most cases after a premiership, it is generally harder to stay on top than to get there, and this was the case with the seniors. They finished the season in sixth position, well outside of the four.
The reserves finished third, equal on points to first and second, and the under 19s again made the four in second spot. The reserves met East Devonport in the first semi final and were well led by Nazza Haywood to record a good win, 19.13 to 9.10. The under 19s met Devonport in the second semi but were no match for the young Magpies, who won easily.
It was on to West Park for the pre-final and the under 19s missed out by 3 points through inaccurate kicking. The reserves lived up to expectations, beating Cooee 20.16 to 8.19 to advance to the grand final and the chance to win their first flag since 1969.
It was the wide spaces of the Devonport oval for the match with old rival Ulverstone. Trailing by 13 points at half time, the Blues realised they had to put their best feet forward in the third term. Keeping Ulverstone almost scoreless, they raced away to lead by 30 points. Ulverstone were unable to bridge the gap and finally went down by 17 points, Penguin 13.16 to Ulverstone 11.11.
Michael King won the senior Best & Fairest for the year, leading reserves goalkicker and captain Hedley Haywood won the reserves award and Michael O’Brien, son of former senior Best & Fairest winner, Vic won the under 19 award. Previous year winner, Andrew Baldock won the Bern Tolland medal for the second year running ie Dayton won the Union reserves J. W. Mitchell trophy.
Four members gained Life Membership, Audrey Willcox, Nazza Haywood, W. Hughes and former player and President, Jack Conway, who had again been President this year. He was ably assisted by John Gardner as Secretary and Jack’s daughter and former queen, Lorraine as Treasurer. Sue Plapp was the Queen Quest entrant.
Penguin began the season by beating premier team Cooee, but it was to be the high point of the season as far as the senior team was concerned. They finished sixth with only six wins under coaching skills of Trevor Lloyd, a former Coburg and Fitzroy player who replaced Putt McCarthy who returned to Cooee.
Jack Conway again held the reins with Mike Sage Secretary, Jim Seelig took the reserves and Nazza Haywood applied his talents to the under 19s. The reserves performed no better than the seniors and slid from 1978 premier to finish seventh. The under 19s finished forth but their moment of glory was to be short lives in the first semi final against East Devonport. After leading for most of the match, the blues could not stand the pace of the Swans in the last quarter to lose by 6 points.
No doubt the club was down but it would be only a matter of time before they became a force again. The policy of looking after their own local players would eventually pay dividends.