The Peninsula Old Boys Football Club was formed in late 1979 by four ex-students of the Peninsula School, who were keen to establish a club on the Mornington Peninsula affiliated with the oldest Australian Rules competition in the nation, the Victorian Amateur Football Association. Those former students, or ”Old Boys” were Howard Mitchell, Mark Sampson and Rob Hulls (all Class of ’75) and Peter Humphris (Class of ’74). Peter had been instrumental in making the Peninsula Old Boys Cricket Club become a reality a few years earlier.
The four worked feverishly to convince the VAFA that a club some 50 km south of Central Melbourne could survive. With the crucial backing of the School community and in particular Headmaster Harry MacDonald, the group were given the OK, paid the registration fee and set about recruiting the best players they could get their hands on. Gun Mt Eliza FC full-forward Tony McWilliams (Class of ’73) was a key signing. The School’s former head football coach, Phil Mannes became the club’s inaugural President. With ‘SuperMac’ named as the club’s inaugural Captain, other players rapidly took the plunge. Collingwood reserves player Bret Sullivan (Class of ’76) put his hand up. School teacher John Ward agreed to become the club’s first senior coach, but at the 11th hour was forced out due to work commitments. With just six weeks until the first match, the father in law of Peter Humphris, Bob Green, far from a coaching novice, was appointed senior coach.
But where did the nickname ”The Pirates” come from? And the team song? Committee members Daryl Neal, Peter Mitchell and Peter Rumph were given this task. With the Peninsula School just a few kilometres from the sea, and with vast views of Port Phillip Bay, Daryl suggested ”The Pirates.” It was an inspired choice. And for the Pirates, a change to the lyrics of the song, ”What do you do with a drunken sailor?” were also obvious. The Pirates current jumper colours of Royal Blue and Tan were the school colours in 1980. The school later changed its official colours to navy blue, red and yellow, but the POBFC retained the royal blue and tan as the foundation jumper.
The Pirates were welcome to play on the school’s main oval, but it didn’t have lights.
The Old Boys raised the money and erected the two lighting posts on the north-eastern side of the ground. A working bee was held to dig the holes and pour the concrete. One night at training before the first match, a long white limousine drove up beside the big pine tree and stopped for a look. A power window at the rear wound down and a hand gestured for someone to come up. Howard Mitchell jogged up the hill to see who it was. He immediately recognised an elderly Sir Reginald Ansett, one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Peninsula School in 1961. ”How’s it all going?” he enquired. ”Good luck. Let me know how you go.”
Sadly, Sir Reg died the following year.
In that first year, although the Pirates were extremely competitive on the field, the times were tough off it. The club was finding its feet. Everything was being done for the first time. Everything was inaugural. The inaugural supporter base was minimal. Who knew if we would still be here in 25 years? There were no change rooms alongside the main oval, so in the first year, players had to change in the rooms down beside the Reilly Oval and jog up the hill to play on the main oval. Many were exhausted by the time they got up there! Later we used the refurbished and much closer change rooms in the junior school, but there were no rooms right alongside the ground until the school’s magnificent new sporting pavilion was opened in 2004.
And so it was that the Pirate era dawned in 1980 with a debut season in F Grade of the VAFA. It ended in the Preliminary Final of that year, beaten by University Reds (now Fitzroy Reds) by six points. It had been a gargantuan effort to get that far and a great deal of momentum was lost by missing out on promotion by one straight kick.
At least we weren’t kicked out of the competition after one year, as were our F Grade colleagues Coolaroo Rovers, whose team included Pentridge prisoners taking part in a day release scheme!
In the 26 year history of the POBFC, there have been just three teams worthy of recognition. A harsh realisation indeed for many, when you consider the Pirates have competed in no less than five senior grand finals (1982, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2006) for not one senior premiership win.