THE Eastern Football League has welcomed Croydon North-Mount Lilydale Old Collegians Football Club (Croydon North-MLOC) as its 45th senior club for season 2019 and beyond.
After being successfully voted in by EFL clubs at a Special General Meeting of EFL clubs on Monday October 1, the move was recently confirmed by AFL Victoria.
Mount Lilydale Old Collegians Football Club had previously competed in the VAFA and sought a merger with Croydon North in February of this year, according to Croydon North-MLOC president Graham Hewitt.
“Basically we had a phone call back in February from Mount Lilydale Old Collegians exploring the opportunities of joining Croydon North which was a standalone vets team,” Hewitt said.
“It (Croydon North FC) used to be in the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League 20-odd years ago and in short, it (the merger) has been six or seven months in the making.
“The veterans were looking at getting into the Eastern Football League in the veterans’ competition as standalone – this opportunity became available and we joined forces.”
Croydon North-MLOC will compete in the EFL’s Division 4 in 2019, effectively the fifth tier under the League’s competition restructure.
Hewitt has a long-standing history with EFL top-tier club Norwood at senior and junior level, where he founded the respective girls and senior women’s football programs, ran the club’s Auskick program for eight years, served as junior president for three and coached the senior women’s side for the past two years.
Numbers across all levels of participation at Croydon North-MLOC are strong heading into pre-season, which begins mid-November.
“Our aim for next year is to have seniors, reserves, veterans and a women’s team,” Hewitt said.
“We’ve got 30 veterans players already, so no issues there.
“We’ve got 44 committed players already in the seniors and reserves side, and we’ve had 11 women training already.”
Hewitt says the club has been intricately set up, on the field and off the field.
“We’ve done this in a way to make sure that we come in and we’re not going to embarrass ourselves and I suppose that was the main selling point with Mount Lilydale, not knowing much about them,” he said.
“We went through a few of their games, interviewed their coach and saw their players and there’s some work to do in regards to that but we believe if we didn’t help Mount Lilydale out and they didn’t help us out, that both clubs in a couple of years would be extinct.
“There are 19 people on the committee (and) the executive from Mount Lilydale and North Croydon are both part of the executive for next season, and we’ve also got a couple of girls who jumped on board – one’s our communications manager and we’ve got a marketing manager.”
The club will be nicknamed the Rams and will be led by 2018 Mount Lilydale OCFC senior coach, Mark Holly.
Holly is a life member of the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League, playing 330 games, having also coached at the Seville Football Club across senior and reserve grade.
Meanwhile, Aubrey Jacobs has been appointed the club’s senior women’s coach for 2019, while an announcement on the club’s reserves coach is imminent.
Jacobs brings a wealth of experience having played 283 matches across Kilsyth, Balwyn, Heathmont and North Ringwood.
More recently, Jacobs served as the senior women’s assistant coach at Heathmont across 2017 and 2018.
Hewitt says 2019 will form the foundation of the club’s build into the future.
“The key for us is we’re not paying anyone, and that’s where we said to the players next year we’ll keep everyone on the same system it was and then we’ll start to build from there because as you know, there’s nothing worse than going out and spending big money on players and nothing happens,” he said.
The club will be based at Hughes Park in Croydon North and while yet to unveil its playing strip for next season, it will be based on the current Mount Lilydale jumper.
“We’ve spoken to the council and in the next three or four years we’re looking to make it (Hughes Park) bigger but for what we’ve got and what we need at this point, it’s really good,” Hewitt said.
“We’re also in discussion with Mount Lilydale Mercy College about using the other ground that they played on last year as our training venue and play our girls out of that and keep our association with the school strong and develop our program through the school and surrounding areas.”