The Wodonga Saints Football and Netball Club Incorporated was formerly Bethanga Saints Football and Netball Club affiliated with the Tallangatta and District Football League. The name was officially changed at a special meeting of the clubs members convened on the 17th August 2001. The vote was unanimous and the motion carried. The club remained in the TDFL but moved its base to Wodonga’s Martin Park becoming co-tenants with Wodonga Bulldogs Football Club. The Wodonga Saints Football Club was born.
In 1999 the Victorian Country Football League did a report on the state of country football. The report found that whilst the state of country football was not to bad some clubs were indeed struggling and on the verge of collapsing. Bethanga Football Club was one of the clubs mentioned in the VCFL’s final report. The VCFL recommended that the club do something about the situation or ultimately fold. After being the league chopping block for the last few years the club delegates and committee heeded the VCFL’s advice and decided to take action.
On the 5th June 1999 Bethanga played its Round 8 home game against Yackandandah at Wodonga’s Martin Park to gauge support for future games there. Even though the idea received quite a bit of media coverage it did not attract the crowds and we still copped a mauling off Yackandandah. Yack gave us a football lesson that day but the club also learned another valuable lesson. If Bethanga Football Club was to survive a bold and daring decision had to be made for the club’s future. Following talks with Bethanga Football Club members and supporters, the Tallangatta and District Football League, Wodonga Football Club and Opposition Clubs we relocated to Martin Park sharing the ground with Wodonga Bulldogs in Season 2000. The 2000 season saw Terry Smith stay on as Senior Coach for his second year and everyone was excited about the coming season.
We knew the move would not have instant results and we were right. With just two wins in the seniors and one win in the ressies it was a long season. However the following season in 2001 Bethanga suffered its worse season ever without a win in all three grades and on the end of some absolute floggings. With players and supporters deserting the club in droves players were doubling up and playing two games as to avoid a forfeit. Season 2001 saw the club take out the wooden spoon and following the seasons end Senior Coach Terry Smith said enough was enough it was time for the club to go out and spend some money on coaches and players. It was a credit to blokes like Smithy who did stick by the club throughout these times and getting the new club up and going. After the name change was implemented the club signed veteran player Chuck Hedley as Senior playing coach in readiness for the 2002 season. Kade Butters from Barnawartha and ex-Bethanga player Dave McKenzie from Yackandandah were appointed as senior assistant coaches. Lawre Hannon was appointed reserves coach and Paul Wolk was named chairmen of selectors. Anthony Odewahn was named coach of the Thirds so things looked very promising. So with the name change, the newly designed club jumpers, the new personal and players it was virtually a new club. Season 2002 saw some success come our way with the seniors winning five games, the ressies winning seven just missing out on the finals and the thirds won seven making the Elimination final going down to Dederang/Mt Beauty. So it was a big turnaround for the club in 2002 after coming so close to folding.
In 2003 veteran Gavin Chesser joined Chuck Hedley at the helm as joint senior coach’s. Lawre Hannon was re-appointed as ressies coach and Tony Odewahn was once again in charge of the thirds. New recruits were Gavin Chesser (Dederang/Mt Beauty), Jason Chesser, Glenn McKenna, Mick O’Halloran, (Barnawartha), Brett McKenna (Howlong), Luke Daly (Kiewa/Sandy Creek), Lindsay Seymour (Tumbarumba), Troy Hawkins (Tallangatta Valley), Les Gilchrist and Paul Taylor (Benalla). In the 2003 Wodonga Tip-Top Pre-Season Competition Grand Final we went down to Tallangatta Valley by 14 points in extra time in a classic game of football. The 2003 season was one of our most competitive seasons of footy winning the club championship and polling well in the league best and fairest. Unfortunately we were rubbed out in the finals in straight sets but the club has come a long way since its inception and will no doubt learn from the experience. In 2004 Ross Hedley and Lawre Hannon’s coaching tenure continued and Graham Smith replaced Anthony Odewahn as Under 17’s Coach as the club prepared for the 2004 season. The Senior’s fronted up to Mitta United in the Grand Final losing by 28 points. The Ressies lost the elimination final by 5 points to Dederang Mt Beauty and the Thirds had a lean year winning just one game.
In 2005 Wodonga Saints underwent a total personnel change from the top to bottom. President Shane Broes retired to concentrate on his new business after three years in the top job. Senior Coach Ross Hedley was drafted by O&M Club Wodonga Raiders and played senior grade at the ripe age of 44. Ressies coach Lawre Hannon went with Chuck to the Raiders Coaching their 2nds. The 2005/2006 seasons didn’t yield a lot of success unfortunately due to a mass exodus and retirement of players.
In 2005/2006 John De Witt was President. Adam Vardy Senior Coach. Kade Butters Assistant Coach. John Kotthoff Ressies Coach and Graham Smith again coached the thirds. Outgoing Secretary Danny Steel decided to get back to his roots and concentrate on playing football in a bid to reach his 300th game milestone. In a stellar year he racked up 5 games in 2005 but fell way short of the mark. Mick Gallagher returned to the club and played his 200th Club Game for the Saints in Round One 2006 against Yackandandah.
Kade Butters took over as Senior Coach in 2007/2008 with limited success. Greg Butler Coached the Ressies 2007/08 season making the finals in 2008. Past Saints Player and Coach Phillip Summerfield returned to the Club as Thirds Coach in 2008. At the conclusion of the 2008 season Buttsy decided to step down and concentrate on playing and Greg Butler retired.
The 2009 season the club appointed Ian Romeril from Beechworth as Senior Coach, Luke Hawkins (Reserves), Phil Summerfield (Thirds) and Serafino Di Mizio (under 14s). The club had not fielded under 14s since 1995. The thirds went through the season undefeated winning the flag. For two years Phil Summerfield guided these young men on and off the field and molded them into a tight unit and taking out the TDFL thirds premiership in 2009.
2010 Andrew Mann took over as Senior Coach, along with sera Dimizio as fourths coach, Paul Capper as Thirds Coach and Ben Warne as the Reserves coach. While the Seniors and Reserves had a lack luster year, the Thirds starting building and upset a few top teams towards the end of the year. While the fourths had their most successfull year at the club and are building in to bigger and better players as they get older.
From the 4ths up the club is on the improve and a big step forward with juniors helping the club rebuild into a force within the TDFL.
Danny Steel (ditch)
TALLANGATTA & DISTRICT FOOTBALL LEAGUE HONOURS
Grand Final Appearances
|2004||Seniors||Mitta United||5 18 48||Def||Wodonga Saints||2 8 20|
|1991||Seniors||Holbrook||16 12 108||Def||Bethanga||14 11 95|
|Fourths||Kiewa Sandy Creek||Def||Bethanga|
League Leading Goal Kicker