About Greenhills Montmorency Baseball Club
In early 1958 a small group of interested people met at the Montmorency RSL Hall with the intention of forming a new Baseball Club to play in the fledging Diamond Valley Baseball Association. The meeting had been called by Mr. John Goller (Snr) and Ken Andrews. Mr. Robert Spoor (formerly of the Preston Baseball Club was elected the Club's first President – a position he held until the mid 1960's. Mr. Spoor later became the Club's first Life Member.
Those attending this first meeting decided to call themselves the Montmorency Baseball Club and to adopt the colours of black and white. They then set about entering the Diamond Valley Baseball Association for the 1958 season. Most of the Club's new players were recruited from Eltham High School and Montmorency Cricket Club. In addition former VBA players Ken Andrews, Bob and Pat Blake, Col Healy and Geoff Drough helped the club start its competitive program.
Amongst the Club's initial recruits were Graeme Kent and David Stephens (now Life Members of the Club) as well as Graham Wigley, Howard Dare, Arthur Kirkwright, Norm Delbridge, Ron Drohan and Les Randell. Over the next few years the Club recruited a number of players from local cricket clubs and in 1960 started its first junior team – among the members of that team were Peter Dihm and Ian Kent – both former Presidents of the Club.
The Club's first home was Lower Plenty Park in Para Road, Montmorency. (The park is now called Montmorency No.2 oval.) However, in early 1960 the Eltham Shire Council decided to 'upgrade' the oval and the Club moved to Lower Eltham Park where it spent the next three seasons. The Club finally moved back to Lower Plenty Park in 1964.
The early years saw the Club continue to field two senior teams and one junior team. Success was achieved for the Seconds and the Juniors, but the Firsts could never quite make the grade. In 1965 we went out and hired ourselves a coach – Bluey Kirkwood – former Preston player and Life Member. Despite this 'expense' we still did not achieve the goal we were after. The coach from the previous season – Graham Polanski – former Carlton member and now umpire had left us and went to Research and taken our star American catcher and our big hitting left fielder. I don't think we ever paid the coach or forgave Graham. The late 1960's saw the Club meandering along and struggling for survival. Anyone around Montmorency in the 1960's would remember Dave Stephens firstly in his old Oakley and then his green ute carting a group of kids to and from games or else along with Peter Towns old Buicks collecting empty beer bottles on our annual fund raising bottle drive. However, the Club never had a pavilion or storage area and found it difficult to survive as a number of the original juniors had left to try their luck in the VBA competition.
The year 1970 was very significant in the history of the Club. It saw a concerted effort being made to rescue the Club from the doldrums. Howard Dare took over as President and together with new Secretary, Graham Wigley they recruited former VBA player John Goldsworthy from the Ivanhoe Baseball Club. John was appointed Club Coach and with great gusto and desire set about rejuvenating the Club. 1971 saw the demise of the Ivanhoe Baseball Club and with the help of John and former Ivanhoe player Peter Dihm, Montmorency recruited twelve more Ivanhoe players. Such players as Max Goldsworthy, Fred Jacobs, John Plummer, Ray Newell, Noel Patterson and Greg Keech helped the Club strengthen its position as a competitive force once again.
However, despite the Club's excellent recruiting another crisis was looming. In 1971 the Shire of Eltham decided to grant use of Lower Plenty Park to the Montmorency Football Club and as a result we were on the move again. The Coach's father, Alan Goldsworthy was a councillor at the Shire of Diamond Valley and with his help the Club moved to Lower Greensborough Park. Included in the move was use of a new pavilion that the Club could share with the Riverside Cricket Club.
This period saw the Club expand to a third senior side and a second junior side. The Club enjoyed limited success with the Firsts making finals but unable to take the big one. The Seconds won a number of premierships including three in a row in the early seventies.
In 1972 Peter Dihm became Secretary and together with President, Howard Dare and Coach, John Goldsworthy set about putting the Club on a business basis. This proved to be the most significant time since the formation of the Club. It provided the foundation from which the Club moved through the seventies and eighties. 1972 saw the adoption of the Monty Bird as the Club's logo and mascot. 1973 saw the Shire of Diamond Valley undertake to develop Malcolm Blair Reserve. Again with the assistance of Alan Goldsworthy and Federal Member, David McKenzie, the Club was able to obtain Malcolm Blair as a permanent home base. It was the first dedicated baseball ground in the Diamond Valley and one of the first outside of the VBA competition.
The next few years saw the Club operate out of both venues as we did not play double headers as we do today. The Club only had a tin garage (called 'The Shed') at Malcolm Blair Reserve and continued to use Lower Greensborough Park for its social functions. The Shed was used as a store room as well as an 'unofficial canteen'. The specialty of the house was hot dogs, which were very tastily cooked amidst the dust and lime of the Shed by Elizabeth Goldsworthy and Lorraine Dihm (both Life Members). The Club added the name Greenhills as Montmorency was in the Shire of Eltham and the Greenhills added a Shire of Diamond Valley flavour to the Club.
The year 1975 saw Morrie Klavins appointed Club Coach. Morrie, a former Victorian player, replaced John Goldsworthy who took over as President. This move was an attempt to win a Firsts premiership. The Club made its second grand final appearance in 1976, resulting in a loss to Greensborough 11 – 7. The other appearance was in 1966.
The Club was fortunate in 1977 to recruit Ron Edebone – former Australian and Victorian player – to work with the juniors. The Club also undertook to promote Tee Ball as a means of securing a stable junior program. Among the families who turned up for Tee Ball in the early stages were the Watkins, Wharton, Wilkes-Johnson, King and O'Connor. Tee Ball proved to be a boom for the Club and in 1978 TCN9 from Sydney approached the Club and asked if it could undertake to provide a viable Tee Ball competition for the Channel's TV Tee Ball segment on the morning show, 'The Super Flying Fun Show'. The first series was made in September with a second series in December. The December series saw the first ever interstate Tee Ball series with four teams from Sydney competing with four teams from Melbourne. The Club team became Diamond Valley Monty for these series. The two series also saw the Baseball and Softball Associations co-operating to provide teams and players.
The same year also saw the Club expand into Softball with two senior teams and two junior teams. Softball initially proved successful and the Club continued to operate in that sport until about 1983. A highlight of the venture was the winning of the inaugural Ron Edebone Shield by becoming Premiers in the first year of the Northern Districts Softball Association. Ron had died the previous year and the Association named its A Grade Premiership Shield after him. The Monty team coached by Peter Dihm were Ron's daughter Peta, Nancye Doughety, Vicki and Michelle Robinson, Caroline Hart, Lanka Morgan, Dedrie Lobb and her daughter Kim. Ron's wife, Leonnie, was the scorer.
For a number of years through the 1980's and 1990's the Club has been finalists in the Diamond Valley/Ringwood, and now the Victorian Winter Baseball League. The best results have been second. It was not until 1996 that the Firsts won their first ever Premiership. Unfortunately it was in Division 2.
Over the years the Club has produced a number of junior players who have gone on to represent Victoria (and Tasmania) at National Championships and has had a large number of senior players who played for Australia during their time at the Club.
The Club's 30th year of competition – 1987 – saw the attainment of incorporation and its own liquor licence. These significant events were due to the hard work of a small group of people – in particular Len Heyward, the then President. In addition, the Club looked at forming a liaison with the Preston Baseball Club. Whilst this occurred for several years at junior level, it did not proceed any further.
1988 was the start of a new era for the Club. Under the then President, Peter Dihm, the Club became involved in the setting up of the proposed National League. In fact, the Club President became the leader of the ABL syndicate and was successful in gaining the licence from the Australian Baseball Federation for the conduct of the National League. The Club was part of the syndicate led by Peter Dihm and former President, John Goldsworthy, Len Heyward and Howard Dare which owned the Melbourne Bush Rangers. The team was a member of the original syndicate but once Peter got the licence for the ABL politics took over and the ABF refused to grant a licence to the Bush Rangers. A lot of toing and froing went on with potential legal action etc. Eventually commonsense prevailed and the Bush Rangers entered the National League in its second year, 1990. The Club provided training facilities and a headquarters for the Bush Rangers. Unfortunately the Bush Ranger syndicate ran out of money and in 1994 the Bush Rangers were moved to Canberra. An American took controlling interest in the team and purchased the Club's remaining shares. The significant aspect of the whole exercise was that it was a little winter league organization and its leadership that set up the National League and mixed it with the big boys. This really got up the nose of a lot of the old fuddies who thought that only a VBA Division 1 Club could contemplate being involved with the National League.
The late 80's to early nineties were a successful period for the club on the field, with the 1st
Nine competing in 2 Grand Finals but unfortunately the long awaited flag was again eluded. The who's who of Australian Baseball were dominant in our teams of that era.
The mid 1990's saw the Club drop to its lowest point. After a disappointing 1995 season, the Club was relegated to Division 2 for the first time in its history. A determined group of 'Monty players' pledged to support the Club and get it back into Division 1. This proved to be a turning point in our history. As reported earlier the Club, under the coaching of Mark Ellis and Garry Barton (now both life members), won its inaugural Firsts flag in its year in Division 2. We also won the Seconds and Thirds making a clean sweep for our three senior sides. Our juniors only missed out in the 14's and 16's by one run to win the flag. The momentum created by that winning feeling would hold the club in good stead for the coming years.
In the summer of 1994/95 the Greenhills Montmorency Women's team commenced following the identification by the GMBC committee for the need for a women's program. Senior Men's players Paul Brown and Mark King were the inaugural coaches and the team included players such as Ange Ryan, Anna O'Brien and Melinda Walsh.
The VBA introduced a women's winter league in 1995 and GMBC would be one of the first to enter a team, making them one of a handful of clubs playing both the summer and winter competitions. 1996/97 saw a large influx of players following the placement of an advert in the local player and in it's second season, GMBC would grow to three women's teams. Although this was to last only one season.
Over the ensuing years, the women's team received the strong guidance of many great coaches including Andrew Kent, Andrew Ryan, Leigh New, Christian Stenberg, Tania Curwood, Robbie Grant and especially Rob Cameron who was a stalwart leader of the seconds for many years.
GMBC would win their first Grand Final in summer 1997/98 defeating Melbourne 10-0 whilst being coached by Rohan MacDonald and Simon Doherty. (Even after Melbourne had asked the umpires before the game when they were going to receive their medals!). This would be the start of a 'dynasty' for the team, as they, now coached by Paul Brown and Mark King, would feature in the next three winter grand finals against Watsonia, winning two.
In 1998, the VBA selected its first women's representative team, the "Flames". GMBC was represented by four players Ange Ryan, Sam Hamilton, Shannon Skews and Naomi Kelly. (the most of any other club). 1999 saw the inception of the inaugural Australian Women's National Championships in Melbourne, with GMBC stalwarts Ange Ryan and Sam Hamilton amongst the club's first Victorian Women's representatives, with Samantha selected to the inaugural Australian Women's Baseball Team in 2001.
In the summer of 2000, a decision was made through discussions with Doncaster to shift the Women's summer program over to the Dragon's Lair. From there the winter program would then last only another 2 seasons, fielding its final team in 2002.
Over the next few years after the clubs promotion back to division 1 with Andrew Kent as president, we slowly improved our position within the league, not only on the field but off as well. The club purchased two light towers to enhance our training facility and gave the clubhouse a much needed makeover. We introduced a free drink card to opposition teams on a Saturday which proved to be a huge success in attracting players and officials into our rooms after a match which broke down a few anti Monty sentiments.
The late 90's saw the arrival of Alan Tanner, who worked wonders in teaching and recruiting young, quality pitching. This would prove to be the impetus the club needed to gain a spot in the top four and compete in finals. Under the guidance of ex-Olympian and GMBC player since 1991, Scott Dawes (Club Coach 1999-2002), we played finals in 2000 and 2001, with the 2000 preliminary final decided by a washout. As the lower ranked team, we were eliminated.
At same time, with the help of council we had our ground irrigated, leveled and drained. This improvement was another enhancement and asset for us to use. Following on from the ground was a new batting tunnel. Once again with council assistance, a state of the art facility was created, which enabled us to train in any weather.
The last decade has been by far the clubs most successful. Since 2000, we have missed the finals on only 1 occasion, 2002. We appointed Ex-Australian pitcher David White as club coach in 2003. David brought with him not only a pitching arm, but a winning attitude. The ultimate success was achieved in his 1st season, with a 17-13 win against Knox in the Grand Final to land the long awaited 'A' Grade Flag. To prove that this wasn't just a blip on the radar, we went on to win 04, 05 and 07 'A' Grade flags with David at the helm as well as the minor premiership for the last 5 years. At the same time, the 2nds were making their mark, winning the 03 and 05 flags. Our 3rds also broke through for a win in 07, breaking a 20 year drought.
2008 saw a major facelift, in the form of an extension to the clubhouse. With a new separate canteen, storage facilities and new disabled and women's toilets. The social area has also doubled in size. This was achieved through a combined grant from the State Government, Local Council and the club. All in all, a sensational addition to a much loved building. The on field strength continued with all 4 senior teams making finals, the 3rds victorious again to go back to back.
At the time, 2009 looked like being a year that couldn't be repeated. Still under the guidance of David White, we achieved the ultimate success in 1sts, 2nds, 3rds, U17's, U15's and U13's. Six flags out of 9 teams entered, an amazing result!
With home grown ex-pro and Aust. Player Mathew Kent as assistant coach, we entered 5 competitive teams and the good times kept rolling. In 2010 we claimed the flags in 1sts, 2nds, 3rds, 5ths, U17's and U13's as well as the Michael Smith Award for Most Successful Diamond Valley Junior Club. A great effort and a credit to all involved, especially Frank Crivelli for his hard work and commitment to our junior program.
The future of GMBC is bright, with a committed group of workers who continue to strive to make our club a great place to be. As always, and as shown in this history, it is imperative that new blood and new ideas are introduced to keep our club where it should remain- The best run, friendliest, competitive, family orientated club in Victorian Baseball.