The Promising Years – 1964 to 1967
!964 saw a rejuvenated Ajax Football Club. It seemed that the club was about to start a new era, as players
were enthusiastic about playing football for the first time in years. The Ajax Committee decided to enter a
third team in the V.A.F.A. under 20 competition. The newly formed Ajax Third XVIII (Juniors) side faired
poorly to begin with as a direct result of the high standard of the division.
The achievements of these years were very much a result of the establishment of a junior side, as well as the
gaining of a number of talented recruits.
Harold Davis, President 1964 - 67
It was in the 1964 season that Ajax had a player reported – Joe Flinkier. He was reported for unduly rough play
for fending off a player with an open hand to the face. At the tribunal, Joe produced a photograph from the
previous V.F.L. round which showed Ron Barassi (Melbourne) in exactly the same situation. Flinkier was found
not guilty by the tribunal.
As the 1965 season progressed, it was obvious that the 1964 Juniors were starting to show the reward of experience,
and Ajax Seniors finished in third place after losing only four home games.
The First Premiership
Season 1966 was to be one to remember. Ajax Football Club won its first premiership when the senior team scored
a runaway 71-point win over Old Ivanhoe Grammarians on September 10. This was a culmination of a highly
successful year, where the benefit of the formulation of the Under 19s in 1964 has started to show. In pre-season
practice matches and training sessions many of the Under 19s were exerting pressure on the regular players. The
enthusiasm of these lads and the masterly manner of coach Lionel Rosenberg, had the players in peak condition at
the start if the season. Stan Duzenman dominated the centre in that premiership year, and was awarded the
Harold Sackville Trophy as well as club’s Best and Fairest award.
On the social side, the club had never been stronger. The annual barbeque hosted 800 people, and the end-of-season
trip turned out to be a function that should never be missed. The success of the club continued as club representatives
Hiram Janover and John Brustman won the interclub drinking challenge by beating the Carey representatives.
Reserves finished fifth on the ladder, and the Juniors finished sixth after losing several closely contested games.
The 1967 season did not go as well as expected. After being on top of the ladder for the first six games of the year,
the side finished fourth, a disappointing result considering the talent of the team. Ajax’s rise to C Grade may have
been prevented by two losses to lowly sides, Brunswick and Fairfield, which stopped the club getting the double chance.
During the year Ajax had the great honour of playing in the amateur match of the day against Hampton Rovers,
(the eventual premiers) at Elsternwick Park: the first time this had happened in the clubs 11-year history.
Reserves had a disappointing season, after starting the year brilliantly. The Juniors provided areal highlight for the club,
making the finals for the first time.
The Disappointing Years - 1968 to 1969
1968 saw changes in the club leaders prompted by illness, and business and study commitments. Ajax seniors
won three out of the first five games to place them near the top of the ladder, but they won only one out of the
next nine games, which brought the club close to relegation. The one pleasing aspect of the year was the way
the team fought for victory when facing relegation. In Round 15, Ajax turned on a brilliant display to defeat premiership
favourite Parkside 9.9-63 to 7.13-55. And in Round 17, Ajax, needing a win to secure themselves in D Grade, defeated
Fairfield 16.7-103 to10.12-72.
The Juniors and Reserves proved to be the club highlight of the year, and both teams played off in the grand
finals. Reserves started the season magnificently winning the first six games, but inconsistency saw them finish
fourth after the home and away games. The Juniors only lost one of the first eight games, but were brought down
to earth when whitewashed by Old Paradians 16.13-109 to 0.6-6. The youngsters regained confidence despite the drubbing,
and made it to the grand final, where they were thrashed again the undefeated Old Paradians.
1969 was a bad year for the Ajax Football club. The Seniors finished last, which saw the team relegated back to E Grade
and the Juniors went through the season without winning a game. The Seniors suffered from player depletion and rarely
saw the appearance of their most outstanding players because of injury and alternative commitments. The Reserves
made the four, which was the highlight of the club. Reserves lost to Old Trinity after missing two easy goals in the semi-final.
Melbourne, August 1st 1969
Knockers by Hans Licht
Knock-knock, you can hear them at work, KNOCK-KNOCK, they’re digging and sniping. Woodpeckers? Yes the human variety. This time they’re knocking AJAX footballers for their lack of success in the current VAFA D section season.
In the meantime, a closer look at AJAX senior XVIII shows high team spirit, devoted officials, youthful (future) talent and a number of close results which could have gone the other way.
The Middle of the Road Years - 1970 to 1974
1970 saw changes both on and off the field. This included both coaching and club committee changes, and 1970 proved to be a poor year for the club. For the first time in its history, the Seniors failed to make the four in E Grade. Things looked both promising, with the debut of new and exciting players, and not so promising where players were again missed – some players deciding to play with clubs in higher grades. As a result the club won only eight games for the season and finished seventh. Despite the mediocre season, the club did show some patches of brilliance. In Round 18 Ajax defeated State Savings Bank (fifth). The result seemed to have no significance at the time, as State Savings Bank could not make the four, and Ajax could not go any lower than ninth (in a 12 team competition) and could not be relegated. It was announced that in February of 1971, a new section, F Section, would be added to the competition, and the four bottom teams in E Grade in 1970 would be relegated. The win against State Savings Bank meant that Ajax would not be relegated to F Grade in 1971. The Reserves also had a disappointing 1970 season, despite the potential of the side, and the Juniors, although fielding a side every week, received some humiliating defeats.
1971 saw Ajax finishing sixth, but this was amongst much activity within the club. For the first time in the club’s history, it got a permanent home and wonderful facilities for its players with the establishment of the Gary Smorgon Memorial Pavilion. The acquisition of the pavilion had been one of the main aims of every committee since the foundation of the club in 1957. The Seniors showed some improvement during the year, and if not for a mid season slump, would have made the four. The year saw the promotion of a number of junior players into Ajax Seniors. As a result, the Junior side suffered, but the spirit of the team was never dented because of the type of characters in the side.
The Reserves won the flag in 1971 by defeating the other three finalists from fourth position, providing the year’s highlight for the club.
Seasons 1972 and 1973 were frustrating years for the Ajax Amateur Football Club. The committee had hoped for a marked improvement in the club’s performance in 1972 because 1971 finished on such a high note. But the club limped home with some mediocre performances. After starting well at the beginning of 1972, a mid-season slump hit which saw Ajax in the relegation zone. The team was crippled with injury, and suspensions, while other players had chosen to retire. Courage and determination saw the Seniors finish fifth in the home and away season.
The Reserves were “moral premiers” having to forfeit the grand final because of Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year). The V.A.F.A. Executive and the E Grade clubs (except for Marcellin) rejected a request from the Ajax committee to defer the game should it fall on the same date. Reserves had already won the second semi-final by more than 10 goals, despite having such a strong side around finals time, they were short of players at times during the year. In Round 14, committeeman John Brustman again took the field to make up the numbers, which proved to be the match-winning move.
1973 saw the Seniors start the year like world beaters and looking like premiership material by Round 5, but finished the season like lambs in fifth position again. The most disappointing aspect of the side was its inconsistency. To be able to beat the two grand finalists by nearly twenty goals, showed how much talent was in the side, but to lose to the bottom team twice showed there was something lacking in the players’ attitudes.
Reserves had a disappointing year and struggled to field a side for most of the season. A victory that meant so much to Ajax Reserves was the defeating of Old Ivanhoe, which won the 1972 Reserves grand final because of Ajax having to forfeit the game. Having been robbed of the flag, the players were keyed up like never before. The Captain Tom Lefkovic was reported for striking and Rod Morley for abusive language. The umpire who reported Morley was his personal lawyer, Ernest Woolf, who for once, could not defend his client. Morley did not need Ernest’s help, as he was able to convinced the tribunal of his innocence himself.
The Juniors had their best year for many seasons.
1974 saw Ajax Seniors remain in fifth position on the ladder by the end of the home and away season, albeit with an improved side. The Reserves, while starting the season with five straight losses, suddenly hit form to record four wins in the next five matches.
The Juniors proved to be a big disappointment, and did not win a game until Round 15. There was also conflict between the Junior and Senior sides. This occurred because several Junior players were promoted to the Senior side, this resulted in low Junior team morale.