Wodonga Diamonds Soccer Club - An Historical Perspective
Formed in 1974, Wodonga Diamonds Soccer Club was one of the founding clubs of the Albury-Wodonga Soccer Association (now Soccer Albury-Wodonga). In its early days, Diamonds’ founders were predominantly from the Serbian community. As years passed by the club took on a true multi-cultural flavour. Like many local clubs of the time it grew as a result of both the growth of Albury-Wodonga and the desire to play in a competition that had a lot less travel than was required in the North-East Soccer League. In its formative years Diamonds players were derived from a mixture of sources including the Wodonga and Border side that played in the North-East Soccer League.
Wodonga Diamonds first ground were playing fields leased from local businessman Mick Milos, in Kendall St East Wodonga. There were many weekends when “cattle-dung” had to be cleared from the playing fields in order to play soccer. Diamonds first club-house (if that is what you would call it) was a tin-shack. However, the club had to start somewhere, and through the dedication and hard work of volunteers, the club soon started to make its mark on the association. Cup runners-up in 1976, Diamonds went one better in 1977. With Vince Pica as coach, Diamonds Seniors won the League and Cup Double, culminating in a wonderful 4-1 victory over Myrtleford in the final at Wodonga Sports Park (Kelly Park). Diamonds also won the highly sought after Easter (Fabris Cup) competition earlier in the year.
It was obvious the time had come to look for “greener” pastures as far as a home-base was concerned. In late 1977, Wodonga Diamonds negotiated with the Wodonga Council to secure land on Lincoln Causeway to develop new playing fields in time for the start of the 1978 season. Initially, players recall having to change in the “Scotty Taylor Holden Bus”, however the club managed to secure a club house derived from an army barracks hut. Players and spectators can recall many a memorable night celebrating into the wee hours after a victory at the old clubrooms. One of those famous nights was in 1981, when the club achieved a superb treble of cup wins in the Seniors, the Reserves (under Mick Frank), and the Under 14s.
Throughout the 1980s, Diamonds were a model of consistency in the Senior Grade, finishing no lower than third in the league between 1981 and 1990, with league wins in 1985,1986 and 1990 and cup wins in 1981, 1989 and 1990. Pat O’Flaherty was at the helm when Diamonds won back to back league wins in 1985 and 1986. During this time, the Reserve team won the league a remarkable nine years in a row (1982 - 1990) and the cup six times (1981, 1982, 1984, 1987 - 89). In 1990, the Wodonga City Council rewarded this success by giving the Seniors, Reserves and Senior Ladies (all cup winners in 1989) a civic reception and certificate of achievement. Carlo Villani was the coach of the 1990 side that won the league and cup double.
In 1987 through the work of many, Diamonds managed to secure a new clubroom at Lincoln Causeway (named the Cobb Millynn clubrooms after the late Diamonds President from 1981 - 1992). These clubrooms were a worthy testament to Cobb’s hard work and vision. This modern facility was a significant improvement on the previous building (the only down side being the opposition no longer had cold showers)!
Again, the club secured an extended lease from the council. This gave the club greater independence than many other local clubs, however it also meant greater responsibility for the maintenance of the facilities. One of the long serving stalwarts of the club, Michael Herzina (Max) (Vice-President 1981 - 92 and 1995 - 1997) was one of the key figures in helping the maintenance process.
The 1990s was a decade of continued achievement for the club. Unquestionably it was the decade of the Senior Ladies soccer team. With Paul Millynn as coach, Diamonds ladies were undefeated for five years (1994 - 1999) and won the league four times (1995 - 1998) and the cup six years in a row (1994 - 1999). The ladies went on to win the cup in 2001. In 1997, the ladies team also progressed to the semi-finals of the prestigious NSW Champion of Champions (beating several Sydney teams en-route to the semi finals).
Diamonds Seniors, coached by Paul Millynn, became a power again in 2000 by winning the cup final. The following year in 2001 under Danny Mellon, Diamonds became only the second club in the history of the association (after Albury City in 1983) to go through the entire season undefeated. 2001 also saw a unique quadrella of success with the Senior, Reserve Men’s, Senior Ladies and Under 10s achieving cup success. More League success followed for the Senior Grade in 2002, with the Reserve team achieving a hat trick of league success from 2000 to 2002.
Wodonga Diamonds have had five coaches of the year in its history. Mick Frank (1981), Pat O’Flaherty (1986), Michael Herzina (1987), Paul Millynn (1998) and Bob Currie (2003) won coaching various Senior, Ladies and Junior teams. Additionally, Diamonds players have been recipients of four Senior Star Player Awards, Steve Brunec (1999 and 2000), Alex Vaskovic (2001) and Paul Brunec (2003).
From 1988 to 2004, Wodonga Diamonds played host to the association’s grand final. This is a testimony to the quality of the facilities and the hard work of the personnel at the club. The only year the club did not host the final was in 1991 when Diamond Park was flooded for the second time meaning the venue was switched to Martin Park (but the club still organised the event). This highlighted the bigger long term issue for the club, namely that despite the quality of the facilities at Diamond Park it remained on a flood plain. This made it increasingly difficult for the club to get financial assistance to expand.
In 2002, the club started to receive expressions of interest from the Wodonga Council to relocate to a green field site near La Trobe University, Wodonga. This would help solve two issues in one. As part of the Wodonga Rail Relocation Process the council proposed to move the motor bike club from next door, while at the same-time giving the club “state of the art facilities”. For the sake of the long term history of the club, the committee and members voted in 2003 - 2004 to approve the project.
The new facility opened in 2005 and is of sufficient quality to host Victorian Premier League fixtures as it did in June 2005. The venue is unique to the area in the quality of lights and playing surface as well as providing for female change rooms.
As of 2005, Diamonds can look back with pride at the hard work and success it has achieved. With the new facilities at Latrobe there are exciting times ahead. With the platform that has been built the sky is the limit as to where the club can go in the future. There is no doubt the aim is for the club to be the benchmark for soccer in this area from the junior ranks right up to senior level. Additionally, the base is there to achieve increased off-field levels of excellence.