Tigers still burning bright after 90 years

Queanbeyan Tigers' committee member and veteran of 166 games, Col Imrie, in front of the Tigers' original home ground of 55 years, Queanbeyan Park. The Tigers will celebrate 90 years as a club this Saturday. Photo: Joshua Matic.

Queanbeyan Tigers' committee member and veteran of 166 games, Col Imrie, in front of the Tigers' original home ground of 55 years, Queanbeyan Park. The Tigers will celebrate 90 years as a club this Saturday. Photo: Joshua Matic.

FROM young country footy club, to the competition's financially-struggling whipping boys, to a modern and professional footy powerhouse, it's been one wild ride for the Queanbeyan Tigers. And this Saturday, Tiges' players and supporters old and new will take the chance to celebrate 90 years of the town's home-grown Australian Rules football club.

The occasion will be celebrated during the day for the club's home NEAFL fixture against the Belconnen Magpies at Karabar's Dairy Farmers Park, before a dinner function at the Canberra Southern Cross Club in the evening.

But it was back in the 1960s and 1970s that the oldest Australian Rules football club in the Canberra region came dangerously close to folding altogether.

And according to one of the father figures at the club in former president Mr Dave Imrie, the club's new home in what is now known as "The Tigers Club" was the only way to lift them back to being a force in local Australian Rules football.

"Without a club home it was way too hard to keep players," Mr Imrie said.

"The Canberra clubs were taking a lot of players, and we just couldn't compete. The club was headed for a very dark patch."

Mr Imrie was president of the Queanbeyan Tigers Football Club from 1968 to 1970 before stepping down to allow a younger generation of sports administrators to take over, but he had been linked to the club since 1961 when his son Col Imrie started playing in the under 10s division.

From 1953 to 1956 the club merged with the former Canberra-based Acton club, where it won three first grade premierships, but upon splitting from Acton after the 1956 title, things took a turn for the worst.

The Tigers failed to make the finals at all between 1962 and 1974, and public support for the club began to diminish.

With very limited funds and the first grade team at times getting beaten by 200 point margins, the club's junior program threatened to split and form their own club.

It was around this time the new club administration marked plans to build a licensed club, which would see the club begin to produce a regular income and finally have a place to call home.

"Before then we used to meet at the Victoria hotel, and that's where players would drink after the game," recalled Mr Imrie.

The Licensed Club finally opened in 1983, and generates approximately $400,000 dollars a year for the football club.

Since the club's opening, the Tigers have returned seven first grade premierships and made a further 10 grand finals, including its 2012 NEAFL grand final triumph over the Sydney Swans reserves under current coach Kade Klemke.

Col Imrie played 166 first grade games himself for the club between 1978 and 1985, finally seeing premiership glory in 1985. He applauded the Tigers for establishing their own licensed club.

"It sparked a growth in professionalism that was never there before," he said.

"Before we'd do our own fundraising which simply wasn't enough. We'd play at Queanbeyan Park where there was one light after dark, and sometimes we had to hire the tennis pavilion too."

Col Imrie remains a committee member of the board of the Tigers Licensed Club, and said he looks forward to another 90 years of success.

The Queanbeyan Tigers 90 Year Gala Dinner will be held on Saturday, May 31 at the Canberra Southern Cross Club, Woden, from 6.30pm. Hawthorn premiership winner and Brownlow Medallist Robert DiPierdomenico will be the guest presenter.

Tickets are $110 per person. For more information, contact Ron Fowlie on 0419 280 764 or email qtigers@tigersclub.com.au.

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