Shack gave humble start to Wodonga Diamonds, now celebrating 40 years

Draga Williams and Michael Alavuk and the old changerooms. Picture: TARA GOONAN

Draga Williams and Michael Alavuk and the old changerooms. Picture: TARA GOONAN

IT’S just a few sheets of tin and some well-weathered timber.

But this humble shack next to the Bandiana Link Road is the birthplace of Wodonga Diamonds — seven times the League champions in the men, eight times cup champion, club champion eight of the past nine years and, last year, a record 13 teams in the cup play-offs.

In 1974 when it was farmland owned by Mick Milos, a group of like-minded European immigrants wanted a place to have a kick, Mr Milos agreed and Diamonds were born.

They knocked together two changerooms and the canteen was the Gvozdenovic-family tent. The first job on match day was to clear away the cow pats.

The pitch is now under the Bandiana Link Road bitumen, the goal posts where a speed sign stands.

Now the Diamonds are celebrating their ruby anniversary — 40 years on the Border — with a huge night at the Commercial Club in early June.

Michael Alavuk was president in those early years, before handing over the reins when the club moved to Diamond Park in 1977.

“This is where it started — there were the changerooms and a bit of a roof for a barbecue. I can’t believe it is still standing,” he said.

“The guys were from all over Europe — they just wanted somewhere to play on a Saturday and Sunday.

“It was a social event and also very much a family event.

“I was only president for two years and many other people took the club forward from there.

“For those of us that were here when it started the fact the club is still going is reward enough.”

The club’s senior ladies were undefeated between 1994-99. They won five league championships and nine cups.

Katarina Barrett (1994) and Kathy Millynn (2004) have picked up star players along the way.

Diamonds has also produced the AWFA coach of the year five times — Mick Frank (1981), Pat O’Flaherty (1986), Michael Herzina (1987), Paul Millynn (1998) and Bob Currie (2003) along with four star players Steve Brunec (1999 and 2000), Alex Vaskovic (2001) and Paul Brunec (2003).

Draga Williams (formerly Gvozdenovic) was secretary for seven years in the 1970s. Her grandson, Jedd, was a key to last years league and cup double.

She said the early days were all about family.

“We used to set up the tent for the canteen and have cookers for hot dogs,” Mrs Williams said.

“The first job was to get rid of the cow leftovers — they still grazed cattle on the lane.

“All the kids who played got a hot dog and a drink after the game.”

Diamonds will celebrate 40 years at the Commercial Club, on Saturday, June 7 — contact David Herzina 0418 326 125.

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