With a new home, these Raiders came of age

Good times ... Jake Kowski, Paul Twycross, Ashley Bates, Bill Perry and Ross Hedley reminisce about 30 years of football at Birallee Park. Picture: DAVID THORPE

Good times ... Jake Kowski, Paul Twycross, Ashley Bates, Bill Perry and Ross Hedley reminisce about 30 years of football at Birallee Park. Picture: DAVID THORPE

WHAT is the most momentous occasion in the Wodonga Demons-Wodonga Raiders history?

Some believe it came in 1998 when the Raiders signalled they had arrived in the Ovens and Murray by winning their first senior premiership.

Others say it came earlier when they were officially accepted into the league in 1988.

And then there are those who take it a step further back to the early 1980s when Wodonga Council allocated the club a 2.5-hectare parcel of vacant land known as Birallee Park.

The days of being seen as Wodonga’s poor relation playing out of John Flower Oval and Martin Park No. 2 were gone, along with paying rent and handing over a percentage of bar takings to the Bulldogs.

Finally, they had a home and financial security.

Club stalwart Jake Kowski was heavily involved in the Demons’ first home matches at Birallee Park in 1984.

He coached the Demons’ thirds and played seniors later in the day against Barnawartha and recalls a “sense of pride” among players and supporters.

“It was an exciting time,” Kowski said.

“I remember the day before the first game we all had to assemble and line up across the ground with our little buckets and walk across the ground picking up rocks and sticks.

“There were only change- rooms at the ground back then with a door partitioning them.

“After the game we had to quickly get changed to get out for the social drinks.

“As the year went on there was a lot of naked bodies walking around.”

Fellow club stalwart Paul Twycross was vice-captain of the third grade team that season.

“We got the best conditions early because the ground used to chop up fairly badly in those years,” Twycross said.

“It was a bit of a shocker back then.

“It was a good environment to start your footy in ... like a lot of the country grounds.

“The club has moved on magnificently since them.”

Wodonga Raiders will celebrate 30 years at Birallee Park when they play Wangaratta Rovers today.

Pictures showcasing highlights from the 1987 Tallangatta and District Football League premiership win over Mitta United and the historic Ovens and Murray triumph over Lavington in 1998 will be among the memorabilia on display.

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