The Manly Vale Football Club as we are now known, celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2021. Starting life as Brookvale Soccer Club in 1951, four years after the governing Manly Warringah Football Association (MWFA as it is now called) commenced, we are one of the longest surviving Clubs still playing as an ‘individual’ Club in the MWFA competition.
At the beginning of the 1961 season, after the departure of a number of members to help form Curl Curl Club, the majority of the remaining players and officials were found to be residents of Manly Vale and decided to rename the Club. As Bill Dudley, the first Secretary of the renamed Club stated in the 1961 Annual Report:
“For years the lads of this quickly growing township had no “home town” club to join. The nearest club was at Brookvale and gradually over the years, it became apparent that the members of that club were, in the main, residents of the Manly Vale area. It was therefore decided unanimously at the commencement of the 1961 season to change the name of club to Manly Vale Soccer Club.”
At the commencement of the 1961 season, Manly Vale had 12 junior teams, from Under 8’s to 16’s. In that year, there were 68 Junior teams in the Manly Warringah District, from seven clubs, namely Manly (19 teams), Dee Why (15), Manly Vale (12), Curl Curl (11), CYPC (5), CEBS (4) and St. Augustines with 2 teams. The newly renamed Manly Vale Club proved popular, with a rise in registered players from 106 in 1960 to 171.
Nearly all MWFA games were then played on the Millers Reserve, Manly Vale grounds Nos 1 to 6, with the occasional ‘away’ fixture up on the Manly West ground. Most Manly Vale home games in 1961 were played on Millers 4, 5 and 6, better known now as David Thomas Reserve.
Through the first ‘boom’ in the game in the 1960s, through continuing growth in numbers and reputation in the 1970s and 1980s, Manly Vale has enjoyed a great deal success. Though not one of the ‘big’ clubs in the MWFA, Manly Vale’s foundations are built on the pursuit of excellence in coaching and support, the dedication of our volunteers and the cultivation of the ethos of playing the game in the right spirit, the ‘Manly Vale way’.
Manly Vale is also proud of its reputation as a Family Club. There are numerous families that have had a profound effect on the fortunes of the Club. From the early years when names such as Bathgate, Dudley, Barnes, Thyer, Jones and Bush steered the Club, to the introduction of the Cratchleys, Sestanovichs, Grecos and spanning all these years, the Wainwrights who joined the club in the Brookvale days. Many a committee member joined Manly Vale as a youngster, saw their parents volunteer and are now helping run the Club, continuing the good work.
The Wainwright family had a large influence on the club, with father Ted a coach for several years and 4 brothers all playing for the Club. John and Keith were both to have a hand in running the Club, John as President and Keith as Premier League Coach and still an active player and coach. With the passing of our long standing patron Les Cratchley, Keith has now assumed this role as well.
Two families that seemed to have been with the Club forever are the Grecos and the Sestanovichs. Cas Greco joined Manly Vale as a player in the middle sixties and soon brought his considerable skills to the coaching ranks. Cas’s better half, Connie, has served as Sub-junior and Junior Registrar, as well as long serving Canteen Manager and his brother Ossie played for Manly Vale All Age teams. Ossie served on the Committee for many years, and Cas (who can still be found not far from both the Men’s and Ladies Premier League ‘dug-outs’!) is the longest serving coach at Manly Vale. Their skills have been passed on to the next generation, with all of their children present or past players with the Club, including fixtures in both Men’s and Ladies Premier League teams. The ‘extended’ family includes Connie’s cousin, Tony Bruzzano who has brought his own brand of success to all the teams his has guided and has steered the Women’s Premier League to the Club’s first ever FNSW Champion of Champions success in 2011.
The Sestanovich clan continue to influence the Club. The three Sestanovich boys – John, Michael and Frank started in the juniors, working their way up to lengthy careers in the Premier League. Three of the family have served as Club President at one stage or another – father Tony, mother Velma and Michael, as well as numerous other roles on the committee. Michael’s wife Lee-Anne also served on the committee whilst the next generation are proudly wearing the Vale colours.
There are several Manly Vale teams that have stood out over the years. A number of junior sides have moved through the age divisions, winning titles and sweeping all before them. One such team that started their streak in the early 1970s, included the only Manly Vale junior to go all the way to represent the National team, Ian Gray. This team went undefeated in MWFA competition for numerous years and were in no way a ‘one-man’ team. After over a decade together for several of the side, they formed the basis of the Cas Greco coached side that won the FNSW State Cup in the Under 18 division two seasons in a row, 1980 and 1981.
The 1978 Manly Vale Men’s Premier League side set a benchmark for all sides to follow as the only team to take the flagship Men’s title. Based on Manly Vale juniors, the side included two sets of brothers playing first grade – Paul, Michael and Sean Hennessy, and Alf and Dudley Smuts.
After many years coming close chasing the Women’s Premier League title, the Tony Bruzzano coached squad finally took the honours in 2010 and have now stretched that to three consecutive titles. After the side also reached a couple of FNSW State Cup finals, the team would finally achieve success that had previously eluded all other Manly Vale sides. In 2011, to cap off our 60th anniversary year in the finest of styles, the Women’s Premier League took out the Champion of Champions title, making them Manly Vale’s most successful side. In an undefeated 2012, the team retained both the MWFA Premier League and FNSW Champion of Champions titles in great style.
Apart from Manly Vale’s own Socceroo Ian Gray, the club have also hosted a number of former Australian representatives. Former Socceroo defender and NSL coach, Alan Hunter coached our Premier League successfully several years ago. The team also included another former Socceroo in Grant Lee. Northern Beaches raised Australian representative goalkeeper, Bob Catlin also had a spell with the Club in 2011 and was poised to take over the coaching role until the call of the A-League proved irresistible. Former Matildas, Katrina Boyd and Gill Foster have also graced David Thomas, bringing their skills and inspiration to the Club and Australian Cerebral Palsy National team player, Brett Fairhall has been a long time Club representative.