From portables to premierships - 30 years of the Crocs
The Port Douglas Crocs AFL football club is celebrating 30 years of footy in the Douglas Shire in 2019.
The team has become a powerhouse of the AFL Cairns League in recent years and have come a long way from their humble beginnings.
From using portable buildings for change rooms and converting landfill to an oval, Crocs founder Andy Smith spoke of the growth and more growth of the Crocs.
It all started in 1988 with Andy having AFL highlight packages flown up each week from Melbourne to be shown at the Central Hotel each Tuesday night.
Andy soon decided Port Douglas should be represented in the Cairns AFL league and jumped on the phone to organise it.
“I made a call to Cairn AFL to find out how I would go about starting a footy club and they said it’s all up to me,” he said.
“I need to sort all out be the one who instigates it all.
“So, I called a meeting at the surf club and about 60 people turned up; it was decided we would kick start a footy club so we put a date down about two weeks later for an AGM.
“Then the fun began.”
Andy was voted president of the Club and the late Ernie Baxter put his hand up for Vice President so, along with about 110 registered players in 1989, the team was underway.
“I reckon I had about 70 players living in my house over that first year and we used Ernie’s place as a club room,” Andy said.
“I bought an honour board in the first year, looked at it, and thought we would never fill it.”
The team was without a proper home for the first few years and was ferrying gear back and forth from Andy’s shed to where they needed to play.
“That first year was fun but total chaos. I even didn’t know what size a footy oval was supposed to be.
“When I went to check out Reyonds Park it was about 60 meters too short; we would have had to block a street and bulldoze the CWA building to play on it.
“The league said we can play a Trinity Beach but I said no, we are Port Douglas and we need a home here.”
The team played at the Mossman show-grounds for a few years, which only barely passed the minimum requirements for an AFL oval.
Andy didn’t give up looking for a home for the team in Port Douglas and spent time flying to Brisbane and speaking with the Queensland premier to secure some land.
“In 1992, I had heaps of meetings with Council and Government and after about 50 meetings, they eventually gave the old landfill to us.
“Half the councilors at the time wanted to develop it but Mike Berwick, the Mayor at the time, was all for it.”
What followed was a mammoth effort by club members, the Council, and the community to transform the old tip into a home for Crocs.
About eight tonnes of rubbish was removed from the site before they were able to mold it and grass it ready for playing.
The current clubrooms were built in 1994 and the team has, mostly, gone from strength to strength ever since.
“I still get phone calls and emails from players from that 1989-90 time saying it was best year of their lives,” Andy said.
“They came as kids and become men, and I have a lot of pride in not just what they have done but what the club has done.”
Andy especially said the club wouldn’t be what it is today without the input of Ernie Baxter, who sadly passed in 2013.
“Ernie was a legend of an offsider, just a great bloke.
“He was always in there doing something, I would come up with ideas but he was a doer.”
The Port Douglas Crocs are now a team to be reckoned with, winning four of the last five premierships and continuing to strengthen their ties in the community.
Andy isn’t as involved with the running of the club as he used to be but the Crocs will always have a special place in his heart.
“I have done my bit and I’ll go along and watch the games and see the success of the club but it’s in good hands.
“Where we struggled early, and remember we did spend 10 years on the bottom of the ladder, now we have good people and a community that we can be proud of.
“There has been some rocky roads and a million stories over the years, not all of them good, but the club is in a really great spot.
“I’m confident that no matter what happens, we’ll be a competitive side because good people drag in more good people.”
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