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Club History

Proud, Passionate and Purple

A run down memory lane

By: Jamie Parsons Collins

The history of the Rosanna Little Athletics Club is a colourful one. It is full of families, fun and passion - with a little controversy thrown in along the way. More than 8,000 people have participated with the the Club over the past 42 years. If you have any further information to add to the club history please do not hesitate to contact the club. In February 2012 Rosanna achived its highest number of athletes ever in a season - 162!


In the Beginning

In 1970 Johnny Farnham’s “Raindrops Keep falling on my head” was Australia’s best selling single and at the same time, on Wednesday the 16th September (a school night) a community meeting was called at the Rosanna Primary School Library with the aim of establishing a Rosanna little athletics club.


Warren Bartley called the meeting and while he was setting up the room and finalising his opening remarks he was still not too sure if enough people would turn up. He needn’t have worried. By the start of the meeting over 25 parents had taken their seats and there there was now a lot to organise.


This first meeting lasted 3 hours and by the time parents started heading home the club colours of purple & white were selected, a club name chosen, flyers needed producing and there was equipment to purchase.


The meeting appointed Warren Bartley as President, Geoff Mill as Secretary, Vivienne Bartley as Treasurer and Stewart Paterson & Bill Cowley as Team Managers. This first group of organising families set the tone for Rosanna’s future. The Committee was well organised and was very co-operative with a common purpose of providing fun and friendly athletic activities for children.


Controversy and Rosanna have never been too far away and at this early stage there was a potential local conflict brewing. The McLeod Little Athletics Club had been functioning for a number of seasons and were concerned that the new new Rosanna Club would have a negative impact on their membership numbers - they had a right to be worried - the new Rosanna club started with a bang.


The newly established club joined the Heidelberg Little Athletics Centre. The track was located at the Olympic Village in West Heidelberg. 60 athletes from 40 families aged from under 8’s to under 12’s signed up to the inaugural season. These families were the beginning of a dynasty - more than 8,000 people would go on to be part of the mighty purple and white.

Registration fees were 60c for the season and an extra 10c every Saturday morning. The club finished the season with $3. 40 in the bank from a turnover of $137. 70. The club finished 7th overall with four Rosanna athletes holding Heidelberg Centre records.




Australian society changed markedly in the 1970’s. The Vietnam war ended, there was turmoil in politics and skyhooks were one of Australia's most successful bands. We were living in the 70’s and it was a purple world.

Club meetings were held at the homes of Committee members (a tradition that has survived for 40 years). The Club commenced training at Rosanna Primary School and Little Athletics was becoming one of the biggest junior participation sports across Australia.

At the end of the 1971-72 season presentation day was held at the Tootourrong Reservoir just outside of Whittlesea. A new club medal was awarded for “Athlete of the Year” to Elisa Coulson for Girls and Craig Smythe for boys.

Despite their being a cinders track at the Olympic Village it was in no state to compete on the Rosanna athletes competed on a grass track marked out by the Heidelberg Centre. It was not until later in the decade that the cinders track was upgraded by the council and little athletes could compete on it.

Craig Smythe was an outstanding club performer, he was Centre Boys Champion and represented Victoria at the National Championships in the mid 1970’s.

By 1975 the club had grown to almost 100 athletes and had become one of the more successful and well organised clubs at the Heidelberg Centre.

The 1970’s were golden years, with the club winning four Heidelberg Centre Club Championships in a row including 1975-76, 1976-77, 1977-78 and 1978-79.

In 1976 the Club’s finances has swelled to $368.


In 1977-78 club Champion Lee Oakley won gold in the 100 metre hurdles and silver in the long jump in the under 12’s State Championships. Ricky Jackson, who later went onto play for Melbourne in the Victorian Football League, won a gold medal at the State Championships for under 10 high jump in 1976-1977.


Towards the end of 70’s the club moved its training from Rosanna Primary School to Rosanna Parklands. Every Wednesday night the Rosanna Little Athletics Club was a regular feature for the commuters travelling on the Greensborough line.


The club’s success grew – the club become financially strong, had lots of participants and produced some wonderful athletes. Rosanna was also significantly involved in managing the Heidelberg Centre.


A number of current club records that were set in the 1970’s are still unchallenged today. This includes Lee Oakley who set 5 U10 records in 1977-1978 - 60H(10. 00), Long Jump (4. 15), 70m (10. 4) and 100m (14. 2). In the same year Kerrie Lee set a Rosanna record in the U12 200m with a time of 27. 70.


The end of the 70’s lead to the most significant event in the club’s history, friendships would be frayed, accusations made and ultimately the destiny of the club would change. The start of the decade started with optimism but by the start of the 1978 season purple storm clouds were brewing.



An End and a New Beginning

As the decade came to a close the 1970’s were ending in drama. There was talk of national team boycotts at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games and at the same time the Rosanna Little Athletics Club was considering it’s own protest action.


Rosanna was a stalwart club and a key part of Heidelberg Centre’s success. The club was well run and had high expectations. The events of the first day of season 1978 had a domino effect that would change the club forever.


7th October 1978 was the opening day of the athletics season. In the lead up to the 1978-79 season The Banyule Club, a suburb located next door to Rosanna, had done a great deal of promotion and recruited a large number of Children. Being located next to Rosanna there was often discussion over which Club children would compete for.

Banyule signed up 60 athletes on its first day, however registration fees were not paid on the day as had been understood was required. A debate erupted over whether club points would be counted.


The Executive of the Heidelberg Centre determined to meet on the following Wednesday to make a decision. By this time the issues were more than just about points but the integirity of the competition.


After much discussion the Heidelberg executive decided to award points to Banyule despite not paying their registration fees on the day. This lead to acrimonious debate and a walkout by the Rosanna Delegates.


A number of days later the Rosanna Committee met and the following motions were put forward:


Moved by Dick White: We stick with the Centre this season and fulfil our obligations where applicable – carried.


Moved by Paul Nerer: That we request a special delegates meeting to discuss registration and allocation of points for first day of competition – all were in favour


Moved by Paul Nerer: That we discuss at a later date the possibility of joining another centre – defeated


Not only was the motion to move to another centre lost but the Rosanna Club agreed by majority to continue at Heidelberg and “wholeheartedly” supported the centre.


Letters, phone calls and comments continued to fly back and forth but the Banyule points would stand. The issue continued to simmer.

The season progressed and issues that would normally be taken in their stride including the incorrect recording of times and poor organisation of the centres relay championships were magnified through Rosanna’s continuing frustration with the Centre.


Relationships had broken down so far that the Victorian Little Athletics Association were called in to mediate. At the Rosanna committee meeting of 21st November 1978 passions were running high. A lengthy amount of time was put aside to discuss the “unpleasantness” that had developed between the Heidelberg Centre and the Rosanna Club. In attendance were the Rosanna Committee, George Nevitt of the Victorian Little Athletics Association and Tony Brown from the Heidelberg Centre.


After the meeting the Heidelberg Centre prepared a statement for other club committees that only served to stoke tensions further. Rosanna insisted some words in the statement be deleted. The statement was released with the offending sentence blacked out. This act was the last straw for the Rosanna Committee and along with the continuing issues between adults lead to the events at the Rosanna Committee meeting of 12 December 1979.

At the Committee meeting of 12 December 1979 parents Ron Gates and Paul Nerer were authorised to prepare a report regarding the pros and cons of moving to another Centre which they carried out with due diligence.

The issue bubbled away over Christmas of 1979. The contents of the report were distributed and at the Club Committee meeting of 21 February 1979 it was agreed that Rosanna parents would be approached to gauge their interest in becoming members of the Committee – then a decision to move or stay would be made by the new committee.


Finally, at the committee meeting of 14 March 1979 a decision would be made, would the club stay at the Heidelberg Centre or move to the Diamond Valley Centre?

The meeting proceeded covering the normal issues of medal production, finances, uniforms and track and field Championships. Then finally the Committee turned its attention to the most important item on the agenda.


Its Unanimous!

It was agreed unanimously that the Rosanna Club should make an application for transfer to the Diamond Valley Centre!

The club secretary was instructed to write a letter to the Victorian Little Athletics Association to request the transfer. The VLAA replied saying it was entirely a matter for the Rosanna Club provided the Diamond Valley Centre accepted the transfer. The Rosanna Committee wrote to the Diamond Valley Committee requesting to join the Centre.

On the 28th May 1979 Rosanna Little Athletics Club received a letter from Ray Nightingale of the Diamond Valley Little Athletics Centre welcoming Rosanna to their competition. On the 17th August 1979 Rosanna attended the Diamond Valley AGM as fully fledged voting members of their new centre.



The 1980’s were a decade of excess - big money, big hair, big shoulder pads and a big Rosanna Little Athletics Club.

By the early 1980’s club training had moved to the Rosanna Golf Links Primary School Oval and continued on Wednesday nights. The club also continued its relationship with the Ivanhoe Amateur Athletics Club. Over the years many Rosanna athletes have joined the Ivanhoe club when they moved to seniors as well as the Diamond Valley Senior Athletics Club.


In 1981-82 season Julie Clough (U9) won the girls Club Champion and Erin Carozzi (also U9) won the boys club Champion award.


In 1982-83 under 14’s and under 15’s were added to the program providing further opportunities for children to stay involved in little athletics. This had the effect of boosting athlete numbers significantly and in 1982-83 the club had a record 112 (93 boys and 47 girls) enrolments. The ratio of boys and girls continued to remain lopsided until the start of the 2000’s.

At the end of 1983 the club decided to have a logo. The famous Rosanna running hurdler was born.


At the end of 1983 Club funds totalled $801.


The club went from strength to strength increasing participation numbers to 158. Then top a great decade off won the Diamond Valley Club Championships in 1983/1984 and 1985/86 and coming runners up in 1982/1983.


The move to Diamond Valley was paying off through increased participation and good organisation. In 1985 the tensions with Heidelberg still simmered and Rosanna’s old foe attempted to cajole, convince and encourage Rosanna to come back, including the claim that Rosanna held Heidelberg trophies that had not been returned. Letters were written to VLAA by the Heidelberg Centre, however arrangements stood and Rosanna continued at Diamond Valley.

By the end of the 80’s the club was continuing to perform strongly. 98 athletes signed up for the last season of the decade. There was a great group athletes and parents involved with the club and the future look bright.




The 1990s were a decade of a diverse world – the internet and email took hold of popular culture and alternative rock became mainstream. You go, girl! was a popular phrase in the media and Rosanna had a booming start to the Decade.

Robert Whitmarsh emerged as a star of the club and was selected in the Victorian team to compete at Australian Championships and still holds many Rosanna records.


In 1993-94 Leslie Smith became just the second female President until that time and in 1995-96 Rosanna celebrated 25 years as a club.

At the end of the 1995-96 season the club reviewed its training based at Rosanna Golf Links Primary School and decided a move training to Willinda Park. Wednesday’s continuing to be the club’s training night and the move opened a new chapter in the life of Rosanna Little Athletics Club.


The cash position of the club continued to be strong and at the start of the 1996/97 season the club had $2,759 locked away in the bank.

At the end of the 1997-98 season presentation day was held as a BBQ at Rosanna Parklands.

In the late 90’s the boy power of Serey Nop, Hayden Keall and Christopher Lim produced outstanding results. Between them - winning state medals, centre championships and Club Champions awards.


As the decade came to end athlete numbers started to decline. From a high of 104 in 1995, numbers had fallen to 55 for the start of the 1999-00 season. Basketball and netball were impacting on numbers; computer games and the internet started to take hold and the club was looking for fresh impetus.


The 00’s

The y2k bug was nothing but a distant memory when the start of the first full season of the decade rolled around. Macy Gray was the hottest new act around, the Sydney Olympics were a huge success and there was a sense of optimism and the club started to grow again. Within 2 years the athlete numbers had grown to 112.


The "ontrack" program for under 6's and under 7's was introduced at the start of the 2001/02 season. On track was a radical departure from the tradtional athletics program. It was a new emphasis with Athletes having a focus on fun and skill development for an hour on a Saturday mornings. Rosanna has been an enthusiastic supporter of the ontrack program with large numbers of participants.


After 9 years with the club the David Family said a sad goodbye in 2005/06. New State Championship medal winners emerged including Jade Crabtree, Laurence Schubert, Phillip Blyth, Kaitlin Krahe, Olivia Getson and Joanna Stewart.


During the 2000’s the numbers of boys and girls evened up reflecting further changes in society and the many female role models emerging in the sporting arena.


n 2008/09 Emma Hannan (under 9) became the first Rosanna and Diamond Valley athlete to medal in 4 State Championships in the same season. – Cross Country (Team Bronze), Relay (gold, silver & bronze), Multi (Bronze) and Track and Field (1 Silver, 2 Bronze).


Under the auspices of Team Managers, the Zerna’s, a formal Personal Best Program was introduced at the start of the 2008/2009 season providing athletes with incentives to beat their PB’s. There was an immediate spike in retuning athletes to the club and more athletes attending from week to week.


Other innovations towards the end of the decade included a “coaching panel” set up by Grant King to develop the coaching skills within the club.

The inauguralRosanna Gift, a staggered race based on season times, was run for the first time at presentation day of the 2009/10 season and is set to become a time honoured Rosanna tradition.


The late 2000’s saw the club explode with athletic numbers peaking again at 120 in the 2008/09 season and more than 130 in the 2010/2011 Season. The 2010/2011 saw the club break a number of records including – biggest retention rate, biggest increase in athletes from one year to the next and the largest number of on trackers (under 6 and under 7 participants).


The Clubs financial position was at its strongest at the end of the 2009/2010 season with over $7,500 in the bank.

In 2010 The Club launched an afterschool program with the support of the Australian Sports Commission promoting athletics to children. The club was also been involved with the LAPS program run by VLAA, promoting athletics in schools during school time.

The club for the first time recognised life members at the 2010-11 AGM and has supporters such as Olympic Gold Medalist, Cathy Freeman pictured below.

A club website was introduced (www. rlac. com. au) in 2010 and a club them song launched as part of the 40th Birthday celebrations. The club theme song reflects over 40 years of culture within the club as well as a focus on the future.

We are Rosanna, The greatest club of all


We are Rosanna, We are one for all


We try with all our might, We are the mighty purple and white


Our banners fly high from dawn to dark, Down at Willinda Park


In February 2012 after the tireless effort of Rosanna families Rosanna hit a record 161 athletes. The most athletes ever in one season for the club.


In 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14 Rosanna won the Diamond Valley Little Aths Centre Championships. In 2012/13

Rosanna acheived over 1,600 PB's  throughout the season and acheiving 37 State medals across Little Athletics Victoria's Track & Field, Relay and Multi State Championships. A record for the club.



The club is in a strong position and the club is well on the way to celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The key principles of the club – fun, family, working together and being purple are just important today as they were at the first club meeting over 40 years ago.


While Johnny Farnham may have sang Rain Drops are Falling on my Head more than 40 years ago the future of the Rosanna Little Athletics Club looks especially bright and there are purple skies ahead.


For more detailed information regarding Rosanna's history please click on any of the links below:

For Rosanna historical photos click here.

For the full history see our AGM reports and historical documents click here.

For a full list of Personal Best performers click here

For a full list of Club Champions click here

For a full list of Rosanna athlete records click here.

For a full list of Rosanna athletes that have won state medals click here.

For a list of Rosanna athlete top performers click here.

For a full list of Rosanna past committee members click here

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