Following the immediate post-War period in the Top End’s sporting history, a number or sports took a few years to re-establish and hockey was no exception.
Of the four clubs which started in the first year (1949), both Commerce-Pints and University Tigers can establish direct links to two of them – Shell and Works respectively.
Although drawing players from some of the original clubs, Banks was the first of the “new” clubs to be inducted into the Darwin Hockey Association following this period.
The introduction of the Banks-Brothers team nearly 11years later in the 1960/61 season, comprising a mixture of bank and government staff, brought about a fresh look to the competition.
The origins of the Banks Hockey Club can be traced back to August 16, 1960, when 13 men called a meeting at the Commonwealth Bank staff quarters to organise the club’s formation. During the following months, one men’s team was formed, highlighting jersey colours of black and blue.
Prominent members during early club years included Gerry Swan, Barry Humphries, Viv Lee, John Cotterill and John Whelan. Gerry Swan is the longest serving member of the Banks Hockey Club, and capped off his long association by his appointment in 1998 as the Club’s first official Patron.
Only five years after the club’s formation, women showed their eagerness to join. At a Special General Meeting prior to the 1965/66 season, a women’s team was announced. Those female members at the time recall that they immediately exercised feminine influence on the previously “all male” club.
Expansion of the club began in earnest during the 1966/67 season when teams were entered in men’s and women’s A and B grades as well as boys under 16.
Since this period, the club has grown in strength and size and during the past decade has fielded teams in every possible grade in the Darwin Hockey Association in both junior and senior divisions.
The strength of the club’s family concept is heavily promoted and parents, together with administrators, eagerly watch the juniors progress through to senior ranks.
The club also takes pride in promoting hockey in other areas and Banks was the first Darwin club to play matches in Mount Isa (1964) and Gove (1973, 1976 and 1978) and also a bus trip to Alice Springs (1995) for a tri-series sevens competition which rivalled any end-of-season tour in any sport.
The club’s history shows it has figured prominently in the finals each year and that members are very competitive on the playing field.
The first men’s premiership came in the first year we formed as Banks-Brothers in 1960/61. This final was unique for the simple reason that it was played at Batchelor, where the team was triumphant 3-1 over Commerce.
After Brothers was dropped from the club name after the 1965 season, it was the women’s team which eventually secured the honour of winning the “first” premiership as Banks in the 1966/67 season, defeating YCW 3-2. The game was filled with controversy, with YCW appealing to the DHA after the game about on the goals.
The women did not stop there. They went on to win back-to-back premierships, defeating Nightcliff the following year 2-0.
It was not until 1969/70 that the men won their first premiership as Banks, defeating Waratahs 1-0 in the grand final. That year also marked the first double for the club, winning the A grade women’s premiership 3-2 over Nightcliff.
The women also went on to take the 1971/72 premiership over Norths 2-0 in what was a golden age for our women’s team. This year also marked the first full year that the competition had been playing at the then “new” Alawa Community Ovals.
The men did not taste premiership victory again for another 10years, after the introduction of the full dry season competition following the devastation of Cyclone Tracy. Banks defeated Waratahs in a close tussle 2-1 to take the 1979 premiership cup. It was this year, though, which was to forever etch the Banks name into the Darwin and Northern Territory Hockey history books.
The club created history when our teams won five out of six senior grand finals – Men’s A, B and C grades, Women’s B and C grades, Our women’s A grade was defeated 3-2 in the preliminary final.
Now 20years on and there are still a number of those “early days” players running around in senior hockey in Darwin, including Ted Visentin, Jerry Whitfield, Bob Bulasch in the men’s and Val Keirs, Pip March, Doreen PangQuee and Jeanette Carroll in the women’s.
In fact, one of our life members, Jerry “Jock” Whitfield, who has not been a regular in the A grade team for a number of years, was an emergency reserve in the 1979 A grade match and did not receive a premiership medal. 20 seasons later, in the 1998 men’s A grade grand final, Jerry was also an emergency reserve and come on in the dying stages of the game and contributed to one of our most famous victories – a sensational 3-2 comeback win over University Tigers.
The win was even more memorable after the men were down 0-2 with just 10 minutes to go in the match. We scored twice to see the game go into extra time, then double extra time before scoring the winner.
Indeed, the past decade has seen an amazing run by our senior men’s team in the DHA competition, with seven grand final appearances in 10 years, for four wins (’93, ’95, ’96, ’98) – a tribute to the depth of the men’s ranks during that period and for the arrival of Don Mitchell as coach. The only other premiership to come since the 1979 triumph was in 1985 – the year the club celebrated its 25th anniversary.
In the women’s division, we atoned for missing out in 1979 with a great grand final win over RSL 3-2 in the 1981 season. It marked the beginning of a decade in which Banks was to make an impact on the competition. The next grand final appearance was not until 1986, which was the first of six grand finals in eight years – all of them against Waratahs. Unfortunately the women only took one premiership, with a 2-0 win over Tahs in 1991.
Banks has a long-standing record of nurturing its juniors and this has seen a number of players over the years to go on to enjoy success at the national and international level.
Many of the early successes were influenced by a number of coaches, but most notably of the early Banks players was Noel Condon.
Some of the earlier “official” NT senior teams included players such as Joe Daby, Ted Visentin, Bob Bulasch and Sam Hatsi, while the under-21 and senior teams of the 1980s and early 90s included regulars such as David Tilbrook, Paul Griffiths, Baden Sharp and Tim Conversi.
That era was also the grounding for the daughters of another Banks family – Nova Peris. Nova went on to be one of the most capped international players for her country, reaching the pinnacle with an Olympic gold medal in 1996.
In recent times, the senior men have produced one the club’s (& possibly the country’s) best brother combinations since the Miller boys in David and Colin Hennessy, as well as regular NT representative Aaron Gregg. Also sharing the clubs senior men’s best and fairest between them over five consecutive years are two former South Australians Mark McMillan and Mark Dedman.
(Taken from the 2003 Banks Hockey Club calendar)