Toronto Downtown Dingos
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (October 2011)|
|Full name||Toronto Downtown Dingos|
|Strip||Black with red sash (based on the Essendon Football Club)|
|Sport||Australian rules football|
|League||Ontario Australian Football League|
|Club song||It's a Grand Old Flag|
The Toronto Downtown Dingos were formed in February 1996. Mark Jones, an accomplished travelling Australian footballer, had the idea to form an eighth team in the then Canadian Australian Football Association.
Mark enlisted the Inaugural Dingos from rival clubs. Chris Cunning, Tino Riccio, Tim Moller and Paul Tinkler from the Broadview Hawks with Terrance Wallis. Chris Cateno and Arco Van den Huevel from the Mississauga Mustangs - now Mississauga Demons.
Numerous meetings followed and Terrance Wallis (CAFA founder) was elected the first coach of the Dingos. The club quickly adopted the Essendon colours of Red and Black, as it was agreed that dark colours showed strength and aggression which has been a trade mark of the Dingos. The nickname of the Dingos was decided by voting on numerous animals (Canadian and Australian) and so the popular catch phrase "Downtown Dingos" was born.
The club began enlisting new players through intensive recruiting drives. A training facility was found, a long way from downtown Toronto at a school near Bloor and Islington.
1996 was an exciting season for CAFA with eight competitive teams fighting out the battle for four positions. The Downtown Dingos finishing 5th by percentage in their first season.
In 1997 the club worked hard to locate a training venue and sponsor in the downtown area. The club has trained at Yonge and St Clair since 1997 and has only missed the finals twice since their inaugural year.
Year 2000 was a very special season for the Toronto Downtown Dingos winning its First OAFL Premiership and establishing their club song, a first for OAFL teams. 2002 saw the Dingos return to the Grand Final after beating the Eagles in the Qualifying Final, but the Premiership went to the Eagles.
The start of the 2003 season was dedicated to the memory of Mike Lazecki; an inaugural Dingo who was killed in a tragic car accident. The arrival of some fresh Aussie and Irish talent and the continuing development of the Dingos Canadian players saw the Dingos storm undefeated through the 2003 season culminating in the Dingos Second OAFL Premiership.
The quest for back-to-back flags in 2004 began with the Dingos in patchy form. Without a full-time coach, the team was relying on talent alone. As a result they suffered some surprising losses due to a combination of discipline and organisational problems. Peter "Brolsy" Gordon returned after a handful of rounds and from there on there was a continuous improvement in play. The end of the regular season saw the boys well, leading to a second victory over the Eagles in the finals and giving the club their Third OAFL Premiership.
Season 2005 started with Paul Tinkler back coaching the Dingos after coach Gordon returned to Australia. A handful of new Canadians joined the team, along with Chris Cunning returning from retirement to bolster the reigning premiers. The Dingos almost went undefeated, losing only to the Rebels, finishing on top of the ladder. This despite 8 Canadians away for a month representing Canada at the International Cup in Australia. The Dingos knocked off the Eagles in the Semi Final to advance to their fourth Grand Final in a row. The Grand Final was a "slug-fest" with the Dingos holding off the Rebels by 8 points for their Fourth OAFL Premiership.
The 2006 season began with the Dingos winning their first five matches with relative ease. However injuries and complacency began to settle in and the Dingos began to crack, losing in the sixth round to the Guelph Gargoyles followed by another big loss two weeks later to the upstart Etobicoke Kangaroos. The Dingos then went on a rollercoaster ride for the rest of the season, winning one game, then losing the next, and were dispatched of in the second round of the finals by the Broadview Hawks.
Despite having coach Peter Gordon return from Australia to take the Dingos’ reins for the 2007 campaign, the Dingos could only muster two wins in their first five games, losing handily to the Roos, Eagles, and Hawks. The season was to be much the same as the second half of the 2006 season that saw the club play inconsistently and be unable to string together a series of wins. The final game of the regular season was a particularly harsh blow for the Dingos as internal strife and backtalk to the umpires cost the Dingos a win against the Demons and halted any momentum heading into the Finals. The Dingos were fortunate to win their Elimination Final against the Wildcats from Hamilton, but the following week were dispatched of by the eventual league champions, the Toronto Eagles.
The team was in disarray in 2007, when changes were brought about in the offseason, with stalwart Aussie Craig Stewart taking over as team President, as well as Coach. Yoni Moussadji took over the club financials and an emphasis was placed on securing new sponsorship as well as recruiting new players. Right from the start, however, the 2008 season was going to be a tough one on the field as the Dingos lost several of their veteran Canadians, with Bryan Wells, Chris Ritchie, and Andrew Nisker each finally saying goodbye to the club after many years and multiple premiereships. Their loss showed on the field and the Dingos struggled. The low point of the season may have come in Week 11, when only 13 players were available to make the trip to Hamilton and the Dingos were soundly thrashed by almost 100 points, the first time they had lost to the Wildcats in years. The Dingos barely put up a fight in their final two games of the season and missed the Finals for only the 2nd time in their history, finishing the season 4-9.
Despite the lack of success on the field in 2008, new sponsorship and a hugely successful AFL Grand Final party put the Dingos on solid financial footing. As well, new leadership began to emerge on the field with Aussies Mick McFarlane and Anthony O’Brien beginning to assert themselves beside committed Canadians Chris Buczkowski, David Wells, and Yoni Moussadji, and young players such as James Duggan and Everett Wells making great strides.
The Dingos entered the 2009 season with great optimism after a successful recruiting and off-season training program. Mick McFarlane took over as player-coach, instilling his own style of gut running and hard-nosed football on the club. And it showed on the field as the Dingos won their first three games of the year and at one point were 8-2 on the season. Confidence was high as the Dingos once again qualified for the Finals, riding a strong season from their veteran players but integrating a whole new cast of Dingos such as Andy Elleway, Ramsey Blacklock, JV Arnaldo, Steve Lanning, Andrew Bremner, Tom Bell, Joel Davies, Tim Simpson, and Matt Eddy. Despite all of their regular-season success, the Dingos were shocked in the Elimination Finals by the Central Blues.
It was a sudden end to the season, but the Dingos got right back to work to prepare for the 2010 campaign. It was to be a year of great changes and surprising successes. In 2010, in conjunction with the Toronto Rebels, the Dingos formed a club (christened the “Rebel Dogs”) to compete in the OAFL Division II. This club made up of rookies, retired players, and more casual players, showed great heart and determination in its inaugural season, making it all the way to the Preliminary Finals.
For the Division I club, 2010 held great success as well. Anthony O’Brien took over as Captain and with coach Mick McFarlane led the club to a strong 3-1 start. The Dingos lost their next 4 games, however, as they struggled to integrate new players such as Andrew Gaut, Andrew Crawford, Stewart Wilson, Ben Oryall, and Will Pattison, into the Dingos system. However, a close loss to one of the strongest clubs in the league, the Etobicoke Kangaroos, in Week 6 showed that the Dingos were not far from putting it all together. And with the mid-season addition of new Aussies Shaun McKay and Steve Taylor, the Dingos really began to hit their stride, winning five of their last six games heading into the Finals. An Elimination Finals victory at home over the Gargoyles put to rest any bad memories from the 2009 Finals and showed how well a full-strength, healthy Dingos squad could play. Heading into the Semi Finals against the defending champion Eagles, no one gave the Dingos much of a chance. However, with little pressure, the Dingos played one of their best games in years, shocking the Eagles, knocking them out of the Finals, and ending a multi-year losing streak to one of their oldest rivals. Next up; the Kangaroos in the Preliminary Finals. Once again, the Dingos played with little pressure and pulled off another improbable upset, sending them to their first Grand Final since 2005. However, the run ended a little short as the Dingos lost a close match in the rain to the talented Central Blues.
Overall, however, the 2010 would have to be considered as one of the Dingos’ strongest ever, as their on-field success was matched by financial stability and strong social events, capped by 21 Dingos participating in the footy trip to Boston, USA.
Having come so close to their 5th club flag (and first since 2005), the Dingos were not content to rest on their laurels as they prepared to open the 2011 OAFL season. Ongoing offseason recruiting had netted new Aussies Tom Allen, Bryn Phillpot-Evans, Nathan Chenko, and Jeremy Cusack as well as such Canadians as Reid Conrad, Steve Johnson, and Kyle Timmons. As Round 1 drew closer, the Dingos worked hard to integrate their new players under the new coaching leadership of veteran Canadian and Northwind player, Chris Buczkowski.
Mother Nature played a large role in the start of the 2011 season, however, as seemingly endless rain turned the OAFL ground at Humber South into a quagmire and forced all clubs to travel to Guelph to play the first few rounds of the season. Looking to avenge their defeat in the Grand Final the year before, the Dingos opened up against the Central Blues. Unfortunately, with their full-forward Craig Stewart recovering from surgery, the Dingos could not seem to find the centre sticks and lost their opener, kicking a poor percentage. The following week, the Dingos were back in Guelph versus the Demons, but once again fell short and suddenly faced an 0-2 start to the season.
The Dingos bounced back, however, over the new two weeks with wins versus the Rebels and Hawks, but the theme of inconsistency would plague the Dingos for most of the season. Strong wins (v Eagles) would be followed by frustrating losses (v Blues) and the Div 1 Dingos found themselves near the middle of the OAFL pack as Finals approached. Hopes were raised as new Aussies Rick Strezovski and Lexi Leonard arrived to boost the club, but departures and injuries to Spider Wells (knee), Mick (nose), Reid (Vancouver), and Burger (Northwind) kept the Dingos from stringing together a long run of victories and building momentum towards Finals.
The Div 2 RebelDogs faced a similar up and down season, with veteran Aussies Paul Tinkler and Glenn Thompson leading the group of rookies/vets towards the Div 2 Finals. Great work was put in by the boys to teach new players the fundamentals of footy within the game and encourage both retired and new Dingos to come out and have a kick.
With losses in the last two weeks of the season, the Dingos backed into the Finals as the #6 seed and faced the resurgent High Park Demons in the Semi Finals. While the Demons had been near the bottom of the OAFL ladder for many years, a new influx of young Aussies and Canadians under the tutelage of coach Marty Walter had propelled the Demons to 3rd place overall in the OAFL. It was to be a tough match. While the Dingos started slowly, they were up at halftime and only a few points behind at 3-quarter time. Unfortunately, the young guns of the Demons were too much in the final quarter as the Demons kicked 5 unanswered goals to end the Dingos' Div 1 season in disappointing fashion. The Div 2 RebelDogs fared no better, losing both Finals matches despite a valiant effort by the club.
Despite the on-field disappointment of the 2011 season, the Dingos club continued to be strong off the field. Offseason events such as the AFL Grand Final Party and Dingos Banquet were huge successes, solidifying the Dingos financial health and almost 20 Dingos players traveled to Veradero, Cuba, for a memorable footy trip. A new offseason training regimen, including intense cardio workouts once a week, was embraced by both returning and new Dingos. And with the strength of the club continuing to rise, it was decided that in 2012 the Dingos would go it alone in Division 2, ending the 2-year partnership with the Toronto Rebels. As well, following a trend in the OAFL, the Dingos would start the first Women's Team in club history.