Dockerty Cup Club History: Oakleigh Cannons and Bentleigh Greens

As Bentleigh Greens and Oakleigh Cannons prepare to lock horns in the final of the 97th edition of the Dockerty Cup, both clubs will be attempting to create their own piece of history.

The Greens are attempting to join an illustrious group of fourteen clubs that have won the Dockerty Cup on three or more occasions. That list includes some of Victoria’s most prestigious clubs, including Melbourne Knights (9), South Melbourne (8), Brunswick Juventus (6), Green Gully (5) and Caroline Springs Georges Cross (3), not to mention former greats that are no longer with us in Hakoah (7), Footscray JUST (3) and Slavia (3).

Bentleigh Greens, formed in 1986 by the Greek Cypriot community, took over Greensborough SC and began life as Bentleigh-Greensborough in 1987, finishing runners-up in the Victorian Provisional League Division One, then the sixth tier of Victorian football. Another three promotions followed over the course of six seasons before they would claim their first Championship, winning the Victorian State League Division One in 1995. However, success in Victoria’s top-flight eluded them, despite appearances in four Finals campaigns under Harry Chalkitis (1996 and 1997), Gary Cole (2001) and Mike Kupinic (2002). The Greens were eventually relegated in 2005, before gaining promotion to the Victorian Premier League once again in 2009. A club bereft of success at the highest level, it wasn’t until John Anastasiadis assumed the helm as Head Coach that the Greens would seriously challenge for League honours. A maiden NPL Victoria Championship in 2015, was followed by success again in 2017 and 2019.

A win in the Dockerty Cup ultimately arrived in 2016. Early round wins over Diamond Valley United, Goulburn Valley Suns and Murray United saw the Greens draw rivals South Melbourne at home in the quarter-finals. A comprehensive 4-0 demolition was followed by a 2-1 semi-final win Melbourne Knights at Jack Edwards Reserve, booking the Greens a berth in the Final against Green Gully at Broadmeadows Valley Park. In a gripping defensive contest, normal time couldn’t separate the two teams, but Ryan Paczkowski scored in the second minute of added time. It proved enough to ensure Bentleigh Greens earned their maiden win.

Unlucky not to taste success again the following year, losing in a tense penalty shootout to league rivals Heidelberg United, 2018 proved an altogether different story, with wins over Box Hill United, St Kilda and Goulburn Valley Suns in the minor rounds. Clinical victories followed over Kingston City (4-0) and Port Melbourne Sharks (5-1) in the quarter-finals and semi-finals. Only the Bergers stood between Bentleigh Greens and the Dockerty Cup trophy once more. A thrilling final packed with an own goal, coach and player send-offs and an added time sealer from James Xydias, gave the Greens a 2-0 win.

The Greens return to the final in 2022 under Nick Tolios’ tutelage, keen to taste more success after his exploits in steering them to the last completed NPL Victoria Championship in 2019.

While Bentleigh Greens are desperate to add to an ever-growing trophy cabinet, Oakleigh Cannons are yet to make their mark on the ultimate stage. Minor Premiership wins in the Victorian Premier League in 2006 and last season’s NPL Victoria (owing to February’s mediation ruling which witnessed some matches this season counting towards the 2021 NPL Premiership) are the only slivers of success for an ambitious club that has fought hard to remain in the top-flight.

Founded in 1972 as South Oakleigh by the local Greek community, the club won six lower league championships and achieved nine promotions in its first fifteen years in Victorian Soccer Federation competition, debuting in the 1987 Victorian State League like a fish out of water in a competition infused by relegated NSL clubs. They assumed the classic role of a yo-yo club, achieving promotion or relegation on seven occasions before finally winning the Victorian State League Division One in 2003 as Oakleigh Cannons, where they have remained in the top-flight ever since. Despite ten finals campaigns, two minor premierships and four runner-up finishes, they have yet to taste a League Championship at the highest level.

The Cannons sole appearance in a Dockerty Cup final came in 2015. Coached by the attack-minded Arthur Papas, they followed up a 12-0 trouncing of Corio in their opening match with a penalty shootout victory over Richmond in the next round. Comprehensive wins against Bendigo City (5-1) and South Springvale (2-1) locked in a semi-final berth against Hume City, where a 2-0 win at Olympic Village booked a spot in the final against South Melbourne. Alas, a Milos Lujic inspired Hellas were too strong for the Cannons in the final, running out comfortable 3-0 winners.

Lakeside Stadium has played host to many a final under various guises, but the 2022 edition of the Dockerty Cup marks another chapter in the rivalry between Oakleigh Cannons and Bentleigh Greens, the first encounter between the two in the illustrious competition.