In late 1996, schoolteacher Paul Keenan from the Toowoomba East State School, approached the Darling Downs Junior Australian Football League President (DDJAFL) with a view to increasing junior player numbers in the competition by entering a school-based team/s into the local Saturday morning competition. After some discussions, the DDJAFL approved the introduction of the "East State Stingers" into the juniors.
The Stingers Under 12s wore a bottle green jersey with a yellow "V", bottle green shorts and bottle green and gold band socks. The Under 10s wore a yellow jersey with a bottle green "V", green shorts and yellow and green socks.
So began the history of the East Stingers in the local junior competition.
For the 1997 season, the Stingers entered an Under 12s competitive team into the DDJAFL. On top of this, Paul Keenan also went to the League stating that he also had player numbers for Under 10s, which had not been considered by the DDJAFL before. The team rules were simple - "Have fun, look after your team mate" (which still exists today).
The Stingers Under 12s, apart from a slow and rusty first few matches, started to surprise the opposition teams by winning some unexpected matches. The Stingers U12s won their way to their first finals series ever under the guidance of coach, Gary Hayman. The Stingers surprised everyone, including upsetting finals favourites, Gatton Bears, by making their first Grand Final. What a game that was!
Most of the Stingers U12s had never played or followed Aussie Rules before but they showed true fighting spirit in their match against favourites, the University Eagles. The Stingers beat their much more experienced opponents. This small squad of parents and supporters were proud as punch that their boys had made it to a grand final. This small crowd of supporters decked themselves out in green & gold from head to toe, made streamers, decorated the side of the Harristown oval where they were sitting and screamed and cheered their hearts out. Against the odds, the Stingers came out on top
In an effort to see what sort of Under 10 player numbers could be introduced, the Stingers had two teams of Under 10s play during the Saturday competition. With some younger siblings of Coolarooplayers, the first Under 10 teams were East/Coolaroo Yellow and East Coolaroo/Blue; and this was the start of the non-competitive Under 10s. These matches also included siblings fromUniversity Eagles and Auskick teams from Souths as well.
After winning their first Grand Final, junior clubs were not happy with the "school based team" and the Stingers were encouraged to become a "proper club" with a committee structure etc. in order to participate in the DDJAFL in 1998. The Stingers did just that.
At the end of 1997 the Stingers became an incorporated association, officially appointed coaches, managers, first aid/trainers and elected their first committee. Shock, horror – we had to recruit moreplayers and volunteers, find sponsorship and train first aiders and recruited a new Under 14 coach (Jeff Head). We officially became the Toowoomba East (Stingers) Australian Football Club Inc.
1997 was a amazing year for the Stingers - 7 Stingers players were chosen in the Darling Downs U12 AFL Primary Schoolboys team, one of those players (Nathan Batey) received the "best player" award for the DD team, another player (Richard Hayman) was chosen in the Qld U12 Primary Schoolboys team. On top of that Richard Hayman tied for the DDJAFL Under 12 Best & Fairest Player.
There are so very many fond memories from that initial year and some absolutely fabulous down to earth people who simply wanted to know what they could do to help out. Many life long friendships were born that year, amongst the parents but also the boys.
Over the off season, it became obvious just how much work would be involved. It was more than just one team that we had to look after (look what Paul Keenan started!). There were a number of players who were too old for Under 12s so the Stingers had to provide the next age group for them to play in. There were not enough players to field an Under 14 team in their own right, so most of the Stingers Under 12 players would play their Under 12 match first, then back up and play a full Under 14s match as well, every week.
In 1998, the Stingers altered their club jersey a little adding some white to the club colours. The jersey was now bottle green front bottom, white "V" and gold front top.
Clubs were now more wary of the Stingers, as they were no longer the "newcomers" - they now had a reputation - and the Stingers kept challenging the "norm". At the instigation of the East Stingers, the DDJAFL officially introduced Under 10s in 1998. Stingers were now responsible for – Under 10s, Under 12s and Under 14s.
1998 was the year we recruited our first female player - Fiona Fisher - in Under 14s, and she loved her footy. She wasn't afraid to get in and get the ball.
Again, the Stingers were highly competitive in both Under 12s and Under 14s. The Stingers were bound to play finals footy in Under 12s, but also Under 14s - so, defying the odds and making it to both Grand Finals.