The Oakleigh Cannons are a club who are a staple of the top tier of Victorian football.
The Cannons have competed in the Victorian National Premier League consecutively for the past 17 years, gaining promotion when they lifted the State League One Championship in 2003.
Since then, the senior men’s team have won one minor premiership in 2006, however have fallen to three grand final defeats in 2011, 2012 and 2016.
After eight games this season, the club currently sits in fifth place in NPL Victoria and are well placed to once again be up there at season’s end.
General Manager at Oakleigh, Aki Ionnas, believes the club can finally break their grand final hoodoo this year.
“I do believe that we can win it,” he told Soccerscene.
“Chris Taylor has put a very good squad together; all the boys are fantastic. We’re confident these boys can take us all the way.”
If it eventuates it will be a great reward for the club, based on the events of the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Like any other club, it was obviously hard,” Ionnas said.
“For players, kids, juniors, the committee…it was a hard season with no football.
“Kids are used to going to training and playing soccer, your supporters, your sponsors, your members are used to going down to the club, and before you know it, you’re at home in a lockdown.
“So, it was very hard mentally for a lot of people.”
The club was established in 1972 and currently plays its home games at Jack Edwards Reserve, a facility which seems like a perfect setup for a club who plays in the top level in Victoria.
The venue has a capacity of 4,000-5,000 people with upgrades over the years continuing to lift the overall standard of the facility.
“About six years ago our facilities got upgraded with a brand-new synthetic ground as well as a junior pavilion. That was done all through hard work from our chairman Kon Kavalakis, who was responsible in liaising with council and other key parties to get these facilities.
“We’ve recently had a state-of-the art scoreboard that’s gone up last year and started using it this year.
“There’s always work going into the improvement of facilities. Even though the synthetic ground was done six years, we’ve resurfaced it again only a year and a half ago to reach top FIFA standards.”
Ionnas revealed that the club was in the progress of talking to council in regards to further developing the ground, something that the AAFC partner club sees as a priority in the future.
Oakleigh’s General Manager is relatively confident that the club is ready to take the next step and enter a national second division when it eventuates.
“Look, it all depends once we see the final model that it’s financially viable,” he said.
“If it’s financially viable, then yes.
“It all depends on what the model is going to look like and what it’s going to cost. Speaking to a lot of clubs, that’s what they are all waiting for.
“We are an ambitious club, we would always like to compete at the highest level, we’ve got very good sponsors, very good backers, a very strong board who are all business minded and great infrastructure which we will eventually develop further.”
According to Ionnas, the strong affiliation the club has with the local Greek community has positively impacted the fortunes and finances of the club over their history.
“We’ve got very strong support obviously in the Greek community,” he said.
“We’ve had strong support for a long, long time. We’ve had a major supporter in Delphi Bank who has been our sponsor for 15 years I believe. It’s a massive thing for that to happen continuously.”
Ionnas hopes the club continues to be consistently competitive in the near future, across all aspects of the sport.
“Obviously, we want the club to be a strong club irrespective where it is playing, we want to be up there both on and off the park.
“Our chairman and president Stan Papayianneris have done enormous work, each in their own way, to get the club to where it is now. Oakleigh should remain a strong club because it’s got enormous support away from the field.
“We can’t thank everyone enough for supporting the club.”