In July of 2005, the Falcons added another string to their bow—adding 8-Ball as a trial sport. Founding club member and player and long-serving club president Sal Rees brought the game into the fold. Her team, the Devils—who had already been playing for at least fifteen years—were looking for a home after the closure of the East Brunswick Hotel on Lygon Street where they played.
Understanding the landscape at Darebin, Sal was optimistic they could find a home at the club she loved. “There was a bit of a chat with the committee and they’re pretty much saying “yeah, why not?” and it sort of just happened,” Sal said. It was another example of the spirit of ‘why not?’ that Sal and Darebin embodied—an approach that had already brought soccer and cricket to the club.
The team, renamed Darebin Devil Women’s Eight Ball team in 2005, play in the Women’s Eight Ball Association (WEBA) which follows World Rules, not pub rules. In their inaugural year of playing under the Darebin mantle, the Darebin Devils took out the honours in a landslide victory. The team line-up in that first year included Natalie Froling, Helen Nugent, Debbie Lumley, Sal Rees, Simone Tannock, Rosie Reeves as emergency and Maddie Flouch (retired).
For Sal, getting 8-ball at the Falcons was all about making the most of whatever circumstances life throws at you. “You’ve gotta see the opportunity there, you know, we got a pool table donated [and] put into the rooms,” she explained, recalling early seasons where the team would play out of AH Capp and then club president Nicole Graves would be on hand to serve supper and beers.
While it may have been an opportunistic beginning, the Darebin Devils have experienced continued success since 2005. In 2007 the Devils won the singles season grand final. Karen Winter also went on to captain the women’s state team that year—it was only the beginning for Karen who would continue to dominate the game over the coming years. The team continued on their winning ways in 2009, collecting another singles premiership.
In 2010, after a slow start to the season, the Devils lifted and breezed their way through the finals, defeating the Rebels. That year, the team consisted of Helen Nugent, Karen Winter, Sal Rees, Karen Reece, Cathy Pizzey, Melissa Townsend and Nat Froling with Debbie Lumley, Barb Tomnay and Amanda Everitt filling in when needed.
The team added another premiership to the trophy cabinet in 2011, with an emphatic 7-1 win against the Shooters in the singles, while unfortunately missing out on the doubles. Making up the team in 2011 were Helen Nugent, Nat Furlong, Karen Winter, Sal Rees, Nicole Mennillo, Cathy Pizzey, Melissa Townsend, Karen Reece and new recruit Brenda Lang.
By 2013, the team was known as the Falcons. By this time, the team had also become the most successful to have played in the WEBA competition—something the bulging trophy cabinet can attest to.
The 2016 season was a special one when in June, the team played off in the final of the WEBA inaugural Pink Cup—a knock-out competition raising money for women’s cancer. The Falcons made the final and defeated the Lobsters convincingly. They also made the semi-finals of the doubles season, but were unfortunately defeated. Karen Winter again had a standout year and travelled to Tasmania representing Victoria in the Eight Ball National Championships—another Darebin woman at the top of her game.
Today, 8-Ball remains very much a part of the club. However, matches are not currently held in the club rooms due to the lack of sufficient heating. “It was good,” Sal said of the early seasons at AH Capp. “Except then we had to put up with all the other teams complaining because it was so bloody cold!” she laughs, recalling the frostbitten fingers trying to steady the cue.
The team now plays out of the West Coburg Bowls Club but are hopeful of a return to the clubrooms. “We’re proud to carry the Darebin Falcon’s name… But when we get heating and air conditioning [at AH Capp], we’ll definitely play out of the [Darebin] rooms,” Sal said.