Finishing second to a rampant Doveton side in the league in 1980 turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Ringwood City. The recently revamped Victorian Soccer Federation had changed the promotion/relegation system to two up and two down, and Ringwood took advantage to be promoted back into the State League. Concerned once again about returning to the State League with a substandard squad, more British recruits were signed and despite shaky early form the club finished sixth in 1981.
A team from the early 80’s. Back Row: Mr J.van Hoboken, T.Sullivan, G.Chot, T.Hawke, D.Pasman, P.Cork, G.van Leukerden, I.Greener, S.de Bruijkere. Front Row: B.Thom, D.Tattersalls, A.Anderson, R.Verniers, G.Groenewald, J.O’Callaghan.
The extension of the season to twenty-six games in 1982 was always going to suit the more powerful clubs with their larger squads, and Ringwood struggled to compete, finishing thirteenth. Fortunately Sunshine and George Cross had just merged, with the result that Ringwood was able to avoid what had been certain relegation. 1982 also signalled the end of the van Hoboken era, whose decision to relinquish the reigns was brought about after suffering huge financial losses. In 1983 Bill Wannett became the first ever democratically elected club president, and he set about making sure there were no skeletons left in the closet. Sjel de Bruyckere was replaced as coach by veteran goalkeeper Nick van Egmond, although after more poor results he was in turn replaced by Rudi van Altena. The club again finished thirteenth, this time only avoiding relegation because four Victorian clubs won admission into the National League.
1984 saw more players recruited and tested. But the new signings were unable to save van Altena who lost his position as coach and was replaced by former player Cor Teeuw, who exceeded expectations by guiding Ringwood to a final placing of seventh. The hard work of ’84 counted for nothing as ’85 began, with several key players moving on to other clubs. Cor Teeuw’s reign as coach ended and he was replaced by highly regarded coach Bill Curran. The club finished eleventh but, despite avoiding relegation, Curran was demoted to reserves coach for the 1986 season and the job of head coach was given to Kees Storm. Storm failed to adapt to his dual player/coach role, and within a month Ringwood was in dire trouble, Storm being replaced by former Croydon coach Tom Kelly. More key players left the club, and the combination of a substandard squad, the inability to score goals and a similar inability to avoid conceding them left Ringwood headed for the Metropolitan League at the end of the season.
Another Ringwood team from the 80’s: Note 2007 coach Kenny Stewart second from right in the front row. He looked younger then. And possibly more relaxed.
With a return to the State league in mind, a rebuilding program was put into place. With several key players leaving, the club recruited several players of experience (like the injury prone duo Andy Hughes and Brian Keenan) and lured back former players Kenny Stewart and Rick Janssen. Although the season began impressively, a brief but disastrous spell cost Kelly his position, to be replaced by the ever-returning Sjel de Bruyckere. This signalled a turnaround that led Ringwood City to second place in the league, and ultimately promotion to the State League.
In an effort to change their fluctuating fortunes, Ringwood went to great expense to secure Robbie Nelson as first team coach in 1988. Nelson set about rapidly reforming his squad, with several players released mid-season, and eight new players recruited from Britain. But his intended magic formula simply did not eventuate, and Ringwood finished a disappointing seventh. Nelson was relieved of his post as Gary Groenewald took over in a caretaker capacity.
Hans Peterson took the coaching reins at Ringwood in 1989 on the back of a big reputation as a junior coach, and although the club struggled early results began to improve and it looked as though Ringwood were indeed a title contender. In the end the club had to be content with seventh, finishing only seven points behind champions Heidelberg.
Ringwood City entered the 1989 State League season as firm championship material, but the pre-season loss of influential forward John Nyholt to nearby rival Mooroolbark proved to be a huge blow. Also leaving was keeper Rick Janssen, though several English imports were brought in to improve the squad. The team struggled to perform consistently, perhaps due to numerous injuries and suspensions, but still retained its ability to knock over the top sides. In the end though the club finished the season in twelfth spot.