Victorian Football League

Last updated

Victorian Football League
Current season, competition or edition:
AFL current event.svg 2021 VFL season
VFL Football Logo.svg
FormerlyVictorian Football Association (VFA) (1877–1995)
Sport Australian rules football
Founded17 May 1877;144 years ago (1877-05-17), (in Melbourne)
Inaugural season1877
Administrator AFL Victoria
No. of teams22
CountryAustralia
Most recent
champion(s)
Richmond reserves (1st title)
Most titles Port Melbourne (17 titles)
TV partner(s) Seven Network
Fox Footy
Kayo Sports
Related
competitions
AFL, NAB League
Official website vfl.com.au

The Victorian Football League (VFL) is the major state-level Australian rules football league in Victoria and, starting from 2021, New South Wales and Queensland. The league evolved from the former Victorian Football Association (VFA), and has been known by its current name since 1996. For historical purposes, the present VFL is sometimes referred to as the VFA/VFL, to distinguish it from the present day Australian Football League, which was known until 1990 as the Victorian Football League and is sometimes referred to as the VFL/AFL.

Contents

The VFA was formed in 1877 and is the second-oldest Australian rules football league, replacing the loose affiliation of clubs that had been the hallmark of the early years of the game. Initially serving a primarily administrative function, the VFA premiership served as the top level of club competition in Victoria until 1896. The VFA became the secondary level of club competition from 1897 after its eight strongest clubs seceded to form the VFL. From 1897 until 1994, the VFA remained independent from the VFL as Victoria's secondary senior club competition. Although always much less popular than the VFL/AFL, the VFA enjoyed peaks of popularity in the 1940s with a faster-paced rival code of rules, and in the 1970s bolstered by playing on Sundays at a time when the VFL was played solely on Saturdays.

Since 1995, the league has been administered by AFL Victoria (and its predecessors), and serves as one of the second-tier regional Australian semi-professional competitions which sits underneath the fully professional Australian Football League. In 2019, it comprised 15 teams from throughout Victoria, nine of which have a continuous VFA heritage. Prior to 2021, the New South Wales- and Queensland-based clubs played in the North East Australian Football League until the NEAFL merged into the VFL, expanding the competition to those states. Since 2000, the VFL has served partially as a reserves competition for the AFL, with some AFL clubs fielding their reserves teams in the VFL and others affiliated such that their reserves player can play in VFL teams.

AFL Victoria also operates a women's football competition under the Victorian Football League brand, known as the VFL Women's, which was established in 2016.

History

Formative years (1877–1896)

Melbourne FC team of 1879 Melbourne fc 1879.jpg
Melbourne FC team of 1879

The Victorian Football Association (VFA) was founded on 17 May 1877 at the meeting of club secretaries immediately preceding the 1877 season. It was formed out of a desire to provide a formal administrative structure to the governance of the sport, and it had the power to impose binding decisions on its members on matters including the Laws of the Game, player eligibility and other disputes, as well as to facilitate intercolonial football. Decisions were made based on a vote of the Board of Management, which was composed of two delegates from each senior club, [1] a structure which was retained until the late 1980s. It replaced a system under which the secretaries of the senior clubs met at the beginning of each year to decide on matters of mutual interest, but the system was informal and disputes often went unresolved. [2] [3]

Scenes from an 1891 VFA Premiership Match between Essendon and Carlton 1891 VFA Premiership Match.jpg
Scenes from an 1891 VFA Premiership Match between Essendon and Carlton

The five foundation senior clubs in the Melbourne metropolitan area were Albert-park, Carlton, Hotham (later North Melbourne), Melbourne and St Kilda. Provincial clubs were also eligible for senior representation on the Association, even though most seldom played matches against the metropolitan teams; Geelong, the nearest provincial club to the metropolis, was the most prominent provincial club, joining the Association in 1877 [4] and playing regularly against metropolitan clubs by 1880. There was no formal system of promotion and relegation between the senior and junior levels, with it largely at a club's discretion whether or not it joined the Association as a paying senior member. The affiliation fee for senior clubs was initially set at one guinea.

Through the first decade of the VFA's existence, the structure of the football season did not change significantly from the informal system which had evolved over previous years. Setting of fixtures was the responsibility of club secretaries rather than the Association itself, and in a typical season, a club could play against other VFA teams, non-VFA clubs, at odds against junior teams (usually twenty players against twenty-three), and in some seasons against intercolonial teams; although as the number of senior clubs increased, the number of matches against non-VFA clubs declined. Prior to the 1888 season, there was no formally endorsed system for awarding a VFA premiership: [5] as had been the case since the early 1870s, the premier club was determined by public and press consensus, which by the mid-1880s was conventionally but informally understood to be the senior club which suffered the fewest losses during the season. [6] Premierships won under this then-informal method are now considered official, and consensus was typically uncontroversial.

In 1888, the VFA first took responsibility for the onfield competition, and introduced its first formal premiership system by adopting a system of premiership points; [6] it also awarded for the first time a premiership cap in the Association's colours to players of the premier team. [7] The Association's influence over the on-field competition grew, and from 1894, the Association assumed responsibility for centrally setting the fixtures and standardising the number of games played by each team. [8]

After the formal introduction of the premiership, the often-changeable collection of senior clubs in the VFA soon became settled at twelve premiership-eligible clubs: Carlton, Essendon, Fitzroy, Footscray, Geelong, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda, South Melbourne and Williamstown; they were joined by a thirteenth club, Collingwood, in 1892. Three Ballarat-based clubs – Ballarat, Ballarat Imperial and South Ballarat – were also voting members of the VFA through this time, but were not involved in the onfield premiership. [9]

Split (1897–1937)

Brunswick during the early 1900s. The highlighted section in the bottom right-hand corner shows the future Australian Prime Minister John Curtin. BrunswickFC.jpg
Brunswick during the early 1900s. The highlighted section in the bottom right-hand corner shows the future Australian Prime Minister John Curtin.

During the 1890s, there was an off-field power struggle within the VFA between the stronger and weaker clubs, as the stronger clubs sought greater administrative control commensurate with their relative financial contribution to the game. This came to a head in 1896 when it was proposed that gate profits, which were always lower in matches against the weaker clubs, be shared equally amongst the Association clubs; in response to the threat that this might be endorsed on the votes of the weaker clubs, six of the strongest clubs – Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne and South Melbourne – seceded from the VFA, inviting Carlton and St Kilda to join them, to form the Victorian Football League (VFL), which became the leading senior football body in Victoria. The remaining VFA clubs – Footscray, North Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Richmond and Williamstown – were given the opportunity to compete as a junior competition under and without representation on the VFL's administration, but rejected the offer and continued as an independent body. [10] The two new competitions competed in parallel from their respective 1897 seasons.

The VFA rebuilt to ten clubs over its first independent decade, mostly by adding leading junior clubs to its ranks such as Brunswick, Prahran, West Melbourne, Essendon Town/Association, Preston, Brighton, Northcote and Hawthorn. Because the VFA was independent from the VFL (and, upon its establishment in 1906, the Australasian Football Council), the VFA had the power to set its own rules. The VFA reduced the number of on-field players from twenty to eighteen in 1897, a move followed by the VFL two years later. The VFA tried reducing the number of players further to 17 in 1908, [11] then to 16 in 1912, [12] before reverting to the national standard 18 in 1919. [13] The VFA went into recess during World War I, with the 1916 and 1917 seasons cancelled and the 1915 and 1918 seasons shortened.

Northcote's 1929 premiership side. Second from right, front row, is Doug Nicholls. Northcote 1929.jpg
Northcote's 1929 premiership side. Second from right, front row, is Doug Nicholls.

Over first thirty years of the VFA's independence, its relationship with the VFL was, in general, mutually antagonistic. At different times (1913–1918 and 1923–1925), the two competitions had permit reciprocity agreements in place to prevent one competition from poaching players from the other without a clearance, but these were sporadic and remained in place only when convenient to both competitions. [14] At the same time, the strongest clubs in the VFA often sought to defect to the VFL, which the VFL was happy to encourage when it expanded, and there were ultimately four defections: Richmond in 1908; and Footscray, North Melbourne and Hawthorn in 1925. Attempting to defect was seen as treacherous within the VFA, and clubs which attempted to defect but failed were sometimes expelled from the VFA by the remaining clubs: North Melbourne was expelled from the VFA twice (in 1908 and 1921, before reforming and rejoining on both occasions), and West Melbourne was expelled permanently in 1908. [15] [16]

The loss of the VFA's strongest three clubs to the VFL in 1925 firmly cemented the VFA as the second-tier competition in the state. Between 1925 and 1929, the addition of outer suburban clubs in Coburg (1925), Camberwell (1926), a new club from Preston (1926), Yarraville (1928), Oakleigh (1929) and Sandringham (1929) expanded the VFA back to twelve teams. The relationship with the VFL improved, and a new permit reciprocity agreement was established in 1931. [17]

Throw pass era (1938–1949)

In 1938, the VFA made a bold rule change by legalising throwing of the football in general play, provided the throw was underarm with both hands below shoulder height. The change helped to speed up the game, and introduced more run-and-carry play in an era which had previously been dominated by a long-kicking style, proving popular with many spectators. Additionally, the VFA ended its permit agreement with the VFL, and began to aggressively recruit star players by offering salaries well in excess of the maximum set by VFL player payment laws. This included Laurie Nash, Bob Pratt and Ron Todd, who were in the primes of their careers and were considered amongst the best players in the country. These changes gave the VFA a product which could compete with the VFL for public interest, and it made the late 1930s and 1940s one of the most successful periods in the VFA's history. [18] The VFA competition went into recess from 1942 until 1944 due to World War II, but continued to perform strongly upon returning in 1945.

While the throw-pass was in effect, particularly during the early 1940s, there were talks between the VFA and VFL towards re-amalgamating the two bodies. Although the throw-pass had been a great success for the VFA, it was felt that a single controlling body for football in Victoria playing under a uniform set of rules was in the best interests of football as a whole. Negotiations for an amalgamation took place over several years, but broke down several times over a variety of issues, including representation at board level, Australian National Football Council representation, and a promotion and relegation structure between the VFA and VFL. [19]

In the end, the two bodies never amalgamated, but the schism ended in 1949 when the bodies re-established a permit reciprocity agreement and the VFA was granted a non-voting position on the Australian National Football Council, later upgraded to a voting position in 1953; [20] as a condition of joining, it was forced to abandon the throw-pass rule and adopt the national standard rules. [21] These changes benefitted Victorian football as a whole, gave the VFA a say in national administration of the game. It also gave the VFA the right to compete in interstate matches, and at interstate carnivals over the 1950s and 1960s, the VFA generally competed at a similar standard to Tasmania as the fourth- or fifth-best team in the competition.

However, joining the ANFC also stripped the VFA of the throw-pass, and therefore of the on-field distinctions which allowed it to compete with the VFL for fans; this, coupled with the increased mobility of suburban Melburnians – who, due to the increased affordability of cars and the lifting in 1950 of wartime travel restrictions, were no longer captive audiences for their local VFA teams – resulted in a significant downturn in most VFA clubs during the 1950s. On-field, the competition became dominated by the few clubs with strong community links such as Port Melbourne, Williamstown, Sandringham, Oakleigh and Moorabbin (who had joined the VFA alongside Box Hill in 1951); the gap between those clubs and the weaker clubs, many of whom were periodically forced to play as amateurs due to a lack of money, grew large and the popularity of the competition declined. [22]

Gillon era (1954–1980)

Alex Gillon presided over the VFA from 1954 until 1980. During that time, the VFA underwent a series of changes to reinvigorate it after its post-throw pass decline of the 1950s. Major strategic changes were undertaken, including:

All of these changes resulted in the VFA enjoying a successful period during the 1970s. Increased sponsorship, public awareness, and a greater number of former and fringe VFL players joining the VFA gave it a product which allowed it to flourish in the Sunday timeslot. The VFA at this time comprised twenty clubs, ten in each division, with a constant membership between 1966 and 1981. Attendances at matches more than doubled between 1967 and 1975. [28]

The VFA's relationship with the VFL and ANFC again deteriorated during the 1960s. In 1965, the VFA stopped recognising its permit reciprocity agreement in retribution for two takeovers of VFA club grounds by VFL clubs (St Kilda at Moorabbin and North Melbourne at Coburg); [29] then in 1967, the VFL stopped recognising the agreement in retribution for the VFA's the introduction of excessive transfer fees on its players. [30] After the VFA refused to comply with an ANFC demand that a new reciprocal permit agreement be established, the VFA was expelled from the ANFC in 1970. [31] [32]

Decline (1981–1994)

The decline of the VFA is often said to have commenced in 1982 when the VFL's struggling South Melbourne Swans moved to Sydney, as all Sydney Swans home games were played on Sunday and televised, ending the VFA's monopoly on Sunday football; Network Ten ended its weekly VFA coverage in the same year. [33] However, this was not the sole cause for decline, which had started in the late 1970s: changing demographics meant that many traditional clubs had slowly found themselves in areas with high migrant populations, which either made it difficult to compete with soccer for local for fans and players, or simply brought a level of cultural apathy towards the sport in general; VFA historian Marc Fiddian also noted a decline in the number of ex-VFL players signing with VFA clubs through the late 1970s, which reduced the Association's drawing power, and an increasing gulf in quality between the best and worst clubs. [34] Player payments increased through the 1980s, and declining financial support and sponsorship meant that many clubs began to struggle badly. The VFA had also developed a reputation for rough play and violence, and it was not until the late 1980s that it was able to clean up on-field discipline and shake that image. [35]

In 1981, new VFA president Alan Wickes attempted to rectify the decline with further expansion: the VFA expanded further into the outer suburbs to twenty-four teams in 1983, adding Springvale, Moorabbin, Kilsyth and Berwick, and Wickes had a vision of expanding to thirty teams with an additional lower division which could affiliate more directly with the top tiers of suburban football; but (with the exception of Springvale), the new second division teams did little to reinvigorate the competition, and the clubs rejected any further expansion. [36]

The VFA's direction changed dramatically with the election of Brook Andersen as president in 1985. At the time, the VFL was looking at national expansion (ultimately becoming the Australian Football League in 1990) and Andersen's executive committee believed that the VFA could fill a new role as top state level league in Victoria when this happened; however, it believed that the VFA would need to be rationalised to a competition of twelve financially stable teams for this to occur. [37] Andersen attempted but failed to obtain a mandate from the clubs to impose this rationalisation, but the VFA under his guidance nevertheless contracted, as it showed no lenience in suspending clubs who failed to meet minimum requirements. [38] Several long-term second division clubs, struggling with rising costs and foreseeing the dissolution of the second division (which ultimately occurred when fifteen teams remained in the 1989 season), also took the opportunity to return to suburban football before being forced out. [39] The eight-year period between 1984 and 1991 saw twelve clubs exit the VFA: Mordialloc, Kilsyth, Berwick, Geelong West and Camberwell returned to suburban football; Yarraville, Moorabbin, Northcote and Caulfield were suspended; and Sunshine, Brunswick-Broadmeadows and Waverley all folded.

The VFA rejoined the ANFC as a non-voting member in 1987, [40] and replaced the board of club delegates with an independent executive committee in 1988. [41] It also regained weekly television coverage from the 1988 season onwards, with the ABC broadcasting a match each Saturday. [42] It returned to the standard 18-per-side rules in 1993.

Merger with the VSFL (1994–1999)

Despite the rationalisation to its twelve strongest teams and improved television coverage, the financial position of the competition and the vast majority of its clubs remained perilous into the early 1990s, and it was clear that the VFA was no longer a viable independent body in the long term. [43] At the end of the 1994 season, the VFA was formally disbanded in an administrative capacity, and the on-field competition was turned over to the Victorian State Football League – a body which had been set up two years earlier by the AFL to manage and oversee football at all levels in Victoria, and also ran the statewide under-18s competition (the present day NAB League) and the AFL reserves competition in Victoria. This ended the VFA's 97 years of independence from the VFL/AFL, and created for the first time since 1896 a unified structure for state-level football in Victoria. [44]

The VSFL sought to align the VFA with the under-18s competition, with each VFA club affiliated with an under-18s team to provide a developmental pathway from under-18 football into state-level senior football. In doing this, the number of metropolitan teams was cut from twelve to nine in 1995, with Prahran, Oakleigh and Dandenong departing. This left nine clubs with a VFA heritage, coming from different eras: Port Melbourne and Williamstown from the pre-1897 era; Preston, Coburg and Sandringham from the 1920s expansion; Box Hill, Werribee and Frankston from the 1950s/1960s expansion; and Springvale from the 1980s expansion. The VFA name was retained for the on-field competition during its first season under VSFL administration; then, in 1996, the competition was renamed the Victorian Football League (VFL) – the same name which had been used by the rival VFL/AFL competition until 1990. Despite the change in name and administrative structure, the on-field competition is considered continuous, and VFA records are recognised in the VFL era. [45]

The VSFL intended that each statewide under-18s team would be affiliated with a VFL club, so embarked upon a period of expansion to represent the four under-18s teams from country Victoria, as well as Tasmania (which was represented in the competition for a period of time). [46] In this expansion, existing powerhouse country clubs North Ballarat and Traralgon joined the league in 1996, with new clubs established in Bendigo, Albury (the Murray Kangaroos, representing the Ovens & Murray region) and Tasmania between 1998 and 2001. The regional senior clubs struggled to be financially viable in the statewide competition, with Traralgon and Murray lasting only two and three years respectively. Since 2018, no regional clubs have contested the competition.

Merger with the AFL reserves (2000–2019)

From 1995 until 1999, the VSFL operated its two open-age competitions – the VFA/VFL and the Victorian AFL reserves competition – separately; however, its intention had always been to merge the two, and this took place following the 1999 season, after the agreement of the AFL clubs. Under the administration's new name Football Victoria (later AFL Victoria), those two competitions were merged into a single competition still known as the Victorian Football League. Since this time, the VFL has been contested by a mixture of three types of clubs:

All three models compete to a relatively even standard, with premierships having been won by all three types of team since the merger. An additional reserves affiliation option, under which AFL clubs were allowed to spread their reserves players across all of the league's VFL clubs rather than into a single aligned club, has also existed since 2021 but has not been taken up by any AFL clubs. [47]

The affiliation deals greatly improved the financial viability of the clubs in question, but they diluted their ability to represent their suburb. There have been many changes to the affiliation arrangements in the decade since the VFL and VSFL merged, as well as a shift in the arrangement preferred by the AFL clubs. Initially, only four of the ten Victorian AFL clubs were involved in a VFL affiliation, with the rest fielding reserves teams. At its peak of between 2003 and 2006, nine of the ten Victorian AFL clubs were involved in an affiliation, with only Geelong fielding its own reserves team. Many clubs have since migrated away from this model, and since 2018 there have been six AFL clubs fielding stand-alone reserves teams in the VFL. [48] Through the 2000s, the AFL preferred that its Victorian clubs retained VFL-affiliations, and offered a disincentive in the form of an inflated licence fee for fielding a stand-alone team; however, the AFL did not otherwise prevent teams from fielding stand-alone reserves teams if they are willing and able to pay the fee. [49] The total licence and running costs for an AFL club to field its reserves team in the VFL were estimated to be $500,000 per year in 2011.

Through this period, the VFL remained moderately popular in Victoria, although not nearly as well-supported as the dominant Australian Football League. Matches attracted both traditional fans of the VFA/VFL clubs, and fans of affiliated AFL clubs keen to watch their reserves players in action. The match of the week and most finals continued to be televised live in Melbourne by the ABC until 2014, [50] and since 2015 by the Seven Network as a lead-in to its AFL coverage. [51]

Northeast expansion (2020–present)

The 2020 VFL season was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon the VFL's resumption in 2021, the North East Australian Football League – which had served as the state league in New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory – was wound up and absorbed into the VFL; this resulted in the reserves teams from the New South Wales and Queensland AFL clubs (Sydney, Greater Western Sydney, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast) joining the league, and two of the NEAFL's other Queensland-based senior clubs – Aspley and Southport – joining. [47] [52] This brought the league to its largest size since the 1980s, with 22 clubs competing: eight stand-alone VFL clubs, eleven AFL reserves teams, and three traditional VFA/VFL clubs in reserves affiliations with AFL clubs. [53] [54] [55] The league was also revamped to improve its ability to serve as a talent pathway, with each club required to field at least six under-22 players in each game. [56] The 2021 season also saw increased broadcast coverage with Foxtel and its streaming service Kayo showing games in addition to the ongoing deal with Network Seven. [57]

Awards

Best and fairest

The first award for the Association best and fairest player was the Woodham Cup, first awarded in 1923; this was renamed the Recorder Cup in 1926. Starting from 1933, a second award, the V.F.A. Medal, was awarded concurrently; the awards were both based on the votes of the umpires, but were based on different voting systems. In 1940, the Association dispensed with the Recorder Cup voting system, and awarded both trophies to the same player based on the same set of votes. [58]

Since 1945, the award for the best and fairest player in each VFA/VFL season has been the J. J. Liston Trophy, named after long-term Association president John James Liston, who died in 1944. [59]

Other awards

Salary cap

The VFL is classed as a semi-professional competition. In 2007 the league had a salary cap of $185,000 excluding service payments. There are a significantly higher number of AFL reserves due to affiliations with Victorian clubs, but player payments for these appearances is apparently not included in the VFL's salary cap. Following the 2013 VFL season, it was revealed that several clubs were lobbying VFL executives to increase the salary cap in a bid to keep high-level players who had relieved themselves of participating in the league to accept more attractive financial offers in local football competitions, where such caps are far less regulated. [60]

As of the 2021 season, stand-alone clubs in the league, of which there are eight, will have a A$200,000 salary cap, while the AFL reserve and affiliate clubs will have a A$100,000 salary cap. [61]

Attendance

Attendances are small by AFL standards, and generally less than the SANFL and WAFL, with an average of between 500 and 1,000 in attendance. Crowds for many finals matches tend to average in the 2,000–6,000 range, with the Grand Final typically attracting a crowd in the 10,000–14,000 mark. [62] [63] [64]

The VFL does not publish home and away attendance figures as some games are played as AFL curtain raisers, however various sources quote attendances for some games of the stronger clubs that maintain home records of their own.

Premierships

Recent Grand Finals

SeasonPremiers Result Runners-upVenueCrowd Norm Goss Memorial Medal Club
2020 Season cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Victoria, Australia
2019 Richmond AFL Richmond Icon.jpg 8.10 (58) – 7.13 (55) Vfl williamstown icon.png Williamstown Princes Park 13,165 [65] Marlion Pickett Richmond Reserves
2018 Box Hill AFL Hawthorn Icon.jpg 10.12 (72) – 8.14 (62) AFL Melbourne Icon.jpg Casey Demons Docklands Stadium 12,884 David Mirra Box Hill
2017 Port Melbourne VFL Port Melbourne Icon.png 11.8 (74) – 10.10 (70) AFL Richmond Icon.jpg Richmond 17,159 Sam Lloyd Richmond Reserves
2016 Footscray AFL Footscray Icon.jpg 13.19 (97) – 10.6 (66) AFL Melbourne Icon.jpg Casey Scorpions 17,348 Lin Jong Footscray Reserves
2015 Williamstown Vfl williamstown icon.png 18.12 (120) – 8.18 (66) AFL Hawthorn Icon.jpg Box Hill 12,900 Michael Gibbons Williamstown
2014 Footscray AFL Footscray Icon.jpg 16.13 (109) – 13.9 (87) AFL Hawthorn Icon.jpg Box Hill 23,816 Brett Goodes Footscray Reserves
2013 Box Hill AFL Hawthorn Icon.jpg 14.15 (99) – 11.12 (78) AFL Geelong Icon.jpg Geelong 15,100 Jonathan Simpkin Box Hill
2012 Geelong AFL Geelong Icon.jpg 14.24 (108) – 11.9 (75) VFL Port Melbourne Icon.png Port Melbourne 14,536 [66] George Horlin-Smith Geelong Reserves
2011 Port Melbourne VFL Port Melbourne Icon.png 22.12 (144) – 13.10 (88) Vfl williamstown icon.png Williamstown 11,804 [67] Toby PinwillPort Melbourne

Media coverage

Television

Television coverage has been critical to the exposure of the VFA/VFL during its history, and has typically taken the form of the match of the week being televised live into Melbourne, as well as most finals. Television and streaming deals during the league's history are as follows:

The VFA holds the distinction of having the first match to be broadcast live on television in Australia, when the second half of the match between Oakleigh and Preston on 25 May 1957 was televised on Channel 2. [71]

Radio

The first regular radio broadcasts of VFA games were made by 3XY, a little after the station commenced operations in 1935. The commentator was former Geelong VFL player Wallace "Jumbo" Sharland who had earlier been the first to describe VFL matches, that being on 3AR in 1923. In 1954 3AK began broadcasting VFA games, albeit only for a season or two. The 1970s also saw broadcasts on 3UZ, and local Geelong station, 3GL, broadcast all Geelong West matches. In 1982, the then-dominant Melbourne sports radio station, 3AW, broadcast the Grand Final. In 2003, 3AK evolved into sports radio station SEN 1116, and provided a coverage of VFL matches, but this was discontinued after they won the rights to broadcast the AFL (Australian Football League) from the 2007 season. From 1993 onwards radio's main home for the competition was on Casey Radio where the team, headed up by Ken Moore, did a terrific job bringing games to the wider public. The station gave a start to such broadcasters as Nigel Carmody, Darren Parkin and Tristan Foenander and has proven a terrific breeding ground for emerging sports broadcasters. The station still broadcasts the league today, combined with doing the local league down in Melbourne's southeast. [72]

VFL Radio is produced by BPM Media who broadcast live at least one game a week during the regular season plus each day of the finals series. The coverage is broadcast on the Vision Australia Radio network throughout Victoria on analogue radio, by Aussie digital radio (SEN 2) and on the internet at vfl.com.au or bpmmedia.com.au. [73]

Clubs

Twenty-two clubs will form the VFL in the 2021 season.

ClubMonikerLocationStateGroundEst.First
Season
VFA/VFL
Premierships
VFA Div.2
Premierships
AFL Affiliate
Aspley Aspley Hornets Icon.jpg Hornets Aspley QLD Graham Road Oval 1964 2021 none
Box Hill (A) AFL Hawthorn Icon.jpg Hawks Box Hill VIC Box Hill City Oval 1936 1951 32 AFL Hawthorn Icon.jpg Hawthorn
Brisbane (R) BrisbaneAFL.svg Lions Brendale QLD South Pine Sports Complex 1996 2021 BrisbaneAFL.svg Brisbane Lions
Carlton (R) Carlton 2018 AFL.png Blues Carlton North VIC Princes Park 1864 2000 0 Carlton 2018 AFL.png Carlton
Casey (A) AFL Melbourne Icon.jpg Demons Cranbourne East VIC Casey Fields 1903 1982 51 AFL Melbourne Icon.jpg Melbourne
Coburg VFL Coburg Icon.png Lions Coburg VIC Coburg City Oval 1891 1925 62none
Collingwood (R) Collingwood icon.svg Magpies Melbourne VIC Victoria Park
Olympic Park Oval
1892 2000 0 Collingwood icon.svg Collingwood
Essendon (R) EssendonDesign.svg Bombers Melbourne Airport VIC Windy Hill 1871 2000 0 EssendonDesign.svg Essendon
Footscray (R) AFL Footscray Icon.jpg Bulldogs Footscray VIC Whitten Oval 1877 2014 2 AFL Footscray Icon.jpg Western Bulldogs
Frankston VFL Frankston Icon.png Dolphins Frankston VIC Frankston Park 1887 1966 01none
Geelong (R) AFL Geelong Icon.jpg Cats South Geelong VIC Kardinia Park 1859 2000 3 AFL Geelong Icon.jpg Geelong
Gold Coast (R) Gold Coast Suns 2018.png Suns Carrara QLD Metricon Stadium 2008 2021 Gold Coast Suns 2018.png Gold Coast
Greater Western Sydney (R) AFL GWS Icon.jpg Giants Sydney Olympic Park NSW Blacktown ISP Oval 2008 2021 AFL GWS Icon.jpg Greater Western Sydney
North Melbourne (R) AFL North Melbourne Icon.jpg Kangaroos North Melbourne VIC Arden Street Oval 1869 2018 0 AFL North Melbourne Icon.jpg North Melbourne [74]
Northern NorthernBullantsDesignV2.png Bullants Preston VIC Preston City Oval 1882 1903 42none
Port Melbourne VFL Port Melbourne Icon.png Borough Port Melbourne VIC North Port Oval 1874 1886 17none
Richmond (R) AFL Richmond Icon.jpg Tigers East Melbourne VIC Punt Road Oval 1885 2000 1 AFL Richmond Icon.jpg Richmond
Sandringham (A) VFL Sandringham Icon.png Zebras Sandringham VIC Trevor Barker Beach Oval
Moorabbin Oval
1929 1929 10 AFL St Kilda Icon.jpg St Kilda
Southport
SouthportSharksDesign.png
Sharks Southport QLD Fankhauser Reserve 1961 2021 none
Sydney (R) AFL Sydney Icon.jpg Swans Moore Park NSW Tramway Oval 1874 2021 AFL Sydney Icon.jpg Sydney
Werribee VFL Werribee Icon.png Tigers Werribee VIC Chirnside Park
1964 1965 10none
Williamstown Vfl williamstown icon.png Seagulls Williamstown VIC Williamstown Cricket Ground 1864 1884 142none

Former clubs

The VFA and VFL have undergone significant format changes since its induction which means several clubs have either left the league or changed identity for different reasons. Excluded from this list are provincial clubs who were full administrative members of the VFA in its first decade, but who never played enough games against other clubs to be considered relevant in the premiership.

ClubMoniker and Colour(s)LocationStateStadiumEst.Season VFA/VFL
Premierships
VFA Division 2
Premierships
(1961–1988)
Current League
Albert-park   
Parkites
Albert Park VIC Emerald Hill Ground1867 18771879 0Merged
1880 with South Melbourne (now SydneyAFL)
Ballarat   
Swans
Ballarat VIC Alfredton Recreation Reserve1860 18781896
(Administrative)
0 Ballarat FL
Ballarat Imperial    
Imps
Ballarat VIC  ?1876 18851896
(Administrative)
0Folded
1950s
Bendigo   
Diggers, Bombers, Gold
Bendigo VIC Queen Elizabeth Oval 1998 19982014 0Folded
2014
Berwick    
Wickers
Berwick VIC Arch Brown Reserve
Manuka Road Oval
1903 19831987 0 Eastern FL
Brighton   
Penguins
Brighton VIC Brighton Beach Oval
Elsternwick Park
1885 19081961 10Merged
1962 with South Caulfield
Brighton Caulfield   
Penguins
Caulfield South VIC Princes Park, Caulfield1962 19621964 0Renamed
1965 became Caulfield
Brunswick
(Brunswick-Broadmeadows)
  
Magpies
Brunswick VIC Gillon Oval1865 18971991 33Folded
1991
Camberwell    
Cobras
Camberwell VIC Camberwell Sportsground1896 19261991 02Folded
1994
Carlton   
Blues
Carlton VIC Various grounds around Carlton1864 18771896 2 AFL
Caulfield   
Bears
Caulfield South VIC Princes Park, Caulfield1957 19651987 01Folded
1989
Collingwood   
Magpies
Abbotsford VIC Victoria Park 1892 18921896 1 AFL
Dandenong   
Dandies, Redlegs
Dandenong VIC Shepley Oval 19581994 31Folded
1994
East Melbourne East Melbourne VIC 1878 18801882 0Folded
1882
Essendon   
Dons, Same Olds
East Melbourne VIC East Melbourne Cricket Ground 1871 18781896 4 AFL
Essendon A.
(Essendon Town)
  
Dons, Dreadnaughts
Essendon VIC Essendon Cricket Ground 1900 19001921 2Folded
1921
Fitzroy   
Maroons
Fitzroy North VIC Fitzroy Cricket Ground 1883 18831896 1Merged
1996 with Brisbane Bears (now Brisbane LionsAFL)
Footscray    
Tricolours
Footscray VIC Western Oval, Footscray 1877 18861924 9 AFL
(as Western Bulldogs)
Geelong   
Pivotonians
East Geelong VIC Corio Oval 1859 18771896 7 AFL
Geelong A.    Geelong VIC Kardinia Park
Western Oval, Geelong
1922 19221927 0Folded
1927
Geelong West   
Roosters
Geelong West VIC Western Oval, Geelong1878 19631988 13 Geelong FL
(as Geelong West Giants)
Gold Coast   
Suns
Carrara QLD Fankhauser Reserve 2009 2010 0 AFL
Hawthorn   
Mayblooms
Hawthorn VIC Glenferrie Oval 1902 19141924 0 AFL
Kilsyth   
Cougars
Kilsyth VIC Kilsyth Recreation Reserve1923 19821984 0 Eastern FL
Melbourne   
Redlegs, Fuchsias
East Melbourne VIC Melbourne Cricket Ground 1858 18771896 0 AFL
Melbourne City   
East Melbourne VIC East Melbourne Cricket Ground 1912 19121913 0Folded
1913
Moorabbin (1)   
Kangaroos
Moorabbin VIC Moorabbin Oval 1909 19511963 2Folded
1964
Moorabbin (2)   
Kangaroos
McKinnon VIC Moorabbin Oval
Bentleigh Recreation Reserve
1979 19831987 0Folded
1987
Mordialloc   
Bloodhounds
Mordialloc VIC Ben Kavanagh Reserve1891 19581988 01 Southern FL
Murray   
Kangaroos
Coburg
Albury
VIC
NSW
Coburg City Oval
Lavington Sports Ground
2000 20002002 0Folded
2002
North Ballarat   
Roosters
Wendouree VIC Eureka Stadium 1882 19962017 3 Ballarat FL
North Melbourne
(Hotham)
  
Shinboners
North Melbourne VIC North Melbourne Cricket Ground 1869 18771924 6 AFL
Northcote   
Dragons
Westgarth VIC Northcote Park 1870s 19081987 52Folded
1987
Oakleigh   
Oaks, Devils
Oakleigh VIC Warrawee Park1891 19291994 62Folded
1994
Prahran (1)    St Kilda VIC Albert Cricket Ground
Wesley College Ground
1886 18861887 0Merged
1888 with St Kilda
Prahran (2)   
Two Blues
Armadale VIC Toorak Park 1899 18991994
(excl. 1959)
52 VAFA
(as Prahran/Assumption)
Richmond   
Tigers
East Melbourne VIC Richmond Cricket Ground 1885 18851907 2 AFL
St Kilda    
Saints
St Kilda VIC St Kilda Cricket Ground 1873
18771879
18861896
0 AFL
St Kilda reserves    
Saints
Moorabbin VIC Moorabbin Oval 1873
2000 0Recess
Affiliated with Sandringham
South Ballarat
(Albion Imperial)
   Ballarat VIC  ?ca. 1877 18831896
(Administrative)
0Folded
1941
South Melbourne   
Southerners
South Melbourne VIC South Melbourne Cricket Ground 1874
18791896 5 AFL
(as Sydney)
South Williamstown    Williamstown VIC Williamstown Cricket Ground 1886 18861887 0Merged
1888 with Williamstown
Sunshine   
Crows
Braybrook VIC Selwyn Park
Skinner Reserve
1938 19591989 01Folded
1990
Tasmania     
Devils
Hobart
Launceston
TAS North Hobart Oval
Bellerive Oval
York Park
2001 20012008 0Folded
2008
Traralgon   
Maroons
Traralgon VIC Traralgon Reserve1883 19961997 0 Gippsland FL
University   
Parkville VIC 1885 18851888 0 VAFA
Waverley   
Panthers
Glen Waverley VIC Central Reserve 1908 19611987 10Folded
1988
West Melbourne   
Wests
North Melbourne VIC North Melbourne Recreation Reserve 18781880
18991907
1Folded
1908
Yarraville    
Eagles
Yarraville VIC Yarraville Oval 1903 19281983 20Folded
1984

Timeline

Victorian Football League

Map

VFA presidents

The following men served as president of the VFA between its establishment in 1877 and its merger with the VSFL in 1994.

No.PresidentClubTenure
1 William Clarke, MLC [75] Melbourne 1877–1881
2Cr James Garton [75] 1882–1886
3Frank Grey Smith [75] Melbourne 1887–1896
4 Theodore Fink, MLA [75] Richmond 1897–1900
5James Hall [76] Williamstown 1901–1902
6 Cr John George Aikman [77] Essendon (A.) 1903–1928 [78]
7 Cr John James Liston [79] Williamstown 1929–1944
8 Henry Zwar, MLA [80] Preston 1944–1946
9 Squire Reid, MLA [81] Oakleigh 1947–1949
10Dr Frank Hartnett [82] Camberwell 1949–1950
11Lewis Page [83] Brighton 1951–1953
12 Cr Alex Gillon [84] Brunswick 1954–1980
13 Alan Wickes [85] Frankston 1981–1984
14Brook Andersen [86] Brunswick 1985–1989
15John Grieve [87] Williamstown 1989–1992
16Tony Hannebery [88] Williamstown 1993–1994

VFL Women's

From the 2016 season, a statewide women's football league aligned with the VFL was established by AFL Victoria. The competition initially comprised the six Premier Division clubs and the top four Division 1 clubs from the now-defunct Victorian Women's Football League (VWFL), and was aligned and co-branded with the VFL to improve market penetration. [89] Following the 2017 season, the competition was reconfigured to affiliate teams more closely with AFL clubs. Since 2018, the league has comprised thirteen teams; twelve are based in Victoria (nine of which are affiliated with AFL clubs) and one in the Northern Territory. [90] The league runs from May to September, running concurrently with the VFL.

Former grades

Seconds/reserves

The VFA/VFL operated a seconds or reserves competition from the 1920s, initially emerging from the Victorian Junior Football Association. From its inception until 1979, the seconds team played on Saturday afternoons, playing at home when the senior team played away and vice versa. Since 1980, seconds matches have been played as curtain-raisers to senior matches, on Saturdays or Sundays as necessary. [91] The competition was later renamed the reserves, and then from the beginning of the 2012 season it has been known as the AFL Victoria Development League, a move that coincided with the introduction of the AFL Victoria Development Academy which provides development opportunities for up to 25 selected VFL players per year. [92] For most of the VFA's history, fielding a team in the seconds grade was mandatory for all senior teams, but in the state league era many regional clubs – as well as all AFL clubs fielding their reserves teams in the VFL seniors – opted not to contest the minor grade. The Development League was abolished after the 2017 season with all VFL clubs' reserve players now play suburban football when not playing with the VFL seniors. [93] (List of VFL Seconds Premiers)

Thirds/Under-19s

The VFA operated an under-19s competition, initially known as the Thirds, between 1952 and 1994. [94] The Under-19s was disbanded when the VFA merged with the VSFL at the end of 1994, with the statewide under-19s competition (the present day NAB League) replacing its function as an under-18s competition. (List of VFA Thirds Premiers)

See also

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