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Australian rules football in Victoria
Sc v buch 2001gf 2.jpg
The grand final of the Omeo & District Football League in 2001.
Governing body AFL Victoria
Representative team Victoria
First played 1858, Melbourne
Registered players 290,998
Club competitions
Victorian Football League
Victorian Amateur Football Association
Eastern Football League
Northern Football League
Essendon District Football League
Southern Football League
Western Region Football League
Ovens & Murray Football League
Audience records
Single match 121,696 (1970 VFL Grand Final)

In the Australian state of Victoria, the sport of Australian rules football is the most popular football code. The game's popularity in Victoria stems from its origins in Melbourne in the 1850s, with the first club (the Melbourne Football Club) and the first league (the Victorian Football Association) both based in the city. Ten of the eighteen teams participating in the Australian Football League (AFL) are based in Victoria, as a result of the league's origins as the Victorian Football League (VFL). The Melbourne Cricket Ground, with a capacity of 100,024 people, is considered the "spiritual home" of the game, and hosts the sport's largest event, the AFL Grand Final, yearly.

History

See also Origins of the Game, Australian rules football - Early years in Victoria.

Tom Wills began to devise Australian rules in Melbourne in 1858. (Although H.C.A. Harrison, Wills' cousin, was also named, much later, as an official father of the game his role does not, now, seem to have been significant at this very early stage.) A letter by Wills was published in Bell's Life in Victoria & Sporting Chronicle on 10 July 1858, calling for a "foot-ball club" with a "code of laws" to keep cricketers fit during winter. A match, played at the Richmond Paddock (later known as Yarra Park next to the MCG) on 31 July 1858, was probably a game of folk football, or one based on unidentified English school rules. However, few details of the match have survived.

The Melbourne Football Club was founded on Saturday 14 May 1859, one of the world's first football clubs in any code. For many years unjustified claims have been made about a football match between Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College. It began on 7 August 1858, umpired by Wills and John McAdam. A second day of play took place on 21 August and a third, and final, day on 4 September. The two schools have competed annually ever since. However, the rules used by the two teams in 1858 had little in common with the eventual form of Australian football since that code had not yet been written.

Australianfootball1866
A game at the Richmond Paddock in the 1860s. A pavilion at the MCG is on the left in the background. (A wood engraving made by Robert Bruce on 27 July 1866.)

The Melbourne Football Club rules of 1859 are the oldest surviving set of laws for Australian football. They were drawn up at the Parade Hotel, East Melbourne, on 17 May, by Wills, W. J. Hammersley, J. B. Thompson and Thomas Smith (some sources include H. C. A. Harrison). The 1859 rules did not include some elements that soon became important to the game, such as the requirement to bounce the ball while running, and Melbourne's game was not immediately adopted by neighbouring clubs. Before each match the rules had to be agreed by the two teams involved. By 1866, however, several other clubs had agreed to play by an updated version of Melbourne's rules.

Victoria's first league

See also: Victorian Football Association

On 17 May 1877, the Victorian Football Association (VFA), Victoria's first governing body for Australian football, was formed. The foundation Senior clubs of the VFA were Albert-park, Carlton, Hotham, Melbourne, St Kilda. The Junior section of the VFA originally included such clubs as Ballarat, East Melbourne, Essendon, Hawthorn, Northcote, South Melbourne, Standard, Victoria United, Victorian Railways, West Melbourne and Williamstown. During its early years, many clubs dropped in and out and there were erratic promotions between the Senior and Junior sections. Hawthorn, Northcote, Standard, Victoria United, Victorian Railways and Williamstown dropped out within a year or so but Hawthorn, Northcote and Williamstown were all to return at various times.

There were also numerous rules changes in this early period.

Formation of the VFL

A rift in the VFA led to the formation of the Victorian Football League (VFL), which commenced play in 1897 as an eight-team breakaway of the stronger clubs in the VFA competition: Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, St Kilda and South Melbourne. The first season concluded with Essendon finishing as the premiers (winners).

Another four VFA clubs joined the VFL later, as Richmond joined the VFL in 1908. Footscray, Hawthorn and North Melbourne joined in 1925, by which time VFL had become the most prominent league in the game. University also joined the VFL in 1908 but left in 1915.

National league and current issues

AustralianRulesFootballVictoriaAustraliaLogo
Victoria State of Origin guernsey.

In 1982, in a move which heralded big changes within the sport, one of the original VFL clubs, South Melbourne Football Club, relocated to the rugby league stronghold of Sydney and became known as the Sydney Swans.

In the late 1980s, strong interstate interest in the VFL led to a more national competition; two more non-Victorian clubs, the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Bears began playing in 1987.

The league changed its name to the Australian Football League (AFL) following the 1989 season, later gaining further West Australian and South Australian teams.

The VFA/VFL became a secondary league, although even it has grown to accommodate a team from Tasmania.

Even the biggest locally grown suburban clubs, elevated into the national league, continue struggle for survival, competing for marketshare. Fourteen years after South Melbourne's difficulties led them to move to Sydney, similar problems at the Fitzroy Football Club result in a merger, forming the Brisbane Lions. Although a small consolation of these club's recent success has been establishing renewed interest with their Melbourne based supporters, other clubs, such as the historic Melbourne, Western Bulldogs (formerly Footscray), North Melbourne and Carlton Clubs are assisted by the AFL to remain in the national competition. Many suggestions have been made in response to issues of overcrowding [1] but the AFL has been somewhat reluctant to make a drastic change, due to both the history and supporters' passion for their club - save for the merger of Fitzroy and the Bears.

Participation

VWFL Div 1 Reserves grand final 2005
Women's Australian rules football is growing in popularity in Victoria.

In 2004, with 36,900 senior players in Victoria, more than any other state in Australia.

With a total participation of 223,999, Victoria has a participation rate of around 4% per capita, makes it the equal third most supported state (with Western Australia and South Australia)

Audience

Attendance record

Major Australian rules events in Victoria

Communitycup
2005 Community Cup
  • Australian Football League Premiership Season
  • AFL Grand Final (annual)
  • Victorian Football League Grand Final (annual)
  • International Rules Series (biennial)
  • Australian Football International Cup (quadrennial free event)
  • E. J. Whitten Legends Game (annual charity event)
  • Community Cup (annual charity event)
  • Multicultural Cup (annual free event)
  • Ovens & Murray Football League Grand Final (annual)

Notable Victorian footballers

Notable players from Victoria to participate in elite football include Gary Ablett, Sr., Tony Lockett, Ted Whitten, Ron Barassi, Leigh Matthews, Kevin Murray, Francis Bourke, Greg Williams, Jack Dyer, Roy Cazaly, Paul Salmon, Paul Roos, Dermott Brereton and Robert Flower.

Leagues and clubs

Professional clubs

Open

Statewide leagues

  • Victorian Football League

Melbourne metropolitan leagues

  • Eastern Football League
  • Essendon District Football League
  • Northern Football League
  • Southern Football League
  • Victorian Amateur Football Association
  • Western Region Football League

Regional leagues

Junior

  • Warragul & District Junior Football League
  • Riddell District Junior Football League Official Site
  • Yarra Junior Football League
  • Waverley Junior Football Association Official Site
  • Moorabbin Saints Junior Football League Official Site
  • Dandenong & District Junior Football League Official Site
  • Central Gippsland Junior Football League
  • Traralgon & District Junior Football League

Masters

Women's

  • Victorian Women's Football League
  • Youth Girls Competition Official Site

Principal venues

Venue Capacity
Melbourne Cricket Ground (East Melbourne) 100,024
Docklands Stadium (Melbourne Docklands) 56,347
Princes Park (Carlton) 35,000
Kardinia Park (Geelong) 33,500
Whitten Oval, (West Footscray) 25,000

Representative team

Big v
The Big V running out for the AFL Hall of Fame Tribute Match in 2008. (From left to right - Luke Power, Adam Goodes, Robert Murphy, Darren Milburn, Scott Pendlebury, Heath Shaw, Troy Simmonds, Trent Croad, Paul Chapman, Josh Fraser, Jimmy Bartel, Brent Harvey, Ryan O'Keefe, Sam Mitchell, Steve Johnson, Jarrad Waite, Chris Judd, Jonathan Brown, Daniel Bradshaw.)

The Victorian representative team is known as the Big V and have played State of Origin representative matches against all other Australian states. However, since 1999 they have only played at Under 19 and state league level, with the senior professional team only making a once off appearance in the 2008 AFL Hall of Fame Tribute Match.

See also: Interstate matches in Australian rules football
  • Australian Football League
  • Victorian Football League
  • Football Victoria
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