Melbourne Demons AFL Football Club
Less than a year after Tom Wills’ 1858 letter to Bells Life magazine called for the formation of a "football club", or a "rifle club", to keep cricketers fit during winter the first official Australian Rules football club was formed, taking the name of the city where the game began.
Three days after the Melbourne Football Club came to life on 14 May 1859 at the Parade Hotel in East Melbourne members of club set out the first rules of the game.
The club were universally declared the best team in the land six times between 1865 and 1876, but they were destined never to win a premiership in the VFA. In 1889 the Melbourne Cricket Club had to adopt the football club as one of its sporting divisions, beginning a relationship that would be unbroken for nearly a century.
The first real premiership for the Fuschias, as they had become known, came in 1900 when they caused one of the first great VFL upsets in beating Fitzroy for the flag. Melbourne had finished six of eight clubs but the finals system of the day allowed all the teams to compete in the finals and they were two points better than Fitzroy in the Grand Final.
The club then embarked on a long and fruitless period where they missed the finals every year from 1903 to 1914. Aided by players from the defunct University club, Melbourne had just dragged themselves back into the final four in 1915 when the First World War broke out and they were forced into recess.
Rejoining the competition in 1919 Melbourne had little success, failing to win a game with their squad decimated by the break and the war.
As the 1920's wore on the Redlegs started to build towards another premiership. Eventually in 1926 they broke through for their second flag.
In 1933 Frank “Checker” Hughes became coach, famously changing the team's nickname to the Demons.
It took six years for Hughes to achieve success, but he eventually delivered premierships in 1939, 1940 and 1941.
1948 saw the Demons win another flag but it took more than five years for them to play another Grand Final.
Norm Smith returned as coach in 1952 and by 1954 had his side in a Grand Final. The next year Smith’s team triumphed and that premiership victory was followed with the 1956 and 1957 cups. Shooting for four in a row to equal Collingwood's VFL record of the 1920's the Demons started hot favourites in the 1958 decider but were beaten. They gained some measure of revenge over the Pies in 1959 before winning their fifth premiership in six years in 1960.
Another premiership was won in 1964, but shortly after that season Ron Barassi rocked the football world by accepting an offer to captain-coach Carlton. It was the beginning of more than 30 years of horror for his old side.
1965 saw the defending premiers fall to seventh, in a season where Norm Smith was controversially sacked before being reinstated. He retired as coach for good at the end of 1968.
John Beckwith, Ian Ridley, Bob Skilton, Dennis Jones and Carl Ditterich all had their go at getting Melbourne back into the finals. Skilton went closest, going within a point of the final five in 1976 but being thwarted by a Footscray and Carlton draw in the last match of the year.
The prodigal son Barassi returned for the 1981 season. Imploring the fans to give him five years to work his magic, Barassi saw his side win just one game that year. His reign ended in 1985 when his side finished second last. Former Sydney coach John Northey was appointed his successor.
The Demons showed improvement under Northey in 1986 and won the 1987 Night Series before a nail biting unbeaten run put Melbourne into its first finals series since 1964 where they suffered a heartbreaking Preliminary Final loss to Hawthorn. The next year they qualified for the VFL Grand Final but were destroyed by the Hawks to the tune of 96 points.
The VFL officially adopted the name AFL - Australian Football League - in 1990.
Northey resigned at the end of a 1992 and was replaced by Neil Balme. Balme took his side to a preliminary final in his second year, but it was to be his only finals appearance as a coach.
In 1996, with a significant financial carrot being dangled by the AFL, members voted to become the Melbourne Hawks but the proposal was defeated when Hawthorn fans opted against what they considered a takeover.
On route to the club’s first wooden spoon since 1981 Balme was sacked midway through 1997 and former Essendon champion Neale Daniher was appointed senior coach. Daniher saw his side climb off the bottom of the ladder in 1998 and into a preliminary final.
After a disappointing 1999 campaign the Demons rebounded with to play in a Grand Final appearance against Essendon the next year. Once again they were soundly beaten.
Three straight finals campaigns in an era of dominance by interstate AFL clubs between 2004 and 2006 saw the Demons start 2007 as Victoria’s big hope for a premiership glory but end it in crisis.
Daniher was replaced by Dean Bailey who failed to take the Demons into an AFL finals series in his four seasons in charge and was sacked midway through 2011. Former Collingwood assistant Mark Neeld was appointed senior coach in September of that year.