Portfolio VFL 2024 – What if the league never expanded nationally*?

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Dec 26, 2013
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It’s 2024 and you know the way the footy landscape is laid out. The top level is the AFL which is really just the old VFL with some extra teams, while the SANFL, WAFL and old VFA toil away as second tier leagues. So, let’s set the scene for an alternate history.

Coming into the 1980s the VFL began looking into the viability of adding a Sydney-based side to the league. Along with developing the sport in Sydney where it lagged behind three different football codes in terms of support, expansion into Sydney was destined to put the groundwork in place for the VFL to become the biggest league in the country. The premise for this alternate history is simple. The NFL, who oversee the sport at the time, deems that no league can expand towards the territory of another league, and that the three major state leagues have relatively equal footing as top-level football leagues. As for the sport itself, the NFL (later renamed the Australian Rules Football Commission or ARFC) oversees the rules and sits above the three 12-team leagues as an administrative body. They also control State of Origin competitions and a Champions League to crown a de facto Australian Champion.

This thread was inspired by Freight Train and his much-loved WAFL 2019 – Welcome to the West portfolio, so if you’re intrigued as to what you can expect in terms of structure or are curious what a WAFL equivalent might look like, or want a trip down memory lane, feel free to check his portfolio out, it’s a beauty.

The teams in this competition will be revealed in chronological order based on major changes to their identity, with the unaltered clubs shown first. I will be displaying their uniforms as they appear in the present with each team having a home and away uniform, one dark and one light.

With that being said, let’s see what this VFL would look like in 2024.

* The VFL in this timeline may or may not have ended up expanding to states and territories outside of Victoria.
Also please ignore any possible outdated sponsors, as well as the use of 22 on the back. I had started working on this back in 2022 and only really finished this up now.
 
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There were four clubs who have survived to the present day without needing to change their identity in a major way. These four teams will be revealed first, however the other eight clubs will have more prominent changes which you'll see very very soon.

Carlton.png
Carlton got through the expansion of the VFL unscathed with their diehard fans never letting the club down. The Blues have over time reinforced their nickname by dabbling with sky blue on their clash jumpers over the years and we see them rocking the Sturt-style sky blue design in the present day.

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The Pies continue to be a juggernaut with a massive loyal fanbase that was never going to let their team merge, fold or fade into obscurity either. Although they are traditionalists, a radical switch to a black based jumper has stayed to this day and is accompanied by a white pinstripe design that truly stands out from everyone in the league.

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Essendon continue to exist in their own right with a strong supporter base and in recent years have cemented their position in the league having focused on the growth corridor in Melbourne’s North-West. The Bombers keep it simple at home, while their clash jumper honours the origins of the sash design – the drop shadow meant to mimic a shadow under a real sash on a woollen jumper.

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It’s quite obvious why the Cats survived the VFL’s expansion, they simply have Victoria’s second biggest city all to themselves. As such, they never felt the need to broaden their reach, nor do they have to look too far for support. Still wearing white at home, the Cats’ clash jumper subtly references the famous hoops and is adorned with a massive G to let you know who you’re up against.
 

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Great idea. Im always in favour of anything Geelong related that isn't hoops.
Absolutely, always felt it was more creative for Geelong to play around with something that isn’t just a straight up inverse. Still wanted to reference the hoops but without making it the focal point of the jumper, ya know?
 
don't tell me melbourne hawks and north Fitzroy lions are here :huh:
That will all be revealed in due time…
If I may ask though, is it a bad thing if they were? I know they’re the obvious picks to include in an alternate history so they get included heaps by people, but it’s not for no reason. You’ll see as I reveal the teams that the goal was to make this as realistic as possible in terms of what teams could be in this competition.
 
That will all be revealed in due time…
If I may ask though, is it a bad thing if they were? I know they’re the obvious picks to include in an alternate history so they get included heaps by people, but it’s not for no reason. You’ll see as I reveal the teams that the goal was to make this as realistic as possible in terms of what teams could be in this competition.
Considering the events too, North were all but certain to merge before the Bears came forward, and the league was haemorrhaging money. It makes sense that during the dark times these clubs would have a decision that was financially sound.
 
That will all be revealed in due time…
If I may ask though, is it a bad thing if they were? I know they’re the obvious picks to include in an alternate history so they get included heaps by people, but it’s not for no reason. You’ll see as I reveal the teams that the goal was to make this as realistic as possible in terms of what teams could be in this competition.
guess not, but sad to see my club always get merged in these alt-history threads
 
guess not, but sad to see my club always get merged in these alt-history threads
Episode 2 Whatever GIF
 
guess not, but sad to see my club always get merged in these alt-history threads
Understandable of course. I won’t spoil what happens to Melbourne but since I’ve already revealed that they won’t exist in their present state, I can show you what I would’ve made them look like from an older portfolio I made.
 
1982 - SOUTH MOVE NORTH
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The first major movement in the structure of the VFL came in 1982 when South Melbourne made the move up north to Sydney to become the Sydney Swans. This relocation was the catalyst for the NFL’s decision to regulate the expansion of all three leagues as it had the potential to begin an era of VFL dominance across the country. The move took some time to begin to pay dividends for the league, but the Swans eventually cemented their spot in Sydney and continue to capitalise on the massive population their new home holds. The home jumper features a slightly curved yoke as a nod to the vintage South Melbourne design while the clash jumper blends their current location in Sydney with the three premierships the club won as South Melbourne.

1988 - SAINTS CLAIM THE SOUTHSIDE
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With South Melbourne out of the picture, St. Kilda suddenly found themselves with a massive territorial advantage of everything south of the Yarra. Having been based at Moorabbin Oval for over 20 years by this point, the Saints bit the bullet and rebranded to the Southern Saints. The new name was criticised at first but began to pay dividends when support strengthened all the way from St. Kilda to the Mornington Peninsula. The Saints dabbled with a move further south to Seaford, but the move was unsuccessful, with Moorabbin being closer to the city as well as the traditional home of St. Kilda. Having ditched the tri-panel as a full time uniform, the Saints now wear a darker version of their 90s crusader design at home and a white equivalent away.
 
Considering the events too, North were all but certain to merge before the Bears came forward, and the league was haemorrhaging money. It makes sense that during the dark times these clubs would have a decision that was financially sound.
Not true at all. North pursued the merger but were blocked by the rest of the league out of fear we'd become too powerful, it's not like the Bears emerged as a better suitor, they were just the only option left on the table.
 

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Not true at all. North pursued the merger but were blocked by the rest of the league out of fear we'd become too powerful, it's not like the Bears emerged as a better suitor, they were just the only option left on the table.
It was the only likely other outcome at that time, that's what I am basing it on tbh
 
1991 - A LEAGUE-FIRST MERGER
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By 1990 Richmond found themselves in severe financial trouble, needing to raise $1 million by October 31. The Tigers faithful banded together to try and raise the funds but found themselves short. Running out of time to find something to do, the Tigers began discussions with fellow strugglers Fitzroy to discuss a potential merger for the upcoming season. The merger spawned the Richmond-Fitzroy Tigers and was less than harmonious to say the least, something that has continued to the present, with Richmond being the more dominant merger partner and getting the more favourable compromise in terms of their identity. Since then, the side has changed names to the Eastern Tiger-Lions to broaden their geographic reach and have equal representation in the club’s name. The home jumper is the classic Richmond jumper, save for a touch of Fitzroy’s colours in the sash, while the clash jumper is more akin to Fitzroy’s design, however recoloured to both sides’ mutual yellow and includes Tiger striping on the Fitzroy Lion.

1992 - TASSIE GETS THEIR TEAM
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When murmurs of the Richmond and Fitzroy began to surface, so too did the bids for a new club to fill newly vacated 12th spot in the VFL. Bids from all over Victoria and the other eastern states came in to play. The safer options included promoting a VFA club or establishing a side in regional Victoria, while more radical options such as a Brisbane-based franchise were floated. The VFL wanted to continue expanding interstate but was still struggling to keep the Swans afloat. The 1991 season went ahead with 11 teams, but midway through that year the bid from Tasmania gained significant headway when the cities of Hobart and Launceston agreed to split home games between North Hobart Oval and York Park. Expanding into Tasmania worked wonders for the league with the state’s existing passion for footy providing the perfect base for a new club to find support. The Titans as they would be called are by far the strongest sports team in Tasmania and it’s not hard to see why. Their uniform is traditional, but the stripes are adorned with a triangle shaped T to acknowledge the state teams of years gone by.
 
1991 - A LEAGUE-FIRST MERGER
View attachment 1889835
By 1990 Richmond found themselves in severe financial trouble, needing to raise $1 million by October 31. The Tigers faithful banded together to try and raise the funds but found themselves short. Running out of time to find something to do, the Tigers began discussions with fellow strugglers Fitzroy to discuss a potential merger for the upcoming season. The merger spawned the Richmond-Fitzroy Tigers and was less than harmonious to say the least, something that has continued to the present, with Richmond being the more dominant merger partner and getting the more favourable compromise in terms of their identity. Since then, the side has changed names to the Eastern Tiger-Lions to broaden their geographic reach and have equal representation in the club’s name. The home jumper is the classic Richmond jumper, save for a touch of Fitzroy’s colours in the sash, while the clash jumper is more akin to Fitzroy’s design, however recoloured to both sides’ mutual yellow and includes Tiger striping on the Fitzroy Lion.

I’d support this, but not to keen about the name. Fitzroy-Richmond Ligers and I’m all in!!!!
 
1995 - SONS OF THE WEST
Western.png With Richmond and Fitzroy’s merger solidifying their new club’s spot in the VFL, attention had turned to Footscray as the club that might need to make way for further expansion. Of course, with less stable sides having already relocated or merged, the danger for the Bulldogs was shutting up shop completely. Having seen the strides that the Saints took by representing a whole side of the city with a new name, the Bulldogs followed suit by becoming the Western Bulldogs in 1995. The previous round of expansion toyed with the idea of a regional Victorian team based primarily in Ballarat, but over time the Bulldogs territory has expanded further west to the regional city of Ballarat where they now play some home games. After a few years experimenting with more modern designs, the Bulldogs eventually returned to their 1954 Premiership design and now wear a white version away.

1997 - ANOTHER TWO TEAMS COMBINE
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Still wanting to expand into interstate territory (namely Queensland), the VFL looked to continue reducing the Victorian proportion of the league. The Bulldogs had just earned themselves a grace period by embarking on a soon to be successful endeavour, and Melbourne and Hawthorn were left as two of the clubs who were still unscathed. The pairing between these clubs as a merged entity just seemed to click into place. Hawthorn were strong on field but weaker off field, and the opposite applied for Melbourne. Naturally there was some opposition from fans, but the Don Scott-led push for Hawthorn to back out of the merger fell agonisingly short, and the VFL strongly supported the merge. The club’s home jumper initially sported Hawthorn’s Hawk, but over time this was dropped in favour of a simpler home jumper paired with a clash jumper that was predominantly made up of Hawthorn’s colours, albeit with a slight nod to Melbourne’s red and blue.

1997 - SOUTHPORT MAKE THE JUMP
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After another merger, another spot opened in the VFL. With Queensland still yet to be represented in the league, there were an influx of Queensland based bids but the two strongest were for the Southport Sharks and a Brisbane-based franchise. The instability of Rugby League amidst the Super League War gave the VFL an avenue into Queensland but with the Broncos being far more stable than the Gold Coast Chargers, Brisbane seemed to be too difficult a market to directly jump into by 1997. Admitting Southport who boasted over 20,000 members to the competition proved to be a smart decision with the club being financially stable from the get-go. Attempting to avoid alienating fans from other Queensland based clubs, the Sharks rebranded to the Gold Coast Sharks, although this was short lived as simply being the only Queensland based VFL club made them the de facto club for all Queenslanders. The Sharks made the choice to add gold to their uniforms as a point of difference from Collingwood and have paired the classic white home jumper with a gold clash uniform.
 
Brilliant lore mate! just love the ligers as much as my beloved richmond.
Greatly appreciated! The lore is what made this one take a while to complete but I'm glad to hear this as I wanted the storylines to be as realistic as possible while also remaining creative. I'll probably also end up making a post with the thought process behind why I went with the 12 teams I chose once this is complete (still one team left).
I’d support this, but not to keen about the name. Fitzroy-Richmond Ligers and I’m all in!!!!
Admittedly I did get stuck on what to name the team for a bit. Richmond Lions and Fitzroy Tigers both just didn't seem right, and I initially landed on Richmond-Fitzroy Ligers but I thought that nickname seemed just a bit too ideal and fantasy-like. But I suppose my main point is that I do also like that name, just not what I think they'd be named in real life. Nonetheless, I am glad you like the design I came up with given your team is part of the merger.
i love that tassie kit Tradinol while new and not related to the state kit, the t is good as well
Thank you very much! I think I've been using this T device since about 2016 for Tassie teams so I'm happy it's still viewed positively after so long hahaha.

One more team will be on its way and then I have some final things I'll do to wrap this one up and perhaps move on to a sequel soon... stay tuned!
 
Such a ripper portfolio mate, it's hard to even give it constructive feedback because I think you've nailed it from concept to execution. I've been simmering on an idea for a similar portfolio for some time now but I think this has given me the inspiration I needed
 
2007 - NORTH HEAD FURTHER NORTH
Canberra.png
North Melbourne in the late 90s changed their name to the Kangaroos, taking on a somewhat nomadic position in the league. Off the back of success this wasn’t a bad course of action as they were popular no matter where they travelled, but as time passed and success was less frequent, this strategy was less successful. Essendon approached the Kangaroos about a possible merger in 2005 but the fanbases of both sides vehemently opposed the idea. Essendon’s fans didn’t see a point in sacrificing their identity and North’s fans couldn’t think of a worse fate than succumbing to their biggest rival. While the merger was still on the cards however, the ACT government began preparing a bid to fill the possible vacant 12th spot in the league. Their case was simple, the ACT was the only state or territory along the east of Australia without a VFL team and the sport had been very popular before the Raiders helped rugby league gain the upper hand. Disappointed that their bid wouldn’t be successful, ACT contacted the Kangaroos regarding a relocation to the capital. In 2006 the Roos played 6 of their home games at Manuka Oval and by 2007 they had officially rebranded to the Canberra Kangaroos, playing all but 1 home game there. Almost entirely replacing their white with Gold to mimic the ACT state colours, the Kangaroos have helped the sport regain ground lost to the rugby league year after year.
 
And with the reveal of the 12th team, I can conclude this portfolio for the most part. I'll put up another post soon witht he explanation behind the teams soon, but for now we're all done.

With 12 teams in the VFL, each team will play each other twice per season, once at home and once away. To eliminate the guesswork, I've put together a spreadsheet with the appropriate jumper matchup for every single match in a season.
(Warning: this is going to be a big image)

I also don't like to tease upcoming projects, but I have begun work on a sequel to this, but it's not complete yet and could still be some time away. Nonetheless, here's what I'll be working on next.
 
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And with the reveal of the 12th team, I can conclude this portfolio for the most part. I'll put up another post soon witht he explanation behind the teams soon, but for now we're all done.

With 12 teams in the VFL, each team will play each other twice per season, once at home and once away. To eliminate the guesswork, I've put together a spreadsheet with the appropriate jumper matchup for every single match in a season.
(Warning: this is going to be a big image)

I also don't like to tease upcoming projects, but I have begun work on a sequel to this, but it's not complete yet and could still be some time away. Nonetheless, here's what I'll be working on next.
yes, great folio loved it super keen for the next one
 

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