Why was'nt Port Melbourne in the original VFL, and not the VFA?

Timmy from Thomastown

TheBrownDog
May 25, 2006
52,301
26,566
Beach
AFL Club
Collingwood
Football wasn't always just governed by catchments.
Collingwood initial catchment was small.
Memberships were always the largest.
2000 members by 1894.
So money dictated some successes, especially with luring country and interstate players.
As said, Port Melbourne access to industry support would have hurt South Melbourne.
The friendly relationship between Souths and Port would have ended.
No collaboration.
Just business.
It is what it is now, but Ports relative inaccessability to punters from other suburbs definitely would have restricted its growth and its reach. South had three of the nine official VFA premierships (and 2 of nine in the unofficailly years prior) before the VFL was formed so it would be impossible to not invite them to join as a foundation club.

(Collingwoods catchment might have been small technically but it wasnt enclosed by the bay and the river and the city and hampered by terrible public transport like Port Melbourne is)
 
Last edited:

(Log in to remove this ad.)

Bunk Moreland

Hall of Famer
Sep 22, 2011
30,520
58,839
Your girlfriend's dreams
AFL Club
Essendon
It is what it is now, but Ports relative inaccessability to punters from other suburbs definitely would have restricted its growth and its reach. South had three of the nine official VFA premierships (and 2 of nine in the unofficailly years prior) before the VFL was formed so it would be impossible to not invite them to join as a foundation club.

(Collingwoods catchment might have been small technically but it wasnt enclosed by the bay and the river and the city and hampered by terrible public transport like Port Melbourne is)
When you look at the 7 original clubs it’s not hard to see the impact of geography.

Collingwood had the entire North East

Carlton the North

Essendon the North West (nominally, because they were based in town for a long time there)

Then look at the others -

Fitzroy was between Collingwood and Carlton and south of them both

Melbourne didn’t have a catchment

St Kilda and South were next door to each other and basically had the south. St Kilda took advantage of this by moving to Moorabbin

The first expansion club was Richmond, to the east.

As Melbourne grew outward, some clubs were fortunately located to take advantage of it, while others weren’t. You can see the results of that still today.

If Port has joined, I daresay they wouldn’t be there in their same guise - they’d have relocated (minor like St Kilda or dramatically like South) or folded.
 

radiojake

Brownlow Medallist
Nov 28, 2011
14,965
23,667
Melbourne
AFL Club
Adelaide
Other Teams
LIVFC
I have read that Prahran should have been in before North, and there are threads on Bigfooty which discuss possible reasons including sectarianism and a certain VFL vote not being cast in favour of Prahran.
I've read that Essendon were massive backers of the Prahran bid to keep North Melbourne out
 

MISFITS

All Australian
Dec 2, 2010
723
518
Northcote
AFL Club
Collingwood
When you look at the 7 original clubs it’s not hard to see the impact of geography.

Collingwood had the entire North East

Carlton the North

Essendon the North West (nominally, because they were based in town for a long time there)

Then look at the others -

Fitzroy was between Collingwood and Carlton and south of them both

Melbourne didn’t have a catchment

St Kilda and South were next door to each other and basically had the south. St Kilda took advantage of this by moving to Moorabbin

The first expansion club was Richmond, to the east.

As Melbourne grew outward, some clubs were fortunately located to take advantage of it, while others weren’t. You can see the results of that still today.

If Port has joined, I daresay they wouldn’t be there in their same guise - they’d have relocated (minor like St Kilda or dramatically like South) or folded.
Metropolitan zoning was introduced in 1915 and enforced in 1916 to capitalise and mimic on the successful SANFL model.
Up until VFL inclusion Geelong, South Melbourne and Carlton won near all competition due to the free agency rules.
Collingwood received the North East(Clifton, Northcote...later on Preston, Heidelberg and eventually Western Districts in South Australia)
Hardly dominant regions particularly from the country league perspective (1960s) although Collingwood had a tradition of circumventing zones.

Melbourne didn’t have a catchment

Melbourne had a strong connection to the private schools(later taken by the Hawks) the MCC and various institutions. (They we're supremely well run)
Apart from Collingwood, Melbourne were the perennial fixture in the first 60 years of VFL until country zoning in the 1960s where it is widely accepted that the Demons received a dud region.(central Vic)
Port has joined, I daresay they wouldn’t be there in their same guise - they’d have relocated

Agreed.
A club would have folded.
Souths or the Saints.
Port was a different animal.
Access to industry and loyal support.
It likely would have swallowed South Melbourne.
Williamstown in their recruitment zone could have met some resistance.
 
Last edited:

Bunk Moreland

Hall of Famer
Sep 22, 2011
30,520
58,839
Your girlfriend's dreams
AFL Club
Essendon
Metropolitan zoning was introduced in 1915 and enforced in 1916 to capitalise and mimic on the successful SANFL model.
Up until VFL inclusion Geelong, South Melbourne and Carlton won near all competition due to the free agency rules.
Collingwood received the North East(Clifton, Northcote...later on Preston, Heidelberg and eventually Western Districts in South Australia)
Hardly dominant regions particularly from the country league perspective (1960s) although Collingwood had a tradition of circumventing zones.

Melbourne didn’t have a catchment

Melbourne had a strong connection to the private schools of Melbourne.
Apart from Collingwood, Melbourne were the perennial fixture in the first 60 years of VFL until country zoning in the 1960s where it is widely accepted the the Demons received a dud region.(central Vic)
I guess I was talking more in terms of fanbases. If you look at the clubs who have either moved on or traditionally struggled for numbers, they all have a similar thing in common, the lack of a large catchment area out into the suburbs.

In terms of this thread, I think Port Melbourne would probably have fallen into the same bucket.
 

Snake_Baker

L'enfant terrible
Apr 24, 2013
44,722
81,876
inside your head
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
The Unicornia Reactants
People seldom notice the huge contradiction in St. Kilda (and even Melbourne) joining the VFL rather than Port Melbourne or Footscray, but I feel I ought to and can explain it in point form:
  1. The VFL was formed by the top VFA clubs: indeed the majority of the pre-1897 VFA is today’s Victorian AFL clubs, with Hawthorn the only exception (along with Fitzroy, Port, Williamstown and relocated South Melbourne)
Great posting, just replace "top" with "richest".

North and Footscray finished above Geelong, Carlton & StKilda in 1896.
 

MISFITS

All Australian
Dec 2, 2010
723
518
Northcote
AFL Club
Collingwood
I wish the VFA never expanded beyond 12 sides in the 50s ... might have been able stand up to the VFL in the long run
They were already in trouble.
VFA was a more segregated competition than the VFL, governed by wealthy clubs over poor clubs.
The VFA tried merging with the VFL in the 1950s.
The only factor that stopped this negotiation was the VFL's insistence to the VFA teams forming a relegation league(VFA) with two teams needing a playoff to enter the VFL.(leading two teams I guess)
The VFL made things difficult to the point where the VFA accepted fate and went their own way.
Port Melbourne were invited to join the VFL in a relegation league back in 1896.
They along with other teams rejected this approach and opted to stay in the VFA.
 

(Log in to remove this ad.)

Bunk Moreland

Hall of Famer
Sep 22, 2011
30,520
58,839
Your girlfriend's dreams
AFL Club
Essendon
They were already in trouble.
VFA was a more segregated competition than the VFL, governed by wealthy clubs over poor clubs.
The VFA tried merging with the VFL in the 1950s.
The only factor that stopped this negotiation was the VFL's insistence to the VFA teams forming a relegation league(VFA) with two teams needing a playoff to enter the VFL.(leading two teams I guess)
The VFL made things difficult to the point where the VFA accepted fate and went their own way.
Port Melbourne were invited to join the VFL in a relegation league back in 1896.
They along with other teams rejected this approach and opted to stay in the VFA.
I believe the VFL’s final “offer” was the wooden spooners would play the VFA premiers who would only be promoted if they beat them.

The VFA wanted automatic promotion / relegation and no agreement was reached.
 

mianfei

Club Legend
May 10, 2009
1,288
254
Carlton North
AFL Club
St Kilda
Footscray always struck me as remarkably unsuccessful given the large recruiting catchment that they occupied.
Footscray’s lack of success is explained by two factors:
  1. They made no attempt – as I have emphasised – to join the VFL until they had experienced twenty seasons as a VFA power. Although they had more corporate patronage than any other VFA club, it was inadequate vis-à-vis the Richmonds, Collingwoods and Carltons.
  2. As far west as Sunshine and St. Albans, Footscray’s support area and the relatively few new suburbs in the west became firmly part of the “soccer belt” populated by Southern and Eastern Europeans with no knowledge of or interest in Australian Rules.
    • This Southern and Eastern European population in Footscray’s zone made that zone in reality vastly smaller than its population would suggest after about 1960
Even so, before the formation of the “soccer belt”, Footscray achieved three decades as a highly competitive League club. Whereas Hawthorn won a mere 111 (with three draws) of its first 522 VFL games to the end of 1953, and North Melbourne only 69 (plus three draws) of its first 334 games to the end of 1943, Footscray had won 134 and drawn three games out of 336. Between 1944 and 1953 – in a league that apart from the impoverished chopping blocks of Hawthorn and St. Kilda was very even – Footscray won 100 games, lost 91 and drew two. Both these records were achieved despite very poor seasons in 1935-1937, 1939, 1949-1950 and 1952.

More than this, Footscray’s success – contrary to what it's erratic poor seasons in the Seniors might suggest – extending through the lower grades. Whereas Hawthorn and North Melbourne took between them:
  1. 18 of the 29 Seniors wooden spoons between 1925 and 1953
  2. 21 of the 27 Reserves wooden spoons between 1925 and 1951 and 15 of the 19 between 1925 and 1943
  3. four of the first ten Under-19 wooden spoons (Hawthorn in 1946, 1949 and 1954; North Melbourne in 1955)
Footscray were never wooden spooners in any grade between 1925 and 1958 – by which time Yugoslav and Maltese immigration was already eroding their supporter base.
 
Last edited:

Timmy from Thomastown

TheBrownDog
May 25, 2006
52,301
26,566
Beach
AFL Club
Collingwood
Interesting read lads - really makes you wonder what could have been if we had an actual national competition based on all the state leagues around the country.
Doesnt make me wonder. Besides, the VFA wasnt our state league. It wasnt even our second league.....The VFL Reserves had more talented players than the VFA.
 

mianfei

Club Legend
May 10, 2009
1,288
254
Carlton North
AFL Club
St Kilda
I've read that Essendon were massive backers of the Prahran bid to keep North Melbourne out
No wonder – if you look at the VFL over the twentieth century the period between 1927 and 1939 stands out strikingly in relation to the remainder of Essendon’s history for lack of success. Essendon won only 25 of 90 games between 1933 and 1937 (for comparison Hawthorn won 24), and only 97 plus 2 draws out of 234 between 1927 and 1939.

However, Prahran were the weakest and poorest VFA club at the time – so weak that Northcote’s George Gough kicked twenty-five goals in one match against them in 1924 – and it’s extremely plausible that if Prahran had become the twelfth League club then they would have suffered a worse introduction than Glenelg had recently experienced in the SAFL. Glenelg lost all fifty-six games between 1921 and 1924, and Prahran would likely have done nearly the same in the VFL – and who knows how long it would have taken them to beat anyone bar Hawthorn or St. Kilda?? More than that, Prahran would almost certainly have kept St. Kilda – who rose between 1924 and 1929 to a mid-table club – anchored with them and Hawthorn to the bottom of the ladder. With Carlton, Collingwood and Richmond garnering patronage, Hawthorn, St. Kilda and Prahran would have had no hope on the field in the Depression years and very likely the VFL might have been forced either into a country zoning scheme with all its attendant problems in the 1930s, or to much more rigid residential rules that are by no means certain to have helped the poor south-of-Yarra clubs.
A club would have folded.

South or the Saints.

Port was a different animal.

Access to industry and loyal support.
Port certainly would have had more access to industry than South did. Port, for instance, would likely have got the GM/H patronage from Fisherman’s Bend that neither South Melbourne nor Footscray ever received. Lack of this money prevented South and to a lesser extent Footscray from ever recruiting extensively form the country or unzoned new suburbs, or expanding their support base beyond areas where traditional inhabitants were being replaced by Greek, Italian, Yugoslav and Maltese immigrants without knowledge of or interest in Australian Rules.

Under that scenario, Port would not have been impoverished and resource-less when suburbs like Altona and Laverton – which were zoned to South Melbourne – began to urbanise in the 1960s and 1970s. They would have helped Port develop or maintain power in the VFL, as developing suburbs did for Richmond in the 1960s and 1970s.
 

PerthBoy86

Premiership Player
May 23, 2016
4,065
2,831
AFL Club
West Coast
No trams in Footscray until 1921 - end of story why the VFL didn't admit a team from that part of Melbourne in 1897. The St Kilda ground with a direct tram route to Flinders St. Station was a much more attractive proposition. It is however also possible that the 'amateur' and perceived 'sportsmen-like' attitude of the St Kilda club was an added attraction to what was after all a proclaimed amateur competition in 1897.

Also the discussion is about decisions in regards to which clubs were admitted to the VFL not the relative success of those clubs admitted. Note too that p.107 of 'Up Where Cazaly' refers to the 'depression' era of the 1930s when the VFL was officially semi-professional.
Footscray was one of the largest/busiest stations in Melbourne, as it is today. Plus the tram was a Footscray tram and didn't connect to the city (as far as I'm aware).
 

mianfei

Club Legend
May 10, 2009
1,288
254
Carlton North
AFL Club
St Kilda
It was all accounted to money and benefactors.
St Kilda had the Junction Oval.
Was the “benefactors”’ support for St. Kilda analogous to the Hawthorn Council supporting the entry of a (likely though I lack data) financially poor, mid-table VFA club to the VFL?

The observation that both St. Kilda and Hawthorn were devoid of wealthy patrons and thus anchored to the bottom of the ladder for decades demonstrates that this support – if as I presume it came from the St. Kilda Council – was either overtly optimistic about the club’s potential or overtly idealistic about how football should be operated.
 

pablo668

Club Legend
May 3, 2007
2,104
2,317
Claremont
AFL Club
Fremantle
Other Teams
Claremont Tigers
Does Port Melbourne have their own traditional supporter base these days? Or are they people who follow an AFL team first and Port second?
 

TheShardMan

Team Captain
Jun 28, 2018
331
473
AFL Club
Fremantle
This was interesting reading. Imagine if it was port that got that 8th spot instead of st kilda. They may have been in a closed-in suburb but I reckon they could still have expanded due to so much of melb being on port Phillip bay. It's not inconceivable to think they could have the fan base from point cook all the way to portsea.

St Kilda as crap as they've been through history still maintain a significant latent base, as demonstrated in the 00s when docklands was regularly sold out. Reckon port would have double that level and 10 times the success if it was them that got in instead. Sliding doors hey.
 

nobbyiscool

Brownlow Medallist
Aug 11, 2006
11,674
12,220
heaven on earth! (Melbourne)
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
Raiders/TasTigers/MV/Iggles
This was interesting reading. Imagine if it was port that got that 8th spot instead of st kilda. They may have been in a closed-in suburb but I reckon they could still have expanded due to so much of melb being on port Phillip bay. It's not inconceivable to think they could have the fan base from point cook all the way to portsea.

St Kilda as crap as they've been through history still maintain a significant latent base, as demonstrated in the 00s when docklands was regularly sold out. Reckon port would have double that level and 10 times the success if it was them that got in instead. Sliding doors hey.
Obviously it's all hypothetical - but I have to think that if South couldn't survive on that side of the river, Port Melbourne wouldn't have been able to either. They'd either be dead, relocated or amalgamated by now in all likelihood.

St Kilda is the interesting one - would they have been included in the 1908 or 1925 expansions? Or would they be what Port Melbourne is now?
 

radiojake

Brownlow Medallist
Nov 28, 2011
14,965
23,667
Melbourne
AFL Club
Adelaide
Other Teams
LIVFC
St Kilda is the interesting one - would they have been included in the 1908 or 1925 expansions? Or would they be what Port Melbourne is now?
The only reason St Kilda were invited into the VFL was for Junction Oval

They had done nothing of merit and would never have got a look in were it not for their home ground
 
Top Bottom