Origins of Australian Football: Victoria's Early History. Volume 3: Covert 'Professionalism': The Power of the Wealthy Clubs 1886 to 1890

Pennings, Mark (2015) Origins of Australian Football: Victoria's Early History. Volume 3: Covert 'Professionalism': The Power of the Wealthy Clubs 1886 to 1890. Grumpy Monks Publishing, Brisbane, QLD.

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This volume continues the story of football in Marvellous Melbourne during the 1880s. At this time the VFA continued to expand as Melbourne’s boom continued apace. In 1886 Port Melbourne, Prahran, St Kilda, Footscray and South Williamstown joined the competition, and the Ballarat clubs Ballarat, Ballarat Imperial and South Ballarat were also contending for the VFA premiership. In 1886 matches were divided into four quarters, goal umpires waved two flags to announce a goal, and time clocks and bells were employed to mark the end of quarters. Victoria also played inter-colonial matches against New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia. VFA secretary T.S. Marshall was at the forefront of fighting the game’s turn towards professionalism, but although it was illegal to pay players, the practice continued.

The period 1886 to 1890 also set the stage for the eventual formation of the Victorian Football League, for by the end of the 1880s the Victorian Football Association had become in effect a two-tier competition. The most popular clubs in the VFA, South Melbourne, Geelong, Carlton and Essendon collected the lion’s share of the gate money, which they used to build their wealth and entrench their position as the dominant Victorian teams. The lower tier clubs had to make do with paltry gate money and season fixtures that advantaged the strong clubs. In these fixtures the strong clubs elected to play each other first to increase their gate money, and only deemed to play the poorer clubs at the start of the season. This led to an increasing divide between the VFA’s rich and poor, and by 1890 South Williamstown and Prahran merged with Williamstown and St Kilda respectively, University dropped out of senior ranks, and the Ballarat clubs were excluded from competing for the VFA premiership, which left 12 senior clubs until Collingwood’s emergence in 1892.

At this time, no team was as powerful as South Melbourne, which experienced the greatest success in the club’s VFA and VFL history when it collected triple premiership crowns in 1888, 1889, and 1890. South Melbourne was a most ambitious club and spearheaded the move towards professionalism, although this could not be made public. The fine teams it produced at this time contained some of the greatest players of the era, such as Peter Burns, “Sonny” Elms and “Dinny” McKay, and it looked after players with health insurance, jobs, inter-colonial trips, and other incentives. Geelong’s premiership in 1886 was perhaps its greatest triumph, but this success was followed by a premiership drought that would last for 39 years. Carlton remained one of Victorian football’s power clubs, and after securing the premiership in 1887 continued to compete for top honours. As always, the game became ever more popular and world record crowds of over 30,000 attended matches between South Melbourne, Carlton, Geelong and Essendon.

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ID Code: 86462
Item Type: Book
Additional Information: The introduction in the downloaded text is in error. It was replaced in the published version.
Keywords: Australian Football, Football in Colonial Victoria, Australian Football in the nineteenth century, Sport and culture and nineteenth century Austrlia
ISBN: 9780646936048
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY (210000) > HISTORICAL STUDIES (210300)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY (210000) > HISTORICAL STUDIES (210300) > Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) (210303)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Current > Schools > School of Media, Entertainment & Creative Arts
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Mark Pennings
Deposited On: 06 Aug 2015 22:47
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2015 05:33

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