AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
VFL (1897-1989) / AFL (1990-)
On October 2, 1896, the day before a controversial premiership playoff, the VFA's strongest clubs (Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne and South Melbourne) broke away to form the Victorian Football League (VFL). These six clubs invited St Kilda and the former VFA powerhouse Carlton to join them in the new venture.
The VFL quickly established itself as Victoria's dominant football body and in 1908 the league expanded to ten clubs with the addition of Richmond (ex-VFA) and University (ex-Metropolitan Junior FA).
World War One had a devastating effect on Victorian football forcing the VFA to end their 1915 season early and cease play in 1916-17. The VFL continued, albeit under increasing duress. University did not survive beyond the 1914 season, and in 1916 the number of clubs dropped from nine to four with only Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Richmond taking the field.
In 1917 Geelong and South Melbourne re-formed, and they were joined by Essendon and St Kilda in 1918. Melbourne were the last of the pre-war clubs to re-form, and their return in 1919 established the VFL as a nine club competition.
Expansion in 1925 strengthened the VFL, and further destabilised the rival VFA competition, with three more teams crossing from the Association to the League: Footscray (1924 VFA Premiers), Hawthorn, and North Melbourne.
With the exception of seasons 1942-43 when Geelong were unable to field a team due to wartime travel restrictions, the VFL remained stable as a twelve team competition until 1987.
The first step towards national expansion occurred in 1982 when South Melbourne moved north on a 'trial basis' to become the Sydney Swans. The addition of the Brisbane Bears and West Coast Eagles in 1987 transformed the VFL into a fourteen team national competition. However, the league was not officially renamed as such until 1990 when it became the Australian Football League (AFL).
With the Adelaide Crows joining the competition in 1991, the AFL had finally established a presence across the Australian mainland. Foundation club the Fitzroy Lions were forced to merge with Brisbane in 1996 but the addition of second teams in Western Australia (Fremantle Dockers in 1995), South Australia (Port Adelaide in 1997), Queensland (Gold Coast Suns in 2011) and New South Wales (Greater Western Sydney in 2012) has grown the AFL into an eighteen team competition.
Today, premiership matches are also played in Tasmania, Northern Territory and Canberra, providing the AFL with a presence in all Australian states and territories.
A far cry from the league's first seasons when long-running suburban rivalries took priority over football in other states and the longest trip each season was the journey to Geelong by train or steamship.
Below are links to all VFL-AFL content on HardBallGet.net; as more articles appear they will be archived here for further reading. Click on the tabs below to visit each article.
September means Grand Final day at the MCG... and with it comes the annual Grand Final Sprint. Be prepared for some surprises as HardBallGet.net names the top 3 from each race as well as all the long-forgotten runners from your VFL-AFL club: everybody from the lightning-quick Geoff Ablett to the not-so-speedy Marc Seaby!
Throughout VFL-AFL history clubs occasionally played for smaller trophies honouring a mutual club great, but there was not much silverware on offer beyond the premiership cup. This all changed with the introduction of the Alan Schwab Shield and the Peter McCallum Cup in 1993, which led to the Anzac Day Trophy, E.J. Whitten Cup, and Albert Thurgood Trophy in 1995.
Today, it seems almost every match has some sort of trophy or medal attached to it... you'll find them all here.
First played between 1956 and 1971 as a post-season consolation series for the clubs that missed the VFL finals, by 1980 the series had transformed into Australian football's first truly national competition (the AFC Escort Championships) featuring all of the VFL, SANFL and WAFL clubs plus state sides from Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales and the A.C.T.
By 1988 the series had returned to VFL-AFL control and moved from mid-season to pre-season, leading to a dramatic rise in crowd numbers. The format changed numerous times over the next 25 seasons, with the 2013 NAB Cup the last pre-season cup competition held.
Last modified: 19/2/2017