VFA REPRESENTATIVE UNIFORMS
July 31, 1897 vs Ballarat Football Association
Everything changed for the VFA in late-1896 when their strongest clubs broke away to form the Victorian Football League (VFL). The VFL quickly assumed control of football in the colony and took the VFA's place as Victoria's official representative team, consigning the Association to a secondary role.
In 1897 the VFA did well to secure a match against the strong Ballarat Football Association (BFA) who had surprised football followers with a 35-point defeat of the VFL in June. Two months later in Ballarat the supposedly weaker VFA were not expected to win, but win they did, posting a hard-fought 3 point victory. The VFA side wore borrowed Port Melbourne uniforms for this match.
September 15, 1900 vs Footscray
An end-of-season exhibition match between Footscray (the VFA premiers) and the rest of the Association. The match was a fundraiser for the family of the late Frank Mitchell who had been a long-serving secretary of North Melbourne FC and life member of the VFA. Mitchell had helped keep the Association going when the strongest clubs broke away to form the VFL and had been "principally responsible for Brunswick, West Melbourne and Prahran joining the ranks". [(Footscray) Independent 25-8-1900, p.3]
The VFA side wore borrowed Brunswick uniforms for the game (NOTE - this was not an official representative match).
September 4, 1902 vs VFL
Following the split of late-1896, the VFA had repeatedly challenged the VFL to a representative match to decide the matter of Victoria's top football competition. Unsurprisingly, the latter showed no interest in such a contest. After all, what did the League have to gain from accepting such a challenge?
It took the serious illness of Fred McGinis, a champion Melbourne Football Club player in both competitions, to bring the bitter rivals together for this benefit match in 1902.
The VFL deferred to the VFA on the matter of uniforms, allowing the Association to wear their old 1890-1892 intercolonial design; the League donned the Melbourne colours in a show of respect to McGinis.
1905 - June
June 24, 1905 vs South Australia
A dispute between the VFL and the South Australian Football Association (SAFA) in 1904 over gate takings saw the South Australians call an end to interstate matches between the two bodies that season. The VFA seized on this opportunity, initiating annual matches against the SAFA starting in 1905.
For these contests the VFA again wore their intercolonial design of 1890-1892. This first match, played at Richmond's Punt Road Oval, is notable because both teams wore numbers on their backs, and a special card was printed featuring each player's name, number and position on the field. The cards were sold for a penny each outside the venue. [The Coburg Leader, 24-6-1905, p.4]
In the years prior to this match the use of jumper numbers had only been trialled on a handful of occasions:
- May 28, 1887: Carlton v Adelaide FC at (MCG) [the numbers were worn on the chest rather than the back]
- May 30, 1887: Tasmania v Adelaide FC (MCG)
- May 23, 1903: Fitzroy v Collingwood (SCG)
- May 28, 1904: Melbourne v Essendon (SCG)
- 1905: Port Melbourne wore numbers throughout the season.
Donald McDonald, reporting in The Argus under the nom de plume of "Observer" noted: "The plan of numbering the players for identification was tried. It was all right [sic] against the royal blue uniforms of the Victorians, but the black and white numbers were jumbled up, and lost in the black and white stripes of the South Australians". [The Argus, 26-6-1905, p.9]
1905 - August
August 5, 1905 vs South Australia
For the return match played in Adelaide the teams reverted to their standard number-less uniforms. Jumper numbers would not officially return at the top level until the 1911 National Carnival, and later that season during the 1911 VFL finals series. In 1912 both the VFL and the VFA mandated the permanent use of numbers on all club jumpers (for more on this topic refer to Trevor Ruddell and David Allen's article Centenary of Numbers [The Yorker, Issue 45, Spring 2011]).
Caps - through to the late-1890s it was common for players to wear caps on-field as part of their official uniform but by 1905 this practice had largely died out. Team photos of both VFA representative teams in 1905 clearly show each player wearing a royal blue cap. However, action photos from both matches confirm the caps were not worn on-field; for that reason they have not been included in the images used on this site.
1906 vs South Australia / Stawell FC / Bendigo & Northern Districts FA
The VFA representative jumper changed to navy blue with gold hoops in 1906, making this the first Association representative team to wear navy blue since the intercolonial team of 1893.
The exact reason for the change remains unknown; the VFL's representative uniform had included a navy blue jumper since 1903 and by 1906 other sports such as rowing, softball and lacrosse had also adopted the colour for any representative contests against other states. Perhaps the VFL not playing interstate matches in 1906 opened the door for the VFA's switch from royal to navy blue.
As with 1905, the official team photo shows the players wearing caps but they were not worn on-field. The ceremonial nature of the caps is further highlighted by the fact they were still royal blue, despite the rest of the uniform changing to navy blue that year.
1907 vs South Australia / Stawell FC
1908 vs South Australia / Barrier Ranges FA (Broken Hill)
After a brief flirtation with navy blue the Association returned to their 1905 uniform. The 1907 team photos again show the use of ceremonial caps that were not worn on-field, and by 1908 the caps had disappeared completely.
1909 vs South Australia / Barrier Ranges FA / Stawell FC
1910 vs South Australia / Stawell FC
1911 vs South Australia / Barrier Ranges FA
In 1909 the VFA representative team switched to three-quarter length white knicks and added gold to their jumper cuffs and socks. This would remain the VFA's standard uniform for the next 20 years, with the exception of 1921 (see below).
1912 vs Barrier Ranges FA
1913 vs Western District FA
Season 1912 saw the introduction of jumper numbers for all VFA clubs and also for the VFA's representative uniform.
Off-field, pressure from the Australasian Football Council (AFC) forced the South Australian league to cease matches against the VFA after 1911 because the Association was not a member of the AFC. The Barrier Ranges FA were also forced to follow suit in order to avoid sanctions from the AFC, ending their arrangement with the VFA after their 1912 match in Broken Hill.
1916 vs North Melbourne FC
Due to the First World War the VFA ended their 1915 season early and went into recess during 1916-17. However, the players re-united for this one-off exhibition match between North Melbourne (1915 VFA premiers) and a combined VFA representative side comprised of players from the other Association clubs.
The match was a fundraiser for former South Melbourne and North Melbourne player Harry Todd who had lost his hands in a workplace accident. Players on both sides were reported to be out of form having had no football for a year. It remains unknown what uniform the VFA team wore for this match.
1920 vs Goldfields FA
After an eight year absence from interstate football, in 1920 the VFA became the first top-level Victorian league or association to send a representative team to Western Australia (the VFL would send their first representative side the following year for the National Championships held in Perth). The VFA's combined side again wore their pre-war uniforms of royal blue jumpers with a gold sash.
1921 vs Goldfields FA
The West Australians travelled to Melbourne to meet the VFA on its home turf. The men of the goldfields, accustomed to rock-hard ovals, found themselves completely lost on the muddy East Melbourne ground and kicked just two goals in a 101-point whitewash. For this match the VFA ditched their traditional representative uniform and wore borrowed Footscray uniforms.
No official reason for the switch has been found but it seems logical when one considers the similarities in the uniforms of the two sides (VFA: royal blue with a gold sash, GFA: black with a gold sash). Clearly this was not a problem in 1920 (or later in 1923) on the bone-dry surface at Kalgoorlie but on a quagmire at the EMCG such similar uniforms would have quickly become indistinguishable.
1923 vs Goldfields FA
A return visit to the west in 1923 saw a return to the VFA's traditional representative uniform worn since 1909.
1924 vs Perth FC
This uniform was also worn for the 1924 match against Perth, played in defiance of the AFC who did not want a WAFL club playing a non-affiliated league or club. Despite threats of heavy sanctions, the match went ahead and was played in fierce rain and strong winds.
1926 vs Central Gippsland FA
The 1926 clash against the CGFA was played in Warragul as a fundraiser for the West Gippsland hospital and the match took place a week after the VFA Grand Final.
1927 vs Central Gippsland FA
Played at the Motordrome (later renamed Olympic Park) on the Show Day holiday in front of a small crowd. This was the last time this uniform was worn, replaced by a slightly modified design when the VFA eventually returned to the representative football scene in 1931.