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Club History


Following settlement, Victoria is declared a separate colony in 1851.  The MCG is established in Richmond Paddock (now Yarra Park), and MCC Secretary Tom Wills begins the first formal Australian Rules competition, out of which the Melbourne Football Club develops.


The rules of the Melbourne Football Club are formalised in 1859, with Wills and his cousin HCA Harrison being major contributors.  In the years that follow, other clubs come and go as the game further develops, including the first Richmond Football Club, and South Melbourne.  By 1873, Melbourne is exiled from the MCG due to turf damage.  The Victorian Football Association assumes control of the game in 1873.  Melbourne plays Carlton under lights at the MCG in 1879, before undergoing financial turmoil and being absorbed into the MCC in 1889.  In 1896, meetings are held to form the VFL.  The founding clubs are Melbourne, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, St Kilda and South Melbourne.

1897 -1926      

The first VFL match is played in 1897, and Melbourne ruckman Fred McGinis is voted Champion of the Colony.  In 1900, Melbourne wins its first VFL flag, against Fitzroy. Captain Dick Wardill, and the ruck combination of George Moodie, Fred McGinis and Vic Cumberland reign supreme.  The Club’s Jubilee in 1908 coincides with an Interstate Carnival, which includes a team from New Zealand.  Richmond and University join the VFL.  In 1912, official numbering of players is introduced, and the Football Record is first published.  The wartime collapse of University Football Club sees new players at Melbourne.  In 1919, Ivor Warne-Smith makes his debut upon the Club’s return to competition after wartime recess.  A year later, Albert Chadwick joins the side.  In 1924, the inaugural Brownlow Medal is awarded to Geelong’s ‘Carji’ Greeves.  New teams – Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Footscray – join the competition in 1925.  1926 is Melbourne’s year, highlighted by a second VFL premiership and a Brownlow to Warne-Smith.


Warne-Smith wins his second Brownlow in 1928, cementing his legendary status in the competition.  In 1933, FV ‘Checker’ Hughes is appointed Melbourne’s coach, joining the Club from Richmond.  He changes the Club from ‘Fuchsias’ to ‘Demons’, and oversees an influx of new talent, including the likes of La Fontaine, Mueller and Gibb.  JW Saunders is appointed Chairman of Coterie in 1937 – the first such group in the VFL.  Melbourne wins a memorable hattrick of premierships in 1939 (against Collingwood), 1940 (against Richmond), and 1941 (against Essendon).  War takes its toll, with most of the team and many administrators enlisting.  Fighter pilot ace Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott returns for one match, and raises the 1941 flag, while Percy Beames is captain-coach.  In 1943, Truscott is killed in an air accident.  Other wartime casualties include Sid Anderson, John Atkins, Harold Ball, Ron Barassi, Noel Ellis and Clyde Helmer.  'Checker' Hughes donates the 'Bluey Truscott Memorial Cup', to be presented to the Best And Fairest player.  The inaugural winner is ruckman Don Cordner.  Norm Smith is appointed captain, and 'Checker' Hughes returns as coach in 1945.  In 1946, Melbourne finishes second and Don Cordner wins the Brownlow.  Season 1947 sees Fred Fanning kick a record 18 goals in the last home and away game. He finishes the season with 97 to top the VFL table.  Melbourne plays in the first ever drawn Grand Final in 1948, against Essendon, before winning on replay, and Allan La Fontaine takes over from 'Checker' Hughes as coach at season's end.


Albert Chadwick is appointed Club Chairman in 1950, and in 1951, Melbourne finishes last, following the retirement of veterans such as Don Cordner and Jack Mueller.  Jim Cardwell is appointed Secretary.  Norm Smith becomes coach in 1952, and in 1953, Frank 'Bluey' Adams, Ron Barassi Jnr, Geoff Case, Peter Marquis and Don Williams are among the players to debut.  Season 1954 sees a return to the top of the ladder as captain Geoff Collins leads the side to a Grand Final loss against Footscray.  Newcomers to Club include ‘Big Bob’ Johnson, Brian Dixon, Clyde Laidlaw and Ian Ridley.  Noel McMahen is appointed captain in 1955, and Melbourne is triumphant against Collingwood in the Grand Final.  They repeat the achievement in 1956, becoming Olympic Premiers against Collingwood, and in 1957, celebrate a 61-point flag win against Essendon, with John Beckwith as captain and Ron Barassi as his deputy.  A major upset follows in 1958, when Collingwood defeats Melbourne in the Grand Final, but in 1959 Melbourne confirms the red and blue supremacy, defeating Essendon for a tenth flag.  This is echoed in 1960, when Melbourne defeats Collingwood by 48 points for the flag.  Ron Barassi captains, with John Beckwith as his deputy.


In 1961, Melbourne misses the Grand Final for the first time since 1954, but becomes the first VFL club to take players, start and Committee on an overseas trip – destination New Zealand.  In 1962, Albert Chadwick retires as Club Chairman, replaced by Dr. Don Duffy.  Retirements include Laurie Mithen, 'Terry' Gleeson, Clyde Laidlaw, Geoff Tunbridge, Geoff Case and Trevor Johnson.  1963 sees Melbourne being narrowly defeated by Hawthorn in the Preliminary Final, before becoming the VFL jetsetter with an end-of-season trip to Honolulu and America, where exhibition matches against Geelong are played.  In 1964, Melbourne wins its twelfth flag - against Collingwood - in a memorable Grand Final.  Back pocket player, Neil Crompton, kicks a goal moments before the final siren, stealing victory by four points.  After the season, Ron Barassi is appointed captain-coach of Carlton.   ‘Hassa’ Mann is appointed captain, and Richmond becomes the second tenant club at the MCG in 1965.  Coach Norm Smith is dismissed during the season, only to be reinstated.  He ultimately retires at the end of 1967, with six premierships from eleven finals series in his time as coach.  John Beckwith is appointed coach from 1968, and in 1971, Ian Ridley assumes the post.  Greg Wells and Gary Hardeman finish second and third respectively in the 1972 Brownlow, and Melbourne conducts its Best and Fairest count in public for the first time.  Stan Alves is appointed captain in 1973, while newcomers include St Kilda champion Carl Ditterich and debutant Robert Flower.  Ian Ridley steps down at the end of the season, and triple Brownlow Medallist Bobby Skilton, is appointed coach.  In 1975, Jim Cardwell, legendary Club Secretary, retires from his post after 25 years, while John Mitchell is appointed Chairman.  Melbourne narrowly misses out on a spot in the 1976 finals, while captain Stan Alves joins North Melbourne at the end of the season.  Former Melbourne and St Kilda player, Carl Ditterich, is appointed captain-coach in 1979, and in 1980, the Melbourne Football Club splits from the Melbourne Cricket Club, becoming a public company limited by guarantee.


Leading into 1981, Sir Billy Snedden is appointed Chairman, Robert Flower captain and Ron Barassi coach. Melbourne finishes with the wooden spoon.  From 1982, South Melbourne becomes the Sydney Swans, while Brian Wilson wins the Brownlow, being one of the youngest winners ever.  Peter Moore is awarded his second Brownlow Medal in 1984, and in 1985, Stuart Spencer is appointed Chairman.  Ron Barassi resigns as coach, with John Northey named as his replacement from 1986.  In 1987, teams join the VFL from Western Australia and Queensland.  Melbourne wins the Night Premiership against Essendon, making the finals for the first time since 1964 and progressing to the Preliminary Final against Hawthorn, defeated by only a goal after the siren. Melbourne defeats Sydney and North in Canada at the end of 1987 to become World Champions. Robert Flower retires, setting Club records of 272 games and seven years as captain.  Melbourne earns a Grand Final berth against Hawthorn in 1988, but Hawthorn wins convincingly.   In 1989, Melbourne wins the Night Premiership, making the finals only to finish fourth, before going on to win the Fosters World Cup in London and Toronto.  The VFL becomes the AFL from 1990.  Irish born Jim Stynes wins the Brownlow Medal in 1991, and the Adelaide Crows enter the competition.


Melbourne finishes eleventh in 1992, missing the finals for the first time in five years. John Northey resigns as coach, replaced by Neil Balme from 1993. lan Ridley is appointed Chairman, and ‘Hassa’ Mann Chief Executive.  A Final Eight system is introduced in 1994, with Melbourne finishing seventh and being defeated in the inaugural Preliminary Final held in Perth. Football Operations moves to the Junction Oval, with a 20-year agreement being signed with the MCC for the MFC to train there. The Club acquires a gaming and social venue at Oakleigh.  The Fremantle Dockers enter the competition in 1995.  The AFL Centenary Year of 1996 sees late season turmoil due to merger negotiations with Hawthorn.  Jim Stynes breaks AFL/VFL record, playing 205 consecutive League games, and at the end of 1996, Brisbane and Fitzroy join forces as the Brisbane Lions.  In 1997, Melbourne finishes last for the first time since 1981.  Jim Stynes reaches another milestone in Round 17, having played for a decade without missing a game. The Club opens its second social and gaming venue – The Bentleigh Club.  Neale Daniher is appointed coach for 1998.  Melbourne, in its 140th year, rises a record breaking 12 places to finish fourth at the end of the home and away season, before bowing out in the Preliminary Final.  Jim Stynes' run of consecutive games comes to an end at 244, and with Club stalwart Brett Lovett (235 games), he subsequently retires.  In 1999, Melbourne finishes an unexpected 14th. Veterans Lyon, Viney and G Lovett retire.  Making the Club’s first Grand Final since 1988, Melbourne finishes runner-up to a dominant Essendon in 2000, and Shane Woewodin wins the Brownlow Medal.  Melbourne returns home, re-establishing headquarters at the MCG.


Following a Grand Final appearance in 2000, Melbourne falls to eleventh.  With injuries on-field and turmoil off-field, the Club suffers financial setback with the demise of the Fawkner social club venue due to changes in State government legislation.  A Club Hall of Fame is established, inducting 24 champions.  Steven Febey becomes the fourth Melbourne player to reach 250 games.   In a roller coaster trend, Melbourne finishes sixth at the end of the 2002 home and away season and cements another finals berth. They overcome the Kangaroos in the Elimination Final before being defeated by Adelaide in the Second Semi Final.  Captain David Neitz wins the Coleman Medal, and the Club farewells stalwarts Steven Febey and David Schwarz.  Season 2003 sees an unexpected slide to fourteenth.  Melbourne then experiences September only briefly in 2004, with a narrow loss to Essendon in the First Elimination Final.  Jared Rivers wins the National Rising Star Award, before Season 2005 begins in a way nobody could have anticipated, with the death of player Troy Broadbridge in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.  Playing to honour his memory, the team makes a brilliant start, with nine wins and three losses at the split round.  Seven losses follow, and another early finals exit, with an Elimination Final loss to Geelong.  Travis Johnstone is named Best and Fairest, and Aaron Davey, Brent Moloney and Russell Robertson represent Melbourne in the Australian side that defeats Ireland in two Test Matches.  With the Commonwealth Games taking over the MCG in early 2006, it is not until Round Five that the side plays there. Regardless, the Club’s AFL recognised membership numbers are close to the 2005 high, reaching 24,689 in 2006.  Further progress is made on field, with two weeks of finals action. David Neitz dominates the season, breaking the Club’s games and goals record. James McDonald is named both All Australian and Best and Fairest, and joins Aaron Davey in the Australian side for the tour of Ireland.


Melbourne finishes fourteenth, hit hard by injuries, and coach Neale Daniher departs mid-season, with assistant Mark Riley taking over for the remainder of the year.  Despite the slide, yet another record membership is recorded, with numbers reaching 28,077 AFL recognised members.  Youngster Michael Newton is recognised as taking ‘Mark of the Year’.  James McDonald records his second Best and Fairest win in as many years, becoming the first to achieve this feat since Jim Stynes in 1995, 1996 and 1997.  On the milestone front, captain David Neitz becomes Melbourne’s first player to ever reach 300 games.  Dean Bailey is appointed coach heading into the Club’s 150th birthday in 2008, along with former player Chris Connolly as GM Football.  However, celebrations were not highlighted by on-field success, with the team finishing last, winning just three games.  David Neitz retired mid-season, holding all records for games played, goals kicked and length of captaincy.  Jim Stynes became Club President halfway through the year.  At season’s end, Cameron Schwab returned for a second stint as Club CEO.  In Season 2009, the side once again finished bottom of the ladder, but had ten debutants in its ranks, while membership numbers soared to 31,508.