1858 – On July 10, a letter written by Thomas Wentworth Wills (Tom Wills) is published in Bell’s Life in Victoria and Sporting Chronicle. He proposes a “foot-ball club” to keep Victorian cricketers fit in winter. Later, publican Jerry Bryant organises games, with a match representing Melbourne and South Yarra taking place in Yarra Park on September 25. Thomas Wray kicks the one goal for the match to give the Melbourne side victory.
The club's founder, Tom Wills
1859 – On May 17, a group meets at Jerry Bryant’s Parade Hotel and drafts the first ‘Rules of the Melbourne Football Club’. Tom Wills, William Hammersley, James Thompson and Thomas Smith join Bryant at the meeting. Thomas Wray is also present, but does not put his name to the rules. The 10 rules form the evolution of Australian rules football. The Melbourne Football Club is formalised. Melbourne finishes the first official season undefeated and without conceding a goal. Henry Harrison, an early great and Tom Wills’ cousin, plays for Melbourne.
1860 – The first annual general meeting of Melbourne is held on April 27.
1861 – A move to merge Melbourne and Richmond (a different side to the one we know today) is put forward at a meeting on April 27. It’s rejected, but players from both clubs remain interchangeable – which is not unusual in the early years. Melbourne adopts a Magenta uniform, which is no longer used within three years. Melbourne plays University in the ‘Challenge Cup’, a football trophy contested in Melbourne during the 1860-70s.
1862 – The departure of Henry Harrison and Tom Wills to Geelong plays a key part in the club’s worse season to date.
1863 – Henry Harrison returns to the club as captain. Participation at Melbourne is at its lowest point
1864 – After two tough seasons, the game starts to improve. On May 21, a match captained by Henry Harrison and Richard Wardill is played. Wardill’s team wears red and Harrison’s wears blue. Melbourne is known as the ‘Invincible Whites’.
1865 – A ‘Challenge Cup’ is set up featuring Melbourne, Carlton, Geelong, Royal Park, South Yarra and University, after intermittent matches are played in previous years. Tom Wills plays his last game for Melbourne and moves to Geelong.
1866 – On May 5, Henry Harrison and Richard Wardill represent Melbourne as the major clubs gather to review the rules of the game.
1867 – The Challenge Cup is put on hold. On August 3, Melbourne wins its only match for the season against HM 14th Regiment.
1868 – Melbourne is boosted by recruits from Carlton: James Byrne, Charles Forrester and Harry Chadwick.
1869 – Representatives from Melbourne, Carlton, Albert Park (formerly Emerald Hill), South Yarra and Hobson’s Bay Railway draw up the official fixture, which is published in newspapers. Melbourne wins seven matches, draws six and loses one, and has 23 members.
1870 – Melbourne plays 12 matches for seven wins and five draws, and is widely regarded as premiers.
A sketch of a game between Melbourne and Carlton 1870 which appeared in The Australasian Sketcher
1871 – Melbourne loses to Carlton in the South Yarra Challenge Cup – the first premiership play-off. After the match, Henry Harrison becomes ill and retires. He later becomes a key administrator in the game.
1872 – Melbourne becomes known as the Redlegs, after former player and supporter Larry Bell donates a set of red stockings from his trip to England. Given Melbourne is already wearing blue caps, the two colours come together to form what we know today. Bell also donates blue stockings to Carlton, hence becoming the Blues. Melbourne is premiers from Carlton and Albert Park.
1873 – The club decides the uniform should consist of a red cap, blue shirt and knickerbockers and grey stockings. Instead, red stockings are used for matches. Melbourne wins two more matches than Carlton, but the Blues are declared premiers.
1874 – A rule, initially trialled in 1871, is formally adopted that says players can only play for one club a year. This impacts Melbourne the most.
1875 – Despite setting a club record for the most goals in a season, with 43, Melbourne finishes second, with Carlton winning the Challenge Cup.
1876 – Melbourne wins the Challenge Cup over Carlton.
1877 – The Victorian Football Association (VFA) is formed at Oliver’s Café in Melbourne on May 7. Melbourne, Carlton, Essendon, Geelong, Albert Park, Hotham, St Kilda and East Melbourne are the inaugural teams. Melbourne finishes runner-up to premier Carlton in the first season.
1878 – Melbourne finishes runner-up to Geelong, after being beaten in an extra playoff game.
1879 – Melbourne returns permanently to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, playing its first game on the MCG since 1872.
1880 – Melbourne finishes fourth behind Geelong, Carlton and South Melbourne.
1881 – A club office is opened, as Henry Harrison moves a motion that sess the first 20 elect the captain and vice-captain. Unofficially Melbourne finishes fourth.
1882 – Melbourne has a poor season – one of its worst years – notching up its first win of the season against eventual premier Geelong in July. A selection committee is appointed following the annual general meeting.
1883 – A much-improved year, as Melbourne wins 12 matches. Henry Harrison is named the first life member of the club.
1884 – A major stand at the MCG burns down on August 31. The club loses its fences, goalposts and equipment, which are stored underneath. Melbourne finished seventh from eight clubs.
1885 – The Melbourne Cricket Club orders Melbourne off the MCG, after it prefers Carlton as its tenant. Melbourne then loses the Football Ground in Yarra Park, before it moves to Friendly Societies’ Ground (the Olympic Park Precinct). It then eventually returns to the MCG. It’s a tough year for the club, as it wins seven games and second last in ninth position.
1886 – After several difficult seasons, Melbourne wins seven games in a row late in the year.
1887 – Melbourne finishes 10th with seven wins, 13 losses and three draws.
1888 – Melbourne moves to the Friendly Societies’ Ground for the second time. The club wins four matches and finishes 14th.
1889 – At the club’s annual general meeting, Melbourne considers a merger with University. Although the meeting agrees to a merger, it states that no change can be made to the club’s name or colours. Melbourne settles for claiming eight University players. The club has a poor season, winning four games and finishing second last, with its best player Alex McKenzie leaving the club for Carlton. Melbourne uses 74 players for the year – the most of any senior team in the 19th century. At the end of the year, the MCC takes control of the football club, as Melbourne is in financial crisis. The Cricket Club agrees to take over its limited assets and incorporate the Melbourne Football Club. It’s an important step, given Melbourne’s future is under serious threat.
1890 – The MCC pays off the debts of Melbourne, which it incurs throughout the 1880s. It finishes eighth with six wins.
The team of 1890 pictured prior to a club trip to Hobart
1891 – Melbourne’s second 20 are disbanded to help save money. It finishes sixth with eight wins.
1892 – The club finishes fourth and improves with 10 wins. One of the reasons given for Melbourne’s improvement is due to a new type of leather boot the players wear over their ankle.
1893 – Melbourne finishes runner-up to Essendon. The club wins 16 matches for the season.
1894 – Melbourne again finishes runner-up to Essendon.
1895 – Melbourne finishes third, after starting the year with eight consecutive wins.
The Melbourne team in 1895
1896 – Melbourne’s final season in the VFA sees it finish fourth. On October 2, a breakaway competition known as the Victorian Football League is formed. Melbourne signs on with Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, St Kilda and South Melbourne.
1897 – The first VFL season is under way. Melbourne plays South Melbourne in its inaugural match, and wins by 17 points at Lake Oval. Melbourne comes third at the end of the home and away season with 10 wins, before finishing fourth following round robin series. Ned Sutton is Melbourne’s first captain, while Fred McGinis is widely regarded as the game’s best player in the first VFL season. Jack Leith is the VFL’s equal leading goakicker with Geelong’s Eddy James at the end of the home and away season. They kick 22 goals each, before James ends with 27 at the end of the finals and Leith claims 26. Henry Harrison is Melbourne’s first VFL chairman and Hugh McLeod is secretary for club’s inaugural VFL season, after holding the position since 1890.
Fred McGinis gets ready to take an old-fashioned place kick
1898 – Melbourne’s second season sees the club win five matches and finish sixth. Charlie Young tops the club’s goalkicking with 21 goals. Amos Norcott becomes secretary.
1899 – Again, Melbourne claims sixth position, with eight victories. Eddie Sholl becomes captain and Jack Leith leads the club’s goalkicking for the second time with 21 goals. GW Lamb takes over as secretary.
1900 – Melbourne wins its first VFL premiership – its first championship at any level since 1876. After finishing sixth with six wins, and defeating Essendon in the preliminary final at Lake Oval, Melbourne claims the flag over the favoured Fitzroy by four points at East Melbourne. Dick Wardill is Melbourne’s premiership captain, Tommy Ryan boots 24 goals to lead the club’s goalkicking and Amos Norcott becomes secretary for the second time. Fred McGinis and Vic Cumberland are among Melbourne’s best. Cumberland, later playing with St Kilda in 1920, becomes the oldest player to play a VFL/AFL match, when he plays as a 43-year-old. It’s a record that still stands today.
The 1900 Premiership team
1901 – Melbourne misses the final four on percentage. After leading Fitzroy by five points at three quarter-time, Melbourne falls 13 points short at Brunswick St Oval to finish fifth with nine wins and one draw. W.C. (Bill) McClelland becomes captain. He later becomes of the game’s most important figures, with the W.C. McClelland Trophy named in his honour. Frank Langley kicks 17 goals to top the club’s goalkicking and the great Fred McGinis retires.
1902 – After making the final four with nine wins, Melbourne loses its semi-final clash to Essendon at Princes Park. For the third time, Jack Leith is Melbourne’s highest goalkicker in a season with 26 majors.
1903 – Melbourne has a poor season, winning three matches to finishing seventh. Charlie Young becomes the first player to reach 100 VFL games for Melbourne. He achieves this against Collingwood in round five at Victoria Park. Vin Coutie boots 19 goals to lead Melbourne’s goal tally.
1904 – Although Melbourne misses out on the finals again, it wins eight games to finish sixth. Melbourne plays its first VFL interstate match against Essendon at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Melbourne wins by 32 points. Vin Coutie wins the VFL goalkicking with 39 goals and Bill McClelland retires at the end of the season.
1905 – Melbourne claims its first wooden spoon, after just three wins. Frank Langley becomes skipper and Harry Cordner manages 16 goals to lead Melbourne’s goalkicking.
1906 – One of Melbourne’s poorest seasons in VFL/AFL history. It claims just one victory for the season and its second wooden spoon in succession. Arthur Sowden takes over as captain and Basil Onyons boots 16 majors to top the club’s goal scoring.
1907 – Alex Hall becomes Melbourne’s first coach. Although Melbourne improves with seven wins, it finishes second last. TF Morkham takes over as chairman, while George Beachcroft becomes secretary. Vin Coutie becomes captain and Jack Leith leads Melbourne’s goalkicking for the fourth time with 21.
1908 – Melbourne celebrates 50 years. The club’s golden jubilee coincides with the first interstate carnival – known as the Jubilee Australasian Football Carnival – including a team from New Zealand. Melbourne wins another seven matches, finishing eighth. Hugh Purse becomes skipper, Vin Coutie tops Melbourne’s goals for the third time with 37 majors, while Amos Norcott becomes secretary for the third time.
1909 – Melbourne just misses the top four, finishing with 10 wins, seven losses and one draw. Bernie Nolan captains the club, as Harry Brereton leads Melbourne’s goal scoring with 34 and JA Harper becomes secretary.
1910 – A tough season for the VFL, with several incidents on and off the field marring the year. In round 16, the VFL investigates rumours that South Melbourne players offer Melbourne players money to ‘play dead’. South Melbourne is found innocent. Melbourne instigates the VFL to give all umpires, including goal and boundary, the power to report players for violent conduct. Melbourne finishes second last with four wins. Eddie Drohan coaches Melbourne in his only season, while Vin Coutie becomes captain and Stan Fairbairn claims 24 majors to lead Melbourne’s goal tally. JA Harper resigns as secretary in May, before GW Lamb replaces him. TF Morkham finishes as chairman.
1911 – Harry Brereton tops the VFL goalkicking at the end of the home and away season with 46 goals. Carlton’s Vin Gardiner, who kicks 43 at the end of the home and away season, boots 46 goals at the year’s end. Melbourne claims seven wins, a draw and 10 losses to land seventh on the ladder. Arch Aitken is president for one year.
1912 – Alex Hall returns as coach, as Alf George becomes skipper. Harry Brereton leads the VFL goal tally again with 56 goals, as the VFL introduces numbers on the back of jumpers. The Football Record is also published for the first time. Melbourne finishes sixth with nine wins. W.C. McClelland becomes Melbourne chairman and Andrew Manzie becomes secretary.
1913 – Melbourne slips to second last, after gaining four wins. Mick Maguire tops the club’s goalkicking with 13 majors for the year – the lowest goalkicking tally in a season by a Melbourne player.
1914 – Len Incigneri becomes captain-coach and Artie Best boots 30 goals to lead the club’s goalkicking. Melbourne wins two games and finishes second last to University, which claims its fourth wooden spoon in a row, in its final VFL season.
1915 – With the collapse of University, a host of Students join Melbourne for the season. Former Essendon player Jack McKenzie takes over as captain-coach. With World War I imminent – the ANZACs land at Gallipoli a day after round one – a motion is put forward by Geelong to cancel the season. Melbourne seconds it, with Essendon, St Kilda and South Melbourne joining in. But the motion fails to be carried by two third and the season goes ahead. Melbourne returns to the finals for the first time since 1902, but loses to Carlton by 11 points at the MCG in the semi-final. Roy Park manages 35 majors to lead Melbourne’s goalkicking.
1916 – Melbourne votes to go into recess until the end of the war. Only four clubs compete in the VFL: Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond and Fitzroy.
1917 – Geelong and South Melbourne return to the VFL, as Melbourne misses its second consecutive season due to World War I.
1918 – Eight clubs compete in the VFL, after Essendon and St Kilda return. It’s Melbourne last season out of the VFL/AFL, before rejoining for 1919.
1919 – After being out of the VFL for three seasons, Melbourne returns to the league. Unfortunately, Melbourne suffers statistically its worst VFL/AFL season, when it fails to win a game. George Haines (Heinz) takes over a captain-and leads the club goalkicking with 15 goals. Future dual Brownlow Medal winner Ivor Warne-Smith makes his debut.
Ivor Warne-Smith pictured later in his career
1920 – George Haines (Heinz) remains captain, but former Fitzroy captain Gerald Brosnan takes over as coach. Bert Chadwick makes his debut for Melbourne and Harry Harker lands 23 goals for the year to lead the club goalkicking. The club notches up two wins for the season and finishes second last.
1921 – Two-time Collingwood premiership player and former skipper Percy Wilson takes over as captain-coach. He guides the club to sixth: six wins, two draws and eight losses. In round 18 against Geelong at the MCG, Harry Harker becomes the first player to kick 10 goals in a match for Melbourne. He leads the club’s goalkicking with 47.
1922 – Melbourne finishes sixth again, but with seven victories – its best result since 1915. Harry Harker backs up his 1921 season with another 47 goals to top Melbourne’s goalkicking for the third year in succession.
1923 – Melbourne claims its fourth wooden spoon, after winning just three games. Percy Tulloh boots 31 goals to lead the club’s goalkicking.
1924 – Gordon Rattray takes over from Percy Wilson as coach. He makes his coaching debut at age 25 years, 189 days – the second youngest in VFL/AFL history behind Geelong’s Bert Taylor (22 years, 343 days). The first Brownlow Medal is held. Geelong’s Edward ‘Carji’ Greeves receives the first medal, with new captain Bert Chadwick finishing second – just one vote behind the inaugural winner. Percy Tulloh tops the club’s goals for the second year running with 24. Melbourne defeats eventual premier Essendon in the final round to avoid the wooden spoon. It finishes eighth, with St Kilda coming last.
Bert Chadwick was runner-up in the first ever Brownlow Medal in 1924
1925 – Bert Chadwick takes over as captain-coach. He guides Melbourne to the finals, where it wins its first final since 1900. Melbourne defeats Geelong in the semi-final at the MCG, before falling to Collingwood in the preliminary final at the ‘G. The club finishes third with 12 wins, one draw and four losses. Harry Davie, who leads Melbourne’s goalkicking with 56 for the year, boots 13 goals against Carlton in round 14 at Princes Park.
1926 – Melbourne wins its second VFL premiership, defeating Collingwood by 57 points at the MCG – ending a 26-year drought. Henry Harrison, then 89 years old, was among those at the victory. Bob Johnson kicks six goals in the win, while Jim Abernethy is regarded as one of the club’s best in the win. Melbourne defeats Collingwood in the semi-final at the MCG, before overcoming Essendon in the preliminary final at the ‘G. Ivor Warne-Smith becomes the club’s first Brownlow Medal winner. Melbourne records its greatest winning margin in VFL/AFL history – a record that stands today – when it defeats Hawthorn by 141 points in round nine at the MCG. Harold Moyes lands 55 goals for the season – the most for Melbourne. Bill McClelland steps down as chairman and becomes president of the VFL – a position he holds until 1956.
The 1926 Premiership side
1927 – After being on top of the ladder midway through the season, Melbourne misses the finals and finishes fifth with 12 wins. Harry Davie boots 40 goals to lead the club’s goalkicking for a second time. Former Australian cricketer Vernon Ransford takes over as president.
1928 – Melbourne returns to the finals, drawing with Collingwood in the semi-final. After the two sides play in the first drawn VFL final, Melbourne falls four points short. Both matches are played at the MCG. Melbourne finishes third as Collingwood wins the second of four flags in a row – the only team in league history to achieve this feat. Ivor Warne-Smith, who takes over as captain-coach, creates VFL/AFL history by becoming the first player to win two Brownlow Medals. Bob C. Johnson boots 55 goals to lead the club’s goalkicking. Norman Drives wins Melbourne’s first Gardiner Medal – the reserves equivalent to the Brownlow Medal. Vernon Ransford retires as chairman.
1929 – Melbourne misses the finals, finishing fifth with 11 wins, one draw and six losses. Joe Blair is appointed chairman and club great Henry Harrison passes away aged 93 years old on September 2. Dick Taylor leads the goalkicking with 29 majors for the season.
1930 – The league moves into its new Spring St headquarters and names it Harrison House, after the late Henry Harrison. George Margitch kicks 11 goals in round nine against Essendon at the MCG, and leads the club goalkicking with 73. Melbourne is on track for finals, until losing its final three home and away rounds to finish fifth with 11 wins.
1931 – Melbourne slips to eighth, notching up eight victories for the season. George Margitch boots 10 goals in round 17 against North Melbourne at the MCG and finishes with 66 for the year to head the club’s goal scoring. The club’s seconds wins its first premiership. Andrew Manzie resigns as secretary after 20 seasons.
1932 – Ivor Warne-Smith remains coach, but Fred ‘Pop’ Vine takes over as captain. George Margitch leads the club’s goalkicking for the third successive year with 60 majors. Melbourne finishes ninth with four wins. It wins back-to-back flags in the seconds. Charlie Streeter becomes secretary.
1933 – Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes becomes coach, after playing in two premierships with Richmond from 1920-21 and coaching the club to the 1932 flag. He joins after being lured by former Richmond secretary Percy Page, who also takes up the role at Melbourne. Although Hughes becomes an influential figure in the club’s history – he effectively changes Melbourne’s nickname from the Fuschias to Demons, when legend has it that he says: “You are playing like a lot of flowers, lift your heads and play like demons” – it’s a tough first season as Melbourne wins just three matches. Hughes makes an immediate impact, sacking 13 players at the start of the season. Bob C. Johnson kicks 12 goals in round 11 against Hawthorn at the MCG – and leads the club’s goalkicking for the year with 62 – and George Margitch bags 10 majors in round 18 against Collingwood at Victoria Park. The club’s seconds makes it three flags in a row.
1934 – Colin Niven takes over as captain, as Melbourne finishes sixth with nine wins. Allan La Fontaine, Jack Mueller (52 goals to lead the club goalkicking) and Maurie Gibb make their debut for the club. The club’s seconds wins its fourth consecutive premiership.
Jack Mueller pictured in the 1930s
1935 – The club has 12 debutants, including the legendary Norm Smith, as Melbourne finishes sixth for the second year in a row. It claims eight wins and one draw. Allan La Fontaine wins Melbourne’s first club best and fairest award, while Maurie Gibb boots 59 majors to lead the club’s goalkicking. Joe Kinnear claims the Gardiner Medal in the reserves. Incredibly, Melbourne wins its fifth successive premiership in the seconds.
1936 – Melbourne returns to the finals for the first time since 1928, defeating Carlton in the first semi-final by nine points at the MCG, before going down to South Melbourne by 36 points at the ‘G in the preliminary final. Allan La Fontaine becomes captain, and goes back-to-back in Melbourne’s best and fairest award, while Eric Glass lands 56 goals to head the club’s goal scoring Going for its sixth consecutive flag in the seconds, Melbourne is defeated by South Melbourne.
Ron Barassi Senior debuted for the club in 1936
1937 – Melbourne starts with eight consecutive wins, then its best start to a season, before finishing second after the home and away season, and third at the end of the year. The club goes out in straight sets after falling to Geelong in the second semi-final by 12 points at the MCG, and then losing comfortably to Collingwood in the preliminary final by 55 points at the Cricket Ground. Ron Baggott kicks 51 goals to top the club’s goals and J.W. Saunders becomes chairman of a new Melbourne coterie group – the first of its kind in the VFL.
1938 – Melbourne misses out on the top four when it falls to Collingwood by nine points at Victoria Park in the final round. It finishes fifth with 11 wins. Norm Smith wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award and kicks 80 goals to lead the club’s goalkicking – then a club record.
Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes coaches Melbourne to its third VFL premiership, when it defeats Collingwood in the Grand Final by 53 points at the MCG. Allan La Fontaine is captain, Jack Mueller wins the best and fairest and Norm Smith heads the club’s goalkicking for the second year in a row with 54. After finishing minor premiers, Melbourne made it two from two against Collingwood in the finals, after it defeated the Magpies by 14 points in the second semi-final at the MCG. Percy Beames and Alby Rodda were among Melbourne’s best with four goals each. It proves to be one of Melbourne’s finest years on record, with just three losses occurring. The club also wins the seconds Grand Final – its sixth during the 1930s.
For the first time, Melbourne wins back-to-back premierships, defeating Richmond by 39 points at the MCG. The Demons finish as minor premiers again, before falling six points short to Richmond in the second semi-final at the ‘G. Melbourne then claims a five-point win over Essendon in the preliminary final at the Cricket Ground to advance into the Grand Final. Norm Smith stars with seven goals and Percy Beames is again one of Melbourne’s best. Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes and Allan La Fontaine are again coach and captain respectively. Ron Baggott wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award Norm Smith tops the club goalkicking for the third consecutive year with 86.
Melbourne completes a hat-trick – again under the Frank ‘Checker Hughes (coach) and Allan La Fontaine (captain) combination – when it records its third successive premiership. It defeats Carlton in the second semi-final by 27 points at the MCG, before accounting for Essendon in the Grand Final by 29 points at the Cricket Ground. Hughes retires from coaching after the victory. Norm Smith, who kicks 12 goals against Footscray in round 17 at the MCG, leads the VFL goalkicking at the end of the year with 89 goals, after South Melbourne’s Sel Murray finishes the home and away season with 88 goals. La Fontaine claims his third club best and fairest award. Melbourne loses the VFL Patriotic Match Cup – a lightning premiership to Collingwood by one-point. Tragically, Ron Barassi is killed in Tobruk during World War II. A guard of honour and a minute’s silence is observed before Melbourne’s round 16 win over Collingwood at the MCG. Percy Page resigns as secretary after the club’s third flag.
Norm Smith runs out for a game
After winning three flags in a row, Melbourne votes to halt the competition due to World War II. But the club is outvoted and it continues in the VFL. A host of players are unavailable due to the war. Melbourne is forced off the MCG by the US Army. It moves to Punt Rd for matches and to Albert Park for training. It’s a tough season, on and off the field, as Melbourne misses the final four, finishing eighth with five wins. Harold Ball, Jack Furniss and Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott are among the players absent due to war. Truscott returns to play one game for the season, unfurling Melbourne’s 1941 flag. Percy Beames becomes captain-coach and Allan La Fontaine wins his fourth Melbourne best and fairest award – an equal club record, which stands today. Fred Fanning kicks 37 goals to top the club’s goalkicking. Pat Kennedy becomes acting secretary for the year.
Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott tragically loses his life in an air accident over Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia. Sadly, Sid Anderson, John Atkins, Harold Ball, Ron Barassi Snr, Noel Ellis and Clyde Helmer are other casualties of war. Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes donates the Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott Memorial Trophy to the club best and fairest. The inaugural winner is Don Cordner. Fred Fanning leads the VFL goalkicking with 62 goals – 10 more than Richmond’s Dick Harris at the end of the home and away season. After finals, Harris ends with 63 majors. In round 12, Fanning boots 11 goals against Footscray at Punt Rd Oval. Melbourne finishes seventh with seven wins. Jack Chessell becomes secretary and Ernie Hart wins the Gardiner Medal.
Keith Bluey-Truscott (pictured) tragically lost his life during WWII in 1943
War still impacts the competition. For Melbourne, 36 of its 24 premiership players from 1939-41 are serving. Just four are still playing. Melbourne wins seven games again, but slips one position to eighth. Norm Smith wins the second Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott Memorial Trophy and Fred Fanning boots 87 goals to lead the VFL goalkicking. He boots 11 goals against Geelong in round four at Kardinia Park and kicks 11.11 against Hawthorn in round 11 at Glenferrie Oval.
Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes returns as coach, after being asked to come out of retirement. Norm Smith becomes captain and Fred Fanning wins the best and fairest after topping the VFL goalkicking with 67 majors. Melbourne comes ninth after notching up eight wins.
Melbourne returns to the finals for the first time since winning the 1941 flag. After defeating Footscray by 18 points in the first semi-final at the MCG, Melbourne beats Collingwood by 13 points in the preliminary final at the ‘G. The Demons play Essendon in the Grand Final, but suffers its first GF loss, going down by 63 points at the Cricket Ground. Jack Mueller, who boots six goals in the Grand Final, tops the club’s goalkicking with 46 majors and wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award. Melbourne welcomes back a host of players from wartime service, including premiership players Ted Cordner, Gerry Daly, Dick Hingston, Wally Lock, Shane McGrath and Alby Rodda. Melbourne plays its first match at the MCG since the 1941 Grand Final, when it hosts Hawthorn in round 17. Don Cordner becomes the second person to win the Brownlow Medal, after Ivor Warne-Smith won the award in 1926 and 1928. Melbourne’s thirds (under 19s) enter the competition. Chairman Joe Blair passes away.
Back on the MCG, after almost five years at Punt Rd, due to the military using the MCG, the Demons finish sixth after gaining 11 wins. Fred Fanning has a stunning season, topping the VFL goalkicking with 47 majors, including 10 against St Kilda in round eight at the MCG, 10 against Footscray in round 18 at the Western (Whitten) Oval and a league record 18.1 against St Kilda in round 19 at Junction Oval. It a record that still stands today. It also happens to be Fanning’s last game. Jack Mueller plays his 200th game, Wally Lock wins the best and fairest and Bill Flintoff becomes chairman. Melbourne wins its first under 19s flag.
Melbourne and Essendon play in the first VFL drawn Grand Final, before the Demons prevail the following week by 39 points. After losing to Essendon by 36 points in the second semi-final at the MCG, the Demons easily account for Collingwood by 65 points in the preliminary final at the MCG. In the drawn Grand Final, Essendon’s remarkable inaccuracy – it kicks 7.27 (69) to Melbourne’s 10.9 (69) – allows the Demons another tilt at premiership success, which it takes. Jack Mueller, who comes out of retirement late in the season, kicks 12 goals across two Grand Finals – two bags of six – while Norm Smith is also one of Melbourne’s best across both games. It proves to be Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes’ fifth premiership as coach (one at Richmond and then four at Melbourne), making him one of only four people to coach five VFL/AFL premierships or more. Don Cordner becomes captain, Alby Rodda wins the best and fairest award and Lance Arnold kicks 41 goals to head the club’s goalkicking. Alex Gray becomes secretary. The great Norm Smith, who plays his 200th game, moves to Fitzroy as captain-coach at the end of the season. Ray Harvey wins Melbourne’s first Morrish Medal – the Brownlow Medal equivalent in the under 19s.
The side that played in the 1948 Grand Final Replay
Allan La Fontaine takes over as coach, with the club losing four of its opening five rounds, before it wins 11 of its final 14 rounds. The club misses out on finals, placing fifth with 12 wins. Len Dockett wins Melbourne’s best and fairest and Bob McKenzie kicks 40 goals to top the club’s goalkicking. Melbourne wins the seconds’ flag – its first since 1939.
Melbourne returns to the finals, but bows out to Geelong in the first semi-final by 44 points at the MCG. Shane McGrath becomes captain, as Denis Cornder wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award and tops the club’s goalkicking tally with 36. Stuart Spencer and Geoff McGivern make their debuts. Bert Chadwick becomes chairman and Alan Thomson is named secretary. Club greats Don Cordner and Jack Mueller retire.
Melbourne produces one of its worst VFL/AFL season, winning just one game to claim its fifth wooden spoon. The club bloods a host of youngsters, with 19 playing their first game for the Demons. Denis Cordner becomes captain, Noel McMahen wins the best and fairest and Bob McKenzie kicks 40 goals to lead Melbourne’s goalkicking for the second time. Jim Cardwell, later known as ‘The Prince of Secretaries’, becomes Melbourne secretary. Melbourne loses the lightning premiership to Collingwood in extra time.
Norm Smith is appointed coach, guiding the club to sixth position, nine wins, one draw and nine losses. Geoff McGivern wins Melbourne’s best and fairest and Noel Clarke tops the goalkicking with 49 majors. Melbourne wins the lightning premiership, defeating South Melbourne.
Some of the club’s greatest players make their debut – Ron Barassi Jnr, Don Williams, Frank ‘Bluey’ Adams, Geoff Case and Peter Marquis – as 17 players don the red and blue for the first time. Melbourne slips to second bottom, claiming three wins, one draw and 14 losses for the year. Ken Melville wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award and Bob McKenzie tops the club’s goalkicking for the third time, with 38 majors. Melbourne wins its second under 19s premiership.
Melbourne rises to make the Grand Final – its first since 1948. It’s a fine achievement, given it finishes in the bottom two the previous two years, but the Demons fall to Footscray by 51 points at the MCG. It’s the Bulldogs’ first VFL premiership. Geoff Collins captains Melbourne, as Denis Cordner, who is regarded as Melbourne’s best in the Grand Final, wins his second best and fairest award and Noel Clarke leads the club’s goal tally with 51. It’s the start of a golden era, as the club reaches the first of seven successive Grand Finals. Melbourne greats Brian Dixon, ‘Big’ Bob Johnson, Clyde Laidlaw, Laurie Mithen and Ian Ridley make their debut.
After playing off in the 1954 Grand Final, Melbourne wins its seventh premiership – and its first under Norm Smith. The Demons defeat Collingwood by 11 points in the second semi-final at the MCG, before beating the Magpies again, this time by 28 points in the Grand Final at the home of football. The game was highlighted by the infamous Des Healey (Collingwood)/Frank Adams clash, which saw both players stretchered off. Healey is later forced into retirement. It’s the start of Melbourne’s greatest winning streak, when it wins 19 matches from round 15, 1955 to round 13, 1956. The Demons drop just three games for the year, claiming minor premiers and its first McClelland Trophy – named after Melbourne Noel McMahen captains the club and Stuart Spencer wins the best and fairest and tops the club goalkicking with 34 goals.
Ron Barassi on the attack
Arguably Melbourne’s greatest VFL/AFL season, the club wins its eighth premiership and its second in a row. The Demons win their opening 13 rounds and use just 27 players for the season. Melbourne beats Collingwood by 16 points in the second semi-final at the MCG, before smashing the Pies by 73 points in the Grand Final in front of a crowd of 115,902 – then the greatest crowd in VFL history. Today, it’s the sixth best in VFL/AFL history. Again, Norm Smith (coach) and Noel McMahen (captain) are the club’s leaders. Stuart Spencer and Athol Webb boot five goals each in the flag, while Ron Barassi, Frank ‘Bluey’ Adams, Denis Cordner and John Beckwith are among Melbourne’s best. Spencer goes back-to-back to win the Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott Memorial Trophy. Bob B. Johnson boots 43 goals to top the club’s goal tally. The reserves win the premiership and Graham Kerr wins the Gardiner Medal. The Olympic Games are held in Melbourne, with Denis Cordner captaining a combined VFA/VFL amateurs team against the VAFA as part of an Australian rules football demonstration. Melbourne finishes as minor premiers and wins the McClelland Trophy. At the season’s end, McMahen, Ken Melville, Spencer, Geoff McGivern, Ralph Lane and Denis Cordner retire or finish with the club.
After finishing as minor premiers, Melbourne wins its ninth premiership and its third consecutive flag under coach Norm Smith. The Demons fall to Essendon by 16 points in the second semi-final at the MCG, before thrashing Hawthorn by 68 points in the preliminary final at the ‘G. Melbourne produces another dominant display in the Grand Final, easily defeating Essendon by 61 points at the MCG. Ron Barassi stars with five goals and is regarded as best-on-ground. Ian Ridley also shines with four goals. John Beckwith captains the club and wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award. Athol Webb kicks 56 goals to top the club’s goalkicking. W.C. McClelland passes away on May 30, aged 82.
Melbourne celebrates 100 years of football. The game also marks the occasion with a Centenary Carnival, played in Melbourne over three weeks in June and July. It’s the 14th edition of the Australian National Football Carnival. Melbourne players John Beckwith, Robert B Johnson, Ron Barassi, Laurie Mithen and Don Williams represent Victoria. Aiming to win its fourth consecutive premiership – and equal the Collingwood sides of 1927-30 – Melbourne suffers a shock 18-point loss to the Magpies in the Grand Final. It comes after Melbourne records a 45-point win over Collingwood in the second semi-final at the ‘G. The Demons claim the minor premiership and the W.C. McClelland Trophy. Laurie Mithen wins Melbourne’s best and fairest, while Athol Webb and Barassi kick 44 goals each to top the club’s goalkicking. Melbourne and Collingwood produce a VFL/AFL record, which still stands today – they play in front of the biggest home and away crowd of all-time: 99,256. It’s played at the MCG.
Melbourne wins its 10th premiership and fourth flag under Norm Smith. It’s also the red and blue’s fourth flag in five seasons. John Beckwith becomes a dual premiership captain, Laurie Mithen wins back-to-back best and fairest awards and Ron Barassi tops the goalkicking for the second year running with 46 goals. Barassi also boots four majors to be Melbourne’s best in the premiership. Alan Rowarth also kicks four goals in the Grand Final. After claiming the minor premiership, Melbourne’s finals start with a second semi-final victory over Carlton by 44 points at the MCG. The Demons then claim a 37-point win over Essendon in the Grand Final at the home of football. Don Williams, Athol Webb and Dick Fenton-Smith retire or take up other roles at the end of the season.
The 1959 Premiership side
Melbourne wins its fifth premiership in sixth seasons – and its 11th overall. It’s a remarkable era for the club, as Norm Smith coaches his fifth flag. After winning the minor premiership, Melbourne defeats Fitzroy by 62 points in the second semi-final at the MCG. The Demons then produce a 48-point victory over Collingwood at the ‘G on Grand Final day – confirming their status as one of the greatest teams in VFL/AFL history. The great Ron Barassi becomes captain of the club. Brian Dixon wins the club best and fairest and Ian Ridley boots 38 goals to head the club’s goal tally. Dual Brownlow Medal winner Ivor Warne-Smith passes away aged 62 on March 4. He was the club’s chairman of selectors at the time – a position he held since 1949.
After winning nine of their opening 11 rounds, Melbourne finishes third at the end of the home and away season – missing the Grand Final for the first time since 1954. Over this period, Melbourne claims 108 wins and two draws from 141 matches. The Demons get knocked out in straight sets, falling seven points short to Hawthorn in the second semi-final at the MCG and then 27 points to Footscray in the preliminary final at the ‘G. Ron Barassi wins the best and fairest award and Bob B. Johnson heads the club’s goalkicking with 36 majors. Terry Johnston ties for the Morrish Medal. Melbourne plays two exhibition games at the end of the season in New Zealand.
In January, Bert Chadwick resigns as chairman, after being in the role since 1950. Although Melbourne has a better home and away season than 1957 and 1959, after winning 14 games and dropping just four matches, the Demons finish third. After narrowly losing to Carlton by two points in the first semi-final at the MCG, Melbourne ends the season in fourth place. Hassa Mann wins the best and fairest and Laurie Mithen, in his final VFL season, kicks 37 majors to lead the club’s goalkicking. Clyde Laidlaw, Geoff Tunbridge, Geoff Case and Trevor Johnson are among the retirees. 1926 premiership player Dick Taylor, who is one of Melbourne’s VFL delegates, passes away.
Ron Barassi in portrait
Melbourne finishes third for the season, after defeating St Kilda in the first semi-final by seven points at the MCG. It then falls nine points short to Hawthorn in the preliminary final at the ‘G. Hassa Mann wins back-to-back best and fairest awards and Barry Bourke kicks 48 goals to top Melbourne’s goalkicking. In round five, Collingwood becomes the first side since Footscray in the 1954 Grand Final to score 100 points against the Demons – and incredible feat. It scores 15.10 (100). Donald Duffy becomes club president. The Demons defeat Geelong in Honolulu and San Francisco at season’s end.
Melbourne wins its 12th and most recent premiership. The Demons win 14 of 18 matches during the home and away season, before smashing Collingwood in the second semi-final by 89 points at the MCG. Melbourne then hangs on for a thrilling four-point win over the Magpies in the Grand Final at the ‘G. After Magpie Ray Gabelich puts Collingwood in front, late in the match, Melbourne back-pocket Neil ‘Froggy’ Crompton follows his man up the field, before winning the ball from a spilt pack and slotting through his only goal for the season. It seals Melbourne’s victory. It’s also the seventh time Melbourne and Collingwood meet in the Grand Final, with the Demons six to one. It’s also the end of the club’s golden era, winning 10 flags in 25 years – a remarkable achievement. Melbourne’s 11 consecutive seasons in the finals also comes to an end. It’s not until 1987 that the club plays in the finals again. Norm Smith coaches his sixth premiership from eight Grand Finals. This leads him to being named VFL/AFL coach of the century in 1996. Ron Barassi captains Melbourne to his second flag and he wins his second best and fairest with the club. John Townsend tops Melbourne’s goal tally with 35. Melbourne also claims the minor premiership. Melbourne’s under 19s also wins the flag. At the end of the season, Ron Barassi shocks the football world when he announces he’s leaving Melbourne to become Carlton captain-coach.
After winning its opening eight matches of the season, Melbourne manages just two more victories from its final 10 games. It results in the Demons missing the finals for the first time since 1953. One of the biggest football stories of all-time occurs, when Norm Smith is sensationally sacked after round 12, when issues with the committee comes to a head. He finds out his fate via letter. Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes comes out of retirement for Melbourne’s round 12 match against North Melbourne at Coburg Oval – the club’s only game at the venue – before Smith is reinstated for round 13. Although Smith guides Melbourne to victory upon his return, the club loses its final four rounds. In the end, the red and blue finishes seventh. Hassa Mann takes over as captain, following the departure of Barassi to Carlton, while John Townsend wins the club best and fairest. Barrie Vagg boots 30 goals to head Melbourne’s goalkicking.
Melbourne slides to second last on the ladder, notching up just three wins – its worst season since 1953. A staggering 23 players make their debut for Melbourne during the season. At just 19 years and 354 days, Terry Leahy becomes the youngest winner of Melbourne’s best and fairest, as Barrie Vagg goes back-to-back in the club’s goalkicking with 20 majors.
Melbourne moves back up the ladder, winning eight games to finish seventh. It proves to be Norm Smith’s final season as Melbourne coach, after he retires at the end of the season. He leaves as Melbourne’s greatest coach and one of the club’s most influential figures, having coached the club to a record 307 games. During the season, Smith’s brother Len passes away after a series of heart attacks. Smith misses the second half of the round 15 match against Carlton at Princes Park and the following round against Footscray at the MCG, because of his own heart complaint. John Beckwith takes over as coach on both occasions. Gary Hardeman and future Australian Test cricketer Max Walker make their debut for the Demons. Captain Hassa Mann has an outstanding season, winning the best and fairest and topping the club goalkicking with 38.
Hassa Mann claimed the 1968 Best and Fairest
Dual premiership captain John Beckwith takes over as coach from the legendary Norm Smith. Future Tasmanian premier Ray Groom wins the club’s best and fairest, and Hassa Mann tops Melbourne goal tally for the second year running with 29. The Demons claim eight wins from 20 matches, coming eighth on the ladder. Phil Rhoden wins the Gardiner Medal and Paul Callery claims the Morrish Medal. Hassa Mann and Brian Dixon retire at the season’s end. Dixon finishes with 252 games to his name – then a club record.
Melbourne claims its first wooden spoon since 1951, managing just three wins. In his final VFL season, Tassie Johnson captains the club, as John Townsend wins his second best and fairest award and Ross Dillon tops Melbourne goalkicking with 48. Ron Barassi comes out of retirement to play one match against Melbourne at Princes Park. He plays one match to reach 50 games with Carlton, which means his son is eligible to play for the Blues. Melbourne plays in its first night series Grand Final, falling short to Hawthorn by five points at Lake Oval. Ken Emselle (who wins the Gardiner Medal), Barrie Vagg, Bryan Kenneally and Tony Anderson retire at season’s end. Melbourne’s reserves win the premiership.
Frank Davis becomes captain and wins the best and fairest, as Ross Dillon heads Melbourne’s goalkicking for the second year in a row with 41. Melbourne finishes 10th with six wins in John Beckwith’s final season as coach. The Demons go down by two points to Footscray in the night series Grand Final at Lake Oval. Melbourne goes back-to-back premiers in the reserves under club great Ian Ridley. Peter ‘Crackers’ Keenan and Paul Callery make their debut. Kelvin Clarke tops the VFL reserves goalkicking with 50 majors.
Five-time premiership player Ian Ridley steps up to become coach, after guiding the reserves to consecutive flags in 1969-70. The Demons start brilliantly, winning eight of their opening nine rounds, before finishing with 11 wins, one draw and 10 losses. Greg Wells wins Melbourne’s best and fairest and Paul Callery kicks 38 majors to top the club’s goalkicking tally. Bruce Brown wins the Gardiner Medal, as Melbourne’s under 19s win the flag. At the end of the season, the club wins its first night series Grand Final, defeating Fitzroy by 16 points at Lake Oval. Ray Carr leads the VFL reserves goalkicking with 75 majors.
Melbourne wins 10 games and places eighth on the ladder. Stan Alves wins Melbourne’s best and fairest – the first time the count is held publicly – as Greg Parke kicks 63 goals to lead the club’s goalkicking. Greg Wells comes second in the Brownlow Medal to Collingwood’s Len Thompson, and Gary Hardeman finishes equal third.
Stan Alves becomes captain, as star recruit Carl Ditterich wins the best and fairest after crossing from St Kilda. Ross Brewer boots 32 majors to top the club’s goal tally. Future great Robert Flower makes his debut for the Demons Melbourne loses its last eight games of the season, finishing 10th with seven wins. At season’s end, Ian Ridley is sacked. Several players threaten to quit because of the decision, before they return. Only Barry Bourke retires following the decision.
South Melbourne great and triple Brownlow Medal winner, Bob Skilton, becomes Melbourne coach. In his first season, Skilton’s Demons win just three games, after losing their opening nine rounds, and claim the wooden spoon. Captain Stan Alves wins his second best and fairest award and Ross Brewer tops the goalkicking for the second season in a row with 40 majors. Gary Hardeman finishes runner-up to North Melbourne’s Keith Grieg, who wins his second consecutive Brownlow Medal. Donald Duffy steps down as president. Phillip Friedman wins the Morrish Medal.
Melbourne introduces a royal blue jumper, designed for television. Laurie Fowler wins his first of three Melbourne’s best and fairest awards, while Greg Wells boots 32 majors to top the club’s goal scoring. Stan Alves comes second to Footscray’s Gary Dempsey in the Brownlow Medal. The Demons finish 10th with nine wins. After 25 seasons, Jim Cardwell resigns as secretary and John Mitchell becomes president. Neil Chamberlain wins the Gardiner Medal. Kim Smith boots 61 goals to lead the VFL reserves goalkicking.
Melbourne produces its best season since 1964, when it narrowly misses out on the finals. The Demons finish sixth with 11 wins, but misses the finals after Footscray claim fifth spot. Melbourne defeats Collingwood by 15 points in the final round of the season at Victoria Park, but minor premiers Carlton draw with the Bulldogs at Princes Park. Greg Wells wins his second best and fairest and Ray Biffin tops the club goalkicking with 47. Speculation mounts that Tom Hafey will coach Melbourne in 1977, but Bob Skilton remains coach. Ivan Moore becomes club secretary. Robert Walters leads the VFL goalkicking table with 65 majors.
In Bob Skilton’s final season as coach, Melbourne finishes second last with five wins. It drops the opening seven rounds. Greg Wells becomes captain, replacing Stan Alves who crosses to North Melbourne and later plays in the Kangaroos’ 1977 premiership. Robert Flower wins – remarkably – his only club best and fairest, as Ross Brewer kicks 26 goals to top the club’s goalkicking for the third time. Melbourne adopts an official logo, featuring a moustached Demon with a pitchfork. It becomes a fan favourite among many Melbourne supporters. Ray Manley becomes club secretary.
Dennis Jones, a member of Melbourne’s 1959 premiership team, becomes coach. Initially signed for two years, Jones only coaches the Demons in 1978. From rounds eight to 19, Melbourne loses 12 consecutive matches, as the Demons notch up five wins for the year to claim the wooden spoon. Garry Baker wins Melbourne’s best and fairest, as Henry Coles kicks 33 majors to lead the club’s goalkicking. Wayne Reid is appointed chairman in November.
Peter 'Crackers' Keenan spoils against Richmond in the late 1970s
Having made a play for Hawthorn great Leigh Matthews, Melbourne secures Carl Ditterich back to the club as captain-coach. The Demons win six games and finish second last. Laurie Fowler wins his second club best and fairest, as Robert Flower kicks 33 majors to lead the goalkicking. Melbourne suffers its greatest ever loss, when Fitzroy wallops the Demons in round 17 at Waverley Park by 190 points. To this day, it’s also the heaviest defeat in VFL/AFL history. At the time, Fitzroy’s score of 36.22 (238) is also the highest ever in the VFL. That changes when Geelong thrashes the Brisbane Bears at Carrara in round seven, 1992, booting 37.17 (239). Incredibly, Melbourne defeats Essendon the following week at the MCG by 29 points. Robert Walters kicks nine goals in the win. Robert Flower finishes third in the Brownlow Medal to Collingwood’s Peter Moore, who wins a second ‘Charlie’ with Melbourne in 1984. Melbourne finishes the 1970s as the only VFL team not to make the finals.
The Demons record five wins and finish ninth in Carl Ditterich’s final season as captain-coach. At the season’s end, Ditterich resigns to take up a position as a director of a holiday resort in Queensland. Brent Crosswell, who leads the club’s goalkicking with 31 goals, and Bill Nettlefold play their first season with Melbourne after becoming premiership players with North Melbourne. Greg Wells plays 12 games with Melbourne, before crossing to Carlton mid-season, where he features in the Blues’ final 10 matches of the season, including two finals. In June, Melbourne breaks away from the Melbourne Cricket Club after almost 100 years of being a section of the club. A joint statement from the MCC and Melbourne says the Demons will now be “an autonomous body with responsibility for its own affairs and liabilities”. As part of the split, Melbourne’s administration shifts to Jolimont Terrace. Laurie Fowler wins his third club best and fairest. In July, Dick Seddon is appointed secretary. At the end of the season, Melbourne lands the great Ron Barassi as coach, after he takes out newspaper advertisements asking for fans’ support. Overwhelmingly, he receives it from the Melbourne faithful. Once appointed, he says it will take “four to eight years” until Melbourne is a force again. He proves to be correct. Previously, Barassi had signed a $30,000 deal with the Demons in 1977, which allowed them to have first option of his services at the end of 1980. Sir Billy Snedden becomes chairman.
Ron Barassi’s first season back at the club proves to be one of Melbourne’s poorest in VFL/AFL history. The Demons win just one game – against Footscray by one-point at the Western (Whitten) Oval in round three – as 46 players are used for the season. Melbourne claims its ninth wooden spoon. It’s the equal most players to represent Melbourne in one season, along with 1944, 1966, 1979 and later 1986. Robert Flower becomes captain – a position he holds until his retirement at the end of 1987. Future MCC chairman Steven Smith wins the club best and fairest and Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson tops the club’s goalkicking with 76 majors – in his first year with the club. Jackson is one of a host of colourful characters to play for the Demons in 1981, along with Peter ‘Crackers’ Keenan and Brent Crosswell. Melbourne’s under 19s wins the flag. Adrian Battiston wins the Morrish Medal.
Melbourne has its first Brownlow Medal winner since Don Cordner in 1946, when Brian Wilson claims the award. It’s a fine win by Wilson after he is moved on by North Melbourne at the end of the 1981 season. The 20-year-old becomes the youngest Brownlow Medal winner since the great Bob Skilton in 1959. In Ron Barassi’s second year as coach, Melbourne makes progress, winning eight games to finish eighth. Steven Icke, in his first year with the club after crossing from North Melbourne, wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award, as Gerard Healy boots 77 majors to top the club’s goalkicking. Alan Johnson, Melbourne’s first drafted player (in the forgotten 1981 draft), makes his VFL debut. Melbourne wins back-to-back Morrish Medals, with Les Bamblett claiming the award.
Brian Wilson won the Brownlow Medal in 1982
Melbourne unveils boom recruits, Peter Moore from Collingwood and Kelvin Templeton from the Bulldogs. Both join Melbourne as Brownlow Medal winners, with Moore winning it in 1979 and Templeton in 1980. Football media great Mike Sheahan, still to this day, regards the recruitment Moore and Templeton as the biggest footy he’s covered in the game. Alan Johnson wins the best and fairest and Robert Flower tops the goalkicking with 40 majors. The Demons win nine games and finish eighth for the second year running. The club wins the under 19s premiership. Future Melbourne captain Greg Healy wins the Morrish Medal. It’s the third year in a row that the club claims a Morrish Medal.
Melbourne shows genuine promise, winning six in a row from rounds eight to 13. Its 17-point win over Hawthorn in round 13 at Princes Park is one of the club’s great wins of that era, as the Demons defeat the Hawks for the first time since round two, 1973. Despite sitting in fourth position after that round, Melbourne slips to ninth, ending the season with nine wins. Peter Moore wins his second Brownlow Medal – and first for the Demons. As was the case in 1979, when Moore won the Brownlow with Collingwood, Robert Flower again finishes third. In 1979, Moore polled 22 votes and Flower 19. This time, Moore gains 24 votes and Flower again polls 19. Gerard Healy wins the club best and fairest award and Kelvin Templeton boots 51 majors to head Melbourne’s goalkicking. Melbourne wins the reserves flag.
1984 Brownlow Medalist Peter Moore
Melbourne is forced to move its training headquarters to the Junction Oval. The Demons are hit hard by injury, with captain Robert Flower playing just three matches due to a broken collarbone. Gerard Healy, Steven Smith, Peter Giles and Steven Icke skipper the side in Flower’s absence, and they too suffer injuries while leading the side. Danny Hughes wins the club best and fairest award and Brian Wilson boots 40 goals to top Melbourne’s goal tally. Sean Wight makes his debut for the club, after the Scotsman was recruited via the Irish experiment. Roy Gilbert is named chief executive, but resigns in July. Ray Manley takes over as CEO. Ron Barassi steps down as coach at the end of the season, with former Richmond player and Sydney Swans coach John Northey appointed. Gerard Healy leaves the club at the end of the season, joining the Swans.
Ron Barassi talks to the team in 1985 as coach
Stuart Spencer becomes chairman, taking over from Sir Billy Snedden. Melbourne finishes second last with seven wins in John Northey’s first season as club coach. In June, it’s revealed that Melbourne is in merger talks with Fitzroy. Greg Healy wins Melbourne’s best and fairest and tops the club’s goalkicking with 35 goals. Future captain Garry Lyon makes his debut. Melbourne records its highest VFL/AFL score: 28.14 (182) against North Melbourne in round 21 at the MCG. It equals the score in 1991. Melbourne selects Steven Febey (pick No.3 overall) with its first selection in what is regarded as the inaugural National Draft.
Coach John Northey and Robert Flower in the rooms after a win
Melbourne produces its finest season since its most premiership in 1964, when it reaches the finals for the first time in 23 years. The Demons record a stunning 15-point win in round 22 over Footscray at the Western (Whitten) Oval to secure fifth spot. It results in captain Robert Flower – who is talked out of retirement at the end of 1986 – playing his first finals series in his last VFL season. He skippers the side for a seventh season – then a club record. Melbourne plays and wins its first finals match since 1964, smashing North Melbourne by 118 points in the elimination final at the MCG – the equal fourth greatest winning margin in a VFL/AFL final. The Demons then easily account for the Sydney Swans by 76 points at the MCG, before it falls two points short in dramatic circumstances to Hawthorn in the preliminary final at Waverley Park. The late, great Jim Stynes, in his debut season, runs across the mark, giving Hawk Gary Buckenara a 15-metre penalty. Buckenara’s kick after the siren ends Melbourne’s dream and puts Hawthorn in the Grand Final. Coach John Northey is captured post-match giving Stynes a spray – an image captured by Wayne Ludbey and now part of football folklore. Melbourne secures Todd Viney, Earl Spalding and Warren Dean as interstate recruits, as the club returns to its dark blue colours, instead of the ‘television’ royal blue. Steven Stretch wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award and Flower tops the goalkicking with 47 majors. The Demons also defeat Essendon by four points at Waverley Park to win the night series Grand Final. Tony King becomes general manager/CEO. At the season’s end, Melbourne defeats Sydney Swans and North Melbourne in exhibition matches played in Vancouver, Canada.
After the 1987 Panasonic Cup night series Premiership
For the first time since 1964, Melbourne makes the Grand Final, after winning 12 of its opening 16 matches. But it proves to be a shattering day for the Demons, as they lose to Hawthorn by a then record margin 96 points at the MCG. Melbourne starts its finals campaign with a thrilling two-point win over the West Coast Eagles in the elimination final at Waverley Park. The Demons then defeat Collingwood by 13 points in the first semi-final at the MCG. Melbourne then secures a Grand Final berth after beating Carlton by 22 points at Waverley Park. Greg Healy becomes captain and Steven O’Dwyer wins Melbourne’s best and fairest, but is ruled out of the Grand Final due to suspension. Ricky Jackson boots 43 majors to top the club’s goalkicking. Steven Febey and Andy Lovell make their debut.
Jim Stynes and Sean Wight in the 1988 Grand Final parade down Bourke Street Mall
Melbourne reaches the finals for the third consecutive year. The Demons defeat Collingwood by 23 points at Waverley Park, before going down to Geelong by 63 points in the first semi-final at the MCG. The Demons finish fourth. Melbourne wins its second night premiership in three years, when it beats Geelong by nine points at Waverley Park. Alan Johnson wins his second club best and fairest award and recruit Darren Bennett, who later becomes an NFL punter, kicks 34 goals.
Melbourne records 16 wins – its equal best achievement in a home and away season. Although it must be noted that the Demons played 22 rounds, as opposed to 1956 when they won 16 of 18 rounds. For the fourth year in succession, Melbourne makes the finals. After defeating Hawthorn in the final home and away round, Melbourne again beats the Hawks by nine points in the elimination final at the MCG. Defenders Tony Campbell and Peter Rohde are pivotal in both weeks, keeping brilliant Hawthorn forwards Jason Dunstall and Dermott Brereton in check. The Demons are then knocked out of the finals by West Coast. The Eagles defeat Melbourne by 30 points in the first semi-final at Waverley Park. Garry Lyon wins the club’s best and fairest award and Darren Bennett kicks 87 goals to top the club’s goalkicking – the best effort since Fred Fanning’s 97 goals in 1947. Melbourne wins the McClelland Trophy for the first time since 1958, after having the highest aggregate between seniors, reserves and under 19s. Rod Keogh wins his first of two Gardiner Medals, while future 2016 Western Bulldogs premiership coach Luke Beveridge comes second.
For the fifth year running, Melbourne makes the finals. Under new captain Garry Lyon, the Demons produce a stunning come-from-behind 38-point win over Essendon in the elimination final at Waverley Park. But Melbourne is knocked out again by West Coast. The Eagles defeat Melbourne by 38 points in the first semi-final at Waverley Park. Two players have stunning seasons for Melbourne. Jim Stynes wins the Brownlow Medal and every other major football award for the season. It’s a remarkable achievement, given he’s part of Melbourne’s Irish experiment. Allen Jakovich bursts onto the scene, capturing the imagination of the football world. He quickly becomes a cult figure among the Melbourne faithful. He boots 71 goals in 14 matches, including 11.8 against North Melbourne in round 20 at the MCG. Melbourne equals its highest VFL/AFL score against the Kangaroos in round five, kicking 28.14 (182) at the MCG. It’s the same score line achieved against the Roos in 1986.
1991 Brownlow Medalist Jim Stynes
After five consecutive seasons in the finals, Melbourne misses out for the first time since 1986. The Demons finish 11th with seven wins and one draw. At the season’s end, John Northey announces his resignation, after 167 matches and 13 finals. Only Norm Smith and Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes have coached Melbourne to more finals than Northey. Ian Ridley becomes chairman and Hassa Mann becomes chief executive in July. Glenn Lovett wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award and Allen Jakovich tops the goalkicking for the second year in a row with 40 majors.
Neil Balme becomes coach, beating the likes of Denis Pagan for the position. The Demons finish 10th with 10 wins. Todd Viney wins the best and fairest and Allen Jakovich boots 39 majors to top Melbourne’s goal tally. The great David Neitz makes his debut. Melbourne wins its 12th and last reserves premiership, before the competition is abolished at the end of the 1999 season. Rod Keogh wins his second Gardiner Medal.
Neil Balme sings with the team after a win in 1993
Melbourne produces its most successful season under Neil Balme. The class of ’94 is regarded as one of Melbourne’s best and most talented teams since its most recent premiership in 1964. The Demons finish the home and away season with 12 wins, placing seventh in the new final eight. In its first final, Melbourne upsets Carlton in the third qualifying final by 27 points at the MCG. The Demons then smash Footscray by 79 points in the first semi-final at the ‘G. Garry Lyon boots 10 goals in a stunning display, as David Schwarz has a stunning finals series. Melbourne plays its first non-Victorian final against West Coast Eagles in the second preliminary final at the WACA. Despite possessing an impressive line-up, Melbourne is no match for the dominant West Coast, as the home side wins by 65 points. Not surprisingly, the Eagles win the flag comfortably by 80 points against Geelong. Allen Jakovich plays his final game for Melbourne, kicking eight goals against Hawthorn in round 17 at Princes Park. Lyon wins the club’s best and fairest award and tops Melbourne’s goalkicking with 79 majors.
After a brilliant finals’ campaign the previous year, David Schwarz suffers a serious knee injury in the pre-season. He remarkably returns in round nine, but the following week he suffers another knee injury, which ends his year. Melbourne slides out of the eight, finishing ninth with nine wins. Jim Stynes wins his second best and fairest for the club and Garry Lyon goes back-to-back in Melbourne’s goalkicking with 77 majors. Shaun Smith takes what is later known as the ‘mark of the century’ against the Brisbane Bears in the final round of the home and away season at the Gabba. Melbourne opens its first social venue, Leighoak, in May.
Todd Viney announces his retirement before the start of the season to take up a coaching position with Australian tennis player Mark Philippoussis. He is retained on the list just in case, which proves to be right move, as Viney is back playing in round two. David Schwarz injures his knee for a third time during a pre-season practice match. The Demons have a tough year, winning seven games and finishing 14th. Jim Stynes, who wins his third best and fairest, and second in a row, breaks the record for the most consecutive games played – previously held by Richmond’s Jack Titus, who played 202 in succession from 1933-43. David Neitz tops the club goalkicking for the first time with 56 majors. After speculation surrounding Melbourne’s future as a club, a press conference is held on the Monday after round 17, outlining the fact that the club is in talks with Hawthorn about a merger. The club would be known as the Melbourne Hawks. It comes on the back of the Fitzroy-Brisbane merger, which is announced earlier in the season. Coincidentally, Melbourne and Hawthorn meet in the final round of the home and away season. It’s a thrilling contest, with Hawthorn prevailing by one-point at the MCG. Hawthorn great Jason Dunstall kicks 10 goals – and his 100th for the season – while David Neitz boots six and Jeff Farmer snares four. On September 16, a meeting is held to vote on Melbourne’s future at the Dallas Brookes Hall. Once proxies are counted, Melbourne votes to merge with Hawthorn. But Hawthorn opts against the merger and it doesn’t go ahead. Both clubs remain in the AFL as we know them today. Ian Ridley resigns as president in September, with Joseph Gutnick replacing him.
Although Melbourne shocks the reigning premiers, North Melbourne, in the opening round of the season at the MCG, the club has a poor year, winning four matches and claiming the wooden spoon for the first time since 1981. After Melbourne’s round nine loss to Port Adelaide at Football Park, Neil Balme is replaced as coach by Greg Hutchison, who takes over for the rest of the season. Hassa Mann also resigns as chief executive, with Cameron Schwab named his replacement. Melbourne also lands football manager Danny Corcoran late in the season and appoints the inspirational Neale Daniher as coach at the season’s end. Daniher is named over Hutchison, Damian Drum and Peter Schwab. Jim Stynes equals Allan La Fontaine’s club best and fairest record, when he wins his fourth Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott Memorial Trophy. It’s also Stynes’ third club champion award in a row. Jeff Farmer and David Neitz kick 30 goals each to share the club goalkicking. The club opens its second social venue, the Bentleigh Club. Melbourne drafts Travis Johnstone with the No.1 AFL Draft pick late in the year, while the club also secures young ruckman Jeff White, former Saint Jamie Shanahan and ball-winner Guy Rigoni. Melbourne almost lures West Coast great Peter Matera, but he opts to remain at the Eagles.
Jim Stynes runs out for his 277th consecutive game in 1997
In Neale Daniher’s first year as coach, Melbourne produces a stunning year, rising 12 places from 16th to fourth. The Demons win 14 games in the home and away season, before defeating eventual premier Adelaide by 48 points in the first qualifying final at the MCG. The Demons then defeat St Kilda by 51 points in the first semi-final at the ‘G. Coming up against the Kangaroos in the second preliminary final at the MCG, Melbourne falls to the Roos by 30 points. Todd Viney becomes captain, replacing Garry Lyon, who steps down after holding the position since 1991. Jim Stynes’ remarkable run of consecutive matches comes to an end, when he breaks a hand against Carlton at Princes Park in round four. Stynes plays 244 games in a row, which remains a VFL/AFL record today. Brett Lovett retires during the season and at the club’s best and fairest count on October 3, Stynes announces his retirement. He retires as one of the greats of the game. Viney wins his second best and fairest award and Jeff Farmer tops the club’s goalkicking for a second time with 47 majors. Farmer also produces a stunning leap to pull in a brilliant mark against Richmond in the final round at the MCG.
Melbourne endures a disappointing year – on and off the field. The Demons slide down the ladder, finishing 14th with six wins. Club great Garry Lyon retires mid-season. Chief executive Cameron Schwab resigns in August, with John Anderson his replacement. David Schwarz wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award – a fine achievement given he overcomes three knee reconstructions. David Neitz kicks 46 majors to lead the club’s goal scoring for the third time. Club great Todd Viney retires.
Club captain Todd Viney runs out for his last game in 1999 holding son Max and with another future captain, Jack by his side
After a frustrating season, Melbourne rises again, making just its second Grand Final since its most recent premiership in 1964. For the record, it’s also the 18th Grand Final Melbourne plays in (12 wins, one draw and five losses). David Neitz is appointed skipper and he ends up captaining Melbourne in 175 games – a club record. The Demons win 10 of their final 12 games for the season, but run into Essendon – which loses just one match from its 25 matches for the season. Not surprisingly, Melbourne goes down to Essendon by 65 points at the ‘G on Grand Final day. Statistically, the Bombers produce the greatest individual season in VFL/AFL history. Unfortunately for Melbourne, the Demons run into two of the greatest teams of all-time in their only two Grand Finals since 1964, with Hawthorn losing just three matches in 1988. Melbourne starts its finals campaign with a nine-point win over Carlton in the second qualifying final at the MCG, and follows up with a second preliminary final victory over the Kangaroos by 50 points at the ‘G. Shane Woedwodin caps off his finest AFL season, winning the Brownlow Medal and the club’s best and fairest. He becomes the sixth person, and the seventh Brownlow Medal winner for Melbourne. Jim Stynes (1991) and Woewodin are the only two Melbourne players to win the Brownlow Medal and club best and fairest in the same season. Woewodin is also Melbourne’s most recent winner. For the third time, Jeff Farmer tops Melbourne’s goal tally with 76. Brad Green, Cameron Bruce and Matthew Whelan are among Melbourne debutants.
David Neitz and James Hird with the cup prior to the 2000 Grand Final
On the back of a Grand Final year, Melbourne slips out of the eight, finishing 11th with 10 wins. Off-field, Joseph Gutnick resigns as president in May, with Gabriel Szondy his replacement. Adem Yze, one of Melbourne’s best and most consistent players in the Neale Daniher era, wins the best and fairest. Russell Robertson leads Melbourne’s goalkicking with 42.
Melbourne returns to the finals – finishing sixth – playing the Kangaroos in the second elimination final. The Demons defeat the Roos by 38 points at the MCG, before falling to Adelaide in the second semi-final at the ‘G. Melbourne’s clash against the Crows is a remarkable match. After the Crows lead by 40 points at the first change, Melbourne not only regains the lead, but hits the front by 22 points at three quarter-time. But Adelaide hits back in the final term and wins by 12 points, ending Melbourne’s season. Melbourne wins a thrilling round 14 clash against the Brisbane Lions by 21 points – then a powerhouse of the competition. The Lions had won their past 18 in a row at the Gabba, when Melbourne notches up a victory in a ‘home’ Queensland game. Captain David Neitz has a brilliant season, winning the club’s first Coleman Medal. He finishes the year with 82 goals and claims his first and – surprisingly – only best and fairest win. Neitz is Melbourne’s first VFL/AFL leading goalkicker since Fred Fanning in 1947. Adem Yze finishes equal third in the Brownlow Medal. David Schwarz retires during the season, Steven Febey calls time at season’s end and Shane Woewodin is stunningly traded to Collingwood in October. S.Febey, Steven Armstong and David Robbins are caught up in the Bali Bombings at the end of the season. John Anderson resigns as chief executive in October, with Peter Cox named interim CEO.
The rollercoaster ride continues in the Neale Daniher era, as Melbourne falls to 14th on the ladder with just five wins. Ray Ellis becomes chief executive and Gabriel Szondy resigns as president in August. Paul Gardner becomes CEO. David Neitz leads the club goalkicking for the second year in a row – and for the fifth time in his career. He boots 65 goals. Russell Robertson wins the club’s best and fairest award.
Melbourne bounces back into the finals, finishing fifth at the end of the home and away season with 14 wins. The red and blue sits on top of the ladder after round 18, but fails to win one of its final five matches. The Demons take on Essendon in the first elimination final, but falls five points short at the MCG. John Phillips becomes acting chief executive, before Steve Harris is appointed CEO. Jared Rivers wins Melbourne’s first NAB AFL Rising Star Award. David Neitz kicks 69 goals – leading the club’s goal scoring for the third consecutive season. It’s also the sixth time in his career he tops the club’s goal tally. Jeff White wins Melbourne’s best and fairest. In December, the club signs an agreement with the Melbourne and Olympic Park Trust, with the aim to create an elite training and administration base at the redeveloped venue. Tragically, Troy Broadbridge loses his life during Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on December 26.
Melbourne opens its season against Essendon at the MCG, with a tribute game for the late Troy Broadbridge. It’s an emotional event for all involved. The Demons win by 46 points. Melbourne wins nine of its opening 12 matches, before losing six in a row. The Dees bounce back with three successive victories, starting with one of its greatest wins of the modern era – its first over Geelong at Kardinia Park since 1988. Russell Robertson, who leads the club’s goalkicking for the second time with 73 goals, stars with a career-best seven goals in its round 20 win. The Demons take on the Cats three weeks later, in the second elimination final at the MCG, but goes down by 55 points. Melbourne finishes seventh after the home and away season with 12 wins and eighth following the finals series. Travis Johnstone wins Melbourne’s best and fairest.
Melbourne makes the finals for the third year in a row – and it proves to be the club’s most recent finals appearance. For more than 10 years, the Demons fail to make the eight. It’s the end of an era, after Melbourne plays in 12 finals series from 20 seasons (1987-2006) under John Northey, Neil Balme and Neale Daniher. The Demons start the season with three losses, before winning 11 of their next 12 matches. By the end of the home and away season, Melbourne finishes seventh with 13 wins. At the end of the finals series, Melbourne comes fifth. It plays St Kilda in the second elimination final, winning by 18 points at the MCG. The Demons then head to Perth, taking on Fremantle in the second semi-final at Subiaco Oval. But the Dockers prevail by 28 points, ending Melbourne’s campaign. It’s the most recent finals match Melbourne plays in. David Neitz leads Melbourne’s goalkicking for the seventh and final time. He boots 68 majors. James McDonald wins his first best and fairest award. Future captain Nathan Jones makes his debut.
David Neitz takes a kick during the 2006 Elimination Final against St Kilda
Finishing the 2006 as the highest ranked Victorian team, there is genuine expectation around Melbourne, but it’s the start of a disappointing era. The Demons finish 14th with five wins. James McDonald wins back-to-back best and fairest awards, while Russell Robertson leads the club’s goalkicking for the third time. He boots 42 majors. Neale Daniher coaches Melbourne for the last time after departing mid-season. He guides Melbourne in 223 games, with only Norm Smith (307) and Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes (258) coaching the club more. Mark Riley takes over as caretaker coach against Carlton in round 14 at the MCG. He coaches Melbourne for the final nine games, before he’s in the mix for the senior coaching position at the end of the season. Four-time Essendon premiership coach Kevin Sheedy, future 2017 Richmond premiership coach Damien Hardwick, former Fremantle coach and former Demon player Chris Connolly, and ex-Essendon player and Port Adelaide assistant coach, the late Dean Bailey, a member of the Power’s 2004 premiership coaching staff, are the other contenders. In the end, Bailey gets the nod. Michael Newton wins the mark of the year for his grab against the Kangaroos in round 16 at Docklands. In round 20, against Collingwood at the MCG, David Neitz becomes the first – and still only – player to play 300 games for Melbourne. West Coast superstar Chris Judd, who barracks for the Demons growing up, nominates Melbourne as possible candidate, upon his return to Victoria. But he opts for Carlton.
Melbourne celebrates 150 years as a club. In his first season as coach, Dean Bailey experiences a couple of massive losses in the opening two rounds, by a combined losing margin of 199 points. Melbourne plays reigning premiers Geelong in round three at Kardinia Park and enters the game massive outsiders. Yet the Demons kick the opening three goals, before losing by a respectable 23 points. The red and blue wins its first game under Bailey in round seven, when the Demons produce a remarkable comeback – they trail by 51 points at the 23-minute mark of the second quarter – to overcome Fremantle by seven points at the MCG. In just his fifth AFL game, Austin Wonaeamirri boots three of his four goals to help Melbourne to a stunning win. Melbourne’s second win under Bailey is a one-point thriller against the Brisbane Lions in round 14 at the ‘G. The Demons record their third and final win of the season against West Coast Eagles by 34 points in round 20 at the MCG. The club claims the wooden spoon. On May 19, one of Melbourne’s greatest players, David Neitz announces his retirement, after a club record 306 games. He finishes having captained the most games for Melbourne (175) and having booted the most goals for the club (631). Early in the year, Steve Harris finishes as chief executive. Former tennis player Paul McNamee becomes CEO, but his tenure is short-lived and he is replaced by interim CEO, Peter Spargo. On August 26, Cameron Schwab returns to the club as chief executive. It’s his third stint at the club, and second as CEO. Paul Gardner announces his resignation in June, with the late, great Jim Stynes replacing him as president. Stynes immediately gets to work and is instrumental in Melbourne’s ‘Debt Demolition’ campaign held in a Kensington warehouse on August 5. More than $1.3 million is raised on the night, with more than $3 million pledged to the cause. Jeff White and Adem Yze finish at the end of the season, while Jack Watts is selected with Melbourne’s No.1 pick at the NAB AFL Draft.
Melbourne endures another poor season, winning four matches – one more than 2008 – to claim back-to-back wooden spoons. Its Melbourne’s 12th and most recent bottom of the ladder finish. James McDonald takes over as captain, while Aaron Davey, who signs a four-year contract at the end of the season, wins Melbourne’s best and fairest. Star forward Russell Robertson, in his final season, leads the club’s goalkicking for the fourth time with 29 majors. Liam Jurrah debuts for Melbourne. In July, Jim Stynes reveals he is fighting cancer. He temporarily steps down, with vice-chairman Don McLardy stepping up in his absence. In November, Melbourne selects Tom Scully with its No.1 selection in the NAB AFL Draft.
The Demons start to show genuine improvement, when they win three in a row from rounds three to five. By round 19, Melbourne has eight victories, one draw and 10 losses. Finals are not out of the equation, but it needs several results to fall its way. In the end, Melbourne fails to add any more wins. Still, there are some impressive wins throughout the year, including a 73-point victory over Sydney at the MCG – future Melbourne coach Paul Roos’ heaviest loss as coach of the Swans. By the season’s end, the Demons finish 12th. Brad Green has a fine year, winning the club’s best and fairest and booting 55 goals to lead Melbourne’s goalkicking. It’s the most majors in a season by a Melbourne player since David Neitz’s 68 in 2006. James McDonald finishes at the end of the year. In round 21, Liam Jurrah takes the mark of the year against Port Adelaide at Football Park.
President Jim Stynes with club captain Brad Green after a game in Darwin in 2010
Melbourne is on a similar path to 2010, but it takes a dramatic turn when it plays Geelong at Kardinia Park in round 19. The Demons suffer the second greatest loss in VFL/AFL history – Melbourne also holds the unfortunate record for the heaviest league defeat, when Fitzroy trounced the Demons by 190 points at Waverley Park in round 17, 1979 – after being demolished by 186 points, resulting in the departure of coach Dean Bailey. It’s a remarkable fall, given Melbourne is eighth on the ladder after round 14 and still in finals contention after round 17, sitting ninth. After the departure of Bailey, former captain Todd Viney takes over as coach for the rest of the season. He gains one win from five matches against the Gold Coast Suns at the MCG in round 23. The Demons finish with the same wins (eight), draws (one) and losses (13) as 2010, but finishes one rung lower on the ladder, in 13th position. Brad Green is named captain, Brent Moloney wins the best and fairest and Liam Jurrah tops the club’s goalkicking with 40 majors. Max Gawn makes his debut. Sadly, on June 30, former player Sean Wight passes away, aged 47. In September, former Geelong and Richmond player, and Collingwood assistant coach, Mark Neeld is named coach.
Mark Neeld endures an incredibly tough first year as coach. Melbourne wins just four matches for the year and drops further down the ladder to 16th. Due to his health, Jim Stynes retires as president, with vice-president Don McLardy stepping up to take the reins. Tragically, on March 20, Stynes’ long fight with cancer comes to an end. He is given a state funeral, given his remarkable legacy on and off the field. Brad Green, who retires at season’s end, is replaced as captain by joint skippers: Jack Grimes and Jack Trengove, who becomes the youngest full-time skipper in VFL/AFL history at 20 years, 217 days. Although it must be noted that Bernie Quinlan was 20 years and nine days when he led Footscray in round 18, 1971. Nathan Jones wins his first club best and fairest award and Mitch Clark tops the goalkicking with 29 majors. Jeremy Howe rakes in the mark of the year against Sydney Swans in round eight at the SCG. Several off-field incidents cloud the club. The AFL investigates Melbourne’s 2009 season in August, following comments made by former Demon and Carlton player, Brock McLean that the club had not been trying to win. The Demons recruit several players with AFL experience at the end of the 2012 season, including Chris Dawes, Cam Pedersen and David Rodan. Future star Jesse Hogan is also signed as a 17-year-old.
Melbourne endures one of its worst VFL/AFL seasons, when it wins just two games. Not since 1981, when Melbourne won one game, has the club endured such a poor season. The Demons register their worst percentage since 1906. It’s a tumultuous year on and off the field. In February, after an exhaustive seven-month inquiry, it’s deemed Melbourne was not guilty of losing games deliberately in the 2009 season, but that former coach Dean Bailey and general manager of football operations Chris Connolly had acted improperly in 2009. Bailey (now at Adelaide, as part of the club’s coaching panel) and Connolly are suspended and the club is fined $500,000. After round three, on April 9, chief executive Cameron Schwab is asked to resign by president Don McLardy. Peter Spargo becomes interim CEO from April 9 to 31, before former Essendon chief executive Peter Jackson is appointed chief executive on May 1. He becomes permanent CEO from June 3. From June 14 to August 16, Peter Spargo becomes interim president, after McLardy resigns. On August 16, the club appoints former West Coast player Glen Bartlett as its chairman. Bartlett and Jackson remain in those roles today, although the latter will retire at the end of the 2018 season, to be replaced by former Fitzroy and Collingwood star, and long-serving Magpies CEO, Gary Pert. Coach Mark Neeld is sacked during Melbourne’s mid-season bye, with former Adelaide coach Neil Craig taking over for the rest of the season from round 13. Melbourne’s first win of the season – against Greater Western Sydney in round four at the MCG – sees the club record its highest scoring quarter in VFL/AFL history. The Demons boot 12.2 (74) to record a 41-point victory – after trailing by 19 points at three quarter-time. Melbourne’s first women’s team plays an exhibition match against the Western Bulldogs, as a curtain-raiser to the men’s match between the same teams in round 14. Melbourne drafts superstar Daisy Pearce with the first pick in the draft. Nathan Jones goes back-to-back in Melbourne’s best and fairest, and Jeremy Howe tops the club goalkicking with 28 majors. Future co-captain Jack Viney, the son of former skipper Todd, makes his debut. Star Demon Aaron Davey retires. On September 6, Melbourne lures former Fitzroy and Sydney great, and 2005 Swans premiership coach, Paul Roos as coach. The club signs him to a two-year deal with an option for a third. Roos commits to the cause, but says he wants to unearth his successor during his time at the club.
After Melbourne comes off a miserable season, Paul Roos, in his first year as coach, guides the club to four wins. Although it’s only two more victories than 2013, the Demons improve their percentage, while they start the season better, winning their four games in the opening 12 matches. Still, it’s a disappointing end to the season, as Melbourne loses its last 10 matches to finish 17th. The Demons produce a stunning three-point win over the Crows at Adelaide Oval in round seven – their first win in South Australia since 2001. Jack Grimes remains co-captain, but is joined by Nathan Jones, after Jack Trengove step down. On April 8, Mitch Clark retires, due to clinical depression. He later resumes his career with Geelong in 2015-16. Jones wins his third consecutive best and fairest. Chris Dawes kicks 20 goals to lead Melbourne’s goalkicking. Sadly, on March 11, former coach Dean Bailey passes away, aged 47. Club great Robert Flower also sadly passes away, aged 59 on October 2.
Melbourne makes improvement in coach Paul Roos’ second year, winning seven matches to place 13th. It’s the club’s best season since 2011. Nathan Jones becomes sole captain, with Jack Grimes no longer in the position. Christian Petracca, the club’s No.2 selection in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft, injures his knee in the pre-season and misses the year. Jack Trengove is also sidelined for the entire with a debilitating foot injury. The Demons win their first round one encounter since 2005, when they defeat Gold Coast Suns by 26 points at the MCG. The Dees also achieve their first win against Geelong since 2006 – and their first at Kardinia Park since 2005. It’s an outstanding 24-point win in round 12. Melbourne also defeats Collingwood by 37 points in round 18 – its first win over the Magpies since round 11, 2007. And Melbourne ends a 22-game losing streak at Docklands – dating back to round 19, 2007, when Mark Riley was caretaker coach – after it defeats Greater Western Sydney by 26 points in the final round of the season. Bernie Vince wins Melbourne’s best and fairest and Jesse Hogan tops the goalkicking with 44 majors. It’s a fine season by Hogan, who makes his AFL debut and wins the club’s second NAB AFL Rising Star. Melbourne’s women’s team plays the Western Bulldogs twice, notching up two wins. On September 18, Melbourne names Simon Goodwin as Paul Roos’ successor. The Adelaide signs a five-year deal, with his first seasons as Roos’ assistant, before he takes over as senior coach for the 2017 season.
Nathan Jones, Ron Barassi and Paul Roos prior to the 2015 season
In Paul Roos’ final season as Melbourne coach, the club continues to rise up the ladder and even pushes for the finals. The Demons win 10 matches – the club’s best result since Neale Daniher’s last full season as coach in 2006 – to finish 11th. Melbourne wins three in a row from rounds 19 to 21 – the first time it claims a hat-trick of victories since rounds 17 to 19, 2010. Its win over Hawthorn by 29 points at the MCG in round 20 ends a 13-game losing streak against the Hawks, dating back to round eight, 2006. Melbourne also records an outstanding 40-point win over Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, ending a seven-match losing streak against the Power. It’s also the red and blue’s first victory over Port Adelaide in South Australia since round eight, 2000. But when it falls to Carlton by 20 points at the MCG in its second last home and away match for the season, Melbourne is out of the finals race. Jack Viney wins Melbourne’s best and fairest award. Given his dad Todd wins the award in 1993 and 1998, they become the first father/son duo to win Melbourne’s Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott Memorial Trophy. Jesse Hogan tops Melbourne’s goalkicking for the second successive season with 41 goals. At the end of the season, Roos passes the coaching baton to Simon Goodwin. In the off-season, Melbourne secures four-time Hawthorn premiership player Jordan Lewis and former Bomber Michael Hibberd. Clayton Oliver debuts for Melbourne. On September 28, former player and Australian Test cricketer Max Walker passes away, aged 68.
The Demons make history in 2017, competing as one of the eight foundation clubs in the inaugural AFL Women's competition. Led by skipper Daisy Pearce and coach Mick Stinear, Melbourne took on the Brisbane Lions in the first game of the new league at Casey Fields. In wild weather at Casey, Melbourne's first ever AFLW goal was booted by Jasmine Grierson, however it was the only major of the game for the red and blue, with Brisbane winning by 15 points. However the Demons would steady to win five of their next six in the inaugural season, missing the Grand Final on percentage. Their only other loss of the campaign came against eventual Premiers Adelaide. Daisy Pearce takes out the AFLW Best and Fairest Award, while also being named as the All-Australian captain. Elise O'Dea and Karen Paxman also make the team.
In the AFL, new coach Simon Goodwin leads Melbourne to it's best season since 2006 – even though the season ends in heartbreak. The Demons win 12 matches – and sit inside the top eight after 15 rounds – but agonisingly misses the top eight by 0.5 per cent. After losing its final match of the home and away season to Collingwood by 16 points at the MCG, Melbourne must wait until the following day to find out its finals fate. It comes down to the final home and away game of the season between West Coast Eagles and Adelaide Crows at Subiaco. Entering time-on in the final quarter, Melbourne is in the eight. But when West Coast kicks the final two goals, it gives the Eagles a percentage of 105.71, which pips the Demons’ 105.22 and ends their season. It was a disappointing end to another improved season since Melbourne’s two-win season in 2013. Melbourne opens its season with a 30-point win over St Kilda at Etihad Stadium. It’s the red and blue’s first win over the Saints since its most recent finals win in the 2006 second elimination final. It ends a 14-game losing streak against the Saints. The Demons win four in succession – their best winning streak since rounds 10 to 15, 2006 – from rounds 10 to 14. This includes their first win at Traeger Park in Alice Springs, when the Demons defeat the Gold Coast Suns by 35 points in round 10. Melbourne also produces a brilliant three-point win over West Coast Eagles at Subiaco in round 14. Tom McDonald’s fifth goal – kicked over his head – in the dying stages gives Melbourne its first win over West Coast at Subiaco since round 19, 2002. The Demons appoint co-captains, with Jack Viney joining Nathan Jones in the role. In just his second season, Clayton Oliver has a stunning year, winning the Best and Fairest. Jeff Garlett tops Melbourne’s goalkicking with 42 majors. Michael Hibberd debuts for Melbourne and has a fine first-up season, claiming All-Australian selection. In the off-season, Melbourne secures outstanding young defender, Jake Lever, from Adelaide.
After a third-place finish in 2018, Melbourne enters the second AFLW season with optimism high. The Dees open their season with a win against GWS and win four out of six heading into the final round. In a virtual Preliminary Final, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs meet in the final round, with the victor guaranteed a Grand Final spot. The margin stays close throughout the match, with the lead swapping several times. However it would end in heartbreak for the Dees, with a goal from Bulldog Brooke Lochland inside the last two minutes ensuring a two-point win for the Dogs. Daisy Pearce claims her second Best and Fairest and is again named All-Australian captain. Elise O'Dea and Karen Paxman earn second call-ups, with Meg Downie also being named in the team.
Given Melbourne’s improvement each season in the Paul Roos/Simon Goodwin era, the Demons enter 2018 with much expectation. Melbourne wins eight of its opening 11 matches, including six in a row from rounds six to 11 – its best winning streak since 2006. During this period, Melbourne defeats Carlton by 109 points in round nine at the MCG and Adelaide Crows by 91 points in round 10 at Trager Park, Alice Springs. From rounds nine to 11, Melbourne sits third on the ladder – again, something it hasn’t achieved since 2006. But the Demons drop three in succession from rounds 12 to 15 (it has the bye in round 13), before bouncing back with a 54-point win over Fremantle at TIO Stadium (Marrara Oval) in Darwin. The win in Darwin sees the Demons steady in the run home, claiming wins against the Western Bulldogs (R17), Adelaide (R19) and Gold Coast (R20), however they lose games to top-eight opponents in Geelong (R18) and Sydney (R21). With two weeks left in the season, Melbourne travels to the new Optus Stadium in Perth for the first time, needing a win over the Eagles to lock in a finals spot. Melbourne lead throughout the first three quarters in a close game, however the Eagles take the lead with 10 minutes to go. Melbourne levels, kicking the last three - two off the boot of Jake Melksham - to record a memorable win in the west and lock in a top-eight spot for the first time since 2006. Melbourne see off the GWS Giants in Round 23 to lock in a home final at the MCG.
Melbourne are drawn to play the Cats in the First Elimination Final at the MCG. The two regular season Melbourne-Geelong matches had gone down to the wire, with the Cats winning both by a combined five points. Welcoming skipper Jack Viney back into the side, an aggressive Melbourne side shows up on a Friday night in front of more than 90,000 fans. The Demons blitz the Cats, winning by 29 points. In a symbolic moment, Nathan Jones boots the sealer, after going 12 years without playing a final. Melbourne draws Hawthorn in Week Two of the Finals and again get a chance on the Friday night stage in front of more than 90,000 at the MCG. Entering the match unchanged, the Demons again enter the match breathing fire and out body Hawthorn throughout. Melbourne led throughout the game and snuffed out a late Hawks charge to book their first Preliminary Final appearance since 2000. They would be scheduled to again go to Optus Stadium to play West Coast and enter the game confident after their Round 22 win at the venue. However, West Coast dominates the match with Melbourne kept goalless in the first half. The Eagles would win by 66 points and go on to win the Premiership the following week. In the Brownlow count the following Monday, Angus Brayshaw surprises many by finishing third in the count. To finish off the season, Max Gawn wins his first Keith 'Bluey' Truscott Memorial Trophy.
The Demons bring in three players during the Trade Period - Gold Coast's Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij and North ruckman Braydon Preuss.
Off the field, chief executive Peter Jackson announces he will retire at the end of his current term on October 31, with former Collingwood and Fitzroy star Gary Pert named to take over in 2019. On June 22, four-time premiership player Geoff Case passes away. On July 9, Melbourne turns 160 years old – remaining the oldest football club in the AFL and believed to be the world.
Two new sides - Geelong and North Melbourne - enter the AFLW, with a new conference system adopted for the 2019 season. Melbourne is placed in Conference A alongside Adelaide, Fremantle, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. With Daisy Pearce due to give birth to twins, Elise O'Dea and Shelley Scott take over captaincy duties for the season. In the tougher Conference A, Melbourne finish the year in fourth with a 4-3 record. The quirks of the system mean that if placed in Conference B, Melbourne would have finished on top of that group. Karen Paxman is awarded the Best and Fairest.
The AFL side enters 2019 as one of the Premiership favourites after a strong finals campaign the previous year. However with many Demons feeling the effects of a shortened pre-season due to off-season surgeries, 2019 doesn't go to plan. Melbourne lose five of their first six games, before finding some spark in Round 7 and 8 wins. The Demons struggle to pull together four quarters across the year and finish the season in a disappointing 17th place. Max Gawn and Clayton Oliver share the Keith 'Bluey' Truscott Memorial Trophy, becoming the first joint winners.
In response to the poor finish, Melbourne adds respected fitness boss Darren Burgess and former Saints coach Alan Richardson to the football department.
Ed Langdon (Fremantle) and Adam Tomlinson (GWS Giants) are traded into the side, while Luke Jackson (Pick No.3), Kysaiah Pickett (Pick No.12) and Trent Rivers (Pick No.32) are drafted. Mitch Brown (Essendon) and Harley Bennell (Fremantle) are also added to the side as off-season recruits.
In a year that will go down in history, global events impact the game like never before. On-field, 2020 would begin fairly normally with Melbourne placed in Conference B of the AFLW competition, as the league welcomed Gold Coast, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast into the fold. Melbourne again open the season with a win at Casey Fields, in nail-biting fashion against North Melbourne. After a summer where devastating bushfires impacted the country, the AFLW side is involved in a Bushfire Relief Double-Header at Marvel Stadium in Round 4 against Collingwood. The Demons would win by 20 points, however footy took a back seat as funds were raised for bushfire affected communities. Neville Jetta would take part in the second game of the night, playing for the All-Stars against Victoria. Round 5 of the season saw Melbourne claim a thumping 59-point win over newcomers West Coast at Casey Fields.
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia. Mass gatherings would be restricted, with the league forced to play all AFL and AFLW games behind closed doors. Melbourne travels to Alice Springs to play Carlton in Round 6, winning in front of an empty ground. In the next few days, the AFL cuts the AFLW home and away season short, bringing forward the Finals which Melbourne qualify for after finishing third in Conference B. They travel to Giants Stadium to play GWS and record a famous win in their first-ever final. Trailing in the final term, the Dees kick the last three majors, with Lily Mithen sealing the match with minutes on the clock. Melbourne were scheduled to play Fremantle in a Preliminary Final in Perth, however the pandemic severely crippled travel across state borders and the AFL are forced to cancel the 2020 AFLW Season with no Premiership awarded. In an online event, Shelley Scott wins the Best and Fairest.
The pandemic also took it's toll on the AFL season, leading to one of the more unique seasons in recent memory. Under new captain Max Gawn, Melbourne travels to Perth in Round One, taking on the Eagles at an empty Optus Stadium. Just before the bounce, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announces the suspension of the season indefinitely. The Eagles take the win at home, with footy then going into hibernation following the match. The pandemic forces all training from March to May to occur away from the club in small groups. However Australia initially appears to have curbed the impact of the virus and in May, it is announced that footy will return with shortened matches and sixteen further rounds to be played allowing all teams to play each other once. On June 13, Melbourne returns to the field at Marvel Stadium in Round 2 as they claim a close win over Carlton. In Round 3, Melbourne's match against Essendon is postponed, following Bomber Conor McKenna testing positive to COVID-19 (later found to be a false test). However the season continues, with Melbourne initially based at Casey Fields during the restart and able to play in Victoria.
As Victoria's COVID-19 cases rise and restrictions are reinstated around physical contact, the AFL is forced to relocate all clubs and fixtures out of the state. Melbourne is initially moved to Sydney, where they would defeat Hawthorn and Gold Coast at Giants Stadium. Soon, Sydney is also declared a COVID-19 hotspot and the Demons make Maroochydore their home, as fourteen clubs relocate to the Sunshine State. The Demons go on to host games in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Cairns, while playing in unique fixture slots like Wednesday nights. On-field, the Demons show much improvement from their disappointing 2019 season and record nine wins and eight losses in total. Looking likely to return to the finals, it was a trip to Cairns for two games that saw Melbourne's season come undone. They are defeated by unfancied sides in Sydney and Fremantle in consecutive matches and drop out of the eight. Melbourne would win their last two matches of 2020, however it is not enough as they finish ninth.