1878 VFA season

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1878 VFA premiership season
Premiers Geelong
(1st premiership)

The 1878 Victorian Football Association season was the second season of the Australian rules football competition. The premiership was won by the Geelong Football Club, after it defeated Melbourne in a playoff match on 5 October. It was the club's first VFA premiership, and the first in a sequence of three consecutive premierships won from 1878 to 1880. Geelong was unbeaten during the year.

Association membership[edit]

There were seven senior metropolitan clubs in the Association in 1878: Albert-park, Carlton, Essendon, Hotham, Melbourne, St Kilda and West Melbourne. Essendon and West Melbourne had been leading junior teams in 1877 and competed as seniors in 1878. Additionally, several provincial teams – including premiers Geelong – competed as senior clubs affiliated with the Association.

1878 VFA premiership[edit]

Among the metropolitan clubs, Melbourne had the best record, finishing with eleven wins and five draws from its twenty-three matches, ahead of Carlton, whose record was seventeen wins and one draw from twenty-four matches.

While Carlton had a numerically superior record, at the time, Melbourne and Carlton were considered to be by far the strongest of the metropolitan clubs, so Melbourne's position as the top club was based almost entirely on head-to-head matches between the two clubs[1] – of which Melbourne won all four.[2]

Among the provincial clubs, Geelong was by far the strongest, having gone through the season undefeated with fifteen wins and one draw from sixteen matches. However, it had played only three games against metropolitan clubs – wins against Carlton, Hotham and Albert-park – and its provincial opponents were not considered as strong as the metropolitan competition, so whether or not its record was strong enough to claim the premiership was a point of debate.

To settle the matter of the premiership, a playoff match was scheduled between Melbourne and Geelong for 5 October. Geelong won the game by four goals, and as a result won its first premiership. It was the first premiership playoff match in Association history, and the last until 1896.

1878 VFA premiership playoff match
5 October 1878 (3:30 pm) Melbourne def. by Geelong Melbourne Cricket Ground (Crowd: 7,000–8,000) [3]
Umpires: Graham (Essendon)
C. Baker Goals Booth 3, Christie, Douglass

Club senior records[edit]

The below table details the playing records of the seven senior metropolitan clubs, and Geelong, in all matches during the 1878 season, including the playoff. Two sets of results are given:

  • Senior results: based only upon games played against VFA senior metropolitan clubs
  • Total results: including senior games, and games against intercolonial, up-country and junior clubs.

The clubs are listed in the order in which they were ranked in the Australasian newspaper. The VFA had no formal process by which the clubs were ranked, so the below order should be considered indicative only, particularly since the fixturing of matches was not standardised; however, the top three placings were later acknowledged in publications including the Football Record and are considered official.[4]

1878 VFA Results
Senior Results Total Results
1 Geelong (P) 4 4 0 0 17 16 0 1 75 11
2 Melbourne 16 6 5 5 23 11 7 5 34 30
3 Carlton 13 8 5 0 24 17 6 1 69 23
Hotham 10 4 4 2 19 9 4 3 20 8
Essendon 10 3 3 4 18 8 3 7 28 11
West Melbourne 10 2 5 3 18 6 5 7 18 12
Albert-park 13 2 5 6 17 5 6 6 12 18
St Kilda 6 1 3 2 11 2 6 3 6 30
Key: P = Played, W = Won, L = Lost, D = Drawn, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, (P) = Premiers Source:[5]

Notable events[edit]

  • Carlton and Melbourne each hosted intercolonial clubs during the season – in both cases, the same clubs they had visited in 1877:[5]
    • Carlton hosted the Waratah club from New South Wales, playing one match under the rugby rules prevalent in New South Wales and one match under the Victorian rules, as they had done the previous year during Carlton's visit to Sydney. The result of the rugby game on 29 June was disputed between the two clubs: both clubs claimed one goal and one touch-down, but the Carlton and Waratah umpires disagreed about whether or not Carlton's shot for goal had hit the post; consequently, Carlton claimed a 1–1 draw and Waratah claimed a 1–0 victory.[6] In the Victorian rules game on 1 June, Carlton 2.13 defeated Waratah 1.2.[7] Both clubs were lauded for their proficiency in their non-preferred code.
    • Melbourne hosted the Victorians club from South Australia. Both matches were played under Victorian rules, which were in use in both Victoria and South Australia at the time. Melbourne won both games: on 17 August, Melbourne 1.23 d. Victorians 0.1; and, on 19 August, Melbourne 2.13 d. Victorians 0.4.[8]
  • The leading goalkickers for the season were Christie (Geelong) and Coulthard (Carlton), who both kicked 15 goals.[5]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Outdoor Sports". The Argus (Supplement). Melbourne, VIC. 3 October 1878. p. 2. 
  2. ^ "Football – Melbourne v. Carlton". The Argus. Melbourne, VIC. 30 September 1878. p. 6. 
  3. ^ Peter Pindar (12 October 1878). "Football Gossip". The Australasian. XXV (654). Melbourne, VIC. p. 461. 
  4. ^ Caroline Wilson (20 June 2014). "History of the AFL could be turned on its head". The Age. Melbourne, VIC. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Peter Pindar (12 October 1878). "The Football Season of 1878". The Australasian. XXV (654). Melbourne, VIC. pp. 461–2. 
  6. ^ "Carlton v. Waratah". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, NSW. 4 July 1878. p. 5. 
  7. ^ "Intercolonial football match". Launceston Examiner. Launceston, TAS. 6 July 1878. p. 3. 
  8. ^ Peter Pindar (24 August 1878). "Football Gossip". The Australasian. XXV (647). Melbourne, VIC. p. 236.