Drama of Port’s 1990 bid to join AFL

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The South Australian National Football League’s refusal to endorse the Port Adelaide Power/Magpies merger is seen to be revenge for Port joining the AFL without the SANFL’s knowledge.

When the VFL competiton went national in 1987, West Australia and Queensland submitted teams to join the VFL that year-WA with the West Coast Eagles and Queensland with the Brisbane Bears, to join alongside the Sydney Swans.

But the VFL wanted SA to join the competition, as well.

What you must understand is there was a heated rivalry between SA and Victoria at that time. Sure, Ross Oakley and Max Basheer would have a happy lunch together. But when they got back to Melbourne and Adelaide respectively, they would be making statements about which competition was the better-the Victorian Football League or the South Australian National Football League.

However, the SANFL refused to join the VFL based on a number of points:

1. that SA would not join with anything called the ‘Victorian Football League’
2. would not pay the $4 million license fee upfront
3. SA wanted a whole host of conditions before there was a SA presence in the competition.

By 1990, there was a sense of desperation in SA football.

Crowds were falling in SANFL matches, as opposed to those staying at home and watching live AFL match direct from Melbourne. Add to that the AFL snubbed SA by having Victoria play NSW in Sydney instead of the Croweaters.

It was, of all clubs, Port Adelaide that broke ranks with the SANFL. Port, which claimed having won more premierships than any other team in Australian Football, was seen as the bastion of tradition in SA football.

In July 1990 the AFL announced that Port would join the AFL as the 15th club in time for the 1991 season.

Not surprisingly, there was anger at Port’s ‘having done a deal with the devil.’ The Adelaide Advertiser ran a front page with the photo of Port’s board of directors and a heading-”THE MEN WHO SOLD US OUT.” SANFL boss Max Basheer was furious and claimed “I feel betrayed.”

By October 1990, the SANFL decided it wanted to join the AFL. The AFL announced that a new team would be from SA, known as the Adelaide Crows. At Port, however, there was a sense of bitterness and anger. In time, Port did join the AFL.

But the SANFL was ready for its act of revenge. And it came recently, when the SANFL refused funding for a joint Port Power/Magpies merger.

Football in South Australia is the real loser.

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