Drama of Port’s 1990 bid to join AFL

Jason Cave Roar Rookie

By Jason Cave, Jason Cave is a Roar Rookie

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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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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • March 2nd 2010 @ 8:37am
      LT80 said | March 2nd 2010 @ 8:37am | ! Report

      So when you talk about a merger between the Power and the Magpies…which is the original club ?

      • Roar Guru

        March 2nd 2010 @ 8:51am
        Redb said | March 2nd 2010 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        Magpies by about 120 years.

        • Roar Guru

          March 2nd 2010 @ 11:57am
          Kazama said | March 2nd 2010 @ 11:57am | ! Report

          Actually the Power is the original Port Adelaide Football Club. When it left the SANFL a new club – Port Adelaide Magpies Football Club – was formed to replaced it.

          The voting down of the merger had nothing to do with revenge. As Lazza comments below, it would have been a bad business move that might have ended up costing both Port clubs their existence.

        • Roar Guru

          March 2nd 2010 @ 12:37pm
          Redb said | March 2nd 2010 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

    • March 2nd 2010 @ 10:39am
      sheek said | March 2nd 2010 @ 10:39am | ! Report


      Just to carry the story a little further, when Port Adelaide applied for a license with the AFL, it couldn’t carry across its local nickname – Magpies.

      For the very simple reason this nickname was already taken by Melbourne club Collingwood.

      The alternate name – Crows – was already taken by the Adelaide franchise, so Power they became.

      However, they could have tried to use several other bird related nicknames – Falcons, Frigates, Stormy Petrels, or simply Petrels…..

      I reckon any of those bird nicknames would have been better than Power.

      • March 2nd 2010 @ 10:54am
        Lazza said | March 2nd 2010 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        The nickname had to go but not the colours or original jersey. With away shirts it’s not a problem and Collingwood and the AFL just showed how provincial they are by having a stupid debate about something that every other sport takes for granted.

    • March 2nd 2010 @ 10:50am
      Lazza said | March 2nd 2010 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      I think everyone is over that particular episode now and has moved on. The merger just didn’t make any business sense. Merging two loss making clubs is not going to achieve anything and the SANFL would have to subsidise the new entity. Port Power would just have an even bigger deficit.

      Port would also have a reserve team in the SANFL which is a big advantage while the Crows would have to loan their players out to other SANFL clubs who have their own agendas. I would hate to see the Port Magpies die but they have to find an investor to keep them afloat.

    • March 2nd 2010 @ 1:03pm
      Dave said | March 2nd 2010 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

      Thank you all for the above posts.

      I am from NSW and do not follow the AFL that closely. But from what I gather about Port Power, they really were the original club and it really did have the fairytale elevation to the AFL. As I understand, the Port Magpies were formed later in time, meaning they are the replacement club. Am I right?

      • March 2nd 2010 @ 2:13pm
        Dan Dresden said | March 2nd 2010 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

        Come on Michael C and Red B – where are you when we need you???!!! I’d like to know the answer to this question too.

      • Roar Guru

        March 2nd 2010 @ 2:16pm
        Redb said | March 2nd 2010 @ 2:16pm | ! Report


        My understanding is that the Magpies are the original Port club. But Kazama seems to disagree, he is from South OZ so must bow to his comments I guess.

      • Roar Guru

        March 2nd 2010 @ 2:17pm
        Redb said | March 2nd 2010 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

        My understanding is the Magpies were the original club dating back 140 years. Kazama suggests otherwise and he is from South OZ.


    • March 2nd 2010 @ 3:46pm
      Wayno said | March 2nd 2010 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

      The port adelaide football club (PAFC), formerly known as the magpies and the the Power since 1996 are the original club established in 1870. The port adelaide magpies football club (PAFMC) is the 13 year old bastard child of a misguided attempt to fill the huge hole left in the SANFL when the PAFC went to play in the AFL . Whilst the two clubs have an association they are not affiliated and it should stay that way.

    • March 2nd 2010 @ 5:51pm
      Dan Dresden said | March 2nd 2010 @ 5:51pm | ! Report

      So the club that formed in 1870 is the one that plays in the AFL?

      Do “the bastard child” Magpies claim to also have been born in 1870?

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