Part II of this article counts down the ten most famous football clubs in Australia.
On Wednesday we counted down from number 19 to 11, and explained the rules.
10. Brothers Old Boys – 37 points
Premierships: 27 (26 pre-1995)
Having existed now for over a century, Brothers have won 27 “A-Grade” premierships in the Queensland Rugby Union (26 pre-1995). They managed to win their first premierships after only their second season in the comp.
Brothers have produced 69 Wallabies, including six captains, the most recent being the imposing John Eales. They have a strong rivalry with University, the other Queensland rugby union team in our top 10 most famous football clubs.
While Brothers managed to hold onto their distinctive hoops or ‘butcher stripes’ for over a century, they have never settled on one official nickname. Rather, they are known variously as The Catholics, The Irish, The Fish-Eater, The Fish, The Butcher Bhoy, The Flying Friar, The Brethren and The Filth – this last one is probably the most commonly heard.
Brothers have also won four national club Championships – the play-off between the Queensland Rugby Union and NSWRU premiers – including three wins against two clubs we recognise in this very list.
9. University of Queensland Rugby Club – 38 points
Premierships: 29 (27 pre-1995)
University manages to get one position ahead of its great rival, Brothers, by virtue of having won an additional premiership in the period prior to 1995 – it has two extra premierships in total. Their histories are quite closely aligned.
University has managed to win the Australian club championship on two occasions. They have produced 60 Wallabies, including seven captains. One of the better known “alumni” in recent times is David Nucifora, who took the Brumbies to a Super 12 title in 2004.
The University playing strip is a striking maroon with light blue trim – reminiscent of Aston Villa’s strip – and the club song proudly proclaims: ‘We’re the mighty Red Heavies’.
5. Tie – Randwick DRUFC, Geelong Football Club, Norwood Football Club, and East Fremantle Football Club – 40 points
Premierships: 32 (26 pre-1995)
Randwick is quite an old club by any standard and has enjoyed a remarkable run of success since around 1930. On top of the 32 premierships mentioned above, Randwick has also won five Australian Club Championships. Randwick played in all grand finals from 1977 to 1992, won five consecutive premierships from 1978 to 1982 and six consecutive premierships from 1987 to 1992.
Of all the clubs in this list, Randwick’s number of premierships are second to Port Adelaide alone, and it’s fair to say that Randwick is disliked by non-Randwick supporters in very much the same vain as Port are disliked by all other supporters.
The list of Wallabies produced by Randwick runs very long, headed by the legendary Ella brothers. On top of that, some of the all-time great coaches have come through Randwick’s ranks, including the World Cup-winning coach, Bob Dwyer, and Eddie Jones and Ewen McKenzie.
According to its website, the last time an Australian side toured abroad without at least one Randwick club man was in 1933, to South Africa.
Premierships: 9 in the AFL/VFL; 7 in the VFA
Many Roarers would be familiar with the extraordinary success Geelong has achieved over the past eight or so years, but some non-AFL fans might be unaware that Geelong experienced a 44-year drought of premierships prior to that.
Geelong remains a middle-sized club in AFL terms, being the only regional club in Victoria. Geelong’s seven VFA premierships help it along a bit, with all seven being won in an extraordinary nine-year period from 1878 to 1886. At the time, Geelong was known as the Pivotonians – being the pivot of the Victorian economy.
Known as The Cats since 1923, they give us probably our most famous father-son combination: Gary Ablett Snr and Jnr.
Premierships: 29 (26 pre-1997)
I was surprised to see the Redlegs’ premierships were not all that far off those of Port Adelaide, with whom it shares a great rivalry.
Norwood won the premiership in their very first season – in fact they won six from their very first six attempts, with a total of 11 premierships from 1878 to 1894. That certainly helped out the numbers.
Norwood’s most recent premiership was last season, defeating North Adelaide in front of 36,685 fans. Its all-time record attendance is the 1957 grand final against Port Adelaide, played in front of 58,924 at Adelaide Oval.
Norwood was also declared the Champions of Australia twice: in 1988 and 1907. 19 former Norwood players are currently on AFL lists.
Premierships: 29 (28 pre-1995)
The Shark’s premiership haul is precisely the same as Norwood’s, but they have been able to overcome Norwood’s longevity advantage by winning two extra premierships within the time-frame being considered.
The Sharks won a wooden spoon in the very first season in 1898, but went on to win 10 very quickly from 1900 to 1914. East Fremantle has a record home attendance of 21,317, coming against its arch-rivals South Fremantle in 1979.
Their all-time record attendance is the 1979 grand final, also against South Fremantle, when 52,781 squeezed into Subiaco Oval.
3. Tie – Carlton Football Club and Collingwood Football Club – 43 points
Premierships: 16 in the AFL/VFL; 2 in the VFA
Could I have scripted this outcome any better? The two arch-rivals drawing in third spot.
The Blues are celebrating their 150th birthday, and that, along with the fact that they have won one more premiership than the Pies, has allowed Carlton to square it up with Collingwood.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are on the verge of equalling their longest drought (1947 to 1968), having last tasted success in 1995. The Blues have managed one hat-trick of premierships, from 1906 to 1908.
Fittingly, Carlton and Collingwood have the record for the largest attendance at a grand final, in 1970, at the MCG: 121,696.
Premierships: 15 in the AFL/VFL; 1 in the VFA
Collingwood is not that old by Australian football standards, and those decades have probably cost it a higher position in this particular list. Despite all of that, many would view the Pies as the biggest club in Australia in any sport, borne out by its annual revenues and huge supporter base.
Collingwood’s average attendances – currently 60,523 – are the highest in Australia in any code by far, and are even right up there by world standards.
Collingwood has the record for the most consecutive premierships in the AFL/VFL – four from 1927 to 1930 – but it also had to endure a very long drought, from 1958 to 1990, giving rise to the expression: the Colliewobbles.
It is interesting that Collingwood shares the same original colours and nickname as Port Adelaide, both traditionally had the larger supporter base in their respective states, and by extension, both were always the most hated clubs of all.
2. Essendon Football Club – 46 points
Premierships: 16 in the AFL/VFL; 4 in the VFA pre-1897
Essendon manages to better its arch-rivals – Carlton and Collingwood – by virtue of those four VFA premierships, and of course the Dons are a couple of decades older than the Pies. Also, Essendon has managed better membership than Carlton for quite a while now.
One thing about Essendon’s success over the years is it’s consistency, managing to spread its premierships across 123 years. However, if the Bombers don’t get a wriggle on, they are at risk of entering their biggest drought – 1965 to 1984. That’s a problem they share with one of their rivals – see Carlton above.
Along with Collingwood, they are the only football club in Australia to have their own weekly TV show. It’s also worth mentioning that the famous red sash on black has been worn continuously since the inception of the club, making it one of the very oldest playing strips anywhere on Earth.
Unfortunately, Essendon has been making the news for the wrong reasons these past 16 months because of the supplements scandal and the ongoing ASADA investigation. At what point does infamy wipe out fame?
1. Port Adelaide Football Club (60 points)
Premierships: 36 in the SANFL (34 pre-1997); 1 in the AFL
Port wins this hands down, having scored the trifecta across all three criteria, boosted by a massive 37 premierships – although I only counted 35 in the time period under consideration. The premiership haul includes six in a row from 1954 to 1959.
The cheeky buggers made their own bid to join the AFL back in 1990, stopped by the SANFL, which then put its own bid up: the Crows. The rest of Adelaide haven’t forgiven Port fans, and you know what? Port fans couldn’t care less. Only one club’s supporters can trump Collingwood’s fans for out-and-out arrogance, and that’s Port’s.
Whereas both the Eagles and Crows entered the competition with near State of Origin sides, Port’s concessions were far less generous, although they managed to hide away a few rising stars in their SANFL team before they moved up to the AFL.
And just when footy fans were getting ready to write off Port two years ago, here they are on top of the ladder having just attracted 52,233 to their last home game, and all of a sudden, Adelaide footy fans are starting to question who the senior partner is.
I’m not a big fan of modern club songs, but the Port lyrics are apt:
“We’ll never stop, stop, stop
Til we’re top, top, top
There’s history here in the making.”
Watch out for the third part in the most famous football club series where I’ll take a look at those clubs that deserve a good write-up, even if they failed to meet my criteria on this occasion.