The Roar
The Roar


The most famous football clubs in Australia: Part III

The Newtown Jets provide top value grassroots footy at Henson Park. (Photo: Kris Swales)
Roar Guru
3rd June, 2014
1490 Reads

I originally planned to make Part III of this series a special-mentions edition of the most famous football clubs series, but feedback from The Roar community encouraged me to take a different tack.

I’ve now decided to write up a Part IV in which I will survey all the top tier clubs across the four football codes, using criteria which explores the popularity of the football clubs here and now. Look out for it later this month.

Part III will now become a special-mentions edition aimed at football clubs from the next tier down who have earned fame one way or the other, and which were not mentioned in Part I or Part II.

I’ll do this state by state, including the territories.


Tuggeranong Vikings (rugby union)
Established: 1973
Honours: 11 Premierships (ACTRU Premier Division)

What better place to start than with might just be the biggest club of any description in Canberra, and maybe one of the very biggest rugby clubs in the Southern Hemisphere.

The club struggled in its early years but started to hit its straps in the mid 1990s, and has now won 11 of the last 20 premierships (plus six runners-up).

The Vikings have built a terrific boutique stadium alongside its first clubhouse (it now owns five clubs in total), and these days the ACTRU uses the facility for its entire finals series.


This Vikings club also partly funds the Canberra Vikings in the NRC.

Queanbeyan Kangaroos (rugby league)
Established: 1966
Honours: 9 first grade premierships

It’s impossible to discuss the history of rugby league in the Canberra region without reference to Queanbeyan, which has been a mainstay of whatever local competitions have existed for almost a century.

There have been at least four successful Queanbeyan clubs compete in the Canberra competition over the journey, and it was Queanbeyan which served as the original home base of the Canberra Raiders, playing its home games out of Seiffert Oval.

The Queanbeyan Kangaroos have been the most successful and continues to enjoy success to the present day, having won the Canberra Raiders Cup last season.

Canberra FC (football)
Established: 1958
Honours: 21 Championships (ACT First Division/Premier League)

Canberra FC was originally founded and supported by the local Croatian community and today is one of the largest football clubs in Canberra. It has been known in the past as Canberra Croatia, Croatia Deakin and Canberra Deakin, Deakin being the suburb where the clubhouse and home ground is located.

On top of the ACT championships won, Canberra FC also spent seven consecutive seasons in the NSW State League, winning the championship in 1989 and 1990.


Canberra FC have produced a few notable Socceroos, its most famous son being Ned Zelic. Others include Ante Juric, Brad Maloney and Ante Milicic.

There is one other notable former player, who we know from the 2006 World Cup, playing for Croatia: Josip Simunic.

Ainslie Football Club (Australian football)
Established: 1927
Honours: 23 premierships (ACT); 1 premiership in the NEAFL

The Ainslie Football Club goes back to the earliest years of Australian Football in the nation’s capital and has been the most successful club.

These days it competes in the NEAFL, a newly formed league taking in the best Australian Football clubs from the ACT, NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory in which the reserves sides of the Lions, Swans, Giants and Suns compete.

Ainslie won the Northern conference premiership of the NEAFL in the first year of the competition.

A point of interest with the Ainslie Football Club is an Under-11 best and fairest perpetual trophy in the foyer of the original club house which hosts three famous names: James Hird, Nathan Buckley and Shaun Smith.

New South Wales


Adamstown Rosebud FC (football)
Established: 1889
Honours: 1 NSL Cup (1984)

Currently part of the NPL Northern NSW, Adamstown Rosebud can rightly claim to be the oldest football club in Australia to have played at a senior level on a continuous basis.

It was part of the NSL for three seasons, competing as Newcastle Rosebud, during which it won the NSL Cup in 1984.

In the early years Adamstown Rosebud dominated the local Newcastle competition (a very strong league at the time). The club moved up to the State League in the late 1920s and had almost immediate success, winning the state championship four times.

From the mid-1960s they competed with great success in the Northern Federation, also making the occasional appearance in the State League and the three years in the NSL mentioned above, during which they continued to compete in the Northern Federation with success.

Newtown Jets (rugby league)
Established: 1908
Honours: 4 NSWRL premierships

A foundation club of the New South Wales Rugby League, the Bluebags remain one of the better known football clubs in the whole of NSW, despite having dropped out of the top league in 1983.

The Bluebags continue to play in the NSW Cup, and most recently won it in 2012.


Their website proudly declares Newtown RLFC as being Australia’s oldest rugby league club, though here is much conjecture surrounding this claim. Even if not quite correct, Newtown remain the oldest surviving rugby league Club and a very important part of rugby league history.

Albury Football Club (Australian football)
Established: 1896
Honours: 18 premierships

The Tigers play in the very strong Ovens and Murray Football League, one of the very strongest regional leagues in any code and the most successful club in that comp.

Most recently, they managed a hat trick of premierships from 2009 to 2011.

Albury have produced two Brownlow medallists in its history, including triple Brownlow winner Haydn Bunton Sr.

Northern Territory

St Mary’s Football Club (Australian football)
Established: 1952
Honours: 30 NTFL premierships

St Mary’s are the most famous football club in the Northern Territory having won 30 premierships in 60 years, missing out on finals on only two occasions in that time.


Players who have gone on to play at AFL level include illustrious names such as Maurice Rioli, Michael Long, Ronnie Burns, Peter Burgoyne and Cyril Rioli.


Redcliffe Dolphins (rugby league)
Established: 1947
Honours: 5 premierships in Queensland Cup; 3 premierships in Brisbane rugby league

No rugby league clubs survive from the founding of rugby league in Queensland. The Redcliffe Dolphins are the most successful club of the modern Queensland Cup (established in 1998), but also managed to win three premierships in the former Brisbane rugby league, including the last one contested.

The Titans originally intended to enter the NRL as the Dolphins, but Redcliffe threatened legal action and the moniker was promptly dropped.

The Dolphins’ most famous son is rugby league legend Arthur Beetson.

Eastern Suburbs FC (football)
Established: 1922
Honours: 6 First Division championships

Easts (The Tigers) are one of the oldest and most established football clubs in Queensland. The club currently plays in the Brisbane Premier League, where it has very strong representation across all age groups.


One of the most famous Australians to have donned the Tigers shirt is the former Governor-General, Bill Hayden.

Southport Australian Football Club
Established: 1961
Honours: 13 QAFL premierships

The Sharks are not the oldest Australian football club currently playing in Queensland – that honour probably goes to the Zillmere Eagles – but they are currently the most powerful club in Queensland below AFL level and may even be as financially strong as the Suns).

In fact, Southport could probably have funded an AFL license on its own, but the AFL preferred a more broadly based Gold Coast club. As such, Southport are merely a sponsor of the Suns.

Southport have produced some big names and big players, including key forwards Kurt Tippett and Nick Reiwoldt.

South Australia

Adelaide City (football)
Established: 1947
Honours: 3 NSL championships; 17 SA First Division championships

Founded by Italian migrants after WWII, Adelaide City were originally known as Juventus, or the Zebras, because of the black and white striped shirt it shares with the more famous Juve.


Adelaide City are one of the very few teams which played in every season of the former NSL.

Since the demise of the NSL, Adelaide City have had success at state level.


Glenorchy Football Club (Australian football)
Established: 1919
Honours: 16 premierships

Australian football has always suffered somewhat from fragmentation, because of the historical North-South divide. Remarkably, the Tasmanians at one point supported three leagues with the status of a state league.

Glenorchy, or the Magpies, competed in the Hobart-centred league before the return of the statewide league in 2009, the Tasmanian State League. In total, they have won 16 premierships.

Their most famous son is the legendary full forward, Peter Hudson.

South Hobart FC (football)
Established: 1910
Honours: 17 First Division Championships


South Hobart FC is a rarity in Australian soccer in that it pre-dates WWII, where it enjoyed great success. The club was able to survive the post-war immigration boom and go on to enjoy more success, although it experienced a very long drought from 1959 to 2002.

Most recently it has won four consecutive championships from 2009 to 2013, making South Hobart Tasmania’s most successful club.

On 12 May 2013, Kostas Kanakris scored the fastest hat trick in Australian history, taking only two minutes and 51 seconds.


Melbourne University Rugby Football Club
Established: 1908
Honours: 8 VRU premierships

Uni are one of the oldest rugby clubs in Victoria and were one of the founding clubs of the VRU in 1909.

Uni appeared in nine consecutive grand finals from 1959 to 1967 and won six, making it their most successful period by far.

The greatest name to come out of uni is undoubtedly Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop, but Uni have produced other Wallabies over its history.


South Melbourne FC
Established: 1959
Honours: 4 NSL championships; 8 VPL championships

Originally called Hellas, South Melbourne was established by Greek immigrants.

They were one of the founding clubs of the NSL and survived in that league for the whole if its existence, winning four championships.

South Melbourne competed in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2000, and consequently were voted by FIFA as the Oceania Confederation Club of the Century.

Western Australia

Perth Soccer Club
Established: 1987
Honours: 12 championships

Formed in 1987 as Perth Italia, the now Perth Soccer Club represented the merging of three football clubs, all of which were supported by the local Italian community to varying degrees.

Since that time the club have had extraordinary success at state level, winning 12 championships out of 26 seasons.