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Queensland Footy History

Qld Footy History Overview
19th Century
1903 to 1914
1915 to 1926
1927 to 1940
1941 to 1958
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The AFL Competition - Overview and History

1903 to 1914

Overview of the Era
After just over a decade in the wilderness, the national code of football was revived in Queensland in the winter of 1903 with the formation of the Queensland Football League (QFL) in Brisbane, with the first premiership held the following year.

The early years of the League in Brisbane would pose many challenges for administrators - challenges which a combination of hard work and time would diminish.  Transport to and from the grounds, the fielding of a full quota of players in each game and the acquisition of playing grounds, which was generally a season-by-season proposition, were some of the issues of the day.  And of course rugby (union) had gained a strong foothold by the turn of the century.  Soccer, too, was quite popular, and when rugby league came into favour around 1908, the new League would face even greater challenges.

The League greatly relied on the railway as a means of moving the players around.  The mail train was regularly the
conveyance of choice (or indeed, necessity).  A number of the grounds, such as Enoggera, Ipswich and Wynnum were situated next to, or very near, the railway line.

The single-minded motivation to advance the game was the driving force behind the game’s administrators.  The players
were just as passionate, not only to promote the game, but to succeed, and as a result rivalries were often intense.  Controversies and surprises were not uncommon.

1903  Inception of the League

By the winter of 1903 many former Victorian players resident in Brisbane and suburbs were keen to see their great winter game make its mark on the northern capital city.  Four of these keen men were the driving forces behind the game’s revival in Brisbane - Fred W Vare, Arthur A Watson, Jack Martin and Arthur Collinson.  Their tireless efforts in organising practice matches
and in gathering the names of intending players and supporters were at the heart of the game’s rebirth.

The game was officially revived on the evening of Wednesday 29th July 1903, when the first meeting of enthusiasts keen
to see the game developed in Queensland was held at the South Brisbane Cycling Club rooms in George Street.  Mr W Johnston of Melbourne chaired the meeting, and there were thirty in attendance. The meeting made the historic decision to form the Queensland Football League.  Mr Vare and Mr Martin were the meeting’s unanimous choices as joint secretaries.  The decision was made to write to the VFL to request a copy of their by-laws.

1904  The First Premiership
Just three teams took part in the first-ever premiership
– Norths, Souths and Wests.  The sides played each other three times over the course of the season, a total of only nine matches.  The competition operated on a first-past-the-post basis, and percentages were not taken into consideration at this stage.  With three wins apiece, the inaugural premiership was shared between the three teams.

Premiers:  Norths, Souths, Wests
(Premiership shared; no Grand Final played)

Six teams took part, all new – Brisbane, City, Locomotives, QME (Queensland Meat Export and Agency Co.), Valley and Wynnum.  City became the first team to win the premiership outright, and the first team to do so in its first year of competition.

The Grand Final was virtually over at quarter-time by
which time City had bolted to a lead of over five goals over Valley, the ultimate margin stretching to 51 points.  As in the VFL at that time, with the minor premiers having the right to challenge if beaten in the sectional round or the final, the final could only be termed the ‘Grand Final’ in retrospect, if the minor premiers were victorious.

It was in 1905 that games were first played at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, commonly known as the Gabba.  Check out the newspaper advertisement for the first-ever game on the right of screen.

Grand Final
Saturday 9th September, Gabba
City  -  (73) defeated Valley  -  (22)

Ipswich replaced QME for the 1906 season, the team from the coal city promising much, if the reputation of their precursors of the 1880s was any indication.

The Ipswichians performed well, making it to the Final where they were well beaten by City at the Gabba.  The reigning premiers then proceeded to make it back-to-back titles when they thrashed the minor premiers Brisbane in the Grand Final under the latter’s right to challenge.

Grand Final
Saturday 1st September, Gabba
City 10-11 (71) defeated Brisbane 2-5 (17)

The same six teams competed in 1907.  Locomotives, commonly referred to as the ‘railway men’, won the Grand Final convincingly after bolting to a 49-point lead at quarter time against Wynnum, after kicking with the wind behind them.

A photo from this game, shown on the right of screen, was until recently the earliest known action shot of a game in Queensland.

Grand Final
Saturday 7th September, Gabba
Locomotives 13-11 (89) defeated Wynnum 6-13 (49)

A second team from Ipswich, West Moreton, joined the competition in 1908, making seven teams in all.  Locomotives, despite finishing the minor round mid-table, concluded the season strongly to become the second team to register back-to-back premierships.

Grand Final
Saturday 26th September, Pineapple Ground
Locomotives 10-8 (68) defeated City 4-4 (28)

1909 was a tumultuous year for the League.  Firstly, West Moreton withdrew from the premiership after just the one season.

Then, two rounds into the season, Ipswich sensationally withdrew from the competition as a result of their dissatisfaction at the way they felt the Brisbane teams had treated them by regularly forfeiting games rather than make the trip west, and their discontent at the League’s handling of the situation.  The problem of teams forfeiting to Ipswich had its origins late in 1908, and the problem had never been resolved to Ipswich’s satisfaction.

Further, the Brisbane club had lost a number of players, and the club decided to join forces with Locomotives.  The combined team was sometimes referred to as ‘Brisbane-Locomotives’, although it was generally known simply as ‘Locomotives’.

The end result was a four-team competition, the benefactors being Wynnum, who became the League’s first undefeated premiers.  The Grand Final was staged on 17th July, to this day the earliest a Grand Final has been held.

Grand Final
Saturday 17th July, Gabba
Wynnum 4-10 (34) defeated Valley 1-3 (9)

Locomotives were replaced by South Brisbane for the 1910 season.  After Round 3, the new team did not suffer a defeat, and became the second team (after City in 1905) to win the premiership outright in its first year in the competition.

Grand Final
Saturday 3rd September, Gabba
South Brisbane 9-13 (67) defeated City 1-7 (13)

YMCA joined the competition in 1911, making a total of five teams.  In a change in format, the season was divided into two segments known as the Minor Premiership and the Major Premiership.  After the Minor Premiership the leading team would become the minor premiers. Following this, in the Major Premiership, the teams would start afresh in terms of points.  After the Major Premiership, the leading team would then play the minor premiers in the Grand Final.  This format would also be used in 1912 and 1913.

The Grand Final, played at the Exhibition Ground, proved to be one of the most exciting the code had witnessed.  South and Wynnum staged a low-scoring, tight contest, with the southerners ultimately prevailing by just two points.

Grand Final
Saturday 9th September, Exhibition Ground
South Brisbane 4-8 (32) defeated Wynnum 3-12 (30)

A team representing the Royal Australian Artillery, or RAA, joined the League’s ranks in 1912.  The YMCA and Wynnum did not field teams in 1912.

In what was reportedly a popular result, Valley broke through for their first flag with victory over South Brisbane in the Grand Final.

Grand Final
Saturday 31st August, Queen's Park, Brisbane Botanical Gardens
Valley 9-6 (60) defeated South Brisbane 5-15 (45)

West End joined the premiership in 1913, hence the season started with a total of five teams.  South Brisbane, Valley and RAA finished equal leaders after the Minor Premiership, meaning no team would have the right of challenge at the end of the season.

Wynnum and Rocklea joined the competition for the start of the Major Premiership, so in what could be considered a rather unusual move, the season would finish with two more teams than it started with.

After three defeats at the hands of RAA throughout the season, Valley turned the tables on the soldiers in the Grand Final to become the fourth team to win back-to-back titles in the League’s short history.

Grand Final
Saturday 23rd August, Exhibition Ground
Valley 14-16 (100) defeated RAA 10-7 (67)

City, RAA and West End left the competition after the 1913 season. YMCA were back in the fray, leaving five sides to do

South Brisbane became the second team to win a flag undefeated (after Wynnum in 1909), registering their third premiership overall.

Grand Final
Saturday 5th September, Wynnum
South Brisbane 6-17 (53) defeated Valley 4-8 (32)

Images from 1903 to 1914 
(images are clickable)

A 1905 advertisement in the Brisbane Courier promoting the first-ever premiership game to be played at the Gabba: Brisbane vs City.

Locomotives (hooped jerseys) on their way to a 40-point win over Wynnum in the 1907 Grand Final at the Gabba.

Last Modified:  30th March 2012

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