South Australian National Football League



The earliest recorded football club in South Australia was Adelaide Football Club, formed in 1860 [ [ 1858 to 1879 ] ] . The early years of football were poorly organised and dogged by argument over which set of rules to adopt. In fact, after a match between Port Adelaide and Kensington in 1873, it was remarked that neither side understood the rules clearly, and there was uncertainty over which team had won. However, as they years progressed, there became a growing push for uniformity and structure in South Australian football.


In 1877, 12 of South Australia's football clubs met to develop a uniform set of rules and establish a governing body. The South Australian Football Association was formed at a meeting at the Prince Alfred Hotel in King William Street, Adelaide [pg 49. 4 Quarters. Isse No. 4. September/October, 2008 published by Slattery Media.] on the 30th of April [Page 5 of 'League Football in South Australia' (circa 1978). Official SANFL publication describing the SANFL's history up to and including its 1977 Centenary season.] of that year, the first governing body of its type for football in Australia, and adopted rules similar to those used in Victoria. The inaugural 1877 season was contested by those 12 clubs: South Park, Willunga, Port Adelaide, Adelaide, North Adelaide, Prince Alfred College, Gawler, Kapunda, Bankers, Woodville, South Adelaide and Victorian.

Norwood joined the Association the following season in 1878, and went on to win the next six premierships. Norwood, along with South Adelaide and Port Adelaide, dominated the early years, winning 23 of the first 24 premierships between them. However, club numbers were diminishing. South Park, Willunga, North Adelaide, Prince Alfred College, Gawler, Kapunda, Bankers, Woodville, and Victorian all left the Association within the first 10 years. By 1886, the Association had been reduced from 12 to four clubs.

But the Association experienced a resurgence in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The addition of West Adelaide (1887), North Adelaide (1893), West Torrens (1897) and only the demise of Adelaide (1893), meant the Association comprised six clubs by the turn of the century. In 1898, the Magarey Medal was awarded to the fairest and most brilliant player for the first time (see #Magarey Medal).


The Sturt Football Club joined the Association in 1901, but performed poorly initially, finishing last in its first three seasons. In 1902, Port Adelaide adopted its now famous black and white colours, and the competition was beginning to take a more familiar form. In 1907, the Association changed its name to the South Australian Football League.

Heavyweights Norwood and Port Adelaide continued their domination of the league, and were joined by West Adelaide and North Adelaide and between them, the four clubs won all premierships between 1901 and 1913. Amazingly, West Adelaide followed three straight wooden spoons from 1904-06 with four out of the five premierships from 1908-1912. This was to be the most successful period in West Adelaide's history.

World War I

The SAFL managed to maintain competition for the first two years of World War I, 1914 and 1915, with Sturt winning their first premiership in 1915. But by 1916, clubs were sustaining high losses to war and competition was suspended and did not resume until 1919.


Sturt won the first premiership of the post-WWI era, beating North Adelaide in the Challenge Final replay. Glenelg became the newest addition to the league in 1921 and started poorly with five consecutive wooden spoons. In 1927, the South Australian Football League changed its name for a third time, adopting the now familiar, South Australian National Football League. Meanwhile, Port Adelaide celebrated a golden era during the inter-war years, with 12 grand finals yielding five premierships.

World War II

As with World War I, the SANFL managed to continue competition for the first few years of World War II. However, by 1942, the war forced all clubs to merge in order to field a side. Mergers were geographically determined with Port Adelaide merging with West Torrens, West Adelaide merging with Glenelg, Sturt merging with South Adelaide and Norwood merging with North Adelaide. This wartime competition continued from 1942-44.


Norwood began the post-war era in superb style winning three premierships by 1950. However, this period was dominated by Fos Williams' Port Adelaide, winning seven premierships, including an amazing six in a row from 1954-59 (although the 1959 premiership was won under the stewardship of Geof Motley as Captain-Coach).


Port Adelaide continued their dominance of the competition with three more premierships by 1965. In 1964, for the first time in 60 years, the SANFL admitted two new clubs, Central District and Woodville. Both clubs performed poorly, and many questioned the purpose of introducing two more teams, in particular Woodville, who were closely surrounded by existing clubs, Port Adelaide and West Torrens. Meanwhile a new power, Sturt, hit the competition, winning five straight premierships from 1966-70. Sturt shared a fierce rivalry with Port Adelaide whom they played in four consecutive Grand Finals.


Sturt began the 1970s by defeating Glenelg in a rain-effected Grand Final by 21 points. North Adelaide secured back-to-back premiership victories over Port Adelaide in 1971 and 1972 and defeated VFL premier Carlton by one point in the end-of-season Championship of Australia match. Port Adelaide continued their success, winning two premierships themselves (1977, 1979), and finishing lower than 3rd only once for the decade. Other premiership winning clubs in the 1970s were Sturt (1970, 1974, 1976), Glenelg (1973), and Norwood (1975, 1978). The SANFL made the biggest shift in its history, moving all operations to the new Football Park in 1974. Central District and North Adelaide played the first ever match at the ground on May 4, 1974. The first SANFL Grand Final was played at the Ground the same year, the first away from Adelaide Oval (Sturt versus Glenelg). In front of a crowd of 58,042 people, Sturt won by 15 points despite kicking into a stiff breeze in the last quarter after leading by just 5 points at three-quarter time. The 1975 season was highlighted by Glenelg's score of 49.23 (317) against Central District. In fact, the winning margin of 238 points was larger, at that time, than the previous highest score ever recorded by a side in a single game. In 1976, Sturt defeated Grand Final favourites Port Adelaide by 41 points in front of a record Football Park crowd of 66,897. Norwood won the 1978 premiership in their centenary year by beating Sturt in the Grand Final by the narrowest of margins - one point - after Sturt had lost just one game for the entire season. During the 1970s, football in South Australia experienced an increase in players moving across the border to play in the higher standard VFL competition.


The exodus of quality players to the VFL continued in the 1980s and inevitably the quality of competition began to drop. Sensing the change, in 1981 the SANFL submitted a bid to enter a composite South Australian team in the VFL, but were rejected. Following this failed attempt, the SANFL introduced a Player Retention Scheme in 1988. The aim of the Scheme was to provide financial incentives to top players to remain in South Australia. While this Scheme saw a short-term increase in the quality of the competition, attandences soon began to drop again.

Meanwhile, on-field, night football came to the SANFL in 1984 with floodlights installed at Football Park following a long battle with nearby residents. The heavyweights Port Adelaide, Norwood and Glenelg dominated the competition, winning eight premierships between them.


The 1990s was the most turbulent decade in the history South Australian football. The SANFL continued to resist the temptation to enter a side in the AFL. However matters came to an abrupt head on July 31, 1990, when the Port Adelaide Football Club, feeling it was subsidising the other SANFL clubs, made an independent bid to the join the AFL. The shock announcement took everyone by surprise and instigated the most controversial period in South Australian football.

The SANFL was left with little option but to submit its own bid to enter the AFL. In a thirty-minute meeting the SANFL formed the Adelaide Football Club, a composite side made up of players from all SANFL clubs. While Port Adelaide had by far the largest supporter base in South Australia, they could not compete with the SANFL's offer of a composite club and the use of Football Park.

In November 1990, following a vicious legal battle, the AFL announced the Adelaide Football Club had been granted the licence and would enter the competition in 1991.

After a tumultuous summer, the Adelaide Crows debuted in 1991 wearing the state colours of navy blue, red and yellow. While the Adelaide Crows enjoyed crowds of over 40,000 every week and dominated local media coverage, crowds at local SANFL matches plummeted. The 1990s was the first decade in the SANFL's history that it was not South Australia's premier football event every weekend.

In 1997 a new Port Adelaide entity, nicknamed the 'Power' as the 'Magpies' emblem was already used by Collingwood, was finally entered into the Australian Football League.

Locally, Port Adelaide Magpies dominated the competition winning seven premierships in the 1990s.


The first decade of the 21st Century has been dominated by Central District Bulldogs, who have won seven of the nine premierships so far. Sturt won a premiership over Central in 2002, and the Eagles, who had been consistent runners-up to the Bulldogs, including a 125-point thumping in the 2004 Grand Final, finally triumphed in 2006, defeating the Bulldogs by 76 points. Central District bounced back and dominated season 2007, finishing minor premier then beating North Adelaide in the Grand Final by 65 points.

In 2006, Central District hosted night games for the first time at Hamra Homes Oval (Elizabeth). The first game under lights in Round 1 against Sturt attracted a crowd of over 7,000.

Future & Expansion Plans

There has been talks of expanding the SANFL to include teams from other states, especially those in regions unwanted by the AFL, and to serve as a second-tier national league.

The most pushed for expansion team from Darwin, Northern Territory, formed as a representative club of the Northern Territory Football League. The first of a series of trial matches was held in 2006, with a long term view of admitting a Darwin side into the SANFL. A strong crowd at Marrara Oval witnessed North Adelaide defeat a composite NTFL squad by 27 points, demonstrating that a Darwin team could be competitive. There is a push to make the event an annual match. [ [ NTFL vs North Adelaide] ] The push for a Northern Territory team in June 2007 intensified, with Darwin and Alice Springs (with the proposed venue being Traeger Park) both competing for a licence, with the NT government supporting Darwin and businesspeople like Dick Pratt supporting the bid of Alice Springs. [ [,,21988869-23211,00.html Storm brews over NT AFL team] from] [ [ NT AFL Team Should be Based in Darwin] from] [ [ AFL Central Australia opposes Darwin-based team] from]

Although there have also been rumours of inclusion of a Tasmanian club from both Hobart and Launceston in mid-September 2007, the Tasmanian Devils Football Club, run by AFL Tasmania, committed themselves to the Victorian Football League for a further five years.

Ladder Percentage

Unlike most Australian rules football leagues, like the AFL (where the percentage is worked out by: "For" ÷ "Against" × "100"), the percentage on a SANFL ladder is worked out by: "For" ÷ "For" and "Against" × "100".

Magarey Medal

The Magarey Medal is awarded to the fairest and most brilliant player in the SANFL each season and is the oldest of its type in Australia.Fact|date=September 2008

The medal is named after William Ashley Magarey, a former SANFL administrator. In 1897, Magarey became chairman of the South Australian Football Association, as it was then known. In 1898, in an effort to stamp out rough play and improve respect of umpires, Magarey instituted the medal to be awarded to the player deemed by umpires to be the fairest and most brilliant for that season. The inaugural winner of the medal was Norwood's Alby Green. Magarey died in 1929, but his name lives on and the Magarey Medal is still awarded to the fairest and most brilliant SANFL player each season.

See also

* List of Magarey Medallists
* South Australian Football Hall of Fame




External links

* [ The official SANFL website]
* []
* []
* [ - Unofficial SANFL forum]
* [ Footynews Unofficial SANFL news and results]

Clubs' websites

* [ Central District]
* [ Glenelg]
* [ North Adelaide]
* [ Norwood]
* [ Port Adelaide]
* [ Sturt]
* [ South Adelaide]
* [ West Adelaide]
* [ Woodville - West Torrens]

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