I was looking at the line up for the pre-season competition and noticed the very first match of the year was between two Victorian AFL teams. It got me thinking about why there are so many teams from Victoria. I did a bit of digging into the history of the AFL and the VFL, and this is what I found.
There are 10 Victorian AFL teams. Victoria has the greatest number of teams as Australian rules football started its history in Melbourne and the first competitions were in Victoria.
In this article I’ve gone into which of the AFL teams are based in Victoria, further detail on why there are so many teams in Victoria, and who the most successful Victorian teams are. I’ve also included a quick look at the current VFL.
List of the Victorian AFL Teams
Victorian teams make up the majority of the AFL. There are currently more Victorian teams playing in the AFL than the total of teams from all the other states. I wonder if the AFL will seek to balance this in the future by introducing more non-Victorian teams.
The current Victorian AFL teams are:
- Carlton Blues
- Collingwood Magpies
- Essendon Bombers
- Geelong Cats
- Hawthorn Hawks
- Melbourne Demons
- North Melbourne Kangaroos
- Richmond Tigers
- St Kilda Saints
- Western Bulldogs
Victoria used to have more teams. At one stage the Fitzroy Lions and the South Melbourne Swans called Victoria home.
Fitzroy merged with Brisbane after 1996 to become the Brisbane Lions. This included relocating to a home in Brisbane.
South Melbourne Swans moved to Sydney to become the Sydney Swans. This happened in 1982.
I remember the Fitzroy merger and relocation, there were many upset fans. It can be a bit tough to see home games when the home game has moved all the way from Melbourne to Brisbane.
Why There Are So Many Victorian Teams
Victoria has the most AFL teams because the current AFL started as the Victorian Football League (VFL), a league in which football teams from Victoria competed. Teams from other states were invited to play in the Victorian League, which transformed into the national league (the AFL) in the 90’s.
Australian rules football grew out of Melbourne’s gold rush era (1850’s) immigrant mix as a means to keep cricketers fit in the winter months. Players from different backgrounds (Irish, English etc) agreed to a combination of rules from the sports they were accustomed to from their background. This went on to become the Australian rules football.
From the research I’ve done, I’d say that Victoria had the highest population at the time, and therefore the greatest number of players and spectators. While Australian rules football was also popular in South Australia and Western Australia, I found that Victoria had significantly greater numbers of people involved.
How Many Teams From the Other States
Representation in the other states is catching up, there are currently 8 AFL teams from outside Victoria. AFL teams from outside Victoria include:
- New South Wales
- Greater Western Sydney Giants
- Sydney Swans
- Brisbane Lions
- Gold Coast Suns
- South Australia
- Adelaide Crows
- Port Adelaide Power
- Western Australia
- Freemantle Dockers
- West Coast Eagles
Sydney Swans was the first official team to play in the league from outside Victoria. The South Melbourne Swans relocated to Sydney to set up the team there.
Brisbane and West Coast joined next. Together with Sydney, these were the interstate teams playing when the league moved from being the VFL to being the AFL.
There are currently no teams from Tasmania, the Northern Territory, or the ACT playing in the AFL. I find that Tasmanians and Territorians still love their footy but support AFL teams from other states.
I think the AFL will try to grow the number of teams based outside Victoria. The overall number of fans and players in the game is growing (as my mate Cass calculated recently here). Given all the teams added after it became AFL are based outside Victoria, I think we’ll continue to see more teams from around the country compete.
I came back after I wrote this article to add that it looks like the AFL is considering a Tasmanian team. According to the ABC, there’s a renewed push for a Tasmanian team by 2025. I think it would be interesting to see if it’s a Launceston team or a Hobart team, and what their moniker would be.
Most Successful Victorian Team
By number of premierships, the Bombers and the Blues are the most successful Victorian teams. Each have one 16 AFL premierships since the league began. The ‘Pies come close at 15 premierships.
I was surprised to learn when researching the most successful team that St Kilda is the least successful Victorian team having won only 1 AFL premiership. In over 100 seasons they’ve played, St Kilda has only won a single premiership.
How Big is the VFL
There are currently 15 teams in the VFL. All teams are based in Melbourne, except Geelong. Each of the Victorian AFL teams is affiliated with a corresponding VFL team. Some of the VFL teams are reserve teams for the AFL.
The VFL teams are:
- Box Hill, affiliated with the Hawthorn Hawks
- Casey, affiliated with the Melbourne Demons
- Collingwood reserves, affiliated with the Magpies
- Essendon reserves, affiliated with the Bombers
- Footscray reserves, affiliated with the Bulldogs
- Geelong reserves, affiliated with the Cats
- North Melbourne reserves, affiliated with the Roos
- Northern Blues, affiliated with the Carlton Blues
- Port Melbourne
- Richmond reserves, affiliated with the Tigers
- Sandringham, affiliated with St Kilda
More than half of the AFL teams are from Victoria.
From the origins of the game, Australian rules football has called its home Victoria. This has meant the greatest source of supporters and players comes from Victoria, and consequently that the greatest number of teams are from Victoria.
Each of the Victorian AFL teams has its own website. To find out more about each time, check out their websites below:
I also looked at the official history of the game according to the AFL itself. They’ve included a copy of the first handwritten rules of the game, and a list of every rule change since. More information can be found here.
Chris grew up in Melbourne and can still remember the VFL stickers and merchandise he used to have at home.