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Fitzroy Football Club

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Fitzroy Football Club

Full name Fitzroy Football Club (incorporating the Fitzroy Reds)
Nickname(s) Gorillas (previously), Lions, The Reds
Club details
Founded 1883 (AFL club operations merged with the Brisbane Bears in 1996). Resumed playing operations in 2009 in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
Colours      Maroon and      Yellow (1883–1908)

     Maroon and      Blue (1909–1974)
     Red,      Blue and      Yellow (1975-1996, 2009-present)[1]

Competition Victorian Amateur Football Association (2009–present)
President Joan Eddy
Coach Michael Pickering
Captain(s) Rory Angiolella
Premierships VFA: 1 (1895) VFL/AFL: 8 (1898, 1899, 1904, 1905, 1913, 1916, 1922, 1944) Victorian Amateur Football Association: 2 (2009 -D Division), (2012 -C Division)
Ground(s) Brunswick Street Oval
Other information
Official website

The Fitzroy Football Club, nicknamed the Lions or the Reds, is an Australian rules football club formed in 1883 to represent the inner-Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy, Victoria and was a foundation member club of the Victorian Football League (now the Australian Football League) on its inception in 1897. The club experienced some early success in the league and was the first club to win a VFL Grand Final. It also achieved a total of eight VFL premierships between 1898 and 1944, and more recently two VAFA premierships in 2009 (-D Division) and 2012 (-C Division).

The club ran into financial difficulties in the 1980s after decades of poor on-field performance and was forced to merge its AFL playing operations with the Brisbane Bears at the end of the 1996 season to form the Brisbane Lions.

Despite this, the club survived in its own right and The Fitzroy Football Club Ltd came out of administration after the merger of its AFL playing operations in late 1998. For a brief time it experimented in partnerships with other semi professional and amateur clubs before incorporating the Fitzroy Reds (formerly University Reds) to play in the Victorian Amateur Football Association. Fitzroy largely resumed its original VFL-AFL identity through its continued use of their 1975–1996 VFL-AFL jumper, their theme song and their 1884–1966 home ground at the Brunswick Street Oval. Fitzroy Football Club resumed as a playing club in the D1 section of the VAFA in 2009.[2] The club achieved promotion to Premier B for the 2013 season. It is notable for being the only club to have played in the VFA, VFL, AFL, and VAFA competitions of Australian Rules football and in 2015 fielded its first women's team under the name of Fitzroy-ACU which currently plays in the VWFL.


  • History 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • VFA 1.2
    • VFL 1.3
    • Between the wars 1.4
    • Post-war 1.5
    • Merger years 1.6
    • Post-merger 1.7
  • Club facts 2
    • Premierships 2.1
    • Brownlow Medal winners 2.2
    • Coleman Medal for leading goal kicker 2.3
    • Leigh Matthews Trophy winners 2.4
    • Best and fairest award winners 2.5
    • Home venues 2.6
      • VFA 2.6.1
      • VFL/AFL 2.6.2
      • VAFA 2.6.3
    • Current nicknames 2.7
    • Former nicknames 2.8
    • VFL-AFL Club records 2.9
  • Team of the Century 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


1944 Grand Final winning side

Early years

The Fitzroy Football Club was formed at a meeting at the Brunswick Hotel on 26 September 1883,[3] at a time when Melbourne's population was rapidly increasing. The Victorian Football Association (VFA) made changes to their rules, allowing Fitzroy to join as the seventh club in 1884, playing in the maroon and blue colours of the local Normanby Junior Football Club.


They quickly became one of the most successful clubs, drawing large crowds to their home at the Brunswick Street Oval in Edinburgh Gardens, and consistently in the top four and winning the VFA premiership in 1895.

Fitzroy's season-by-season records throughout its thirteen seasons at VFA level are given below. (Under VFA rules at the time, only goals were counted to the total team score).[4][5]

Season Played Won Lost Drawn  For  Against
1884 16 7 8 1 27 29
1885 19 8 8 3 51 51
1886 20 10 8 2 66 44
1887 20 11 4 5 71 56
1888 18 6 10 2 64 71
1889 20 10 8 2 86 66
1890 18 11 6 1 44 51
1891 19 12 5 2 70 70
1892 21 15 4 2 141 63
1893 21 11 8 2 114 84
1894 18 10 6 2 75 60
1895 18 12 1 5 77 47
1896 18 12 6 0 89 59
Totals 246 135 82 29 1084 751


In 1897, Fitzroy were one of the eight clubs who broke away from the VFA to form the Victorian Football League (VFL).

Despite winning only four games and finishing sixth in the first season, the Maroons, as they were then known, won the premiership the following year, winning the VFL's first "Grand Final" against Essendon. Fitzroy was the most successful club in the first 10 years of the VFL, winning four premierships and finishing runners-up on three occasions. Despite internal problems after the 1906 season which led to the players and set the club back for several seasons, the 1913 team won the flag after winning 16 of 18 matches in the home and away season, earning the nickname "Unbeatables". In contrast, the 1916 Fitzroy team only won 2 home and away matches and finished last in a competition reduced by the effects of World War I to four teams. All four teams qualified for the finals, and Fitzroy won their next three games to win one of the strangest VFL premierships.

Between the wars

Haydn Bunton, three times Brownlow Medal winner.
The Maroons won their seventh premiership in 1922, a year season which included four very rough games against eventual runners-up Collingwood. However, after this their fortunes waned, and they did not make the finals at all from 1925 to 1942. During this time, highlights for the club were individual achievements of their players, especially Haydn Bunton, Sr. Originally a source of controversy, lured to Fitzroy with an illegal £222 payment, and subsequently not allowed to play in the 1930 season, Bunton became one of the game's greatest players, winning three Brownlow Medals while at Fitzroy. Brownlow Medals were also won by Wilfred Smallhorn and Dinny Ryan, while Jack Moriarty set many goalkicking records. It was during this time that the Maroons became known as the Gorillas.


Fred Hughson, Fitzroy's last premiership winning captain

Football was less affected by World War II than it had been in 1916, and by 1944 was starting to return to its normal level. It was in this year, under captain-coach Fred Hughson, that the Gorillas won their eighth VFL flag against Richmond in front of a capacity crowd at Junction Oval. However, it was also to be their last senior premiership, as the club, which became known as the Lions in 1957 entered one of the least successful periods any VFL club has had. The club finished in the bottom three 11 times in the 60s and 70s, including 3 wooden spoons in 4 years and going completely winless in 1964, but still continued to produce great individual players, including Brownlow Medallists Allan Ruthven and Kevin Murray. By the mid 1960s, Fitzroy's traditional home ground the Brunswick Street Oval was in a state of disrepair. Pressure was applied by most VFL clubs, including Fitzroy, to have the ground improved. However the ground managers were the Fitzroy Cricket Club. The Football Club had to pay the Cricket Club to use the ground. The Fitzroy City Council, despite repeated requests from the Football Club also refused to help, even rejecting the idea of a $400,000 loan to Fitzroy Football Club, and a 40-year lease[6] of the ground so they could make some repairs.

The football club put forward various ideas to try and change the situation, including the amalgamation of the Football and Cricket Clubs to form one club as in the manner of the Carlton Social Club. The Cricket Club held the liquor licence and managed the ground and it was thought that a combined club could more efficiently manage funds. With a stake in the ground, the football club could have better agitated for improvements to the ground by sourcing funds from other organisations such as the VFL. However the Cricket Club rejected the idea outright. The club also considered leaving Brunswick Street, and in 1962 it appealed to the Preston Council for a 40-year lease of the Preston City Oval, which was rejected.[7]

It was only when the Council Health Officer condemned the change rooms at the Brunswick Street Oval in 1966 and negotiations broke down between the council, (who offered a 21-year lease) and the football club, that the Fitzroy Football Club was forced to find another ground. They had held discussions with the Northcote and Preston VFA clubs and also had approached the Heidelberg Council about relocating to the Olympic Training Ground.[8] From 1966–68, the Club moved to Carlton's Princes Park while keeping their training and administration at the Brunswick Street Oval. Further problems with the Cricket Club and the high cost of rent imposed by Carlton saw Fitzroy move to the Junction Oval, where they had a short lived promising start to the decade. This was followed by a night premiership win in 1978 and a then League record score of 36.22 (238) and greatest winning margin of 190 points in 1979. However, Fitzroy's most significant post-war success was in the early eighties, when the Lions made the finals four times, culminating in a preliminary final appearance in 1986. This success occurred under the coaching of Robert Walls and David Parkin, with players such as 1981 Brownlow Medallist Bernie Quinlan, Garry Wilson, Gary Pert and Paul Roos.

The club was evicted from Junction Oval at the end of 1984 after a fifteen-year tenure, and entered another nomadic period of existence. It played its home games at Victoria Park, sharing it with Collingwood in 1985 and 1986, then at Princes Park from 1987 until 1993; and over the same time it moved through several different training and administrative bases, spending time first at the Westgarth Street Oval in Northcote,[9] then later Lake Oval in South Melbourne and Bulleen Park in Bulleen.[10]

Merger years

Talk of the death of the club due to financial troubles occurred as early as 1986. In 1989 the directors agreed to amalgamation with Footscray to form the Fitzroy Bulldogs, but a fightback from Footscray supporters, in which almost two million dollars was raised in three weeks, averted the merger. At other times, joining with Melbourne or relocating to Brisbane was suggested. As well as trying several fund-raising ventures, the Lions experimented with playing four home matches in Tasmania in 1991 and 1992, but lost money in the process. In 1994, the club moved its home matches to Western Oval, its fourth match-day home ground in 10 years. While the financial future of the club was uncertain, its on-field performances continued to deteriorate, to the point where the Lions finished last by a long way in 1995 and 1996, winning just three matches in those seasons combined.

On 28 June 1996, the Nauru Insurance Company, a creditor of the Fitzroy Football Club, appointed Michael Brennan to administer the affairs of the Fitzroy Football Club to ensure a loan of A$1.25 million was to be repaid. There was rumors of the club completely collapsing midway during the 1996 season due to its lack of cash. This was averted when the AFL guaranteed funds to Fitzroy to allow the club to continue in the competition for the remainder of 1996.

During the final years, the Fitzroy Football Club had been in merger discussions with several teams, but discussions were most advanced with North Melbourne. By the beginning of July 1996, the club had agreed to arrangements to become the North Fitzroy Kangaroos Football Club, with negotiations for elements such as club colours, guernsey and song settled by the morning of 4 July by the Fitzroy board. However, later that afternoon the administrator of Fitzroy who had been appointed to temporarily replace the Fitzroy board and with the agreement of the AFL commission and a majority vote of the AFL's constituent club merged the club with the Brisbane Bears, to form the Brisbane Lions. The new club was to be based in Brisbane at the Gabba. The arrangement ensured that all creditors were repaid, at least eight Fitzroy players were to be selected by the Brisbane Lions before the 1996 National Draft and three Fitzroy representatives were to be on the new club's 11-member board. None of the three Fitzroy representatives, Laurie Serafini, David Lucas and Ken Levy, chosen by the Brisbane Bears to serve on the Brisbane Lions board were Fitzroy directors at that time.

Those involved have different opinions on why the merger with North Melbourne was rejected, despite negotiations being so far advanced and indeed concluded on the morning of the 4 July. The other AFL club presidents rejected the North Melbourne-Fitzroy merger by a vote of 14–1, and it is commonly thought, and claimed by then Richmond president Leon Daphne, that the potential on-field and off-field strength of an all-Victorian merge would create a superteam, particularly considering that North Melbourne was the premier in 1996, and because the merged team had proposed to take a 50-player senior list into the 1997 season; this is compared with the Brisbane Lions bid, which proposed a 44-player senior list for 1997, and did not have the potential off-field strength of an all-Victorian merge. Then North Melbourne CEO Greg Miller has accused the AFL of contriving the two bids in this manner to manufacture a result which would fulfil its strategic direction to strengthen the game in Queensland. Additionally, then North Melbourne vice-president Peter de Rauch believes that his club's decision not to include Fitzroy president Dyson Hore-Lacy on the board of the merged club was a catalyst for the temporary unravelling of negotiations between the clubs, allowing the appointment of the administrator and keeping the Brisbane Bears involved in the merger negotiations.[11]

During this time, Fitzroy's on field performances continued to deteriorate to the point where the team was thrashed week in, week out and not being competitive at all. In Round 21, 48,884 people attended the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 25 August 1996 for Fitzroy's last ever game in Melbourne as part of the AFL competition. They witnessed the Lions being defeated by 151 points, the second greatest loss in the club's history: Richmond 28.19 (187) defeated Fitzroy 5.6 (36). The club played its final VFL/AFL game ever the following week on September 1 against Fremantle at Subiaco Oval, losing by 86 points. It would be thirteen years before the club would take to any football field again.



The original Fitzroy Football Club came out of administration after the merger of the playing operations in late 1998. The shareholders voted to continue the club, and Fitzroy then developed a partnership with the Coburg Lions in the VFL. Coburg were known as the Coburg-Fitzroy Lions for two seasons in the VFL, (1999-2000). However, when Coburg entered into an affiliation with the AFL's Richmond Football Club, the Fitzroy connection was abandoned.

Fitzroy began a sponsorship arrangement with the Fitzroy Reds (formerly University Reds) in the Victorian Amateur Football Association and the Fitzroy Junior Football Club in the Yarra Junior Football League. Both wear the old Fitzroy jumper, play the old theme song, and play from Brunswick Street Oval in the heart of Fitzroy. In 2008, the Reds agreed to be incorporated into the Fitzroy Football Club. The "Fitzroy Football Club (incorporating the Fitzroy Reds)" entered the VAFA D1 section from the 2009 season, fielding a senior and reserves side, as well as two Under 19 sides and a Club 18 side. All the teams were made up mainly of Fitzroy Reds personnel.[12]

Fitzroy lost in the VAFA D1 Grand Final to Rupertswood in 2009, but as a Grand Finalist was promoted to C-Grade for the 2010 season. At the beginning of the 2011 season, Fitzroy appointed Tim Bell as their new senior coach following the resignation of Simon Taylor.[13] Tim Bell resigned for personal reasons at the end of 2011 and assistant coach Michael Pickering, a former AFL player with the Richmond and Melbourne Football Clubs was appointed as coach for the 2012 season.[13] Having reached the Premier C Grand Final at the end of 2012 season, Fitzroy was promoted to Premier B for Season 2013 which coincided with the clubs 130th birthday.

Since its entry into the VAFA, Fitzroy's home games have been renowned for their atmosphere and community spirit. The strong support and frequent attendance of club greats such as Kevin Murray has only strengthened the ties to the past for Fitzroy fans.

In 2015 the club initiated in a partnership with the Australian Catholic University to start fielding a women's team in the VWFL under the name of Fitzroy-ACU. They played their debut season in the same year.

Relationship with Brisbane Lions

Fitzroy FC Ltd improved its relationship with the Brisbane Lions in the ten years from 1999–2009. In that time Brisbane acknowledged the two parent clubs for the merger with the letters BBFFC printed below the back of the neck of the club's guernseys from 2002, the Fitzroy Reds played the curtain-raiser at the MCG when the Brisbane Lions met Collingwood in the AFL Heritage Round of 2003. Brisbane also now wears a version of Fitzroy's AFL guernsey with red instead of maroon in most matches played in Victoria, consistent with Fitzroy's most recent colours.

Relationships between Fitzroy and Brisbane were strained in late 2009, when Brisbane announced that it was adopting a new logo for season 2010 and beyond, which Fitzroy Football Club believed contravened Section 7.2 c) of the merger agreement. The new logo, a lion's head facing forward, replaced the former Fitzroy logo of a passant lion with a football. On 22 December 2009, Fitzroy lodged a Statement of Claim with the Supreme Court of Victoria, seeking an order that the Brisbane Lions be restrained from using as its logo, the new logo or any other logo other than 'the Fitzroy lion logo'.[13] On 15 July 2010, the two clubs reached a settlement, agreeing that the Fitzroy logo symbolically represents the historic merger between the Bears and Fitzroy and the first 13 years of the Brisbane Lions competing in the AFL, and that Brisbane would use both the old and new logos alongside each other in an official capacity (e.g. on letterheads, marketing, etc.), with the old logo to be phased out altogether after 2024 (or 2017 in the case of the Brisbane Lions website).[14] Brisbane will return to using the old logo on its playing guernseys from 2015, but the new logo will remain for corporate purposes.[15]

Club facts


  • VFA: 1895
  • VFL-AFL: 1898, 1899, 1904, 1905, 1913, 1916, 1922, 1944
  • Runners up – VFA 1893; VFL-AFL: 1900, 1903, 1906, 1917, 1923; VAFA: 2009 (D-Grade), 2012 (C-Grade)

* The 1916 premiership came in a year when the club also won the wooden spoon. Only four teams contested the premiership that year, and at the end of the home and away rounds all teams made the finals. Fitzroy finished last at the end of the home-and-away season but finished strongly in the finals to complete a stunning form reversal.

Brownlow Medal winners

Coleman Medal for leading goal kicker

Leigh Matthews Trophy winners

Best and fairest award winners

See Fitzroy FC honour roll for list of winners 1884–1996.

Home venues




Current nicknames

  • The Roys
  • The Redders
  • The Lions

Former nicknames

  • The Maroons 1883–1938
  • The Gorillas 1938–1957

VFL-AFL Club records

Win-loss record: Played: 1928 Won: 869, Lost: 1034, Drawn: 25
Highest score: 238 points (36.22) v Melbourne FC, Round 17 28 July 1979
Lowest score: 6 points (1.0) v Footscray FC, Round 5 23 May 1953
Greatest winning margin: 190 points v Melbourne FC, Round 17 28 July 1979
Greatest losing margin: 157 points v Hawthorn FC, Round 6 28 April 1991
Longest winning streak: 14 games Round 10 16 July 1898 to Round 4 27 May 1899
Longest losing streak: 27 games Round 11 20 July 1963 to Round 1 17 April 1965
Most games played: 333 Kevin Murray 1955–1964 & 1967–1974
Most Best & Fairests: 9 Kevin Murray 1956, 1958, 1960–64, 1968–69

Team of the Century

Fitzroy Team of the Century
B: Bill Stephen Fred Hughson Frank Curcio
HB: Kevin Murray (Captain) Paul Roos Gary Pert
C: Wilfred Smallhorn John Murphy Warwick Irwin
HF: Owen Abrahams Bernie Quinlan Garry Wilson
F: Allan Ruthven Jack Moriarty Norm Brown
Foll: Alan Gale Norm Johnstone Haydn Bunton, Sr.
Int: Michael Conlan Alastair Lynch Harvey Merrigan
Richard Osborne Percy Parratt Percy Trotter
Coach: Len Smith

See also


  1. ^ Maroon was lightened close to red for colour TV from 1975 onwards, FFC logo changed from white to gold in 1974 (see History of AFL/VFL Jumpers)
  2. ^ The old Lion roars again as Fitzroy is reborn The Age
  3. ^ The Argus, 28 September 1883
  4. ^ Football: Fitzroy Wins the Premiership, The Argus, p.7, (16 September 1895)
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c
  14. ^
  15. ^


  • , (Friday, 18 September 1908), p.3.Fitzroy City PressFitzroy Football Club: Silver Jubilee,

External links

  • Official Website of the Fitzroy Football Club
  • "In Defeat We'll Always Try" – Radio National documentary on the death of the Fitzroy Lions
  • Fitzroy history
  • "Around the Grounds" – Web Documentary – Brunswick Street
Preceded by
VFL/AFL Premiers
1898, 1899
1904, 1905
Succeeded by
Preceded by

South Melbourne
VFL/AFL Minor Premiers
1899, 1900
Succeeded by

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