1871 Victorian football season
Senior teams4
PremiersCarlton (1st premiership)
Challenge CupCarlton

The 1871 Victorian football season was an Australian rules football competition played during the winter of 1871. The season consisted of matches between football clubs in the colony of Victoria. The Carlton Football Club was the premier club for the season.

1871 season

Carlton, winning team of both competitions, club season and Challenge Cup
Carlton, winning team of both competitions, club season and Challenge Cup

Four clubs participated in senior football during the 1870 season: Albert-park, Carlton, Melbourne and South Yarra. Hobson's Bay Railway folded at the conclusion of the 1870 season.

The formal practice of senior clubs playing matches at odds against junior clubs was established during the season. In matches played at odds, the senior team fielded fifteen players and the junior team fielded twenty players. Matches played at odds were quite competitive: the premier club Carlton was unbeaten at even strength against senior clubs, but lost two of five matches played at odds. Three metropolitan junior clubs – Collingwood, Richmond and Carlton United – played against the senior clubs during the year. Senior clubs also played matches against provincial clubs Ballarat (at odds) and Geelong (even strength) during the year.[1][2]

During the 1871 season, the senior clubs competed in specific matches for the Challenge Cup; and, separately, a premier team was selected based on all matches during the season, including Challenge Cup matches.

Challenge Cup

Main article: Challenge Cup (Australian rules football)

The Challenge Cup which South Yarra had put up for contest at the start of the 1870 season was returned by Albert-park to South Yarra at the end of the year, following the dispute over whether or not Albert-park had formally won it.

South Yarra opted to put the trophy up for contest again in 1871. Albert-park declined to contest it, although it continued to play senior games against the other clubs. The remaining clubs – Carlton, Melbourne and South Yarra – decided that each club would play the others three times during the season, and the top two would play a single playoff match for the Cup.

This meant that the Cup was being contested in a league-type competition, and by traditional definitions was no longer a Challenge Cup with a perpetual holder. [3]

1871 Challenge Cup Ladder
1 Melbourne (Q) 6 3 0 3 13 0 18
2 Carlton (Q) 4 1 0 3 1 0 10
3 South Yarra 4 0 4 0 0 14 0
Key: P = Played, W = Won, L = Lost, D = Drawn, (Q) = Qualified for Final

Two of the three Carlton-Melbourne matches were postponed by four weeks due to rain, while the two unplayed Carlton-South Yarra matches were scratched as they would have had no effect on the outcome.

Playoff match for the Challenge Cup
Saturday, 7 October 1871 (3:00 pm) Carlton def. Melbourne Emerald Hill Ground [4]

Clarke, Dedman Goals

With this victory in the Grand Final (the first of its kind in history), Carlton claimed undisputed and permanent ownership of the South Yarra Challenge Cup. [1]


In addition to winning the Challenge Cup, Carlton was adjudged premiers for the season, and Melbourne were runners-up.

The two clubs were the dominant senior clubs in the colony, and the premiership was mostly determined based on the win–loss record in matches between the two: their four matches, including the Challenge Cup Grand Final, yielded one win for Carlton and three draws, though the third draw was disputed (claimed as a win by Melbourne and as a draw by Carlton).[1]

Albert-park was third: while they did not defeat Carlton or Melbourne, they beat South Yarra (who had been winless since 1868 in senior matches) twice during the year.[2]

Carlton's and Melbourne's overall records as reported at each club's annual meeting in 1872 (reporting different results for the disputed match between the teams) are given below. The Senior results include the Challenge Cup final, and matches Carlton and Melbourne played against Geelong.

1871 senior clubs' results
Senior Results Total Results
1 Carlton 8 5 0 3 13 6 2 5 8 3
2 Melbourne 11 7 1 3 15 9 4 2 28 6
3 Albert-park 7 2 5 0
South Yarra 6 0 6 0
Key: P = Played, W = Won, L = Lost, D = Drawn, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, (P) = Premiers Sources:[5][6]


  1. ^ a b c Fair Play (21 October 1871). "Retrospect of the season". The Australasian. Vol. XI, no. 290. Melbourne, VIC. p. 524.
  2. ^ a b Fair Play (28 October 1871). "Retrospect of the season". The Australasian. Vol. XI, no. 291. Melbourne, VIC. p. 557.
  3. ^ "The Challenge Cup". The Australasian. Vol. X, no. 270. Melbourne, VIC. 3 June 1871. p. 684.
  4. ^ Fair Play (14 October 1871). "Match for the Challenge Cup". The Australasian. Vol. XI, no. 289. Melbourne, VIC. p. 492.
  5. ^ "The Carlton Football Club". The Australasian. Vol. XII, no. 318. Melbourne, VIC. 4 May 1872. p. 556.
  6. ^ "The Annual general meeting of the Melbourne Football Club". The Australasian. Vol. XII, no. 319. Melbourne, VIC. 11 May 1872. p. 588.