1881 VFA premiership season
PremiersSouth Melbourne
1st premiership
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The 1881 Victorian Football Association season was the fifth season of the Australian rules football competition. The premiership was won by the South Melbourne Football Club. It was the club's first VFA premiership.

Association membership

Prior to the start of the 1881 season, the West Melbourne Football Club resigned from the senior ranks of the Association, leaving seven clubs.

1881 VFA premiership

The 1881 premiership was won by the South Melbourne Football Club, with Geelong placing second.

The two clubs had almost equal records in senior matches played, with South Melbourne winning seven and drawing three of eleven matches, and Geelong winning seven and drawing two of ten matches. South Melbourne' sole loss was against Carlton, while Geelong's loss came against South Melbourne. It was thought that both could lay some claim to the premiership,[1] but the consensus among the major newspapers was that South Melbourne was the premier club as the other match they played against Geelong had been drawn. Carlton finished third.

Club senior records

The below table details the playing records of the seven clubs in all matches during the 1881 season, where the information is available. Two sets of results are given:

The clubs are listed in the order in which they were ranked in the Australasian newspaper. The VFA had no formal process by which the clubs were ranked, so the below order should be considered indicative only, particularly since the fixturing of matches was not standardised; however, the top three placings were later acknowledged in publications including the Football Record and are considered official.[2]

It is noted that although East Melbourne was a senior club in 1881, it was very uncompetitive, so, in its review of the season the Australasian did not consider matches against East Melbourne amongst its senior results. As such, in the below table, the 'Senior Results' does not include matches against East Melbourne, but East Melbourne's results against the other senior clubs are given.

Some data is missing from the below table based on the availability of information.

1881 VFA Results
Senior Results Total Results
1 South Melbourne (P) 11 7 1 3
2 Geelong 10 7 1 2 18 15 1 2 94 20
3 Carlton 11 5 3 3 24 18 3 3 107 33
Melbourne 14 4 6 4 24 14 6 4 79 44
Essendon 10 2 6 2 18 5 8 5 26 42
Hotham 12 1 9 2 19 5 10 4 35 41
East Melbourne 12 0 9 3 20 6 10 4
Key: P = Played, W = Won, L = Lost, D = Drawn, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, (P) = Premiers Source:[3]


Intercolonial matches

Association representative teams played four intercolonial matches during 1881: two against New South Wales, and two against South Australia. All were played under Victorian rules.

1881 Intercolonial Matches
Friday, 1 July Victoria 9.24 def. New South Wales 0.1 Melbourne Cricket Ground (crowd: 3,000) [4]
Saturday, 6 August New South Wales 1.8 def. by Victoria 9.16 Association Cricket Ground (crowd: 5,000) [5]
Saturday, 20 August Victoria 8.24 def. South Australia 1.8 East Melbourne Cricket Ground [6]
Wednesday, 24 August Victoria 4.14 def. South Australia 1.5 East Melbourne Cricket Ground (crowd: 1,000) [7]


  1. ^ Paul Pey. (1 October 1881). "Free kicks". Weekly Times. Melbourne, VIC. p. 20.
  2. ^ Caroline Wilson (20 June 2014). "History of the AFL could be turned on its head". The Age. Melbourne, VIC. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  3. ^ a b Peter Pindar (15 October 1881). "The Football Season of 1881". The Australasian. Vol. XXXI, no. 811. Melbourne, VIC. p. 494.. The microfilm version of this reference kept at the State Library of Victoria was missing a section of the original article, which accounts for the information which is missing from this article.
  4. ^ "Intercolonial Football Match". The Argus. Melbourne, VIC. 2 July 1881. p. 8.
  5. ^ "The Intercolonial Match". The Sydney Morning Herald. Melbourne, VIC. 8 August 1881. p. 6.
  6. ^ "Intercolonial Football Match". South Australian Register. Adelaide, SA. 25 August 1881. p. 6.
  7. ^ "Intercolonial Football Match". South Australian Register (Supplement). Adelaide, SA. 29 August 1881. p. 1.