1887 VFA premiership season
Carlton FC, premiers
2nd premiership
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The 1887 Victorian Football Association season was the 11th season of the Australian rules football competition.

The premiership was won by the Carlton Football Club. It was the second and last VFA premiership in the club's history.

Association membership

The metropolitan membership of the Association (including Geelong) remained unchanged from the fifteen clubs which contested the premiership in 1886. The three Ballarat-based clubs (Ballarat, Ballarat Imperial and South Ballarat) also remained senior clubs; however, unlike in previous years, they were included in the premiership lists by all of the major sportswriters.

1887 VFA premiership

Tom Leydin and Bill Strickland, captain and vice-captain of Carlton FC

The premiership was won by the Carlton Football Club, which played eighteen matches for the season for fifteen wins, two draws and a loss. The runner-up was Geelong, which played twenty-one matches for sixteen wins, three draws and two losses. South Melbourne was ranked third. No official system for deciding the premiership existed, but it was conventional for the club which suffered the fewest defeats during the season to be named premier.[1]

Ballarat vs Geelong Imperial match

On Saturday July 2, a weakened Geelong, which was missing eight of its best twenty due to unavailability, suffered one of its two losses for the season when Ballarat Imperial beat them 3.4 to 0.2 at the Eastern Oval in Ballarat.[2] As the season progressed, questions were raised by the Geelong club and many spectators over whether or not this match should be counted towards the premiership. Reasons why Geelong supporters believed it should have been excluded were:

Since the premiership was still an unofficial title conferred largely by press consensus, there was nothing within laws of the Association to deal specifically with the matter of the premiership; and, therefore there was no formal avenue through which to protest its inclusion. The Sportsman newspaper published a lengthy opinion on the matter in late July, favouring the inclusion of the match in the premiership. It referred in particular to Association Rule 3 which stated:

3. The Football Season shall commence on the first Saturday in May, and terminate on the 30th September.
(a) Week-day matches – except 24th May [Queen's Birthday] – shall not be recognised by the Association.

and concluded that since the match wasn't specifically excluded by Rule 3a that it should be included. The Sportsman also noted that while Rule 18 related to the appointment of the umpires was contravened, that this should have been resolved by penalising the clubs, not by invalidating the match.[3]

The matter was discussed at the Association's general meeting on 12 August. Although there was no formal protest and the Association had no rules governing the premiership, delegates noted that "it was desirable, for the sake of the public, to answer the question of whether or not the match counted." Following discussion, a motion was carried that the match should be counted.[4]

Had Geelong been successful in having the match excluded from the premiership, ceteris paribus, it and Carlton would each have finished with only one defeat for the season, and a playoff match would likely have been arranged to decide the premiership.[5] The 1887 season was the last premiership decided in this informal manner, and a formal Association-endorsed method for determining the premiership was introduced from 1888.[1]

Club senior records

The below table details the records of the eighteen clubs in senior matches during the 1887 season. Saturday matches and matches played on Queen's Birthday were counted towards the premiership, but matches played on the celebration the Golden Jubilee were not counted.[6]

The clubs are listed in the order in which they were ranked in the Sportsman 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.[7]

1887 VFA Results
1 Carlton (P) 18 15 1 2 94 43
2 Geelong 21 16 2 3 110 57
3 South Melbourne 20 12 4 4 103 53
Fitzroy 20 11 4 5 71 56
Port Melbourne 20 12 6 2 97 50
Williamstown 19 9 8 2 64 73
Richmond 19 8 8 3 63 70
Hotham 18 6 8 4 73 79
Essendon 16 5 9 2 49 67
Melbourne 18 6 10 2 64 80
Prahran 18 5 11 2 42 75
University 17 4 13 0 45 94
Ballarat Imperial 13 6 4 3 52 44
Ballarat 13 5 6 2 49 43
St Kilda 18 4 13 1 48 95
South Williamstown 18 3 13 2 35 78
South Ballarat 10 3 2 5 50 40
Footscray 14 2 10 2 25 47
Key: P = Played, W = Won, L = Lost, D = Drawn, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, (P) = Premiers Source:[8]

Notable events

See also


  1. ^ a b "Opening of the Football Season". The Argus. Melbourne, VIC. 5 May 1888. p. 14.
  2. ^ "Ballarat Imperial v. Geelong". The Argus. Melbourne, VIC. 4 July 1887. p. 7.
  3. ^ "Do they count?". The Sportsman. Melbourne, VIC. 27 July 1887. p. 5.
  4. ^ "Victorian Football Association". The Sportsman. Melbourne, VIC. 17 August 1887. p. 8.
  5. ^ "The Football Season". The Argus. Melbourne, VIC. 26 September 1887. p. 6.
  6. ^ Follower (1 October 1887). "Football – The past season". Leader. Melbourne, VIC. p. 20.
  7. ^ Caroline Wilson (20 June 2014). "History of the AFL could be turned on its head". The Age. Melbourne, VIC. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  8. ^ Goal Post (5 October 1887). "The Past Football Season". The Sportsman. Melbourne, VIC. p. 2.
  9. ^ Fiddian, Marc (2004), The VFA: a history of the Victorian Football Association, 1877–1995, p. 21
  10. ^ "Intercolonial Football Conference". Adelaide Observer. Adelaide, SA. 13 November 1886. p. 16.