AFL reserves
FormerlyVictorian Junior Football League
VFL seconds/reserves
SportAustralian rules football
First season1919
Most titlesGeelong (13)

The AFL reserve grade competition, commonly known simply as the AFL reserves, was an Australian rules football competition that operated as a second-tier competition to the Australian Football League (AFL) from 1919 until 1999.

Prior to 1990, it was known as the VFL reserve grade competition, VFL reserves or VFL seconds.[1]

In its final season in 1999, the competition was made up of the reserves teams of all the senior AFL clubs that were based in Melbourne plus that of the Sydney Swans.[2][3]

Since 2000, the Victorian Football League has operated as a hybrid second-tier senior competition and reserves competition for most of the AFL clubs.



In 1919, a new football competition known as the Victorian Junior Football League (VJFL) was established – at this time, junior was the term used for open age football of a lower standard than senior football, rather than for under age football.[4] The league was intended to bring a junior club affiliated with each of the Victorian Football League (VFL) senior clubs into a single competition, and to adopt the same district eligibility scheme which the VFL had introduced in 1916.[5] Player permit rules allowed for automatic transfers between the junior and senior clubs until July, allowing the juniors to serve as second eighteens for the seniors. The junior and senior clubs shared a home ground, with the juniors playing home when the seniors played away.[6]

For the inaugural season, four existing junior clubs – the Fitzroy Juniors, Collingwood District (also known as Collingwood Juniors) and Leopold (affiliated with South Melbourne) and Caulfield (affiliated with Melbourne) – initially crossed to the new league from the Metropolitan Amateur Association; West Melbourne was affiliated with Essendon; and new junior clubs were formed in Carlton, Richmond and St Kilda.[5] University, which had left the VFL senior competition after 1914, also entered a stand-alone junior team in the competition.

Shortly before the season, Caulfield withdrew, and a second University team was quickly arranged to take its place for the 1919 season.[7] The two University teams were known as University A and University B, later becoming the modern day 'University Blues' and 'University Blacks'. University B contested only the 1919 season, with a Melbourne Juniors team established for 1920; University A contested the 1919 and 1920 seasons, reaching the grand final both years before dropping out.

West Melbourne faced multiple heavy losses in 1920, including a 197-point loss against Carlton District and a 229-point loss against St Kilda District. The club left the competition at the end of the season, and were replaced by Essendon Juniors.[8]

Name change

In 1925, the VJFL was renamed as the VFL seconds, later known more commonly as the VFL reserves.[9] Following the change, the seconds clubs still operated as distinct stand-alone clubs at this time, rather than coming directly under the influence of their senior clubs. This changed over the following decades, with all of the seconds teams gradually being subsumed by their senior counterparts.[10][11]

Melbourne won the 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1935 premierships - the only time in VFL/AFL history (seniors or reserves) that a club has won five grand finals in a row.[12]

Following their Round 1 match in 1989, both St Kilda and Brisbane were found to have fielded unregistered players. As a result, the VFL fined both clubs and ordered that they receive zero premiership points for the match.[13]

Local players were primarily recruited via the league's metropolitan and country zoning rules, and the clubs had full ability to develop its players through its Under-19s and reserves teams: the same basic structure was also used consistently in the other two elite leagues, the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) and the West Australian Football League (WAFL).

VSFL era

History was made in 1991, with Brisbane winning the reserves premiership, the only club from outside Victoria to win the reserves competition.

The Victorian State Football League was established at the end of 1991 to take over administration of football in Victoria from the Australian Football League, which was now becoming preoccupied with administration of the game nationally.

The VSFL ran the AFL reserves competition from 1992 until 1999, which was also known as the VSFL in its first few years.[14] At the end of 1994, the VSFL also took over administration of the Victorian Football Association competition (which was renamed the Victorian Football League in 1996).[15]

Amalgamation with the VFL

See also: 2000 VFL season

Following the 1999 season, the AFL reserves was merged into the Victorian Football League. Such a merger had first been proposed as early as 1980, and a formal attempt to enact the merger for the 1995 season was defeated after strong opposition from the clubs.[16][17]


South Melbourne was relocated to Sydney at the end of the 1981 VFL season, after which the club continued to play in the VFL/AFL reserves as Sydney.[2]

The Brisbane Bears competed for four years between 1989 and 1992, winning their only premiership at any grade in 1991. After their merger with Fitzroy at the end of 1996, the Brisbane Lions did not compete in the competition.

No teams from South Australia or Western Australia ever competed in the VFL/AFL reserves.

Club Colours Moniker Seasons Premierships Years of premierships Current league
First Last
Bears 1989 1992 1 1991 Merged
1996 with Fitzroy, now Brisbane LionsVFL
(Carlton District)
Blues 1919 1999 8 1926, 1927, 1928, 1951, 1953, 1986, 1987, 1990 VFL
Lions 1921 1924 0 VFL
(Collingwood District)
Magpies 1919 1999 7 1919, 1920, 1922, 1925, 1940, 1965, 1976 VFL
(Essendon Juniors)
Bombers 1921 1999 8 1921, 1941, 1950, 1952, 1968, 1983, 1992, 1999 VFL
(Fitzroy Juniors)
Lions 1919 1996 3 1944, 1974, 1989 Merged
1996 with Brisbane Bears, now Brisbane LionsVFL
Cats 1922 1999 13 1923, 1924, 1930, 1937, 1938, 1948, 1960, 1963, 1964, 1975, 1980, 1981, 1982 VFL
Hawks 1925 1999 4 1958, 1959, 1972, 1985 In recess
Redlegs 1919 1924 0 Folded
Demons 1920 1999 12 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1939, 1949, 1956, 1969, 1970, 1984, 1993 In recess
North Melbourne
Kangaroos 1925 1999 7 1947, 1957, 1967, 1978, 1979, 1995, 1996 VFL
Tigers 1919 1999 10 1929, 1946, 1954, 1955, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1977, 1997 VFL
St Kilda
(St Kilda District)
Saints 1919 1999 3 1942, 1943, 1961 In recess
(South Melbourne)[b]
Swans 1925 1999 0 VFL
University A
Blues 1919 1920 0 VAFA
University B
Blacks 1919 1919 0 VAFA
West Melbourne
1919 1920 0 Folded
Western Bulldogs
Bulldogs 1925 1999 6 1936, 1945, 1962, 1988, 1994, 1998 VFL
  1. ^ North Melbourne was officially known as the Kangaroos Football Club in 1999.
  2. ^ South Melbourne relocated to Sydney in 1982 was renamed Sydney Swans in 1983.
  3. ^ Footscray was renamed Western Bulldogs in 1997.

Notable players

A number of notable players competed solely in the reserves competition.

Shane Warne, considered to be one of the greatest bowlers in the history of cricket, played a single game for St Kilda in 1988: he was erroneously listed in the Record as Trevor Warne, and played in the Under-19s for the remainder of the season.[18] Former St Kilda number one ticket holder John Moran also played for the reserves side.[19]

John Bourke, a Collingwood forward, infamously shoved an umpire and then attacked a fan among other incidents during a 1985 game, leading to a suspension of ten years plus 16 games, equivalent to 240 matches.[20]


Main article: List of VFL/AFL reserves premiers

Geelong won the most reserves premierships, with a total of 13.[21]

See also


  1. ^ "1999 AFL Reserve Grade Competition". Australian Football.
  2. ^ a b "Unearthing roots of Harbour City talent". The Age. 3 August 2003. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  3. ^ "National Scoreboard", The Sun, Melbourne, VIC, p. 87, 5 June 1989
  4. ^ Ross, John (1996). 100 Years of Australian Football. Ringwood, Australia: Viking Books. p. 382. ISBN 9781854714343.
  5. ^ a b "New junior organisation". The Age. Melbourne, VIC. 18 January 1919. p. 13.
  6. ^ "District junior football". Malvern Standard. 8 March 1919. p. 3.
  7. ^ "Football". The Age. Melbourne. 15 May 1919. p. 10.
  8. ^ "1920 Reserves". Blueseum.
  9. ^ "V.F.L. SECONDS". Age. The Age. 26 June 1936.
  10. ^ "Football - Carlton - Seniors may control second eighteen". The Age. 2 March 1936. p. 5.
  11. ^ "Collingwood District Football Club". Collingwood Forever.
  12. ^ "Records and Achievements". Melbourne Football Club.
  13. ^ "Saints, Bears it in "twos"". The Sun News-Pictorial. Melbourne. 15 April 1989. p. 86.
  14. ^ Stephen Linnell (21 March 1995). "North to push for new jumpers". The Age. Melbourne, VIC. p. 42.
  15. ^ "History of the VFL 1877 - 2009".
  16. ^ "League nearer Sunday games". The Age. Melbourne, VIC. 12 June 1980. p. 24.
  17. ^ Stephen Rielly; Stephen Linnell (24 May 1994). "Vic clubs threaten AFL on reserves". The Age. Melbourne, VIC. p. 50.
  18. ^ "Remembering Warnie: The football story before the cricket legend". St Kilda Football Club. 5 March 2022.
  19. ^ "John Moran Loyalty Award". St Kilda Football Club. 28 July 2014.
  20. ^ "10 of the AFL's most famous suspensions". ZeroHanger. 19 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Premierships". Geelong Cats.