The Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) was an early amateur Canadian football league comprising teams in the Canadian province of Ontario. The ORFU was founded on Saturday, January 6, 1883 and in 1903 became the first major competition to adopt the Burnside rules, from which the modern Canadian football code would evolve.
W. A. Hewitt was vice-president of the ORFU for the 1905 and 1906 seasons, and a representative of the Toronto Argonauts. He sought for ORFU to have uniform rules of play with the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU), with a preference to use the snap-back system of play used in Ontario. When the CRU did not adopt the system, his motion was approved for the ORFU to adopt the CRU rules in 1906. In December 1906, The Gazette reported that a proposal originated from Ottawa for the ORFU and the Quebec Rugby Football Union to merge, which would allow for higher calibre of play and create rivalries. Hewitt helped organize the meeting which established the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (IRFU) in 1907.
For most of the first half of the 20th century, the ORFU was one of the stronger unions in Canada, and its champion was a frequent fixture in the Grey Cup even as the game became increasingly professionalized in the 1930s.
During World War II, the Ontario-based military teams played in the ORFU, filling the gap during the suspension of play by the IRFU (Toronto Navy – H.M.C.S. York played out of Varsity Stadium, using the Toronto Argonauts' equipment and uniforms.) The Toronto RCAF Hurricanes were the last amateur team to win the Grey Cup in 1942. Many from the ranks of the military teams in the ORFU became stars in the CFL after the war.
With the return of peace, however, the ORFU found it increasingly difficult to compete in an environment dominated by the IRFU and the Western Interprovincial Football Union, which had both become fully professional. Indeed, by then it was the only fully amateur union still challenging for the Grey Cup. Even so, it retained enough prestige that it played the WIFU champion for a berth in the Grey Cup final. The IRFU was reluctant to accept the WIFU as a full equal even after it was clear that its quality of play had become the equal of the IRFU.
The ORFU withdrew from Grey Cup competition in 1954. Although the amateurs would not be formally locked out of Grey Cup play for another four years, this heralded the start of the modern era of Canadian football. The ORFU ceased to operate as a true senior league after 1960, but continued play at the intermediate level. Eventually the word "senior" came to replace the word "intermediate." By 1974, the ORFU had ceased to exist. However, the junior Ontario Rugby Football Union which was formed in 1890 lasted until the 1970 season.
|1883||Toronto Football Club|
|1884||Toronto Football Club|
|1885||Ottawa College Football Club|
|1886||Ottawa College Football Club|
|1887||Ottawa College Football Club|
|1888||Ottawa College Football Club|
|1889||Ottawa College Football Club|
|1895||University of Toronto Varsity Football Club|
|1896||University of Toronto Varsity Football Club|
|1898||Ottawa Rough Riders|
|1900||Ottawa Rough Riders|
|1902||Ottawa Rough Riders|
|1908||Toronto Amateur Athletic Club|
|1909||Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club|
|1910||Toronto Amateur Athletic Club|
|1912||Hamilton Alerts (Grey Cup champions)|
|1913||Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club|
|1914||Hamilton Rowing Club|
|1915||Toronto Rugby and Athletic Association|
|1916||No season: World War I|
|1917||No season: World War I|
|1918||No season: World War I|
|1921||Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club|
|1922||Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club|
|1923||Hamilton Rowing Club|
|1924||Toronto Balmy Beach|
|1925||Toronto Balmy Beach|
|1926||Toronto Balmy Beach|
|1927||Toronto Balmy Beach (Grey Cup champions)|
|1928||University of Toronto Seconds|
|1930||Toronto Balmy Beach (Grey Cup champions)|
|1934||Sarnia Imperials (Grey Cup champions)|
|1936||Sarnia Imperials (Grey Cup champions)|
|1940||Toronto Balmy Beach|
|1941||Hamilton Flying Wildcats|
|1942||Toronto RCAF Hurricanes (Grey Cup champions)|
|1943||Hamilton Flying Wildcats (Grey Cup champions)|
|1944||Hamilton Flying Wildcats|
|1945||Toronto Balmy Beach|
|1946||Toronto Balmy Beach|
|1950||Toronto Balmy Beach|
|1953||Toronto Balmy Beach|
|1958||Sarnia Golden Bears|
|1959||Sarnia Golden Bears|
The Imperial Oil Trophy was awarded to the league's most valuable player.