Looking back into HFNL history

Looking back into HFNL history

25th March 2021

Welcome to a new era in the life of the Hampden League Footy Record. For many the Record has been a staple part of their Saturday at the footy, or netball, for many years. We hope you enjoy this new approach.

It will be my pleasure throughout the forthcoming season to take our readers back through the years and delve into some of the rich history of the biggest sporting competition of the Great South West – The HFNL.

Over the next few editions we will explore a timeline of events that has seen the Hampden League evolve from its humble formation back in 1930 to the elite competition that we all love today. Hope you enjoy it!

This week’s article is part 1 and looks back, way back, to 1930 and the founding of the great sporting institution we all enjoy so much today – The Hampden Football League. We will then look at how the League has grown, prospered
and evolved, from those early days of a four team competition, into the strong and flourishing fixture of today that involves 6 grades of football, 10 grades of netball and has included 17 different Clubs over the years.

In the early days, prior to the turn of the 19th century, football was played on a challenge basis. Often Clubs, or towns, would challenge a neighbouring village for a cup or similar trophy as the prize. The formation of a fixed season, or series of games, did not occur in the early days. One of the older Clubs in the area, Port Fairy, was formed in 1869.

Around 1885, footwear retailers & repairers in Warrnambool, the Greening Brothers, decided to award a trophy for the best team in what we might call the present Hampden League area. Teams that competed for this Cup, over a two year period, included Warrnambool, Mortlake, Tower Hill and the Aboriginals. The first match was competed between Warrnambool and the Aboriginals. Mortlake and Warrnambool won the most games over the two year period and played in the August of 1886 to decide the fate of the Cup. The game ended in a draw, after warrnambool had travelled to Mortlake with Cobb & Co in a five horse coach, stopping at Ballangeich half way for an hour’s rest along the way. Somehow Tower Hill had recorded enough wins to issue a challenge to Mortlake. After a torrid struggle, Tower Hill emerged victors with a score of 3 goals 7 behinds to 2 goals 7 behinds.

A tremendous indication of the popularity of football in the late 1880’s was reported attendances of over 1,200 people (which sometimes included members of the gentle sex). Betting on matches was rife and police attendance at matches was normal. The Greening Cup was awarded for many years. By the time the Cup had ceased to function, competitive football was well established.

The Hampden League was formed on March 28th, 1930. The formation followed the resignation from the Western District League by Terang, Mortlake and Camperdown. The three clubs had objected to the resolution to alter the form of the Western District League (WDL). Prior to 1930 the league composed of 9 teams – Hamilton, Port Fairy, Koroit, South Warrnambool and Warrnambool in the Western section; with Terang, Camperdown, Cobden and Mortlake in the Eastern section. Each section played their own home and away fixture and at the end of these rounds a Final Four was decided according to premiership points after combining the two sections.

Hamilton finished the season on top of the Western section ladder followed by Port Fairy. Terang topped the Eastern end ladder followed by Cobden. These four teams made up the finals and Terang went on to win their first pennant in the Western District League. Incidentally, it was the first flag won by an Eastern team.

At a meeting early in 1930, it was decided to abolish sectional competition meaning that all 9 teams played in a single fixture. Terang objected to this proposal strongly arguing that a visit to Hamilton could absorb 80% of a normal $100 gate and it would cause unnecessary hardship on dairy farmers already feeling the weight of the depression. With Terang, Camperdown and Mortlake withdrawing from the League Cobden were left in a precarious position in the WDL and as such requested permission for a transfer to the new HFL competition.

On that 28th night in March Canon F.P. Williams was elected as President of the new League with Mr Stan Podger as Secretary and Messer’s Dave Trickett and K. Finlay as Vice Presidents. Along with Cobden’s application to join the new league was an application from Noorat Football Club. With an even competition in mind, Cobden’s application was granted and Noorat’s was unsuccessful. Our great League was born – a four team competition playing 15 rounds meaning each club played their opponents 5 times. Admission prices were set at: Adults 10 pence, Children 5 pence and “Vehicles” 10 pence.

The season began on May 10th, 1930, with Mortlake playing at home against Terang and Cobden playing Camperdown. The honour of kicking the first goal in the newly formed league went to Mortlake’s Bill O’Sullivan.

Incidentally, Bill later played for Camperdown and won their 1935 Best and Fairest. Many years later he was President at Camperdown when they won the 1970 Premiership when Camperdown defeated his former club Mortlake. A new era in our nation’s evolving game was born. The Hampden League was functioning and after Cobden finished the 1930 season as minor Premiers opponents for finals were drawn by ballot. After the 1st and 2nd Semi-Finals were conducted Cobden won the Grand Final defeating Terang.

Next week we will start a timeline from 1930 that follows the formation of our competition.

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