The Ballarat Football Netball Club was formed on the 20th May 1860, making it the 3rd oldest football club in Australia, behind Melbourne FC (May 1859) & Geelong FC (July 1859) and one of the oldest football clubs in the world. Its first President and Captain was Lieutenant Colonel Alexander M. Greenfield. Our Senior Best & Fairest award, the Greenfield Trophy, is named after Alexander Greenfield. His togs and his portrait are enshrined in its clubrooms. His only son, Angus Greenfield, also captained the club in 1899. Angus also played football for the Geelong Football Club, won national cycling championships, State championships in pole-vaulting and weight-putting, was an outstanding rower, and was widely regarded as one of Ballarats best athletes.
Ballarat Football Netball Club was a founding member club of the Ballarat Football League formed in 1893 and has held its place in the league ever since (the only club to do so). It has won 19 Senior Premierships (the most of any club), produced 6 Henderson Medal winners (league B&F), 10 Tony Locket Medalists (League Goalkicking) and 62 VFL/AFL Players.
Early matches in Ballarat appear to have been conducted on a purely social basis, but in 1874 there was a move towards more formal competition when Ballarat was joined by three rivals in the shape of Albion, Albert and Phoenix. The following year, however, the clubs’ ranks were halved after Phoenix disbanded and Albert merged with Ballarat. Other clubs came and went, and in 1877 Ballarat along with the recently formed Ballarat Imperial and Ballarat South were among the founder members of the Victorian Football Association, which later became the Victorian Football League (VFL). All three Ballarat clubs participated in the competition for twelve seasons, with Ballarat enjoying the best overall record, but the high cost of travelling ultimately put paid to the venture.
In 1893 the city of Ballarat implemented its own football competition, the Ballarat Football Association, contested by the three clubs which had played in the VFA plus Sebastopol. Ballarat Football Club performed poorly at first but rapidly improved. After finishing second in 1894-5-6 the club broke through to capture its first premiership in 1897, and promptly repeated the achievement the following year.
The standard of football played in Ballarat at this time was extremely high, with BFA representative combinations performing creditably in annual fixtures against their VFL counterparts. The Association’s clubs also sometimes engaged in matches against VFL opposition. In 1901, for example, Ballarat travelled to the metropolis to take on the might of Fitzroy, then indisputably one of the strongest teams in Australia. Not surprisingly, the Maroons emerged victorious, but the Ballarat players gave a good account of themselves in going down by the comparatively respectable margin of 41 points. It was a similar story five years later when Ballarat played Geelong in Geelong, the Pivotonians winning a high standard match by 26 points in front of a fair-sized crowd.
Ballarat’s third premiership was secured in 1908 courtesy of a 7.9 (51) to 4.12 (36) challenge final defeat of minor premier South Ballarat, but it was to be fifteen long years before the success was duplicated. Just as in 1908, Ballarat’s 1923 triumph was achieved at the expense of South Ballarat, but it was a much closer, harder fought affair. At quarter time South Ballarat led by 12 points, a margin that had been extended to 22 points midway through the second quarter, and they were still 16 points ahead at the main break. Ballarat fought back strongly in the third term, but still faced an 8 point deficit at the last change. In a thrilling final thirty minutes of football Ballarat slowly but surely made up the leeway until, at the half way point in the term, scores were level. Ballarat then added a behind and a goal to achieve some breathing space, only for the southerners to reply with a goal of their own to set up a rousing final ten minutes. South Ballarat attacked relentlessly, but the Ballarat defence stood firm leaving the final margin as a single point in Ballarat’s favour. Final scores were Ballarat 6.16 (52) to South Ballarat 7.9 (51).
The 1920s produced one more flag when Ballarat defeated Golden Point by 5 points in the 1928 grand final, with the match-winning goal coming inside the last two minutes.
During the 1930s Ballarat experienced the ultimate thrill of premiership glory on three occasions, but this was tempered by the nadir of a 1938 season when the club was unable to field a team. Recovery was swift as Ballarat went on to reach the 1939 grand final before claiming the 1940 premiership with a 17.12 (114) to 12.8 (80) grand final triumph over Golden Point.
The BFL suspended competition in 1941 and 1942 and when it resumed Ballarat completed what was effectively a hat trick of premierships with grand final victories over the Royal Australian Air Force in 1943 (after a drawn first encounter) and East Ballarat the following year.
The 1950s saw Ballarat fielding some of the strongest teams in its history, and a total of three flags were obtained from half a dozen grand final appearances. Since the 1950s, Ballarat won a premiership in each of the next three decades (1962, 1971, & 1988). In 1988 they won all three grades (seniors, reserves, & under 18’s).
After claiming the 1988 premiership with a 17.6 (108) to 13.8 (86) grand final conquest of North Ballarat, Ballarat endured a club record 20 year premiership drought, making their 2008 flag triumph arguably the most memorable and captivating in their history. Placed fourth after the home and away fixtures, with a modest 9-7 record, Ballarat probably figured in very few people’s premiership calculations. However, the side displayed immense spirit and self-belief, coupled with no small amount of skill, in overcoming grand final opponent and minor premier Darley by 5 points after an enthralling contest which ended in the most dramatic way imaginable when Ash Baker kicked the winning goal after the final siren. It was the Ballarat’s nineteenth senior grade premiership, a competition record. They were coached to their victory by a man with an illustrious coaching pedigree at the game’s top level, John ‘Swooper’ Northey.
Other famous names associated with the Ballarat Football Club over the years have included George Morrissey, a successful VFL player with St Kilda before the first world war, Carlton’s 1961 Brownlow Medal winner John James, AFL Hall of Fame member Dave ‘Dolly’ Christy, and gifted Fitzroy rover of the 1950s Jack Gervasoni.
Since claiming their most recent flag in 2008 Ballarat have twice got as far as the grand final only to lose to Lake Wendouree in 2010 and North Ballarat City in 2014.
The club currently hosts 3 Senior football sides (Seniors, Reserves, & Under 18’s), 6 senior netball sides (A, B, C, D, E & U/19’s), 13 Junior football sides (Swans U/16 Seniors & Reserves, U/14 Senior & Reserves, U/12 Senior & Reserves, U/10 Senior, Reserve, & Development, Storm U/12 Reserves, U/10 Senior, Reserve, & Development), 3 Womens / Youth Girls sides (Womens, U/18 & U/13) and 12 Junior netball sides (Swans U/17 senior & reserve, U/15 senior & reserve, U/13 senior & reserve, U/11 Senior & Reserve, Storm U/15 reserve, U/13 reserve, U/11 Senior & Reserve).
Ballarats home base is Alfredton Recreation Reserve, and it is a founding member club of the Alfredton Sports & Community Club.
A history of the Ballarat Football Netball Club can be seen below:
1860 The Club was born on 20th May 1860 and was then known as the Ballarat Athletic Club.
1861 First Captain was A. M. Greenfield.
1862 First President elected was A. M. Greenfield.
1863 The Club colours of Red & White chosen.
1877 The Ballarat Club first used Saxon Paddock (now the City Oval).
1881 The Ballarat Club joined the VFA (later to split into the VFL and VFA).
1883 The first time the players chose the Captain and Vice-Captain. Up until now they were selected by members at the Annual meeting.
1884 First ever Premiership matches played.
1887 The Club this year for the first time won the Western District Premiership.
1888 Tied with South Ballarat for the Premiership.
The Club insured players against accident for the first time.
The Club played a team of visiting English Rugby players at Australian Rules, and taking the game too easy lost the match.
1889 First time a trainer has been appointed to look after players.
1893 The Ballarat Football Association was formed on 25th April with Ballarat, Ballarat Imperials, South Ballarat and Sebastopol. Now only an affiliation with the VFA retained.
1896 Games at Saxon Paddock (now City Oval) ceased.
1897 First time goals counted as 6 points and behinds counted as 1 point. Up until now only goals counted.
Ballarat and Ballarat Imperials tied for Premiership and for the first time a play off was decided upon with Ballarat winning.
1898 The Ballarat Football Association decided to present a Pennant to the club winning the Premiership and each member of the Premiership club a Cap of navy blue and gold, the Association colours. The Ballarat Football Club won the Premiership and has the honour of winning the first Association Pennant and Caps.
1899 This year was unique in that the Captain was Angus M. Greenfield, the son of the Club’s first Captain and President Lieutenant Colonel Alexander M. Greenfield.
1903 Ballarat City Council purchased Saxon Paddock and converted it to the City Oval. Games re-commenced. Ballarat played Ballarat Imperials on 8th June. The result is unknown.
1906 The Club returns to the City Oval permanently (until the move to Alfredton Oval in 1994).
1908 The Ballarat Football Association changed its name to The Ballarat Football League.
1912 Players Guernseys were numbered for the first time ever.
1916 – 1918 The First World War. All clubs went into recess.
1923 The first time in the Club’s history it finished as Minor Premiers and won the Premiership, it being their 6th Premiership to date.
First Greenfield Trophy awarded. W. H. Kaighan, Captain and Coach of the Premiership team won it.
1927 W. H. Kaighan became the first player to play 100 consecutive games with the Club.
1935 W. J. (Webber) Jackson becomes the Club’s first winner of the BFL Best and Fairest Medal, the George McKenzie Medal (now the Henderson Medal).
1944 The first time the Club had won the Premiership 3 years in succession.
1950 Frank Pike, in his 1st season, won the BFL Best and Fairest Medal, the Courier Trophy (now the Henderson Medal).
1951 Angus M. Greenfield (Past captain and son of the clubs founder, Alexander, passed away aged 85.
1954 The first time in its history the Club won the Premiership in both the “A” Grade and 2nd 18 competitions.
1957 The Club played its 1000th game on 6th July 1957, and lost.
1960 Centenary Year of the Club.
1962 Graham Wise won the Greenfield Trophy for the 2nd year in succession, becoming the first player to do so.
New Social room (Blue Room) opened by the Mayor of Ballarat, Cr. A. Mason on 28th April 1962.
Dunstan Cup competition inaugurated by the Redan Club with matches to be played between Ballarat and Redan. Ballarat won the first one.
1972 Peter Merriman wins the Henderson Medal (League Best & Fairest Medal).
1974 Brendan Maher wins the Henderson Medal.
1977 Don Discher wins the Henderson Medal.
1978 Len Templar retires after completing his 15th year as Senior coach. This record still stands.
1981 Frank Segrave broke Tom McPherson’s record of number of senior games played when he played his 213th game. He went on to play 229 games.
1985 Don Discher wins the Henderson Medal for the 2nd time. In doing so he became the only player to do so twice in the Club’s history and this record still stands.
1988 The most successful season in the Club’s history by winning 3 Premierships: Seniors, Reserves and Under 18’s.
1989 The Senior team finished top of the table at the end of the home and away games but unfortunately could not take out back to back Premierships.
1991 Don Discher wins the Greenfield Trophy for the 6th time, a record that stills stands today.
1992 This year the Club saw fit to honour Frank Penny (the God Father) and Don Discher (the Don) for all they have done for our Club. The night was very well attended and proved to be a great tribute to these inspiring gentlemen. The Netball team won the Netball Premiership.
1994 The Club relocates to Alfredton after 88 years at the City Oval. There were two reasons for the move. The first being the Club was not drawing sufficient numbers of supporters and the second being the state of the City Oval was far from satisfactory especially in a wet season. The junior teams had been playing at Alfredton for 10 years and by joining them it gave the Club an opportunity to identify with a specific geographical area of Ballarat. Alfredton was then the fastest growing suburb of Ballarat.
1998 The Senior and under 17 Netball teams both win Premierships.
2000 Plans to construct a social complex at the Alfredton Reserve are drawn up.
2001 Paul Nicholls broke Frank Segrave’s record of number of Senior games played when he played his 230th game. He went on to play 248 games.
2002 Our President of 10 years, Dr. Jim Pryor sadly passed away and as a mark of respect the Club decided not to replace Jim as President in 2002.
2003 Shane Manley elected as President.
The State Government announces a Grant of $50,000 to assist in the construction of the Alfredton Sports and Community Club.
2004 Ben Ingleton appointed Coach, 10 years after commencing his coaching career at the Club, having previously coached BFC in 1994 and after starting his playing career with the Club.
Ash Baker wins his 2nd successive Greenfields Trophy, tying the Best and Fairest win with David O’Sullivan.
Construction of the Alfredton Sports and Community Club continues over the year, under the Project Management of Don Ross. The Ballarat City Council grants $75,000 to cover the cost of sewerage connection and the windows of the new Sports Club, allowing it to reach lock up stage.
2005 In March the Federal Government announces a Grant of $72,000 under the Regional Partnerships Program toward the A.S.C.C.
Friday, October 21st 2005, the official opening of the new Alfredton Sports and Community Club.
Ash Baker wins his 3rd consecutive Greenfield Trophy (B&F)
2005 Monday 14th November, John Northey is announced as the new Senior Coach of the Club for the 2006 & 2007 seasons. John was also appointed as the Manager of the newly opened A.S.C.C.
2006 The senior team plays finals for the first time since 1997, finishing 6th. An away elimination final against the 3rd placed Melton. 13 points down at 3 quarter time, the team came home strong to win by 10 points. The following week the team pushed the top of the ladder East Point for 3 1/2 quarters leading for much of the day, only to fade and lose by 24 points.
2007 For the first time in the clubs history, it managed to secure a naming rights sponsor which resulted in the Alfredton Recreation Reserve being re-named Dahlsens Park and the Senior team being known as the Dahlsens Swans. Don Ross was awarded the BFL’s Keith Lawrence award for services to the Club. Travis Jones is awarded life membership for 150 club games. The senior team makes the Preliminary final against Sunbury, however were soundly defeated by 10 goals. The Reserves team made the Grand Final against East point, losing by 4 goals.
2008 The club wins it’s first Senior Premiership in 20 years. After finishing 4th, the team faced off against hot favourites Darley (minor premier). 1 point down with seconds remaining on the clock in the last quarter, Captain Ash Baker marked 40 metres out from goal. The siren sounded and Bakes calmly went back and slotted the goal to claim the Premiership after the siren breaking a 20 year drought. Shane Manley is accorded life Membership for services rendered to the club.
2009 The under 18’s made the Grand Final for the first time in 21 years, only to lose by 1 point. This is the year that the Ballarat Memorial Sports Bowling Club come on board with the Alfredton Sports & Community Club (ASCC). Bob LeMarshall is accorded Life Membership for services rendered.
2010 This year marked the 150th anniversary of the club. To mark the occasion, all Senior teams played in a specially designed ‘Heritage Jumpers’, consisting of Red & White vertical stripes. It was decided at Board Level that because of the tremendous response to the jumper, that the club would adopt the design for the years ahead. A ‘night of legends’ was held to recognise the efforts & commitments of players, coaches, administrators & volunteers over 150 years. A total of 59 legends were inducted. The senior team made the Grand Final but unfortunately could not take home the premiership. Rob & Helen James are accorded life membership for services rendered. Ash Baker is accorded life membership for playing 150 games. Rob James is awarded the BFL’s Keith Lawrence award for services to the club.
2011 2011 will always be remembers as the year that the Ballarat FNC lost one of its most loyal, courageous, passionate, and loved members; Matthew “Thunder” James. His number 8 jumper will become the ‘Matt James Memorial Number 8’ and awarded each year, for a one year period, to a player who has come through the juniors since under 12’s and displays all the attributes that Matt displayed. In 2011 it was awarded to Ross Thompson. Graeme and Fran Biggs are accorded life membership for services rendered.
2012 This year saw the completion of the 2nd oval and Junior change rooms at Alfredton Recreation Reserve. The 18.5 netball had a very successful year being undefeated and premiers and champions. Mark Cunningham is accorded life membership for playing 150 club games.
2013 Ash Baker is appointed senior coach. The under 18.5 netballers took out back to back premierships. The clubs secretary, Colin Duffy, was awarded the leagues administrator of the year award.
2014 This year saw the last of 13 years as President for Shane Manley. The senior team played off in the Grand Final against North Ballarat City. Ballarat had a strong first half and were leading at half time, only to be outplayed in the 2nd half, to be soundly beaten. Sam Caldow is accorded life membership for playing 150 club games.
2015 Darren Fraser is elected President. Jed Manley, Scott Petrie, & Peter ‘Scoreboard’ Ciaston are accorded life membership for services rendered to the club. Stuart Baker is accorded life membership for playing 150 club games.
2016 This years saw the opening of the new facilities featuring the new AFL standard playing surface, new coaches boxes and new lighting towers allowing the club to be able to play its first night match which was a great success. Greg Hobbs is accorded life membership for services rendered.
2017 Shane Hutchinson is appointed senior coach. 2017 is a historical year with Clubs Board of Management, in collaboration with the Ballarat Football Netball League, making the decision to establish a new junior arm, the Ballarat Storm Junior Football Netball Club Inc. In its first season the club fielded 2 x Under 10 football teams. This new club will provide more children in the greater Alfredton region the opportunity to play junior football or netball for the Ballarat Football Netball Club brand.
References: John Devaney, Full points publications ‘Encylopedia of Australian Football Clubs’.