The Beginning

Extracted from Tuesday 4th August 1874 – Geelong Advertiser

1874 — on Saturday, August 1st a meeting was held at the Bay View Hotel, Portarlington. The meeting was held for the purpose of establishing a football club. Mr H. Kelly was voted to the Chair. It was resolved that a club be established to be called “The Portarlington Football Club”.

Mr R. Graham was elected as Hon. Sec; Mr H. Kelly President and Treasurer.

27 members were enrolled. Another meeting will be held on Wednesday, Aug 5th for the purpose of enrolling new members.

The Bayview Hotel – circa 1874

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—- 22 Newcombe St, Portarlington — currently vacant land next to “Saints & Sailors”

Overview of Portarlington Football Club History

The Portarlington Football Club was formed in 1874 making it one of Australia’s oldest Australian Rules Football Clubs. Early investigation has shown the Club has had an outstanding local Portarlington town presence for nearly 150 years. From the date of its establishment on the 1st August, 1874, preliminary investigations have shown the Club initially nicknamed “The Ports” has had a colourful history of success, heartache and an immense impact on the local community.

Although research is ongoing, @ October 2021 information is as follows:

Established: 1874

Key Points of Interest:

Club played 11 games in Melbourne in 1885 – more research on other years

Club in recess during WW1 1914 to 1919

  during WW11 1939 to 1945

Club combined with Drysdale FC from 1936 to 1938 and played in “red and white colours

Club reformed post WW2 in 1945 as Portarlington Football and Cricket Club

In the early 1950’s there were not enough Cricketers, so Portarlington Players played under St Leonards Cricket Club banner 

Cricket Club separated from Football Club in 1972

Netball Club formed in 1972

Portarlington Netball Club combined with the Football Club around 1989

Club changed name to Portarlington-St Leonards in 1996 but reverted back to Portarlington the following year

Competitions the Club has Competed in:

1875 to 1895 — Invitation games up to 21 /year

 — Competed in Melbourne between 1883 to 1890??? (more     

     research required)

 — Players and Officials travelled via Edina and Melbourne sides  

      Likewise, Melbourne sides travelled to Portarlington but not as    

      often 

1895 to 1914  – Bellarine District League (sometimes quoted as Bellarine   

                          Football Association)

WW1

1919 to 1922  – Bellarine Football Association

!923               — Geelong Junior Football Association

1924 to 1928  – Geelong Athletic Society Football League

1929 to 1939  – Geelong Football Association 

 Note: Portarlington and Drysdale combined in 1936 till 1939 

WW2

1945              — Geelong Football Association

1945 to 1963 – Geelong and District Football League

1964 to 1970 – Polwarth Football League

1971 to present – Bellarine Football Netball League

History Narrative

The “Ports” Years 

In the early years, the Club was referred to as the “Ports”.

From 1875 the “Ports” competed in an array of football match events which originated via invitation up to at least 1883. The members of the teams were made up of local farmers, business operators and workers (probably for the brickworks and later the mill). The PFC competed against teams from Geelong (still more research needed here)

In the 1880’s there are records of the PFC team travelling via the Melbourne to Portarlington Steamer the “Edina” to compete against teams from Melbourne. An article appeared in the Queenscliff Sentinel on 10 October 1885 reporting the Portarlington Football Club played 13 games including 11 games in Melbourne. The reported scores showed Portarlington won 10 matches losing only 3 to Abbotsford, Rainbow and Northcote. They kicked a total of 46 goals for the season and had only 18 kicked against them.

A group of people posing for a photo

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The photo above is believed to be the “Ports” premiership team in 1906, beating Queenscliff:   Score   4 . 12 – 36  to  4 . 2 – 26

From 1895 the “Ports” competed in the Bellarine & District League (sometimes called the Portarlington & District, Queenscliff & District and Bellarine & District Leagues or combinations of both). The BDL was mostly made up of Portarlington, Queenscliff, Royal Artillery, Royal Garrison (Military) and Drysdale. There is clear evidence Portarlington won 5 premierships in these years and was Runner Up around 13 times (unlucky for some). The Club played in this league till the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914.

At the turn of the century Mr Robert Graham had four sons playing for PFC. One son Charles (Dick) Graham played for over twenty-two years from 1891 to 1914, including a year with Geelong. Others to play during this period were 3 Hitch brothers, Leonard Ibbotson, Paddy McLean (who also played with Geelong), Charlie Schulz, Malcolm Beasley and many others.

After WW1 the PFC reformed in 1919 and played in the Bellarine Football Association. Investigations to date suggest the team did not have any premiership success but produced many outstanding players. In 1925 Councillor Ted Harvey presented a medallion to Portarlington’s Riley Lincoln for the most consistent player (equivalent to today’s League Best & Fairest). After WW1, the PFC played in Essendon colours and were still known as the “Ports”. 

During the depression years of the late 1920’s, the Club was unable to field a team, however in 1931 the PFC fielded a side under the Captaincy Mick Wilson in the Geelong Football Association. Although again the Club did not win any Premierships during this period it produced some fine footballers. Among them was the legendary, Jack Manson who came from Melbourne and was a local professional fisherman for many years. Jack won the League Best & Fairest Medallion in 1931, 1932 & 1933 and was Runner-Up to another Portarlington player (Arny Fraser) in 1934. In 1936 the PFC and Drysdale F.C combined to field a team for three years before the outbreak of World War 2.

The Bomber Years

In 1944 PFC reformed and still in red and black colours but its nickname became the “Bombers”, noting Essendon adopted that nickname in 1940. The Club had success in 1947 as Premiers & Champions in the Geelong District Leagues – Woolworth Cup. The Legendary – Jack Manson (still playing) was Captain/Coach of this Champion Team. It should be noted three players went to play with Geelong the following year – John Hyde, Barry Bretland and Max Trewin. 

The PFC was not successful again until the “Coronation Year” when in 1953 under Coach Stuart Renfrey and Captain – Harold “Snub” Fraser, won the Premiership for the Jarman Cup. Success came again for the PFC in 1958 when they won the Premiership under Captain Coach – Dick Gillivour and in 1959 they were Premiers & Champions again under Dick’s stewardship. Champion ruckman – Barry Ward won the League Best & Fairest in this year and went to Geelong in 1960.

After these two successful years the Club was promoted the equivalent of two Divisions to the Evelyn Hurst Cup in 1960 and although they were competitive was relegated to the Woolworth Cup in 1961. In 1962 under Captain/Coach Barry Ward (who returned from Geelong) the PFC played against Torquay in the Grand Final and unfortunately lost.

The Demons Years

In 1964, the PFC joined the Polwarth League, however due to the clash of similar “red and black” Essendon colours with Birregurra, the Club changed colours to “red and blue” and became known as the Portarlington Demons. The PFC competed in this competition without a final’s appearance till 1970. The Polwarth League was dismantled and replaced by the Bellarine and District Football League (BDFL). It should be noted however that another young local – Brian Chirgwin – won the Polwarth League Best & Fairest in 1965 then went on to play with Geelong in 1966.

The BDFL commenced in 1971 and the Senior Coach at the time was Barry Smith. In fact, it was in this year the Club started to find some success and in the back half of the season easily defeated all the sides above them in the top four. Missing out only on percentage, the team of ‘71, missed out on an opportunity to perhaps bring the Club success after many years without a finals appearance.

In 1973, however the Club won its very first “Underage” premiership. Captained by David “Wally” Whelan and Coached by local player and farmer, Ian “Coatie” Coatsworth the Club’s U13 team won the premiership.

A significant milestone of success came for the Club off the field, when in 1975 Club President “Harry” Ashton, Ron Evans (Secretary), the Committee, together with the Gordon Stevens, then Bellarine Shire President they managed to secure funding via a unique rating system through the local Council with the sanction of State Government. The amount raised was enough to provide materials and together with the local community volunteer labour, new ‘state of the art’ Football/Cricket Clubrooms were built on the western side of the oval. The facility to this day has stood the test of time, some 45+ years on. 

With the completion of the new facilities on field success came with the Club winning its first ever Reserves Grade Premiership in 1977. Under Captain/Coach — Mick Cain, the Club’s 2nd XVIII won a tough fought out game against Leopold. The following year the team again made the finals but failed to make the Grand Final.  However, 1978 saw the Club’s 1st XVIII under Captain Coach – Phil Sarah soundly beat Drysdale to win the 1978 Senior Premiership. The Club’s first Senior XVIII premiership in nearly 20 years.

The Club ended up third in 1979 under Captain/Coach Lindsay Toulmin losing the preliminary final to Leopold who were the eventual Premiers. In 1980, under Captain/Coach George Bisset, the Club lost only one home and away game (the last), only to be racked by injuries going into the final series. Although the Club ended the season as minor Premiers it lost the Grand Final to Newcomb.

Again under Captain/Coach George Bisset, the Club made finals in 1981 and 1982 only to be defeated in Preliminary and Semi-Finals. In 1983 and 1984 the Club made the finals under Captain/Coaches – Warwick Yeates (1983) and Phil Sarah (1984) again the team was defeated in the minor finals and failed to have any Grand Final appearances.   

An eleventh Senior XVIII Premiership came in 1992 when the Club won not only the Senior (under Steven “Stormy” Winter) and Reserve Grade football premierships but also the A Grade Netball Premiership and were runners up in the B Grade Netball. After the 1994 Senior Football grand final loss in 1994, the club’s fortunes took a turn for the worse thereafter, with poor senior playing performances compounded by financial hardship in the mid- to late-1990s. The past two and a half decades have been tough on and off the field. Indeed, the situation became so dire that by 2019 the club faced the very real threat that it might fold.

More to be added

Grass Roots Australian Football — Portarlington Football Netball Club

150 Years in 2024

Call for information on Football, Netball and the Club’s connection with it local communities in Portarlington, St Leonards and Indented Head

Located approximately 30 kilometres from Geelong on the Bellarine Peninsula are the coastal towns of Portarlington, St Leonards, and Indented Head. One of the Club’s major objectives is to ensure to involve our local communities not only in its endeavours to provide excellent football and netball sporting platforms in a family friendly environment. Almost for the entire life of the football part of the Club of nearly 150 years the communities from all three towns have contributed to its existence through player participation, membership, and sponsorship.  

Historically In the 1830s and ’40s settlers were establishing a presence on the Bellarine and the small township forming near Indented Head was named Portarlington in 1851.  Census data reveals that Portarlington’s population was only around 150 people in the 1850s, but town-planning was well underway and with blocks sold off and local businesses emerging future growth was assured. St Leonards was also established in the 1850’s and had a smaller population.

A cricket club was established as early as 1872 in Portarlington. Two years later, at a meeting held at the town’s Bayview Hotel, 27 locals gathered to form the first football club on the Bellarine Peninsula. Accordingly, both the Portarlington Cricket Club and the Portarlington Football Club currently are preparing to celebrate their upcoming 150th anniversaries (and netball was established in the early 1970s, so a 50th anniversary will coincide with the cricket and football celebrations, as well).

Countless football clubs were formed in the decades immediately following the game’s codification in 1859, and yet the vast majority of them did not stand the test of time. Formed in 1874, Portarlington counts among the oldest extant clubs of any football code in the world. To put this into perspective, consider these few comparisons: Portarlington Football Club has been around 11 years longer than Richmond and preceded Collingwood by 18 years; it is four years older than Manchester United and was already in its twelfth year of existence when Arsenal was formed; it was approaching its 50th anniversary when the St George Dragons were founded; and Port had been around for more than 80 years when the Dallas Cowboys were created. Portarlington is, by any measurement, a historic football club.

Like all footy clubs, Portarlington has its own unique story to tell full of ups and downs. Its early history is particularly fascinating. For instance, when it was formed the only other established football club in the region was Geelong. Travelling roughly 15-20 miles over land during winter in those days was no easy feat, however, and this meant that taking a ferry across the bay to play games in Melbourne was both a practical and appealing option. 

In fact, a preliminary search of the records show that Portarlington played at least 13 games of football in 1885, of which 11 took place in Melbourne. This suggests that Melbourne teams were not so inclined to catch the ferry across to Portarlington, which is only natural given that they had plenty of nearby opponents for scheduling more convenient matches. But it also tells us that the Portarlington folk were very keen to play football and were willing to go to significant efforts to make it happen. Furthermore, Port’s record in these 13 games played in 1885 was an impressive 10 wins and three losses, so they appear to have been quite a formidable outfit.

Overall, however, it must be said that Portarlington’s playing record has been mostly characterised by only occasional successes interspersed among long periods of struggle. It has bounced around various local leagues over the decades. The club secured premiership successes in 1906, 1909 and 1911 in the local Bellarine Football Association. However, although competitive in the years post WWI and pre WW2, the Club’s first Championship/Premiership was in 1947. The 1950s proved to be a ‘golden era’ for the Club, with flags won in 1953, 1958, and a second Championship/Premiership in1959. 

The Club gained its tenth 1st XVIII Premiership 1978 and an eleventh came in 1992 when it won not only the Senior and Reserve Grade football premierships but also the A Grade Netball Premiership and were runners up in the B Grade Netball. After the 1994 Senior Football grand final loss in 1994, the club’s fortunes took a turn for the worse thereafter, with poor senior playing performances compounded by financial hardship in the mid- to late-1990s. The past two and a half decades have been tough on and off the field. Indeed, the situation became so dire that by 2019 the club faced the very real threat that it might fold.

For almost 150 years, through thick and thin, the football club has been interwoven into the wider fabric of the Portarlington, St Leonards and Indented Head communities. Yes, the good teams and occasional premierships have been celebrated, and the club’s greatest players are revered—led by John Hyde, who played in Port’s Championship flag in 1947 before joining Geelong where he won the best and fairest award as a twenty-year-old in 1950 and starred as a key defender in the Cats’ back-to-back VFL flags in 1952-53. 

As is the case with all local towns, however, on-field success is not what defined the footy club’s role within the Portarlington community. It is for this reason that, when recently hit by the realisation that the club may vanish, members have banded together in a concerted endeavour to ensure its long-term future. 

Fighting back after facing likely extinction is a key part of the Club’s strategy, in particular reigniting the local community’s passion for its historic club. A major part of this is to ensure our entire local communities are aware of the upcoming 150 years celebrations and a call for any information people may have on the history of not only the Football and Netball side but also any information on the Portarlington Cricket Club as well.

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