1st Floor, 330 Chapel Street, Prahran 3181, Victoria
Victorian Football Association (VFA) 1886-87; 1899-1958; Metropolitan Football League (MFL) 1959; VFA 1960-1994; Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) since 1999
Royal blue and light blue
248 by Frank Smith 1924-30 and 1933-41
Despite winning only intermittent senior premierships Prahran Football Club was indisputably a mainstay of the VFA competition for much of the twentieth century.
A Prahran Football Club was originally formed at a meeting held at the Prahran Court House on 20 March 1886. Matters proceeded apace in those days, and the club was immediately admitted to the VFA for the 1886 season. It survived for just two years, finishing thirteenth out of fifteen and eleventh out of eighteen, before being compelled to amalgamate with St Kilda as part of the VFA’s bid to streamline, and thereby hopefully improve, its competition. Actually, the union was less a merger than a take-over, with St Kilda’s individual identity continuing and that of Prahran being rapidly consigned to history.
In 1899 a standalone Prahran Football Club was re-formed and once again admitted to the VFA. However, following the formation of the VFL two years earlier the VFA was no longer Victoria’s senior football body. Prahran was competitive in its debut season, winning 8 of its 21 matches to finish in fifth position out of eight clubs.
Throughout most of the first decade of the current century the club struggled to make an impact before finally breaking through to secure a minor premiership in 1909. A 3 goal semi final loss to Brunswick had a sensational aftermath when, on the Wednesday evening following the game, four players - Bennion, Haigbloom, Julian and Rourke - were sacked by the Prahran Committee. The official reason for the sackings has never been disclosed but the obvious inference to be drawn was that the players’ performances or attitudes left something to be desired. Whatever the reason, club morale does not appear to have suffered unduly as in the re-match with Brunswick it was Prahran which made all the running, leading at every change by 19, 15 and 12 points. Ultimately, however, it was to no avail as in the final term Brunswick suddenly found another gear and played all over the Two Blues to get home by 16 points, 10.11 (71) to 8.7 (55).
Prahran next played off for the premiership in 1918 but North Melbourne proved to be much too formidable, winning 18.13 (121) to 3.10 (28).
The 1920s proved to be a barren decade for the Two Blues, and the 1930s started the same way. However, in the period 1934 to 1941 Prahran arrived as a consistent force for the first time, winning almost 67% of all matches played and regularly competing in the finals, including three grand finals. Unfortunately, however, the side won only one of these, downing Brunswick at Toorak Park in 1937 in a real thriller. Brunswick led at every change by 12, 18 and 10 points, but when the tempo rose in the final term so did the Prahran player’s intensity and when the final bell sounded the scoreboard showed the Two Blues in front by 4 points. Prahran wingman Doug Bourne was best afield, with other fine performances coming from Harry Baker and Bill Johnson across half back, full forward George Hawkins who bagged 6.1, and centreman Jack Lowry.
Prahran’s two losing grand finals in this era came in 1936 against Northcote, and 1940 against Port Melbourne.
Port Melbourne again stood in the way when the Two Blues next made a grand final in 1951. Two Blues coach Bill Faul told his captain Paddy Walsh that if he won the toss he should elect to kick into the breeze in the belief that it would stiffen appreciably as the afternoon wore on. Such indeed proved to be the case, and given Prahran’s eventual winning margin of just 9 points Faul’s decision appears to have been entirely vindicated. Defenders Ron Overs, Laurie Yates and Bob Campbell were the pick of the Two Blues’ contributors.
The next dramatic occurrence in Prahran’s history came in 1959 when the club was sensationally debarred from the VFA after Prahran Council refused to allow the Two Blues’ seconds side access to Toorak Park when the seniors were playing away. Such access was a condition of VFA membership and the immediate upshot was that Metropolitan Football League club Sunshine swapped places with Prahran for the 1959 season. The situation was resolved in time for the 1960 season but in the meantime the Two Blues had recorded an effortless MFL premiership at the expense of their solitary conquerors for the entire year, East Hawthorn. The short term consequences of expulsion were thus not entirely deleterious. Longer term, however, the club found it difficult to readjust following its re-admission to the VFA, and in 1960 it managed a meagre return of just 1 win for the whole year. In 1961 the VFA competition was divided into two divisions, and the Two Blues needless to say found themselves initially consigned to second division along with Northcote, Brighton, Camberwell, Preston, Dandenong, Sunshine and newcomers Waverley. On field performances improved, but the side still failed to make the finals, finishing fifth on percentage.
The 1962 season brought further improvement as Prahran reached the grand final only to be overrun by Dandenong. This was followed by a losing preliminary final appearance in 1963 and a return to the pursuing pack in 1964 and 1965.
The Two Blues finally escaped the lower division in 1966 with an emphatic grand final defeat of developing power Geelong West. After a closely fought first half Prahran, inspired by tenacious centreman Kevin Sheedy, 4 goal centre half forward Maurie Bartlett, and 6 goal spearhead Barry Pearson added 11.8 to 2.2 after half time to win by 69 points, 17.12 (114) to 5.15 (45).
Kevin Sheedy later moved to Richmond in the VFL but the nucleus of a good side remained and Prahran rapidly consolidated in the top flight. In 1968 the side qualified for the grand final with an impressive 28 point win over Preston in the second semi final and two weeks later in the grand final appeared set to repeat the dose against the same opponents when it trailed by only 10 points at the final change with the prospect of a quarter kicking with the aid of the a strong breeze to come. Disappointingly, however, the Bullants found that vital something extra in the closing stanza and actually outscored Prahran 3 goals to 2 to win by 14 points.
Prahran’s form declined in 1969 but the 1970 season turned out to be the best in the club’s history. Not only did the seniors emphatically defeat Williamstown by 50 points in the grand final, but the combined performance of all three grades was, for the first and indeed only time, good enough to secure the VFA’s club championship award. Stars of the Two Blues’ 17.18 (120) to 10.10 (70) grand final demolition of the Seagulls included ruck rover Kevin Rose, half forward flanker Errol Hutchesson, centreman Ken Emselle, and half back flanker Bryan Kenneally.
After failing to reach the finals in 1971 and 19722 the Two Blues finished off the 1973 season in stunning fashion to clinch their fifth senior flag. Needing to win at Sandringham in the final home and away match of the year to even contest the finals the Prahran players suddenly found their best form of the season to romp home by 89 points. They then went on with things in emphatic, irrepressible fashion, downing Port Melbourne by 52 points in the first semi final, Dandenong by 29 points in the preliminary final, and reigning premiers Oakleigh by 35 points in a disappointingly - to neutrals - one-sided grand final. Prahran owed its win in large part to the dominance of centreman Ken Emselle, ruckman Rod Payne, and on-ballers Peter Sinclair, Rod Appleton and Geoff Smith.
Prahran’s next flag in 1978 came after another prolonged sequence of ‘outs’. The Two Blues were underdogs going into the grand final against Preston but played more resolute football throughout to win a spectacular, high standard game by 22 points, 21.15 (141) to 17.17 (119). Future and former VFL stars Wayne Johnston and Sam Kekovich played well across half forward for the victors as did full forward Kim Smith (7.4) and ruckman Lou Pepe. The match, played at the Junction Oval, was attended by a sizeable crowd of 30,569, but this would be the last occasion that the VFA proved capable of attracting spectators in such numbers. In 1979 the VFL began its policy of playing Sunday fixtures in Sydney. These games were shown ‘live’ on television back in Melbourne, thereby effectively eroding the VFA’s monopoly on Sunday football. From being a respectable complementary draw-card to the VFL the VFA was forced into direct opposition almost overnight, and there was never any doubt about which of the two bodies would emerge victorious. Prahran’s days as a football force were also numbered. Over the next seven seasons the side’s performances steadily declined in quality, culminating in relegation to second division in 1985. The club’s last ever VFA premiership came in 1987 when it downed Waverley 18.9 (117) to 14.14 (98) in the division two grand final. Third place in a by this stage single division VFA in 1992 apparently gave promise of better things to come but two years later the club’s days as an autonomous senior entity appeared over. However, in 1999 a resurrected Prahran was admitted to the Victorian Amateur Football Association, providing an opportunity for a club which, for over a century, had been one of the VFA’s most distinctive and famous identities, to continue to build its unique tradition, whilst contributing tangibly to the history of the greatest of games.