1880s, perhaps earlier
Goulburn Valley Football League (GVFL) since 1950
Yellow and maroon
With a population in excess of 30,000 Shepparton is easily the Goulburn Valley region’s biggest city, and so it should not perhaps be all that surprising that the football club bearing the city’s name is the most successful in the Goulburn Valley Football League.\n\nFootball was played locally in and around Shepparton from the early 1880s, and possibly before. However, it was not until the formation of the VFA-affiliated Goulburn Valley District Football Association in 1894 that a coherent framework for the sport emerged. Prior to this there had not even been a uniformly agreed set of rules, a state of affairs which inevitably gave rise to confusion and, on occasion, discord.\n\nShepparton was one of six founder members of the GVDFA, and with the exception of a season on the sidelines in 1930, and a brief stint in the Central Goulburn Valley Football League several years later, the club has maintained its membership continuously ever since. It won its first flag in 1899, followed by another four years later, and then from 1906 until the competition went into recess because of world war one it established a veritable premiership dynasty, going top no fewer than six times in nine seasons. From 1911 until early in the 1913 season in particular, Shepparton was widely regarded, and indeed often described in the local press, as ‘invincible’. At the end of the 1913 season this evaluation was further enhanced when Shepparton beat South Bendigo by 3 points in a special challenge match for ‘the championship of the north’.\n\nAfter world war one Shepparton continued to enjoy regular success, although only once did they manage to achieve sustained dominance of the type experienced between 1906 and 1914. That was during the early 1960s, under the guidance of a man who would go on to achieve near legendary status as a highly successful VFL coach with four different clubs - Tom Hafey, a former back pocket player with Richmond, who arrived at Shepparton in 1961 with an abundance of energy as well as ideas which were in some ways ahead of their time. By his third season at the helm he had the Maroons playing fast, aggressive, highly team-orientated football of a sort that was soon to become the Hafey trademark in the metropolis. Making the brew even more potent was the fact that Shepparton were, by common consent, easily the league’s fittest side, just as Richmond would be in the VFL a few seasons later.\n\nShepparton won three successive flags under Hafey, and after he had departed, but with the blueprint still intact, went on to make it a record-equalling four in a row in 1966. Further premierships followed in 1968-9 under Ken Rowe, and in 1972-3 under Bill Sykes. Since then the club has enjoyed only sporadic success, at least by its own lofty standards, but there is little doubt that dynastic potential still simmers not far beneath the surface. \n\nSelecting just a few players as exemplars of the abundance of talent to have represented the club is problematic, but among the most noteworthy have been:\n\nrover Eric James, regarded by some with exceptionally long memories as the finest small man to have played in the GVFL, and who in 1935 and 1937 became the first player to win two Morrison Medals;\n\nJohn Brady who went on to enjoy an illustrious VFL career with North Melbourne before returning to the GVFL as captain-coach of City United;\n\nelusive half forward and wingman Barry Vagg who gave the Maroons fine service before crossing to the VFL with Melbourne, where he played in excess of 100 senior games, and was very highly regarded;\n\nPeter Maynard, an ebulliently charismatic character who achieved enduring popularity at the Bay Oval while playing just under 200 games, mainly as a half back flanker, for Glenelg in the 1980s;\n\ndual Morrison Medallist (1980 and ‘81) David Code, who later won the William Leitch Medal with Devonport after becoming one of several Victorian footballers during the late 1980s to be flown to and from the Apple Isle every weekend during the winter to play. \n\nMore recently, Stephen Tingay and Anthony Stevens have enjoyed highly noteworthy AFL careers after commencing their football with Shepparton.\n\nSince beating their co-tenants at Deakin Reserve, Shepparton United, by 27 points in the 2000 grand final the Maroons have been regular finalists, only to fail to do themselves justice every time.\n\nDespite these recent blips, over the entire course of its history Shepparton has averaged one senior grade flag every five years, so the club’s supporters could certainly feel justified in expecting another one soon.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications