Australian Football Celebrating the history of the great Australian game



Known as

1928; Manuka became Manuka Weston in 1985; merged with Eastlake in 1991 to form Southern District

Associated clubs
Eastlake (Original)

Affiliation (Current)
ACT AFL (ACTAFL) –2024, 1975–1991

Affiliation (Historical)
Canberra Australian National Football League (CANFL) 1928–1974

Senior Premierships
ACTAFL - 1931, 1935, 1938, 1942 (with Eastlake), 1949-50, 1955, 1967-8-9, 1971, 1973-4-5, 1977, 1981 (16 total)


Formed in 1928, Manuka entered the Federal Territory Australian Rules Football League the same year, replacing founder members Federals, which had disbanded, and adopting the same red and black playing uniforms. The side finished last in a five team competition in its debut season, and continued to struggle until 1931 when, in the first year of the Page-McIntyre finals system, it battled its way through to the grand final. Opponents Acton, which had vied with Manuka for the wooden spoon in each of the previous three seasons, afforded stern opposition in a dour, low scoring tussle, but the red and blacks proved steadier in front of goal, and ultimately prevailed by 19 points.

Manuka remained at the forefront of the game in Canberra for the remainder of the decade. After losing three consecutive grand finals between 1932 and 1934 it re-assumed pole position in 1935 with a 9.14 (68) to 4.19 (43) grand final defeat of Ainslie. Manuka’s third and final premiership of the 1930s followed three years later when Queanbeyan was its grand final victim. Manuka won a high standard encounter 18.9 (117) to 15.4 (94), with former VFL player Tom Fitzmaurice bagging 10 goals.

The 1939 CANFL season[1] was noteworthy for producing the first drawn game since the inception of the league. Manuka and Acton were the two teams involved, each kicking 10.17 (77). Incredibly, the second drawn game in league history happened just a matter of weeks later, on grand final day. Once again, Manuka was involved, registering precisely the same score - 7.10 (52) - as opponents Queanbeyan. This remains the only drawn grand final in league history.

Somewhat controversially, CANFL president John Mulrooney ruled that the replay should take place at Queanbeyan’s home ground of Queanbeyan Park. Everyone connected with Manuka was most aggrieved, less so regarding any intimations that Queanbeyan was being handed an advantage than over the diminutive size of the ground, which they believed was inimical to the production of good football. The league was not to be gainsaid, however, and the match duly went ahead, with Queanbeyan emerging victorious with disquieting ease, 18.22 (130) to 9.19 (73).

During world war two Manuka joined forces with Eastlake for three seasons, winning the 1942 flag with a 13.24 (102) to 4.14 (38) annihilation of RAAF.

Manuka returned as a force in the late 1940s, losing the 1948 grand final to Eastlake, and then scoring a narrow win over the same opponent the following year in one of the most nail-biting grand finals witnessed in the Territory up to that point. When Joe Flaherty goaled in the closing minute of the game to put Manuka 4 points in front it was the first time in the match that the red and blacks had led, and their timing could not have been more impeccable. Final scores were Manuka 6.9 (45) to Eastlake 5.11 (41).

Manuka again overcame the challenge of Eastlake in 1950, recovering from a second semi final loss - the side’s only reversal for the year - to win the grand final by 25 points. In 1955 Manuka achieved the comparatively rare feat of downing the mighty Queanbeyan-Acton Combine, 12.11 (83) to 8.6 (54), to secure the club’s sixth premiership as an autonomous organisation.

The 1960s proved to be the club’s most successful decade so far as it contested a total of six grand finals for a 50% success rate. The three flags came consecutively between 1967 and 1969, with Eastlake on the receiving end each time. In 1970 Manuka played off for a fourth successive premiership but lost a thriller to Ainslie by 6 points.

The 1970s would prove to be even more rewarding than the 1960s with the club appearing in 7 grand finals for 5 wins. Many excellent players donned the red and black during this decade including Bill Vaughan, Brian Backhouse, Edney Blackaby and Greg Eaves. The main architect of Manuka’s success during the late 1960s and early ‘70s was Tasmanian Neil Conlan who took over as captain-coach of the Bullants, as they were known by this time, in 1967. Described as “a quick thinker and an aggressive, constructive footballer always looking to bring his forwards into the game with his accurate disposal”[2] Conlan “inspired his players by his knowledge of the game as well as his ability to play it”.[3] As playing coach of Manuka, Conlan oversaw two premierships, and four more as non-playing coach. Following his departure after the 1974 flag he left a distinctive legacy which contributed to the club’s continued prominence during the remainder of the 1970s. A forthright character, he “was never averse to advise the umpires about the state of the game”.[4] Neil Conlan’s son Michael later became a useful VFL footballer with Fitzroy after beginning his career with the Bullants.

Manuka’s final premiership came in 1981 with Brian Quade as captain-coach. In what was the first grand final played at the league’s new headquarters of Philip Oval Ainslie was overcome by 22 points, 18.18 (126) to 15.14 (104).

As Manuka Weston the side contested one grand final, losing to Queanbeyan by 20 points in 1989. Two years later the club entered into a merger arrangement with erstwhile arch rival Eastlake and a new era beckoned.


1 The Federal Territory Australian Rules Football League (FTARFL) became the Canberra Australian National Football League (CANFL) in 1927.

2 The National Game in the National Capital: 60 Years of Achievement by Barbara Marshall, page 134.

3 Ibid, page 134.

4 Ibid, page 134.


John Devaney - Full Points Publications



* Behinds calculated from the 1965 season on.
+ Score at the end of extra time.