In common with most other Victorian country towns, Avoca’s first football excursions were informal or social in nature. During 1873 Avenel is recorded as having engaged in several matches against Maryborough, and over the ensuing couple of decades other rivals such as Clunes, Elmhurst, Homebush, Natte Yallock and Talbot were added.
Avoca’s involvement in formal competition commenced in 1895 when a local association was established. In 1909 the Avoca District Football Association comprised three clubs: Avoca, Homebush and Redbank. In the decisive match of the year, Avoca defeated Homebush by 34 points to claim the club’s first premiership. This success was repeated a year later when the competition’s ranks had swollen to five clubs with the inclusion of Amphitheatre and Elmhurst.
The inter-war years saw Avoca competing in several different competitions, with varying degrees of success. The 1920s brought a trio of premierships, while in the following decade there were grand final wins over Natte Yallock by 56 points in 1935 and Lexton two years later by a 10 point margin. These twin triumphs were the highlights of four successive grand final appearances for Avoca which also involved losses to Redbank in 1936 and Lexton in 1938.
When full scale competitive football resumed after the second world war in 1945 Avoca was one of half a dozen clubs to comprise the newly formed Lexton Football League, the competition it would call home until 1998. The Bulldogs’ first premiership in the new league came in 1953, but they then had to wait almost three decades, until 1980, before procuring a second. The 1980 flag was won at the expense of Natte Bealiba, with Lexton providing the grand final victims a year later. The remainder of the 1980s saw Avoca alternating between mid-table mediocrity and finals failure, but the 1990s would prove to be the club’s most successful ever decade, spawning premierships in 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998, together with a couple of losing grand finals.
At the end of the 1998 season the Lexton Football League amalgamated with the Western Plains Football League to form the Lexton Plains Football League. Avoca was among the eleven founder members of the new competition, in which it competed until 2004. Since 2005 the Bulldogs have been members of the Maryborough Castlemaine District Football League, with the seniors getting as far as the grand final in 2007, only to lose heavily to Harcourt. A second grand final appearance followed in 2010 but opponents Maldon proved to have the Bulldogs' measure. More recently, the team has generally struggled. For instance, in 2015 the Bulldogs finished tenth (of fourteen), followed by twelfth in both 2016 and 2017. There was some improvement in 2018 when the Bulldogs only missed the finals on percentage, finishing tenth. A single place improvement followed after a 2019 campaign which produced seven wins from 16 starts.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications