Bairnsdale’s proud and achievement-laced history stretches back for well over a hundred years. The club commenced its organised competitive life at the start of the twentieth century in the Gippsland Football League, and enjoyed success almost immediately. When the competition went into mothballs in 1915 because of the first world war Bairnsdale had already claimed five senior grade flags. The period between the wars spawned another three premierships, won in consecutive years between 1928 and 1930.
In 1945 and 1946 the Redlegs competed in the Bairnsdale Bruthen District Football League. However, in 1947 that competition folded, and Bairnsdale resumed in the GFL, claiming a premiership at the first time of asking.
During the 1950s the Redlegs enjoyed unprecedented dominance, winning six out of ten flags for the decade, which gave them a league record fifteen premierships in all. In 1960 the club sought a fresh challenge by transferring to the somewhat stronger La Trobe Valley Football League. The players were far from overawed, and gave a good account of themselves. In 1963 Bairnsdale got as far as the grand final, but lost to Traralgon by 59 points. Another losing grand final followed in 1967, this time against Moe. The Redlegs had their chances to win the game, but squandered them, to go down in the end by just a single straight kick.
Bairnsdale’s sole senior LTVFL flag finally arrived in 1981 when Sale was overcome in the grand final by 21 points.
The 1999 season saw the Redlegs crossing to the East Gippsland Football League, a move that was a prelude to arguably the most memorable phase in the club’s illustrious history. Between 2000 and 2010 the seniors contested ten out of eleven grand finals, emerging victorious from eight of them. Further evidence of the team’s pedigree is afforded by the fact that their average margin of victory in the six winning grand finals was almost 50 points.
Since 2011 Bairnsdale have been members of the Gippsland Football League. After struggling somewhat initially they made the finals for the first time in 2014 when they were ultimately placed fifth. It might then have been expected that the Redlegs would kick on, but in fact the opposite appears to have occurred in that they missed the finals in 2015, and in 2016 slumped to the wooden spoon. After that there was marginal improvement over the course of a 2017 season which saw them clamber one place up the ladder to ninth before making further improvement the following year when they won 6 and drew 1 of their 18 matches to finish seventh. A drop to eighth place followed in 2019 before the league went into recess for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications