The club which developed into the original Burnie Football Club was formed in 1885 under the name Emu Bay, a moniker it retained until 1890 when it became known as Burnie. In 1901 it reverted to its original name for five seasons, became known as Romaine in 1906, and then finally settled on the name Burnie in 1909. These constant changes of identity must surely have proved unsettling, and, perhaps not surprisingly, not once during this entire period did the club manage to secure a premiership.
Prior to world war one Burnie participated in the North West Football Association until 1912, and thereafter in the Burnie Football League. The North West Football Union had been formed in 1910 and during the early post war years it was looking to expand in order to cement its role as the primary controlling body in the region. Burnie joined the NWFU in 1922 bringing the number of member clubs to six. It made an immediate impact, reaching that year’s grand final in which it lost narrowly (4.12 to 5.12) to Latrobe.
Between 1927 and 1930 Burnie, with players like Charlie Hallam, Ray Townsend, Mick Lucas and Claude Bennett to the fore, fielded its strongest teams up to that point. It contested the grand final in all four of those years, downing Devonport in 1927 and 1928, but losing to Circular Head in 1929, and Latrobe the following year.1 Fortunes declined somewhat during the first half of the 1930s, and indeed between 1932 and 1933 Burnie left the NWFU and participated in the Burnie Football League once more, but the side was back as a force during the years leading up to the onset of another world war. Between 1936 and 1939 Burnie contested every NWFU grand final. It lost to Devonport in 1936, despite managing 26 scoring shots to 25, but gained revenge in 1937 after edging home in a 5 point thriller. Outclassed to the tune of 37 points by Devonport in 1938 it was much too good for Latrobe the following season, winning 16.10 (106) to 8.13 (61) in what proved to be the last grand final before the war. Particularly notable among many prominent players for Burnie during this period was 1937 Alford Medallist and triple club champion Clem Riggs.
When football on the north west coast resumed after the war in 1945 it found Burnie once again competing in the Burnie Football League with its place in the NWFU taken by another Burnie-based club, Cooee. Between 1945 and 1948 the NWFU comprised separate Eastern and Western Divisions, and Burnie left the BFL to join its near neighbour Cooee in the Western Division in 1946. In both 1946 and 1947 Burnie reached the grand final, only to lose on both occasions, to East Devonport in the former year, and Ulverstone in the latter.
The 1950s proved to be the most successful decade in the club’s history up to that point with the Tigers as they were by that stage known contesting a total of four grand finals and emerging victorious from all but one of them. They did even better in the 1960s, claiming another four flags along with their first, and ultimately only, state title.
The remainder of the club’s history was rather less auspicious, yielding only two further premierships in a little over two decades. In 1993, the year after winning their last senior grade flag, the Tigers joined forces with former sparring partner Cooee, which since commencing in the TFL statewide competition had been known as Burnie Hawks. The merged club became known as the Burnie Dockers in 1995, and after the statewide league was dismantled at the end of the 2000 season it competed, with considerable success, in the Northern Tasmanian Football League before joining the statewide competition mark two in 2009.
- See the entry on Devonport for details of the structural changes forced on the NWFU during this period after the washing away of the Forth Bridge.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications