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History of the AFL could be turned on its head

Old dark Blues: The Carlton team in 1868.

Old dark Blues: The Carlton team in 1868. Photo: Supplied

EXCLUSIVE

The history of Australian football will soon be turned on its head if a series of recommendations to the AFL Commission is accepted - recommendations that will rewrite the official birth date of the Australian Football League.

Fairfax Media understands a working party chaired by commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick has accepted that the origins of the AFL competition should be backdated about a quarter of a century, from 1897 to as early as 1870 - the year Melbourne won the first recorded premiership.

The Football Record from 1915 showing the premiers from 1870.

The Football Record from 1915 showing the premiers from 1870. Photo: Supplied

In a move that would lift Carlton to the top of the premiership table on 22, ahead of Essendon on 20, the AFL is also expected to redefine the origins of the expanded national competition. Fitzroy would gain an extra flag, as would Collingwood, with the Magpies moving to 16.

The radical revision would correctly establish Australian football as one of the oldest in international existence. The prevailing view is that the completion of the research should lead to sweeping historic changes and would be announced by Fitzpatrick at the 2015 Hall of Fame presentation.

Although the VFL was officially renamed the AFL in 1990, history in future is expected to record that the Australian Football League truly began in 1987 - the year the Brisbane Bears and West Coast joined the competition. This is despite one consideration that AFL premierships should count from 1982 - the year South Melbourne relocated to Sydney.

Under the working party's proposal, premierships will fall under various categories. For example, Melbourne, should the competition's starting point be dated back to 1870, will increase its premiership tally from 12 to 15 but will boast no AFL flags, rather 12 VFL flags and a further three from the previous era.

Richmond will still boast 10 VFL flags but no AFL premierships, while Geelong's new total of 16 will equal Collingwood's but be broken up into seven VFA flags, six VFL and three AFL.

Hawthorn, which did not exist as an elite club until the 20th century, will not see its total premiership tally change, but the Hawks will boast the most AFL premierships, with four of their 11 falling in the national era.

Fitzpatrick is understood to have been close to announcing the historic changes at the 2014 Hall Of Fame function, but postponed the ratification pending more specific research into previously  unrecorded club win-loss records and individual game and goal tallies.

The AFL chairman referred briefly to the historians'  work at the recent function, which recognised a group of the game's founding fathers. They will also further examine the true influence of Marn Grook and indigenous Australians on the AFL code.

The league's new chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, told Fairfax Media: "There's a review being done but it hasn't come to the commission as yet. Any speculation as to what the outcome may be is premature."

But it is known that a group of historians and researchers led by the AFL's Col Hutchinson and author and academic Mark Pennings have also been searching to correctly credit some of the game's early champions with games previously not attributed to their records.

These include Australian football Hall of Famers Charles Brownlow, Peter ''The Great'' Burns, George Coulthard and Charlie Pannam. Brownlow's captaincy of a Geelong VFL premiership is not recognised in AFL records, while Burns, the game's first superstar, is credited with only 89 games for Geelong despite his extensive career in the VFA playing for South Melbourne.

Coulthard, three times the champion of the colony, died of tuberculosis at the age of 27 and despite seven years and a premiership with Carlton in the VFA, his playing record, according the the AFL, has a ''NA'' alongside it. Pannam's extensive VFA games for Collingwood are not recognised.

While individual bragging rights could prove a focus in the rewriting of the AFL's historic narrative, the Fitzpatrick-chaired committee is understood to be determined that previously unallocated premierships be categorised according to their competitions at the time.

When told of the proposed historic changes, Carlton's incoming president Mark LoGiudice said: "That's interesting, but to be honest I'd prefer a modern-day premiership."

The AFL Commission could also choose to backdate the birth of the competition, not to 1870 but to 1877 - the year the VFA was formed. This move was pushed strongly and publicly by Geelong in 2011 when its president Colin Carter presented the commission with a detailed submission to reclaim the game's ''lost years''.

In 1877, the VFA's founding, nine senior clubs made up the competition. Six of those - Carlton, Essendon, Geelong, North Melbourne (then known as Hotham), Melbourne and St Kilda - still underpin the AFL. Between 1877 and the formation of the VFL in 1896, Fitzroy, Richmond, Footscray and Collingwood joined the VFA.

Carter, a former AFL commissioner, presented the AFL with a detailed submission requesting the commission reclaim "20 forgotten years of our football history", in a move ridiculed in some quarters as a push to credit the Cats with its seven VFA premierships from that era.

But the commission took the Geelong submission on board and its argument through various historians that the VFA competition and Australian football origins deserved to be recognised as one of the world's oldest and most successful football codes.

"Our present Aussie Rules record book is wrong,'' historian Geoffrey Blainey said. "It is based on an old feud between two sets of football officials. It is time to end the feud.''

Blainey added of the 20 unrecognised VFA years: "The AFL record book ignores them or treats them as phantoms. If they don't take the field in or after 1897, they apparently don't exist, and yet their achievements are astonishing and a glory to the game."

Supporting the revision is the relevant fact that in the 20 VFA years up until the VFL's formation in 1897, traditional AFL clubs recorded 76 of the total 80 top-four finishes.

Among the wider implications for the game in rewriting its already extensive historic records has been the challenge to research team line-ups and scores from statistics seemingly no longer in existence.

Should 1870 be recorded as year one of the competition now known as the AFL, then the game's 150th celebrations would be brought forward from 2046 to 2020.

But as Carter argued in 2011: "Any restatement of history will involve additional research, arouse sensitivities, and spur new debates over gaps in the data. We should expect this but our commitment should be to do what is right rather than what is easy."

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE ($2.05)vs WCE ($1.80) 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK ($4.50)vs SYD ($1.22) 15:20ES
FRE ($1.08)vs MEL ($8.50) 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE ($2.00)vs ADE ($1.75) 13:05SS
BRI ($4.60)vs WBU ($1.18) 13:45G
PTA ($1.75)vs FRE ($2.00) 15:50Adelaide Oval
HAW ($1.01)vs CAR ($15.00) 16:40MCG
SYD ($1.07)vs GCF ($7.50) 19:20SCG
WCE ($1.11)vs STK ($6.25) 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GWS 13:10ES
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 20 16 4 0 122.19 64
West Coast Eagles 20 15 4 1 150.85 62
Hawthorn 21 15 6 0 156.77 60
Richmond 21 14 7 0 121.39 56
Sydney Swans 20 14 6 0 118.16 56
Western Bulldogs 21 14 7 0 116.76 56
North Melbourne 21 13 8 0 109.08 52
Adelaide Crows 19 12 7 0 116.41 50
View all
 

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