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    History of the AFL could be turned on its head

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    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."

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    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 vs CAR 19:50SCG
    Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
    MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
    WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
    RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
    ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
    BRI vs STK 13:10G
    COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
    WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 10
    Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
    FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
    Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
    GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
    ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
    PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
    NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
    STK vs HAW 16:40ES
    Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
    View All Fixtures
    Round 11
    Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
    GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
    WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
    NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
    Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
    COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
    STK vs MEL 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 12
    Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
    Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
    GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
    WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
    Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
    View All Fixtures
    Round 13
    Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
    FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
    Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
    Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
    BRI vs ADE 16:35G
    STK vs WBU 19:20ES
    Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 14
    Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
    Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
    COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
    Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
    GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
    WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
    MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
    Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs STK 13:10ES
    ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
    FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 15
    Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
    Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
    WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
    NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
    WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
    HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
    BRI vs SYD 16:40G
    View All Fixtures
    Round 16
    Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
    Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
    GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
    COL vs WCE 16:35ES
    SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
    FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
    PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
    STK vs RIC 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 17
    Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
    Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
    ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
    RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
    ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
    BRI vs NTH 19:20G
    Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
    WBU vs COL 13:10ES
    MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
    WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 18
    Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
    Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
    COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
    SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
    CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
    GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
    Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
    ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
    FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 19
    Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
    WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
    BRI vs GCF 16:35G
    GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
    WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
    GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
    STK vs FRE 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 20
    Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
    Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
    NTH vs STK 14:10BA
    PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
    GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
    BRI vs CAR 19:20G
    Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
    WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
    FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 21
    Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
    Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
    GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
    GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
    STK vs GEE 19:20ES
    ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
    CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
    WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 22
    Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
    Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
    HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
    NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
    ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
    GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
    Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
    STK vs SYD 15:20ES
    FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 23
    Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
    COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
    RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
    HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
    GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
    SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
    MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
    BRI vs WBU 00:00G
    PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
    WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    AFL 2015
    Overall standings
    Team P W L D % Pts
    Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
    West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
    Sydney Swans 8 6 2 0 127.36 24
    GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
    Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
    Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
    Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
    Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
    View all
     
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