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South Australian National Football League
General Information
Founded 1877, Adelaide, South Australia
Previous names South Australian Football Association (1877-1906),
South Australian Football League (1907-1927)
Current clubs Central District

North Adelaide
Port Adelaide Magpies
(formerly Port Adelaide)
South Adelaide
West Adelaide
Woodville-West Torrens

Defunct clubs West Torrens (1897-1990)

Woodville (1964-1990)
Adelaide (unrelated to AFL club)
Gawler Albion
(subsequently North Adelaide)
North Adelaide
(unrelated to North Adelaide)
South Park
Prince Alfred College

Stadiums AAMI Stadium
2009 Season
Premiers Central Districts
Minor Premiers Glenelg
Wooden spoon South Adelaide
Magarey Medallist James Ezard, West Adelaide and Rhys Archard, North Adelaide
Total attendance TBA
Average match attendance TBA

The South Australian National Football League (SANFL) is the premier league and governing body for the sport of Australian rules football in the state of South Australia.

Originally formed as the South Australian Football Association on the 30th of April 1877, the SANFL is not only the oldest surviving football league of any code in Australia, but one of the oldest football competitions in the world, forming just a few years after the United Hospitals Challenge Cup (1874), the oldest rugby football competition and over a decade before The Football League (soccer). Additionally, the Magarey Medal awarded to the league's best and fairest player is the oldest individual award in Australian rules football.

The SANFL owns Football Park (also known as "AAMI Stadium" due to a naming-rights agreement), which is the largest stadium in South Australia.

The league has a total audience including television and radio of over 1.5 million and has the highest attendance of a regional league of any football code in Australia with an average of over 3,000 spectators a match. The league registered a 6.8% increase in crowds in 2008.

Consisting of a single division competition, the season is based around a 23 week "home-and-away" (regular) season starting in April through to September. The top five teams play off in a series of finals culminating in the Grand Final for the Thomas Seymour Hill Premiership Trophy. The Grand Final is always held at AAMI Stadium in October, generally the week after the AFL Grand Final.

When not playing with the two Adelaide-based AFL clubs, Port Adelaide or Adelaide Crows, AFL-listed players can play for their SANFL clubs. Those recruited to these AFL clubs who have not previously played for an SANFL club are allocated to a club by means of a "mini-draft"[1]. The SANFL holds the two AFL licenses and has granted them to Port Adelaide and Adelaide.



Several clubs share their nicknames with AFL/VFL clubs. This is purely coincidental: the teams are not named after each other. The SANFL's Eagles, for example, came into existence almost 90 years before the AFL's Eagles.

Current clubs

Adelaide SANFL Football Grounds
Colours Club Nickname Home Ground Entered
CTL BUL.png Central District Bulldogs Hamra Homes Oval 1964 8
GLG TIG.png Glenelg Tigers Gliderol Stadium 1921 4
NTH RST.png North Adelaide Roosters Prospect Oval 1887 13
NWD RDL.png Norwood Redlegs Coopers Stadium 1878 27
PRT MAG.png Port Adelaide Magpies Magpies Alberton Oval 1877 36
SA panthers logo.png South Adelaide Panthers Alan Hickinbotham Oval 1877 11
STR DBL.png Sturt Double Blues House Brothers Oval 1901 13
WA.png West Adelaide Bloods City Mazda Stadium 1897 8
EGS.png Woodville-West Torrens Eagles Woodville Oval 1991 2

Former clubs

In the period 1877 to 1886, South Park, Willunga, North Adelaide (the original club of that name, not the current North Adelaide), Prince Alfred College, Gawler, Kapunda, Bankers, Woodville, and Victorian all left the Association. A brief profile of some of these clubs follows:

  • Adelaide (the original club) - formed in 1860; disbanded in 1873; reformed in 1876; merged with Kensington in 1881; disbanded in 1882; reformed and merged with North Park in 1885. Their colours were black, red and white and they were premiers in the SAFA in 1886.In 1888 the touring British Rugby team played South Adelaide, Port Adelaide, Norwood and Adelaide at Australian Rules. They defeated Port by a goal.[2] The tourists played 19 games of Australian Rules overall, winning six and drawing one. They were coached by two Essendon footballers, Jack Lawlor and FG McShane.
  • Bankers - formed in 1877 and after losing all 15 of the matches it contested that year it disbanded at the end of the season.
  • Kensington - formed in the early 1870s, Kensington affiliated with SAFA in 1877, but by 1881 it had merged with the Adelaide club. The clubs colours were scarlet and white and its home ground was Kensington Oval.
  • South Park - formed in 1877 and disbanded in 1884.
  • Victorian - formed in 1877 and with their home ground at Montefiore Hill, the Victorian team were premiers in 1877 (equal with South Adelaide). The clubs colours were orange and black. The club changed their name to North Adelaide in 1883, although it was not linked to the modern day North Adelaide, which formed from the Medindie club. Victorian disbanded after the 1884 season.
  • Willunga - formed in 1874, and affiliated with SAFA from 1877 to 1885. Willunga then joined the newly formed Southern Football Association, a rural league.
  • Woodville (the original club) - formed about 1868 and affiliated with SAFA 1877, the club forfeited two matches in its first season due to lack of numbers and disbanded at the end of the season. Many of the Woodville players then moved to the newly formed Norwood club.[3]
  • Kapunda - formed in 1866 and is possibly the oldest football club in Australia to enjoy an uninterrupted identity.
  • Gawler - formed in 1868, joining the SAFA in 1887 until 1890, folding by 1894. The Gawler Football Association was created out of its demise.

At the end of the 1990 season the Woodville and West Torrens clubs merged to for Woodville-West Torrens which competed for the first time in 1991.


League Administration


The league's revenue is derived from its audience (paid attendance, media) and payments from both the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide AFL clubs for maintenance of the league's homeground AAMI Stadium.

Salary Cap

The SANFL is classed as a semi-professional competition. In 2008 the league had a salary cap of $400,000 (excluding service payments).[4] This is the second highest in Australia for an Australian rules football competition behind the AFL.


Umpires for the SANFL Matches come from two sources:

  • The SANFL Senior Panel - Providing umpires for the League and Reserves competitions.
  • The SANFL Academy - Providing umpires for the Macca's U/18 Cup and Macca's U/16 Talent Shield.

This includes Field, Boundary & Goal Umpires.

Umpires are selected on the basis of fitness, skills & ability. Most umpires have followed a pathway to get to SANFL level.



Official Magazine

The Football Budget is a 32-page magazine sold at all SANFL League games. A special edition is produced for the Grand Final. The word 'Budget' is an old term, similar to 'digest'.


SANFL is broadcast locally in South Australia on ABC Southern. Until early 2008, it was also broadcast nationally on ABC2 television. Despite a large number of complaints, ABC removed national coverage in early 2008. The Grand Final was previously broadcast on Fox Sports Australia however this was also discontinued in 2008.

In 2007, the SANFL measured a record 1,415,000 total television viewers.[5]


SANFL is also covered by local radio stations such as Life FM (live), 5RPH (live) and ABC Local Radio.


Although SANFL crowds now competes heavily with the two AFL national league clubs, the SANFL still has the second highest attendance of any Australian rules football league and the highest attendance for any regional league of any football code. It continues to publish attendance figures.

A crowd of 34,128 attended the 2008 SANFL Grand Final between Central District and Glenelg at AAMI Stadium.[6]

Patrons at the SANFL pay at the gates. The following are the most recent attendance figures

Year Home & Away Finals No. Games Played Total Average Grand Final
2008 275,842[7] 86,367[8] 96 362,209 3,773 34,128[9]
2007 96 322,835[5] 3,165 30,493[6]
2006 255,468 54,406 96 309,874 3,228[10] 25,130
2005 259,331 44,023 96 303,354 2,974[11] 28,637
2004 59,200[12] 96 24,207
2003 53,078[12] 94 28,199



The earliest recorded football club in South Australia was Adelaide Football Club, formed in 1860.[13] The early years of football were poorly organised and dogged by argument over which set of rules to adopt. In fact, after a match between Port Adelaide and Kensington in 1873, it was remarked that neither side understood the rules clearly, and there was uncertainty over which team had won. However, as the years progressed, there became a growing push for uniformity and structure in South Australian football.


Port Adelaide's magenta uniform (c.1896)

In 1877, 12 of South Australia's football clubs met to develop a uniform set of rules and establish a governing body. The South Australian Football Association was formed at a meeting at the Prince Alfred Hotel in King William Street, Adelaide[14] on the 30 April 1877,[15] the first governing body of its type for football in Australia, and adopted rules similar to those used in Victoria. The inaugural 1877 season was contested by those 12 clubs: South Park, Willunga, Port Adelaide, Adelaide, North Adelaide, Prince Alfred College, Gawler, Kapunda, Bankers, Woodville, South Adelaide and Victorian.

South Adelaide have worn blue and white since establishment (c.1890)

Norwood joined the Association the following season in 1878, and went on to win the next six premierships. Norwood, along with South Adelaide and Port Adelaide, dominated the early years, winning 23 of the first 24 premierships between them. However, club numbers were diminishing. South Park, Willunga, North Adelaide, Prince Alfred College, Gawler, Kapunda, Bankers, Woodville, and Victorian all left the Association within the first 10 years. By 1886, the Association had been reduced from 12 to four clubs.

The Association experienced a resurgence in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The addition of West Adelaide (1887), North Adelaide (1893), West Torrens (1897) and only the demise of Adelaide (1893), meant the Association comprised six clubs by the turn of the century. In 1898, the Magarey Medal was awarded to the fairest and most brilliant player for the first time (see Magarey Medal).


The Sturt Football Club joined the Association in 1901, but performed poorly initially, finishing last in its first three seasons. In 1902, Port Adelaide adopted its now famous black and white colours, and the competition was beginning to take a more familiar form. In 1907, the Association changed its name to the South Australian Football League.

Heavyweights Norwood and Port Adelaide continued their domination of the league, and were joined by West Adelaide and North Adelaide; between them, the four clubs won all premierships between 1901 and 1913. Amazingly, West Adelaide followed three straight wooden spoons from 1904-06 with four out of the five premierships from 1908-1912. This was the most successful period in West Adelaide's history.

Port Adelaide v Sturt, 1914 Grand Final

World War I

The SAFL managed to maintain competition for the first two years of World War I, 1914 and 1915, with Sturt winning their first premiership in 1915. But by 1916, clubs were sustaining high losses to war and competition was suspended and did not resume until 1919.


Sturt won the first premiership of the post-WWI era, beating North Adelaide in the Challenge Final replay. Glenelg became the newest addition to the league in 1921 and started poorly with five consecutive wooden spoons. In 1927, the South Australian Football League changed its name for a third time, adopting the now familiar, South Australian National Football League. Meanwhile, Port Adelaide celebrated a golden era during the inter-war years, with 12 grand finals yielding five premierships.

World War II

As with World War I, the SANFL managed to continue competition for the first few years of World War II. However, by 1942, the war forced all clubs to merge in order to field a side. Mergers were geographically determined with Port Adelaide merging with West Torrens, West Adelaide merging with Glenelg, Sturt merging with South Adelaide and Norwood merging with North Adelaide. This wartime competition continued from 1942-44.


Norwood began the post-war era in superb style winning three premierships by 1950. However, this period was dominated by Fos Williams' Port Adelaide, winning seven premierships, including an amazing six in a row from 1954-59 (although the 1959 premiership was won under the stewardship of Geof Motley as Captain-Coach).


Port Adelaide continued their dominance of the competition with three more premierships by 1965. In 1964, for the first time in 60 years, the SANFL admitted two new clubs, Central District and Woodville. Both clubs performed poorly, and many questioned the purpose of introducing two more teams, in particular Woodville, who were closely surrounded by existing clubs, Port Adelaide and West Torrens. Meanwhile a new power, Sturt, hit the competition, winning five straight premierships from 1966-70. Sturt shared a fierce rivalry with Port Adelaide whom they played in four consecutive Grand Finals.


Sturt began the 1970s by defeating Glenelg in a rain-effected Grand Final by 21 points. North Adelaide secured back-to-back premiership victories over Port Adelaide in 1971 and 1972 and defeated VFL premier Carlton by one point in the end-of-season Championship of Australia match. Port Adelaide continued their success, winning two premierships themselves (1977, 1979), and finishing lower than 3rd only once for the decade. Other premiership winning clubs in the 1970s were Sturt (1970, 1974, 1976), Glenelg (1973), and Norwood (1975, 1978). The SANFL made the biggest shift in its history, moving all operations to the new Football Park in 1974. Central District and North Adelaide played the first ever match at the ground on May 4, 1974. The first SANFL Grand Final was played at the Ground the same year, the first away from Adelaide Oval (Sturt versus Glenelg). In front of a crowd of 58,042 people, Sturt won by 15 points despite kicking into a stiff breeze in the last quarter after leading by just 5 points at three-quarter time. The 1975 season was highlighted by Glenelg's score of 49.23 (317) against Central District. In fact, the winning margin of 238 points was larger, at that time, than the previous highest score ever recorded by a side in a single game. In 1976, Sturt defeated Grand Final favourites Port Adelaide by 41 points in front of a record Football Park crowd of 66,897. Norwood won the 1978 premiership in their centenary year by beating Sturt in the Grand Final by the narrowest of margins - one point - after Sturt had lost just one game for the entire season. During the 1970s, football in South Australia experienced an increase in players moving across the border to play in the higher standard VFL competition.


The exodus of quality players to the VFL continued in the 1980s and inevitably the quality of competition began to drop. Sensing the change, in 1981 the SANFL submitted a bid to enter a composite South Australian team in the VFL, but were rejected. Following this failed attempt, the SANFL introduced a Player Retention Scheme in 1988. The aim of the Scheme was to provide financial incentives to top players to remain in South Australia. While this Scheme saw a short-term increase in the quality of the competition, attandences soon began to drop again.

Meanwhile, on-field, night football came to the SANFL in 1984 with floodlights installed at Football Park following a long battle with nearby residents. The heavyweights Port Adelaide, Norwood and Glenelg dominated the competition, winning eight premierships between them.


The 1990s was the most turbulent decade in the history South Australian football. The SANFL continued to resist the temptation to enter a side in the AFL. However matters came to an abrupt head on July 31, 1990, when the Port Adelaide Football Club, feeling it was subsidising the other SANFL clubs, made an independent bid to the join the AFL. The shock announcement took everyone by surprise and instigated the most controversial period in South Australian football.

The SANFL was left with little option but to submit its own bid to enter the AFL. In a thirty-minute meeting the SANFL formed the Adelaide Football Club, a composite side made up of players from all SANFL clubs. While Port Adelaide had by far the largest supporter base in South Australia, they could not compete with the SANFL's offer of a composite club and the use of Football Park.

In November 1990, following a vicious legal battle, the AFL announced the Adelaide Football Club had been granted the licence and would enter the competition in 1991.

After a tumultuous summer, the Adelaide Crows debuted in 1991 wearing the state colours of navy blue, red and yellow. While the Adelaide Crows enjoyed crowds of over 40,000 every week and dominated local media coverage, crowds at local SANFL matches plummeted. The 1990s was the first decade in the SANFL's history that it was not South Australia's premier football event every weekend.

In 1997 The Port Adelaide Football Club now, nicknamed the 'Power' as the 'Magpies' emblem was already used by Collingwood, finally entered into the Australian Football League.

Locally,The Port Adelaide Magpies Football Club replaced Port Adelaide and still dominated the competition winning seven premierships in the 1990s.


Central District Bulldogs have dominated the first decade of the 21st century. So far they have appeared in every Grand Final this century, and have won eight of the last ten premierships (2000-1, 2003-5, 2007-9). Sturt won the premiership in 2002, and the Eagles, (who had been consistent runners-up to the Bulldogs, including a 125-point thumping in the 2004 Grand Final), triumphed in 2006, defeating the Bulldogs by 76 points. Central District dominated the 2007 season, finishing minor premier then beating North Adelaide in the Grand Final by 65 points. They defeated Glenelg in the 2008 Grand Final, and in 2009 became the first team in the competition to win eight premierships in a decade after defeating Sturt by 48 points. They are also the first team in the competition to appear in 10 consecutive Grand Finals.

In 2006, Central District hosted night games for the first time at Hamra Homes Oval (Elizabeth). The first game under lights in Round 1 against Sturt attracted a crowd of over 7,000.

Future & Expansion Plans

There has been talk of expanding the SANFL to include teams from other states, especially those in regions unwanted by the AFL, and to serve as a second-tier national league.

The most pushed for expansion team from Darwin, Northern Territory, formed as a representative club of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL). The first of a series of trial matches was held in 2006, with a long term view of admitting a Darwin side into the SANFL. A strong crowd at Marrara Oval witnessed North Adelaide defeat a composite NTFL squad by 27 points, demonstrating that a Darwin team could be competitive. Following this match there was a push to make the event an annual event.[16] The push for a Northern Territory team in June 2007 intensified, with Darwin and Alice Springs (with the proposed venue being Traeger Park) both competing for a licence, with the NT government supporting Darwin and businesspeople like Dick Pratt supporting the bid of Alice Springs.[17][18][19] However, a composite Northern Territory side eventually joined the AFL Queensland State League.

Although there have also been rumours of inclusion of a Tasmanian club from both Hobart and Launceston in mid-September 2007, the Tasmanian Devils Football Club, run by AFL Tasmania, committed themselves to the Victorian Football League for a further five years but subsequently folded at the close of the 2008 season.

In 2009, the SANFL will undergo the biggest alteration since the advent of the Adelaide Football Club into the AFL, with the Under-17 and Under-19 divisions making way for an Under-18 competition and an Under-16's division. Both will be sponsored by the Australian arm of fast-food chain McDonald's, carrying the names of the Macca's Cup and Macca's Shield respectively.

Ladder Percentage

Unlike most Australian rules football leagues, like the AFL (where the percentage is worked out by: "For" ÷ "Against" × "100"), the percentage on a SANFL ladder is worked out by: "For" ÷ "For and Against" × "100".



Clubs play for the Thomas Seymour Hill Premiership Trophy, named after administrator Thomas Seymour Hill.

The winner also receives a premiership pennant.


The Magarey Medal is awarded to the fairest and most brilliant player in the SANFL each season and is the oldest of its type in Australia.

The medal is named after William Ashley Magarey, a former SANFL administrator. In 1897, Magarey became chairman of the South Australian Football Association, as it was then known. In 1898, in an effort to stamp out rough play and improve respect of umpires, Magarey instituted the medal to be awarded to the player deemed by umpires to be the fairest and most brilliant for that season. The inaugural winner of the medal was Norwood's Alby Green. Magarey died in 1929, but his name lives on and the Magarey Medal is still awarded to the fairest and most brilliant SANFL player each season. The Magarey influence also extends to the Reserves grade, with the Reserves Magarey Medal recognising the standout performers of that level as well.

The Ken Farmer Medal, much like the Coleman Medal in the AFL, is awarded to the league player with the most goals in a season. Named after North Adelaide's most prolific goal-kicker of pre-World War II, the medal was introduced in 1981 with Port Adelaide's Tim Evans winning the inaugural award.

There is also the McCallum and Tomkins Medals, which up until the 2008 season were awarded to the best and fairest players of the U-17 and U-19 divisions respectively. The future of these awards is uncertain at the moment with the two under-age competitions being replaced with an U-18 format similar to those adopted in the West Australian Football League and the VFL's TAC Cup.

The Jack Oatey Medal is awarded to the player voted best on ground in the SANFL Grand Final, first awarded in the 1981 premiership decider to Russell Ebert of Port Adelaide. And finally there is the Bob Quinn Medal, which is awarded to the player voted best afield in the Anzac Day matches between the Grand Finalists of the previous year. Commissioned in 2002, the medal was first won by James Gowans of Central District.

Interteam wins

Eagles[21] Glenelg[22] North
Norwood[24] Port
Sturt[27] West
Woodville TOTALS
- wins
Central District x 55% 52% 56% 47% 35% 57% 52% 58% 57% 59%[29] 52%[30]
Eagles 45% x 67% 67% 63% 40% 79% 77% 63% x x 62%
Glenelg 48% 29% x 43% 40% 26% 55% 42% 47% 43% 83% 43%
North Adelaide 43% 28% 56% x 42% 32% 66% 48% 59% 56% 78% 51%
Norwood 55% 41% 61% 55% x 42% 68% 57% 62% 64% 70% 58%
Port Adelaide 67% 60% 75% 68% 56% x 77% 67% 66% 75% 86% 69%
South Adelaide 44% 23% 45% 33% 32% 22% x 39% 44% 42% 65% 37%
Sturt 49% 23% 74% 49% 43% 33% 60% x 52% 54% 76% 50%
West Adelaide 44% 39% 54% 41% 37% 33% 55% 47% x 43% 67% 45%
West Torrens 42% x 57% 42% 35% 25% 55% 44% 53% x x
Woodville 41%[31] x 17% 22% 30% 12% 35% 22% 32% x x
Played 985 405 1698 1929 1993 2027 1877 1869 1885

See also



  1. ^
  2. ^ Football's Forgotten Tour, ISBN 0958101809
  3. ^ SANFL,
  4. ^ 2007 Salary Cap Changes, media release, FootySA
  5. ^ a b 2008 SANFL Match Program announced, 29/11/2007, SANFL Website
  6. ^ a b SANFL Grand Final 2008, 5 Oct 2008,
  7. ^ Warren Partland, The Advertiser, 9 Sept 2008, pg 84.
  8. ^ 34,128 fans flock to SANFL Grand Final, 5 Oct 2008,
  9. ^ Central District win seventh SANFL flag, 6 Oct 2008,
  10. ^
  11. ^ Main Page, FootySA
  12. ^ a b SANFL Finals Attendances,
  13. ^ Football History 1858 to 1879,
  14. ^ 4 Quarters, Issue No.4, pg 49, September/October 2008, Slattery Media
  15. ^ Page 5 of 'League Football in South Australia' (circa 1978). Official SANFL publication describing the SANFL's history up to and including its 1977 Centenary season.
  16. ^ Northern Territory Football League vs North Adelaide,
  17. ^ Storm brews over NT AFL team from
  18. ^ NT AFL Team Should be Based in Darwin from
  19. ^ AFL Central Australia opposes Darwin-based team from
  20. ^ Central District,
  21. ^ Eagles,
  22. ^ Glenelg,
  23. ^ North Adelaide,
  24. ^ Norwood,
  25. ^ Port Adelaide,
  26. ^ South Adelaide,
  27. ^ Sturt,
  28. ^ West Adelaide,
  29. ^ When Central District has played Woodville, Central District has won 59% of the games.
  30. ^ Central District has won 52% of all of its games.
  31. ^ When Woodville played Central District, Woodville won 41% of the games.

External links

Clubs' websites

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