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1873 - 1913
Est. 1873
We were here when it first happened. We weren't johnny-come-latelys, we were there when it all began.
Alan Killigrew
For 150 years, St Kilda Football Club has withstood the test of time.

One of the proudest and oldest sporting institutions in the world, St Kilda has endured – both through immeasurable triumph and unmatched adversity – to be the bearers of an inimitable story with loyalty and passion at its heart.

It has resisted dissolution with a resilience that has since been engrained into its very identity, binding together those who wear the colours.

While other clubs are defined by the number of Premierships or rich veins of success, it is the undeniable spirit of St Kilda and its people which has remained unshakable.

St Kilda Football Club Fan Celebrating
From the ashes, the beloved Saints were born.

Formed from the remnants of the disbanded South Yarra Football Club, St Kilda Football Club was officially established on April 2, 1873.

Alongside other formalities, the occasion confirmed the red, white and black colour scheme. South Yarra’s red and white merged with the black and white of the new St Kilda, birthing the famous tricolours which have lasted to this day.

Initially, the guernsey was arranged in horizontal formation and was complete with a white neckerchief, later replaced by a yoke.

St Kilda's earliest games were played on what was known as the Alpaca Paddock.

Located near what is now St Kilda Railway Station, the name derives from St Kilda Council’s earlier attempt to raise alpacas as a commercial enterprise. It’s fair to say the entrepreneurial endeavour didn’t take off the way it was initially hoped.

The suburb of St Kilda was once the playground of inner Melbourne; a place of colour where mansions abounded, entertainment venues were plentiful and the party was never too far away. Not much has changed today.

It was the perfect characterisation of the Saints of old, whose off-field antics put its on-field situation in predicaments both humorous and unfathomable in today’s age.

St Kilda VFA captain, Robert Robertson, pictured in 1895.
Uniquely St Kilda
Billy Shaw St Kilda Football Club
Inaugural VFL captain Billy Shaw copped a wave of criticism when he opted to spend a Saturday afternoon at the races instead of playing footy. It’s safe to say Shaw wasn’t the only Saint to do this in the club’s formative years!
1904 Collingwood Vs St Kilda
St Kilda had the unenviable distinction of receiving a fine in its maiden VFL game when its horse-drawn dray arrived 20 minutes late for the opening game against Collingwood. Luckily, VFL treasurer Gilly Wilson was a Saints fan who rescinded the fine.
St Kilda Football Club 1897-1900
One local magistrate once struck fear into the heart of a petty criminal by threatening to lock him away until St Kilda won a match! The Saints won their first VFL game in 1900, three years after being granted entry to the league.
1904 St Kilda Football Club Team & Committee
With money hard to come by in the club’s early days, one committeeman suggested buying a sweepstake ticket each week to liquidate the bank draft!
Despite its spirited beginning, St Kilda overcame its initial brushes with extinction.

The Saints were granted entry into the Victorian Football Association (VFA) in 1877 as a foundation member, beginning the next chapter of its life as a football club.

Although the club found it hard in those formative years, there were signs of the resilience that would become its trademark. Their mystifying knack for rallying together against the best sides served as a precursor to the fighting spirit that would manifest over the following decades.

After stints in an out of the VFA due to flippant form and a lack of numbers, the Saints were granted full readmission in 1886 after finding a new home at Junction Oval.

Building an identity
1877 St Kilda Football Club Players in Adelaide
on tour
St Kilda was the second Victorian team to travel interstate, journeying to Adelaide in 1877. While an international expedition wouldn’t come until much later, the Saints did face a visiting Māori side in 1889.
St Kilda Football Club Gold Lockets
After dabbling in mergers with University and Prahran, gold lockets were given to players as St Kilda consolidated its identity by 1887. The Saints retained their name, ground and colours.
1888 St Kilda Football Club Guernsey
Before the classic woollen jumper, lace-up canvas jerseys were the fashion of choice. Worn by J.B. Stewart, this jersey from 1888 is the oldest-known football uniform in existence.
St Kilda Football Club James Smith
When the Saints first registered their colours for 1897, they opted for navy blue knickerbockers instead of black as the former was cheaper to produce.
After years of rumblings and power struggles, the game changed forever.

There was an upheaval at the end of 1896 as eight clubs from the Victorian Football Association broke away and formed the Victorian Football League; the competition – now called the AFL – that is beloved far and wide today.

St Kilda’s home ground of Junction Oval was a major factor in its invitation, with its central location and size guaranteed to draw large crowds for the then-fledgling league.

1904 Carlton vs St Kilda
It took some time for the Saints to get on the board.

St Kilda’s first-up triumph in the VFL came in 1900 – three years after its introduction – and even then, it was shrouded in controversy.

The season’s opening match against the eventual Premiers, Melbourne, was originally declared a draw before the Saints protested the result due to a scoring error.

The appeal was successful. The subsequent investigation found a crucial point had been incorrectly counted, ultimately snapping the three-year winning drought.

The inaugural stars of red, white and black
Alf Smith St Kilda Football Club
Despite playing just one VFL game for the red, white and black, gifted rover Alf Smith is recognised as the foremost Saint of the club’s pre-emptive era. Smith was a major on-field presence during the club’s days in the VFA, partaking in 157 games with a 72-goal return.
Vic Cumberland St Kilda Football Club
One of the first in a line of prodigious Tasmanian talents, Vic Cumberland was one of the most prolific ruckmen of his era. After making his Saints debut in 1903, Cumberland made an inspiring return in 1920, aged 43, following debilitating injuries sustained in World War I.
Vic Barwick St Kilda Football Club 1904
A champion on-baller from Tasmania, Vic Barwick – alongside Vic Cumberland – captured the public’s imagination in early 1903, helping the Saints secure three upset wins in eight days over Melbourne, South Melbourne and Geelong. As a ruck and rover combination, Barwick and Cumberland were without equal.
Dave McNamara St Kilda Football Club 1907
The recruitment of young Benalla giant Dave McNamara late in 1905 was a huge boost for the budding Saints. Renowned his thumping place-kick and drop-kick, McNamara’s segmented stints at St Kilda yielded captaincy and coaching honours.
Joe Hogan St Kilda Football Club
The first great St Kilda player in the VFL ranks, Hogan was a gentleman footballer in every sense. A solicitor by profession, he lived in a classic mansion at the seaside end of Fitzroy Street, not far from the St Kilda Yacht Club where he indulged his other sporting passion in the summer months.
At last, the Saints were building.

St Kilda climbed its way off the bottom of the ladder by 1903, but victories were sandwiched in-between hefty defeats.

The recruitment of Tasmanian duo Vic Cumberland and Vic Barwick gave the Saints upside, and with the addition of talented forward Dave McNamara, the success-starved side began their crawl up the ladder.

It wasn’t until 1907 that St Kilda made its maiden finals berth. A pre-eminent Carlton proved the Saints’ undoing, mirroring the outcome the following year as the red, white and black again made the play-offs.

On the precipice of glory, the Saints came up against Fitzroy in the 1913 Grand Final.

Despite rumours he had been paid to “play dead” in the weeks prior, explosive centreman Billy Schmidt sank the winning goal from 60 metres out to book the Saints’ place in the 1913 finals series and knock powerhouse Carlton out of contention.

The Saints had defeated Fitzroy in the subsequent preliminary final, but the Roys had the “right of challenge” – as per league rules at the time – as they had finished on top of the ladder that season.

1913 Grand Final Vision - St Kilda vs Fitzroy
St Kilda had one goal on the board at the last change, but true to form, rallied late.

The Saints were within a point when Des Baird marked within kicking distance, but the experienced George Morrisey – who had been nominated as ‘captain of the attack’ and all fellow forwards told to follow his directions – called for the ball under pressure. His shot missed, and Fitzroy spirited the ball away and booted two goals to seal the flag.

Grand Final heartbreak was quickly overshadowed by the outbreak of World War I, as St Kilda’s fighting spirit departed the football field for the battlefields of Gallipoli.

1913 St Kilda Football Club Players - Semi Colourised