Australian rules football in South Australia

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Australian rules football in South Australia
Port Adelaide Norwood 1923 Adelaide Oval.png
Governing body South Australian Football Commission
First played 1860, Adelaide
Registered players 72,971 (total)
14,825 (adult)
Audience records
Single match 66,987 (1976). SANFL Grand Final. Sturt vs Port Adelaide. (Football Park, Adelaide)

Australian rules football in South Australia has a history dating back to the early 1860s, and it has long been the most popular sport in the state.


see South Australian National Football League for a more detailed history of the SANFL competition

Although games of a "football" have been recorded in South Australia from 1843, the earliest recorded football club in South Australia was Adelaide Football Club, formed in 1860.[1] One of the earliest games played was against the Modbury Football Club[citation needed] in 1862. 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 they years progressed, there became a growing push for uniformity and structure in South Australian football.

In 1877, 12 of South Australia's football clubs met to develop a uniform set of rules and establish a governing body. They formed the South Australian Football Association, 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.

Norwood joined the Association in 1878, but 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 was 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. Sturt joined the Association in 1901 and in 1907, the Association was renamed the South Australian Football League.

The SAFL was suspended from 1916-18 due to World War I. Glenelg joined the league in 1921. In 1927, the South Australian Football League was renamed the South Australian National Football League. During World War II, the eight clubs merged to form four composite clubs over the period 1942-44. In 1964 the SANFL admitted two new clubs, Central District and Woodville.

During the 1970s and 1980s, an increasing number of SANFL players moved to Victoria to play in the VFL competition. In 1981 the VFL rejected a SANFL bid to enter a composite South Australian team to its competition. The SANFL introduced a player retention scheme in 1988 in an attempt to maintain the quality of the competition in the face of falling attendances. On 31 July 1990, Port Adelaide surprised the SANFL by making an independent bid to the join the AFL. The SANFL was left with little option but to submit its own bid to enter the AFL. In a thirty-minute meeting[citation needed] the SANFL formed the Adelaide Football Club. While Port Adelaide had by far the largest supporter base in South Australia, it could not compete with the SANFL's offer of a composite club and the use of Football Park, and in November 1990, following a legal battle, the AFL announced the Adelaide Football Club had been granted a licence and would enter the competition in 1991.

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 suffered substantially. In 1990, Woodville and West Torrens had merged to form Woodville-West Torrens Football Club.

In 1994 after a tender process put to all the SANFL clubs, the Port Adelaide Football Club secured a licence to enter the AFL. The Port Adelaide chose the nickname of 'Power' since 'Magpies' was already used by Collingwood. Port Adelaide wished to maintain its presence (as the Magpies) in the SANFL, which was agreed to on the basis that Port Adelaide's SANFL and AFL entities operate independently. The club in the SANFL was renamed "Port Adelaide Magpies Football Club" to reflect this separation.

Regional variation[edit]

Some variations of Australian Rules Football in South Australia compared with other Australian states still exist:

Points system: In South Australia, most leagues award two points for a win, and one for a draw. Elsewhere in Australia generally four points are awarded for a win and two for a draw.

Percentage: In South Australia, ladder percentage is usually calculated as "For" ÷ "For and Against" × "100". Elsewhere in Australia it is generally calculated as "For" ÷ "Against" × "100".

Behind posts: Behind posts have generally been coloured red in South Australia, as opposed to white elsewhere.

Goalkicker listings: Match reports in South Australia generally list goals and behinds scored by player, whereas elsewhere in Australia goals only are generally shown.

Field markings: The "50" on the 50 metre line at AAMI Stadium is in a serif font, whereas at Victorian grounds a sans-serif font is used.


In 2007, there were 14,825 senior players in SA and total participation of 72,971.[2]

Attendance record[edit]

Major Australian Rules events in South Australia[edit]

South Australians in the Australian Football Hall of Fame[edit]

see Australian Football Hall of Fame






Governing body[edit]

The governing body is the South Australian National Football League.

Leagues & Clubs[edit]

Professional clubs[edit]


Adelaide Metropolitan Leagues[edit]

Regional leagues[edit]

The South Australian Country Football Championships is contested annually, and comprises the following representative sides:

  • Central (comprises the Barossa Light and Gawler, Adelaide Plains, Northern Areas, North Eastern and Yorke Peninsula Football Leagues)
  • Southern Districts (River Murray, Great Southern, Hills, Southern and Kangaroo Island Football Leagues)
  • South East (Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara, Mid South Eastern and Western Border Football Leagues)
  • Eyre Peninsula (Port Lincoln, Great Flinders, Eastern Eyre, Mid West and Far West Football Leagues)
  • Northern Cities (Whyalla, Woomera & Districts and Spencer Gulf Football Leagues)
  • Murray Mallee Barrier Zone (Riverland, Mid Murray, Broken Hill and Mallee Football Leagues)


Representative team[edit]

The South Australian representative team, also known as the Croweaters, have played State of Origin matches against all other Australian states.

Principal venues[edit]


See also[edit]

External links[edit]