Ovens & Murray Football League

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Ovens & Murray Football Netball League (OMFNL)

Ovens & Murray football league logo.JPG

General Information
Founded Early 1893 in Rutherglen, Victoria
as Rutherglen & District Football Association
Sport(s) Australian Rules Football (1893–Present)
Netball (1993–Present)
Affiliation AFL Victoria Country (2012–Present)
Netball Victoria (1993–Present)
Participants Level Semi-Pro
LGA's covered City of Albury
Wodonga Council
Alpine Shire Council
Wangaratta Rural City Council
Federation Council
Moira Shire Council
AFL Victoria Country Player Points Cap
2016 Season 42 Points
2017 Season 38 Points
Kmown As
1893-1913 Rutherglen And District Football Association [1]
1914-1925 Ovens And Murray Football Association
1926-1992 Ovens And Murray Football League
1993–present Ovens And Murray Football Netball League
Football OMFNL Seniors
OMFNL Reserves
OMFNL Under 18's
Netball ONFNL A-Grade
OMFNL 16's & Under
Interleague Competitions
Football & Netball 2002-Present: AFL Victorian Country Championships

The Ovens and Murray Football Netball League (O&MFNL) is an Australian rules football and Netball competition containing ten clubs based in north-eastern Victoria, the southern Riverina region of New South Wales and the Ovens and Murray area. The name comes from the Ovens River, the river in the part of north-eastern Victoria covered by the league, and the Murray River, which separates Victoria and New South Wales.

The league features three grades in the Australian rules football competition, with these being First-Grade, Reserve-Grade and Under 18s. In the netball competition, there are four grades, with these being A-Grade, B-Grade, C-Grade and Under 16s.

Currently a home and away season consisting of eighteen rounds is played. The best five teams then play off according to the McIntyre System, culminating in the O&MFNL Grand Final, which since 1995 has been held at Lavington Panthers Oval in the Albury suburb of Hamilton Valley.



Organised competition in the area started as the Ovens & Murray Football Association in 1893, although it was interrupted in 1911 when Albury was excluded, with the competition renamed Rutherglen DFA for that season. Albury was readmitted in 1912 and after some club shuffling with The Chiltern & District FA, the competition reformed under the Ovens & Murray Football Association banner again in 1914.

It is a fallacy to report that the Ovens & Murray Football Association changed its name in 1911 to the Rutherglen & District Football Association. In fact, the Ovens & Murray FA folded and ceased to exist in 1911. The previous years competition had attracted only three teams, Albury, Excelsior and premiers Rutherglen, and sides in the district refused to play against Rutherglen and Albury. The Ovens and Murray Junior Association held a meeting at McKays Hotel in Rutherglen on Wednesday April 19, 2011, attended among others by Messrs. Reid and Walter from Howlong, where a motion was carried to the effect that the Association change its name to the Rutherglen and District Football Association. The name change was necessary because if the Junior Association had continued under their original name, there would have been the impression that the Ovens & Murray Association still existed, which it did not. The Rutherglen & District FA continued for three years until the Ovens & Murray FA was reformed for 1914.

After a three-year break due to World War I, the association reformed for the 1919 season with four clubs, Border United, Howlong, Lakes and Rutherglen. In 1920 the league didn't reform; the clubs moved to the Chiltern DFL.[2]

The competition reformed in 1921 with Lakes Rovers, Rutherglen, St Patricks, Corowa, Springhurst and Wahgunyah. In 1922, larger town clubs Benalla and Wangaratta joined the OMFA whilst Wahgunyah and Springhurst moved to the Chiltern DFL. In 1926, the name was changed to its present form. Around this time the clubs contesting the league included Wangaratta, Hume Weir (which drew many of its players from workers constructing the Hume Dam at the time), Yarrawonga and two clubs from the town of Albury, St Patricks and Albury (not to be confused with the present Albury club). These two clubs were largely divided amongst sectarian lines, St Patricks being Roman Catholic and Albury being Protestant and, after much tension, in 1929 the two clubs agreed to disband and form two new clubs, East Albury and West Albury, with the player base to be drawn geographically.

In 1930, Haydn Bunton was recruited from the league by Victoria Football League (VFL) club Fitzroy, where he became regarded as one of the best VFL players in the Depression era and would go on to win three Brownlow Medals. Bunton Park, where North Albury Football Club is based, was not named after Haydn, but rather his brother Cleaver Bunton, who was elected president of the O&MFL in 1930 and would serve in that role until 1969. (Cleaver would also later serve as mayor of Albury for 30 years.)

Post-World War Two[edit]

In 1940, the league went into recess after round 10 for the duration of World War II, before full competition resumed in 1946. In 1947 North Albury was admitted, followed by Wangaratta Rovers and Myrtleford, who were admitted from the Ovens & King Football League in 1950. The Wangaratta Rovers would go on to dominate the O&M for the remainder of the 20th Century, winning fifteen premierships to date, a number only recently overhauled by Albury with their own streak of flags.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the league began to gain a reputation within Victoria as being the strongest competition outside the then VFL and VFA. The best players were often recruited from the O&M to play for one of the "city" clubs, but it was not uncommon for a VFL player to retire from the "big" league and play in the O&M or another country league, and perhaps start a coaching career there as well, often at the same time as a playing coach. One notable example of this, as far as the O&M was concerned, was Bob Rose, who retired from Collingwood as a player in 1955 and coached the Wangaratta Rovers to two premierships in 1958 and 1960, after which he returned to Collingwood to continue his coaching career.

1970s and 1980s[edit]

In 1968, the VFL introduced country recruitment zones throughout Victoria and Riverina, which limited the areas from which each VFL club could recruit. The O&MFL was allocated to North Melbourne, and thus quite a few of the better players from the O&M came to play for the Kangaroos, contributing in part to that club's rise to success in the 1970s. These included Xavier Tanner and John Longmire, who had won the O&M seniors leading goalkicker in a season in the 1980s with Corowa-Rutherglen before his move. The zoning system was discontinued in the late 1980s as the VFL/AFL introduced a draft system.

In 1974 the O&MFL was disaffiliated by the Victorian Country Football League (VCFL) when the O&MFL refused to accept an application from the Lavington Football Club to join the league. By this stage the football club was based at the Lavington Sports Club, an established licensed club, and was strong enough to field teams in both the Tallangatta League and Hume Football League the following year.

The makeup of the competition remained stable until 1979, when Corowa and Rutherglen merged into Corowa-Rutherglen, and the Lavington Football Club was finally admitted from the Farrer Football League, so the number of clubs remained at ten.

Lavington's home ground, the Lavington Sports Club Oval, provided an ideal venue for many sports as the sports club gradually developed it after its construction in the 1970s. The league has designated it as the venue for most of the league's grand finals since the 1980s. Recently, added assistance for the staging of the grand final through regional promotion and in-kind sponsorship has been provided by the Albury City Council.

In 1983, after an unsuccessful debut season playing for Hawthorn the previous year, Gary Ablett played for Myrtleford in the O&M for a year, before he was recruited by Geelong where he recommenced his career in the VFL/AFL and established himself as one of the code's best players, being inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

By the late 1980s, the Wodonga Demons of the Tallangatta League had made a number of bids to join the O&M, and in 1989 were accepted into the competition to serve the west of the city of Wodonga, based at Birralee Park. They changed their name to the Wodonga Raiders Football Club so as to not cause confusion with the Benalla Demons and the long established Wodonga Football Club.

The 1990 Bloodbath Grand Final[edit]

Shortly after the commencement of the 1990 grand final between Wodonga and Lavington, played at the Albury Sportsground, most of the players of the two teams became involved in a bench-clearing brawl. As the game was televised by a local TV station, the footage received sensationalistic national media coverage where the brawl was generally described as a shocking indictment on the code. Even though over a decade had elapsed, comparisons to this incident were made after the 2004 AFL Cairns Grand Final descended into a similar fracas.[3]

Wodonga eventually won the match by 20 points and thus the premiership, and the league tribunal handed out a number of lengthy suspensions to players from both sides for the following season. Incidentally, the result marked the second premiership for Wodonga's coach of that time, Jeff Gieschen, his first for the club being in 1987, before he went on to coach West Perth and then an ill-fated stint at Richmond in 1997-1999.

Recent years[edit]

In 1996, after a string of unsuccessful seasons in the O&M, Benalla moved to the Goulburn Valley Football League. In 2000 the Penrith Panthers Leagues Club, financiers of the Penrith Panthers National Rugby League team, merged with the Lavington Sports Club. As a result, the Lavington Football Club changed their nickname from the Blues to the Panthers, added "Panthers" to their title, and adopted a guernsey in the same colours as the NRL Panthers, but in the Port Adelaide AFL pattern.

Also around this time, the Wagga Tigers Football Club, which had dominated the Riverina Football League, made a bid to join the O&MFL; however, partially due to concerns from the league's southern clubs about travel times, the bid was rejected. The Wagga Tigers then successfully bid to join the AFL Canberra.

In 2000 the O&MFL, in an association with the AFL North Melbourne Football Club, fielded a team in the Victorian Football League called the Murray Kangaroos, playing home games between Coburg and Lavington. However, due to concerns from O&M clubs about player availability, the Kangaroos about travel time, and poor attendances compared with O&M league games, the venture was discontinued after three seasons and the Kangaroos subsequently set up an affiliation with the established VFL club Port Melbourne.

Current Finals System[edit]

The OMFL currently uses the "McIntyre System". The final series is played over four weekends, with the Grand Final traditionally being played on the third weekend of September. Also normally there is no home ground advantage is awarded any teams, instead the O&M board deems where the finals will be held, with all finals for both Football & Netball are played at the one venue during each final day. The Grand Final since 1995 has been held at Lavington Panthers Oval in the Albury suburb of Hamilton Valley.

  Qualifying/Elimination Final Major/Minor Semi-Final Preliminary Final Grand Final
"C"  1st on Ladder Home  
     Winner Qualifying Final Away         "F"  Winner Major Semi-Final Home
"A"  2nd on Ladder Home     "E"  Loser Major Semi-Final Home    Winner Preliminary Final Away
 3rd on Ladder Away        Winner Minor Semi-Final Away  
"D"  Loser Qualifying Final Home
"B"  4th on Ladder Home    Winner Elimination Final Away  
 5th on Ladder Away

Junior Development[edit]

More successful has been the Murray Bushrangers TAC Cup Under 18s side, who play their home games in Wangaratta; prior to the AFL national draft and the inception of the TAC Cup, young players in the area would usually play through the grades with their local club, with less likelihood of being scouted by the recruitment staff from AFL clubs. Although there has been some concern from clubs about these players being removed from the local competition, the ones that do not get drafted usually return to their home clubs to play locally once they come of age.

Even in that case, there is some chance that a late-maturing "older" player in their early 20s will be drafted by an AFL club. Several notable examples to be drafted directly from the O&MFL include Fraser Gehrig (Wodonga Raiders/West Coast Eagles/St Kilda), Guy Rigoni (Myrtleford/Melbourne), and Brett Kirk (North Albury/Sydney Swans).

All clubs field sides in the under 18s competition, aside from Myrtleford, which fields a joint team with the "Bright Football Club" wearing navy blue and gold colours & the club will be known as the "Alpine Eagles", and they would also field an under 18s joint team in the "Ovens & King Football League" also wearing navy blue and gold colours & the club will be known as the Alpine Eagles. However the Alpine Eagles alliance between Myrtleford and Bright had strained over the last few seasons before finally after the 2013 season The Myrtleford under-18s announced that they will stop wearing navy blue and gold colours of the "Alpine Eagles" and will be returning to the red, white and black colours & the club will be known as the "Myrtleford Saints", ending their almost 10-year partnership with Bright, in place since the early 2000s.

Currently the Wangaratta Rovers are the only club not to field any teams in any of the areas two Major Junior Football Leagues.

Interleague competition[edit]

The O&M has won the first division of the Victorian Country Football League interleague championship fourteen times, the most recent victory being in 2006. In interleague competition the team wears a gold guernsey, emblazoned with a modern-style black and gold "O&M" logo, and black shorts.


Notes: The club monikers listed above for former clubs are the ones they currently use and may not be their monikers used when playing in the Ovens and Murray Football League.

Albury Wodonga Junior Football League / Wangaratta & District Junior Football League[edit]

Premierships & Medalists[edit]

Morris Medal[edit]

The Morris Medal is given for the best and fairest player in the O&MFL during the home and away season, similar to the AFL's Brownlow Medal. In the week preceding the grand final, a vote count is held to decide the recipient of the award. The player who has won the most Morris Medals is Robbie Walker, who won five whilst playing for the Wangaratta Rovers, followed by Jim Sandral (Corowa) and John Brunner (Yarrawonga) with three apiece. The list of Morris Medallists follows:


2014 Season[edit]

  • Senior Football
    • Premiers: Albury (defeated Yarrawonga 13.13.91 to 12.12.84)
    • Minor Premiers: Albury (Wins: 16, Draws: 1, Losses: 1)
    • Wooden Spoon: Wodonga (Wins: 1, Draws: 1, Losses: 16)
    • Morris Medal - Best & Fairest: 26 Votes - Kristan Height, Myrtleford
    • Strang Medal - Leading Goalkicker: 116 Goals - Setanta O'Hailpin, Albury
  • A-Grade Netball

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1893-1913: Rutherglen & District Football Association (footypedia)
  2. ^ The Mighty River Men
  3. ^ http://www.realfooty.theage.com.au/realfooty/articles/2004/09/24/1095961857620.html?from=storyrhs

External links[edit]

Template:The Mighty River Men