Excerpts from The North Story, by Gerard Dowling

1900: North Melbourne failed to maintain their high standard of the preceding three seasons. After winning eight games and also losing eight, they had to be content with fifth place on the ladder.

1901: The first year of the 20th century found the North Melbourne Football Club unable to break through for a premiership. Out of a fixture of 16 matches, they won 11 and drew one to put them in third place at the end of the season.

1902: Once again, North Melbourne finished third. Out of their 16 matches, they won 10 and drew one. At the conclusion of the season, North had an aggregate of 683 points scored for them, and 546 scored against them.

A man who later rose to become Premier of Victoria, Cr George Michael Prendergast, became the president of the club in 1902. He retained the post till 1911, and during his term North won three Association pennants.

1903: The VFA decided to stage a final series for the first time. After 18 home and away matches, North Melbourne, having won 15 and drawn one, lay second to Richmond, with Footscray and West Melbourne making up the top four. North Melbourne would play Richmond in the 1903 Grand Final.

Throughout the season there had been very little between the two clubs, and so, when they met on this occasion, it was difficult to predict the outcome. However, North's overall team work and better use of their chances ensured them ultimate victory by 21 points, 7.6 (48) to 3.9 (27).

1904: A most extraordinary situation developed in 1904, involving the Richmond Football Club and an umpire named Allen. In mid-season, Richmond visited North Melbourne, with North winning the encounter by 10 points. Allen was the umpire, and came in for much criticism from Richmond players and officials.

On 10 September in a semi final, North Melbourne defeated Richmond by two points. Allen was the central umpire, and was once again the butt of Richmond criticism. North Melbourne would then be scheduled to play Richmond in the Grand Final. Allen was appointed as umpire again, and Richmond announced they would not take part with him as umpire.

The Association refused to be dictated to by an individual club, and they warned Richmond that they would have to forfeit the game. As a result of this stalemate, the grand final did not take place and the Association awarded the premiership for 1904 to the North Melbourne Football Club.

1905: North Melbourne replaced Richmond as minor premiers in 1905 with 15 wins from 18 engagements. Unfortunately for North, victory deserted them in the finals. They lost the preliminary and grand finals to Richmond on successive Saturdays.

1906: 1906 saw the opening of the wooden grandstand which stood facing the north west pocket of the Arden Street ground until the 1970's. It was erected for an estimated 850 pounds, and for a couple of decades it was the main grandstand at the Reserve.

North Melbourne was again a finalist on-field. However, they went down to West Melbourne - the eventual premiers - in their semi final.

1907: At the conclusion of a forgettable season, North caused a sensation by amalgamating with the West Melbourne Football Club with a view to seeking admission to the (VFL) League. However, the attempt proved abortive; Richmond and University were admitted instead; all that North and West got for their troubles was expulsion from the Association.

At a special meeting of the VFA, held on 22 November 1907, after some discussion there was a motion moved and seconded that "the North Melbourne and West Melbourne Football Clubs, having applied for admission to the Victorian Football League, they be excluded from the Victorian Football Association."

The motion was carried by 10 votes to one; the North Melbourne and West Melbourne delegates not voting.

1908: Early in 1908 a meeting was held in the Friendly Societies' Hall in Queensberry Street to discuss the re-forming of a football club for the area. A provisional committee was appointed to make formal application to join the Association.

At the next meeting of the Association, it was moved that the new North Melbourne Club (under new management) be admitted to the Victorian Football Association. None of the old executive were eligible for the new committee. The motion was passed unanimously, and North Melbourne were accepted back into the VFA.

Considering this upheaval, it was not surprising that the team's performance during the season was poor. Out of a total of 18 matches they managed to win only four, and suffered 10 consecutive defeats.

1909: All but two of the 1908 side were dismissed; those remaining being Charlie Hardy and Perc Speakman. The chief architect of the renaissance within the club was the dynamic Andy Curran, North's newly appointed secretary. He was ably supported by the committee in his efforts to revitalise the club, and to improve their performance on the field.

For the last home and away match of 1909, North Melbourne met the top side, Footscray. North had managed only four wins for the season, and was given no chance of success. However, the season was capped off with an upset victory, to make it the seventh out of the 10 participating teams.


1910: In performance on the field, 1910 was a triumph for the North Melbourne Football Club. They swept through the first 10 matches undefeated, and concluded the 18 home and away rounds with 15 wins and a draw to take out the minor premiership.

North Melbourne progressed to the Grand Final to play against Brunswick, on Saturday, 8 October and North Melbourne Recreation Reserve. There was a ground record of 28,000 spectators to see North Melbourne triumph by 29 points over Brunswick to win their third VFA pennant.

1911: North Melbourne did not match their performance of the previous year, victorious in 14 of their 19 encounters and ending the season in third position after going down to Brunswick in the semi final.

It is worth noting that the North Melbourne team photograph for the year shows that the players had reverted to the traditional royal blue and white striped guernseys, and royal blue and white hooped socks.

1912: At the conclusion of the home and away matches, North found themselves opposed to Brunswick in a semi final. At the end of a close and tense struggle, they were inseparably locked, having played out a draw. The VFA ordered a rematch at the same oval two weeks later, and the impossible occurred; at the expiration of time both teams had played out another draw.

The semi finalists met for a third time; the remaining finals games on hold until there was a decisive result. All concerned were desperate for a result, and fortunately North Melbourne emerged victorious. However, they went down to Essendon in the Grand Final by just four points.

1912 also brought one man to the club who was to become the club's great team leader for their most dominant years in the Assocation. His name was Syd Barker.

1913: North Melbourne progressed to the Grand Final to play Footscray. Missing Barker, North had to cope with the fact that George Rawle was unable to play. Despite this depletion of ruck strength, North played well and in the dying stages of the match was clinging to a slim lead.

With moments left, Footscray's champion follower, Arthur Gregory, kicked a goal from a throw in 50 yards from goal. Soon after, the final bell sounded; Footscray winning by a solitary point.

1914: The 1914 season saw North Melbourne Football Club enter its most illustrious era. It also saw the players in a different uniform, navy blue jumper and socks with white shorts.

Prior to the finals, North had notched up 14 wins out of a total of 18 to take out the minor premiership. They then defeated Essendon by 31 points in the semi final to meet Footscray in the Grand Final. Unlike the year before, North Melbourne were too strong, running out victors by 35 points. The Age had the following to say:

"The winners by superior dash to the ball broke up the system of their opponents, who, instead of their usual marking system, resorted to handball which in many instances did not help their progress."

1915: The war in Europe was spreading its dark shadow across the Australian sporting scene as the clubs prepared for the 1915 season. Due to the wartime conditions the season was shortened, and provided for 13 rounds of home and away matches.

North Melbourne progressed through to the Grand Final undefeated, and proceeded to defeat Brunswick by 48 points to be hailed 'Champions'. They had gone through the season without sustaining one defeat, something that no other Association club had accomplished since 1893, and which no League club has yet achieved.

1916 & 1917: There was a break of two years due to World War 1.

1918: After the break of two years, the VFA competition was revived in 1918. Only six clubs were able to field sides: Brunswick, Footscray, Northcote, North Melbourne, Port Melbourne and Prahran.

North Melbourne progressed to another Grand Final, this time facing Prahran. They ran out comfortable winners by 93 points; victory in the final a fitting climax not only to a brilliant season but to a golden period in the club's history. North Melbourne had now won 31 matches in succession.

1919: By season 1919, hostilities in Europe had ceased and life had started to return to normal. North won all 18 of their home and away games before Brunswick stopped their 49 premiership game winning streak in the semi final, victorious by just nine points.

After a second successive loss in the Grand Final to Footscray by 22 points, the finals of the year not merely concluded the season, but brought to a close the club's greatest era in the VFA.