Ovens & Murray Football League

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.

Ovens & Murray
Football Netball League
Current season, competition or edition:
2019
Formerly
SportFootball (1893–present)
Netball (1993–present)
Founded1893 (1893) in Rutherglen, Victoria
No. of teams10
Country Australia
ConfederationAFL Victoria Country (2012–present)
Netball Victoria (1993–present)
Level on pyramid1
AFL North East Border
Established 2012
Leagues
Ovens & Murray
Tallangata & District
Ovens & King
Upper Murray
Wangaratta & District Junior
Albury Wodonga Junior
AFLNEB Youth Girls

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 from 1995 to 2017 was held at the Lavington Sports Ground in the Albury suburb of Hamilton Valley.

History

Beginnings

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.

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.

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 West Albury Football Club 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

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

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

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.[1]

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

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

Since 1972 the OMFL has used 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 Sports Ground (formally "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

Interleague competition

The O&M has won the first division of the Victorian Country Football League interleague championship seventeen times, the most recent victory being in 2009. In interleague competition the team wears a gold guernsey, emblazoned with a monogram-style black "O&M" initials, with black shorts and black socks.[2]

Junior Development

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.

Clubs

Current clubs

Club Col Moniker Home Ground(s) Established Joined
Albury Tigers Albury Sportsground 1896 1896
Corowa-Rutherglen Roos John Foord Oval [note 1] 1979 [note 2] 1979
Lavington Panthers Lavington Panthers Oval 1880s 1979
Myrtleford Saints McNamara Reserve 1896 1950
North Albury Hoppers Bunton Park 1943 1947
Wangaratta Magpies Norm Minns Oval 1909 1909
Wangaratta Rovers Rovers W.J. Findlay Oval 1922 1950
Wodonga Bulldogs John Flower Oval
1890 1939
Wodonga Raiders Raiders Birallee Park 1953 [note 3] 1989
Yarrawonga Pigeons J.C. Lowe Oval [note 4] 1889 1929

Former clubs

Club Col Moniker Home Ground(s) Estab. Tenure Current
Balldale FC ? ? Balldale Cricket Ground ? 1909–13[note 5]
Barnawartha Tigers Havelock Street Recreation Reserve ? 1911–19TDFL (1958–)
Beechworth Bushrangers Baarmutha Park 1861 1893–1915TDFL (2004–)
Benalla Saints Benalla Show Grounds 1896 1946–1997GVFL (1998–)
Border United FC ? ? Morris Park ? 1895-1947[note 5]
Chiltern Swans Chiltern Football Ground 1906 1893–1911TDFL (2003–)
Corowa Redbacks John Foord Oval 1898 1898–1978[note 6]
East Albury FC ? Rovers Alexandra Park ? 1929–50[note 5]
Eldorado ? ? Eldorado Recreation Reserve ? 1893[note 5]
Excelsior ? ? ? ? 1896–1910[note 5]
Howlong Spiders Howlong Oval 1898 1911-1914HFL (1953–)
Hume Weir ? ? ? ? 1924–25[note 5]
Lake Moodemere ? Rovers Lake Moodemere Recreation Reserve ? 1903–19[note 5]
Lilliput ? ? Lilliput Recreation Reserve ? 1894[note 5]
Rutherglen (1893) Redlegs Barkly Park 1893 1893–1978[note 6]
Rutherglen (1979) Cats Barkly Park 1979 1992–2003TDFL (2004–)
South Albury ? ? Waites Park ? 1898–1907[note 5]
Springhurst ? ? Springhurst Recreation Reserve ? 1921[note 5]
St. Patrick's Saints Xavier High School Oval 1919 1921–34[note 5] [note 7]
United Miners ? ? Cornishtown Recreation Reserve ? 1894-1895[note 5]
Wahgunyah Lions Wahgunyah Football Ground 1908 1908; 1921TDFL (2008–)
Wangaratta West End ? ? Wareena Park ? 1893[note 5]
Weir United ? ? ? ? 1930–31[note 5]
West Albury ? Uiver Park ? 1929–32[note 5]
Notes
  1. Played at the Barkly Park on few occasions.
  2. From the merger of Corowa + Rutherglen clubs.
  3. As Kergunyah FC.
  4. The club has also used the Lonsdale Reserve in few occasions.
  5. Folded.
  6. Merged in 1979 to form Corowa-Rutherglen FC
  7. The club still has a Juniors team playing in the O&M League since the early 1930s.

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 league.

Awards

Best and fairest

Leading goal kicker

Grand Final best on ground

Other awards

  • The Leo Burke Medal is awarded for the best and fairest seconds football player in the O&MFL during the home and away season.[7]
  • The Leo Dean Medal is awarded for the best and fairest thirds football player in the O&MFL during the home and away season.[8]
  • The Toni Wilson Medal is awarded for the best and fairest A-Grade netball player in the OMFNL during the home and away season.[9]

Premierships

Records

Football: Seniors
  • Most flags in a row: 4, St. Patrick (1921, 1922, 1923, 1924).
  • Most grand finals in a row: 10, Albury (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018).

Seasons

2014 Season

  • 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

Ovens & Murray Hall of Fame

The Ovens & Murray Hall of Fame was established in to recognise and promote the outstanding achievements of some of the leagues greatest players, dedicated administrators and club support staff and long serving media representatives.

As of the 2016 ceremony there have been 63 inductees, including 2 netballers. Only 4 people have received the additional honour of being promoted to "Legend" status. (Cleaver Bunton AO OBE - 2005; Rob Walker - 2007; Neville Hogan - 2012; Jim Sandral - 2013.)

Minor grades

Netball

Netball competition's were added to the Ovens & Murray Football League from the 1993 season.

Albury Wodonga Junior Football League

Albury Wodonga Junior Football League
League Website
Club Moniker Home Ground(s) Under 16 Under 14
Cup / Shield
Under 12
Albury Juniors
Club Website
Tigers Albury Sports Ground (Albury) /
Corowa-Rutherglen Juniors
Club Website
Roos John Foord Oval (Corowa) /
Lavington Juniors
Club Website
Panthers Lavington Sports Ground (Lavington) /
North Albury Juniors
Club Website
Hoppers Bunton Park (North Albury) /
Scots School Juniors FC
Club Website
Scots Scots School Oval (Albury) /
St Patricks Juniors FC
Club Website
Saints Xavier High School Oval (Albury) /
Wodonga Juniors
Club Website
Bulldogs John Flower Oval (Wodonga) /
Wodonga Raiders Juniors
Club Website
Raiders Birallee Park (Wodonga) /
Yarrawonga Juniors
Club Website
Pigeons J.C. Lowe Oval (Yarrawonga) /

Notes: Team field by club for that age group; "=Yes" & "=No".

Wangaratta & District Junior Football League

Wangaratta & District Junior Football League - Est. 1938
League Website
Club Moniker Home Ground(s) Under 16 Under 14 Under 12
Benalla Bulldogs Juniors FC
Club Website
Bulldogs Benalla Showgrounds (Benalla)
Benalla Giants Juniors FC
Club Website
Giants Benalla Showgrounds (Benalla)
Bright Juniors
Club Website
Mountain Men Pioneer Park (Bright)
Mansfield Juniors
Club Website
Eagles Mansfield Sporting Complex (Mansfield)
Myrtleford Juniors
Club Website
Alpine Saints McNamara Reserve (Myrtleford)
Junior Magpies FC
Club Website
Magpies Norm Minns Oval (Wangaratta)
Centrals Juniors FC
Club Website
Hawks Bill O'Callaghan Oval (Wangaratta)
Wangaratta College Juniors FC
Club Website
Blues Bill O'Callaghan Oval (Wangaratta)
Wangaratta Imperials Juniors FC
Club Website
Maroons Wareena Park (Wangaratta)
Wangaratta Kangaroos Juniors FC
Club Website
Kangaroos Wareena Park (Wangaratta)
Wangaratta Tigers Juniors FC
Club Website
Tigers Bill O'Callaghan Oval (Wangaratta)

Notes: Team field by club for that age group; "=Yes" & "=No".

AFLNEB Youth Girls League

The competition age group is from 12-17.

AFL North East Border Youth Girls
League Website
Club Moniker Home Ground(s) 2015 2016 2017
Alpine Lions Youth Girls [note 1]
Club Website

[colour 1]
Lions Whorouly Recreation Reserve (Whorouly)
Lavington Youth Girls
Club Website

[colour 2]
Panthers Lavington Sports Ground (Lavington)
Murray Felines Youth Girls [note 2]
Club Website
Felines Barkly Park (Rutherglen)
Wahgunyah Recreation Reserve (Wahgunyah)
John Foord Oval (Corowa)
Thurgoona Youth Girls
Club Website
Bulldogs Thurgoona Oval (Thurgoona)
Wodonga Raiders Youth Girls
Club Website
Raiders Birallee Park (Wodonga)
Yarrawonga Youth Girls
Club Website
Pigeons J.C. Lowe Oval (Yarrawonga)

Notes: Team field by club for that season; "=Yes" & "=No".

  1. The Alpine Lions Youth Girls Football Club is supported by the Whorouly Football Netball Club.
  2. The Murray Felines Youth Girls Football Club is supported by the Rutherglen Football Netball Club, Wahgunyah Football Netball Club, and Corowa-Rutherglen Football Netball Club.
  1.              - Alpine Lions club jumpers are pink with a top third blue and a white lion on the front.
  2.              - Lavington Panthers club jumpers are black with twin white and pink vee's.

Premiers

  • 2015: Lavington [10]
  • 2016: Lavington [11]
  • 2017: Wodonga Raiders

See also

References

  1. "AFL News, Ladder, Fixture, Scores & Tipping 2015 | Real Footy". Theage.com.au. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  2. "Interleague – Ovens and Murray Football and Netball League". Omfnl.com.au. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  3. "Ovens And Murray Football League". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 3 May 2008. Retrieved 10 April 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. "Best and Fairest Seniors – Morris Medal – Ovens and Murray Football and Netball League". Omfnl.com.au. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  5. "O&M History". The Critic. 2013 (Grand Final). Albury, NSW. 22 September 2013. p. 58.
  6. "Did Simpson Medallists – Ovens and Murray Football and Netball League". Omfnl.com.au. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  7. "Best and Fairest Seconds – Leo Burke Award – Ovens and Murray Football and Netball League". Omfnl.com.au. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  8. "Best and Fairest Thirds u/18 – Leo Dean Award – Ovens and Murray Football and Netball League". Omfnl.com.au. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  9. "Best and Fairest A Grade – Toni Wilson Medal – Ovens and Murray Football and Netball League". Omfnl.com.au. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  10. Lavington vs. Wodonga Raiders, Lavington Panthers FNC. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  11. Lavington vs. Wodonga Raiders, AFL North East Border Youth Girls. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
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