Football has a rich history in Ballarat. Many players have developed their skills at local football clubs and then drafted to play at an elite level, including the VFL/AFL.
Football was played socially in Ballarat from the early 1860s. In 1877 three Ballarat football teams were among the founding members of the Victorian Football Association. Ballarat Football Association was formed in 1893 and changed its name to Ballarat Football League (BFL) in 1908; Golden Point joined the three original clubs, Ballarat, South Ballarat and Ballarat Imperials. In 1924 Maryborough and Ararat joined the league, with Bacchus Marsh joining the league briefly a few years later.
The Ballarat Imperials won the first premiership in 1893. In fact, between 1893 and 1906 they won an incredible 11 premierships! The Henderson Medal, which recognises the best and fairest player in the BFL each season, was established in 1954 and named in honour of W. L Henderson, BFL President, 1943-1959. The first recipient was Vic Bodsworth from Daylesford.
The BFL is known today as the Ballarat Football Netball League. While Ballarat has produced many outstanding players, here is a brief glimpse of three significant players who started their careers in Ballarat and have gone on to play VFL/AFL and AFLW football.
Percy Beames was born in 1911. He was Ballarat College school captain for both the football and cricket team. He played only two senior games for Golden Point before he was recruited by Melbourne Football Club where he played 213 games between 1931-1944. He played in the hat trick of premierships that Melbourne won between 1939-1941. He was a captain coach for Melbourne between 1942-1944. He was also an outstanding cricketer and represented Victoria in 205 matches. He became a sports journalist for the Age.
Tony Lockett was born in 1966 and played local football for Ballarat Sceondary, Ballarat Grammar, the School of Mines (seen in the picture below), and North Ballarat. He was recruited by St. Kilda where he played 133 games between 1983-1994. He then moved to the Sydney Swans where he played 98 games between 1995 – 1999 and 2002. In 1987 Lockett became the first and only full forward to ever win the Brownlow medal. He kicked 1360 goals during his career, which remains the highest in VFL/AFL history.
Sophie Van De Heuvel was born in 2000 and attended Loreto College. She played local football in the women’s TAC Cup for the Greater Western Victoria Rebels and then moved to Williamstown in the women’s VFL competition. She was selected by Geelong as the number 2 pick in the 2018 AFLW national draft. Although other Ballarat women have been playing in the AFLW since its inaugural season, Sophie is the first AFLW player to be drafted from a Ballarat based club.
Here is a link to a report from the Ballarat Star from September 1918 of an exhibition women’s football match between the Lucas Girls and the visiting girls from the Federal Khaki Clothing Company.
Australiana Research Collection
Ballarat Research Hub at Eureka (BRHAE)