A Brief History of the Southern Football Netball League

The southern region of Melbourne has a rich and proud football history. In the latter days of the 19th century, the region’s footballers played in a competition called the Commonwealth Association. However, to better serve the interests of footballers south of Caulfield the Federal Association was formed in 1909 consisting of four teams being Cheltenham, Moorabbin, Ellindale and Victoria Brewery. Cheltenham played at the Cheltenham Cricket Ground, Moorabbin at Gregg’s Paddock, Ellindale at McKinnon and Victoria Brewery at Halstead Estate, Eskdale Road, Caulfield.

The first President of the Association was Councillor F. T. LePage (a name synonymous with local government in the area) with F. J. McCart taking the reigns as secretary. Teams competed for the Federal trophy which was to be of a value of no less than four guineas. The Federal Association was the forerunner of the Federal Football League (FFL), which competed until it was disbanded in 1981. Teams to compete in the FFL included Bentleigh, Black Rock, Camden, Caulfield, Chelsea, Cheltenham, Clayton, Dandenong, Doveton, East Caulfield, East Malvern, Glenhuntly, Heatherton, Highett, McKinnon, Mentone, Moorabbin, Mordialloc, Noble Park, Parkdale, Oakleigh District, South Caulfield, Springvale.

Some of those teams still compete in the SFNL today.

Aside from the FFL, the region was also represented by both the South East Suburban Football League (SESFL) and the Eastern Suburbs Churches Football Association (ESCFA). The SESFL was formed in 1963 when the East Suburban Football League and the Caulfield Oakleigh District Football League merged. Both those Leagues had histories dating to the early 1930’s and the ESCFA dated from 1925. In 1992 the SESFL changed its name to the Southern Football League and in 1993 absorbed the ESCFA to form the basis of the current League. At that time the League consisted of 45 teams in five divisions.

The SFNL currently boasts 38 clubs playing football in four divisions and over 300 umpires with a footprint from Port Melbourne in the north to Cerberus in the south and Narre Warren in the east. Many teams also field a Colts team (Under 19) and a thirds team for those senior players who desire to play a game without too much training. Key initiatives over the last few years have included the addition of South Mornington and Narre South Saints (from the VAFA), the expansion of Womens football and in 2021 the fostering of new football club in Casey Thunder Womens Football club.

One of the aims of the SFNL is to offer a fun, safe, fair and inclusive environment to all participants and spectators. As a result, the SFNL Board decided to widen the League’s reach by launching its inaugural netball competition in 2012. Whilst there was only seven teams participating in the first season, 2021 has seen this figure increase to in excess of 100 teams and is one of the fastest areas of growth for the SFNL.

In 2015, the League changed its name from Southern Football League to Southern Football Netball League. This change was made following the success of the expanding netball competition and a growing trend amongst member clubs to officially change their club names to incorporate netball, due to these clubs fielding both football and netball teams.

Following the introduction of the elite AFLW competition, the SFNL established it’s inaugural SFNL Women’s Football competition in 2017. From 10 team in the first season, the competition quickly grew to 17 teams over two divisions the following season, further highlighting the popularity of women’s popularity.

The growth and improvement of the SFNL over the last decade reflects the hard work of the Board, administration and Member Clubs.


If you have any information you would like to add to the SFNL’s historical records, feel free to get in touch with League historian Ross McCulloch on 0408 059 472 or via email at rossmcculloch24@gmail.com