Have you ever wondered why your club’s players run out wearing a particular coloured guernsey? I have, not only as a supporter, but as a match reporter and broadcaster over four decades. In the Bendigo FNL there are some famous jumpers, none more so than Sandhurst’s maroon and blue.
In the 19th century the Hurst was nicknamed the Cardinals because the red in their strip was much brighter than the deep maroon of the present time. Since their historic 150th anniversary in 2010, however – they were actually founded in 1860 – the club now known as the Dragons has sported the maroon and blue in a slightly modified heritage style with player signatures incorporated into the design.
Their old rivals Bendigo back in the 1880s and 1890s wore a jumper very similar to AFL club Melbourne’s of today: red and blue.
The Coachbuilders’ team whose players were drawn from men working on the construction of horse-drawn carts, carriages, gigs and wagons wore a North Melbourne style strip: blue and white vertical stripes.
By 1893 South Bendigo was on the scene. As every dedicated BFNL follower and even casual observers know the Bloods wear a signature red and white jumper.
Back in the day players from all clubs (VFA included, before the VFL was founded in 1897) also wore caps in their club colours. How long they stayed in place during marking contests and ruck battles is anyone’s guess.
Eaglehawk’s famous colours have also never varied. The Two Blues wear a dark blue and paler light blue in a thick vertical strips-ensemble in their jumpers and have done so since the 1880s. But a century-and-a-bit ago South’s and Eaglehawk’s jerseys sported their vertical stripes in a much thinner and closer-together style than today.
The old Bendigo City team which lasted only a handful of seasons leading up to World War 1 (1912-1915) had a maroon and blue jumper. It was very similar to Sandhurst’s, but remember the Cardinals were in recess from 1901 until 1919 so there was no colours clash. City guernseys had maroon sleeves and collar and a royal blue body.
My old mate John Forbes, a fellow footy historian, showed me the Bendigo City jumper style from his collection of cigarette cards – and there was a 1913 player decked out in a City jumper. (The Capstan cards here are from 1912, ed)
He also had other BFL footy jumper designs in his pack of cards, at a Kangaroo Flat Sports Club Friday night dinner, but I must have forgotten to snap them with the iPhone. Maybe, next time.
Bendigo East joined the league straight after World War 1 and decided on the Collingwood colours – black and white vertical stripes. East lasted only six seasons – 1919 to 1924– and when Castlemaine came into the BFL as the Magpies in 1925 they were gone.
The Maine wore a black and white combination but not like Collingwood’s stripes. They sported a black jumper with white collar and white ‘C’ –in some seasons ‘CFC’– on the chest. The Collingwood jumpers we see today on the Camp Reserve boys came much later down the track: in 1971, in fact.
Kyneton joined the BFL in 1932 and until I started digging into history I never knew what their original jumpers looked like. No, they weren’t similar to their Richmond Tigers’ strip of today. Kyneton competed in blue and gold guernseys apparently to incorporate some of the colours worn by the district league teams into what became the BFL’s Kyneton. After the war years Kyneton took on the unique black and gold Tigers-style jumpers.
And what were the names of some of those old Kyneton district teams which played in the gold mines half-holiday Wednesday competition and the Saturday league? Well, on Wednesday afternoons there were South Stars, CYMS, East Trentham, West End, a club actually called Half-Holidays and Kyneton Rovers. On Saturdays Lauriston, Malmsbury, Trentham, Collegians, Rainbows and Kyneton competed. As far as I can ascertain Trentham and Kyneton are the only clubs still playing from those two-competitions’ lists back in the gold mining days.
Rochester and Echuca sported their own distinctive colours: Rochy red and black and the Murray Bombers of Echuca turning out in green and white. But Rochy has played as the Tigers in the Goulburn Valley FL since leaving the BFL in 1972. Maryborough had contested the BFL during the 1930s (as Maryborough United for a few seasons) but didn’t return once World War 2 had ended,
They became a member club of the Ballarat FL until the early 1990s after wearing navy blue guernseys in their 1930s BFL years. The Borough players then wore black and white during their seasons in the Ballarat league. But once back in the Bendigo FL in 1992 Maryborough had to ditch their black and white stripes because Castlemaine already had the rights to those colours. So the Princes Park Pies adopted a Port Adelaide-style strip whilst retaining their ‘Magpies’ nickname.
Maryborough players have sported a variety of modified Port Power colours in recent seasons, but have never gone back to straight-out black and white.
So what about Golden Square? Founded in 1935 they were originally nicknamed the ‘Mustards’ presumably because the yellow in their blue and gold guernseys reminded fans of that particular kitchen condiment. They didn’t become the ‘Bulldogs’ until Footscray 1954 premiership player Alan Martin took over as coach in the 1950s. He bestowed on his new club the nickname of his former VFL outfit.
Elmore played just the one season in 1946 and had to modify their red and white strip because South had the rights to that jumper pattern.
The Kangaroo Flat guernsey, while maintaining the emerald green and white colours, has had the kangaroo facing in a variety of positions over the decades. Today the stylised Roo hops across the guernsey from left to right (with its head almost under the right armpit), but in decades past there was either a front-on Roo head or a whole-bodied one bounding towards the onlooker. The Flat that we know today has a history dating back to the 1890s although an Advertiser from the 1860s reported on a one-off footy match between Sandhurst and Kangaroo Flat.
Two clubs no longer with us sported unique colours, also. Northern United, four-time premiers from 1984-1987, had maroon and gold jumpers. I never found them particularly memorable particularly on a cold, wet day out at Raywood or Kamarooka when players’ numbers on the mud-encrusted dark maroon guernseys were virtually impossible to decipher. Kennington-Strathdale, 1937-1993, (just Kennington in the early days) wore St. Kilda colours in their final, few seasons.
Before that in the years when they were sponsored by Courage Breweries and known as the ‘Cockerels’ the design was dark green with a gold trim.
Kennington historian Peter Harrick told me that preceding all that and right back in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties the Kennington sides wore lime green and a gold V: “very similar to Colbinabbin of today with a ‘KFC’ gold monogram.”
“They shouldn’t have changed those colours in my opinion,” he said.
Gisborne wore an all maroon guernsey pre-World War 1. Then they adopted the Western Bulldogs’ red, white and blue colours when footy resumed in 1919, but by 1930 they were in black and white-striped jumpers, akin to Collingwood’s. Straight after WW2 in 1946 when footy started up again Gisborne was back to the Footscray colours and they’ve retained those jumpers right to the present day.
There were other short-lived stays by various district clubs when the BFL and Golden City FL amalgamated in the early 1980s but I won’t go into detailed descriptions of all of their colours.
Quite a few of these clubs are either members of the Loddon Valley or Heathcote District leagues to this day.
Footy followers know of Marong and YCW (now Maiden Gully-YCW) in the Loddon Valley league and North Bendigo, White Hills and Huntly in the Heathcote DFL. Maiden Gully-YCW has changed dramatically from the Geelong Cats’ dark blue and white hoops formerly worn by YCW players to guernseys approximating Greater Western Sydney’s orange strip these days.