Almanac (Local) History: Just across the bay – a history of the Portarlington football, netball and cricket clubs

Preparing for an away game in the 1880’s. (Picture courtesy of Trove).



The Portarlington football, netball and cricket clubs have significant anniversaries coming up in the next few years and they have embarked on researching and writing the history of the clubs in their local community. This is a fascinating exercise and eye-opening for someone like me who knows very little about this part of the Bellarine peninsula. My former colleague at Deakin University, Ian Wynd, wrote a superb history of the area, but he has relatively little to say on its sporting activities.


Peter Ashton, now secretary of the Portarlington Football Netball Club, has assembled a group of interested locals who have dived into the project with lots of enthusiasm. They don’t pretend to be historians so they are contributing what they can and learning as they go. My Deakin University colleague Dr Tony Joel is in the process of launching a new unit on the history of Australian football and it is likely that students will be able to study aspects of the Portarlington story for an assignment if they wish to do so.


I have to resist the temptation to become too involved in the project, but I try to throw in some nuggets of material at the regular meetings of the committee. At the first one I attended I was told that the cricket club was founded in 1872, but a quick search on Trove turned up evidence that there was a club in Portarlington a decade earlier than that. Since then, I’ve found, or rediscovered, since I am sure somebody knew this already, that in 1880 the football club was playing home and away matches against clubs in Melbourne. Thanks to the ferries across the bay, Portarlington seems to have been orientated more towards the metropolis than Geelong at that time.


Local rivalries abound on the peninsula with games at all three sports against Drysdale being particular needle matches. Some local players went on to have stellar careers at the top level in their sports. John Hyde, who died recently, had a single season at Portarlington before going to Geelong football club and playing in their premiership teams in 1951 and 1952. Luckily for the historians, they recorded an interview with him before he died. Lucid, with a great memory and sense of humour, he entertained and informed them from his unique perspective. He wasn’t the first Port man to play for Geelong. The wonderfully named John Marriott Garibaldi Adams, “Joss”, played with Geelong in 1890–91. He represented Victoria against South Australia in 1890. He was a doctor and was even referred to as such in match reports.


The netballers have a shorter history. People forget that the sport was called women’s basketball until the interwar years. It was highly competitive then and a couple of Port players had to be carted off to Geelong hospital after a match at Queenscliff in 1932. The local competitions have quite a convoluted history as leagues formed and reformed over the years. This gives those who seek to find written records particular problems as these often disappeared with the secretaries at both club and league levels.


More generally there are problems in tracing local material consistently through history, though since these are not intended to be blow-by-blow or statistical stories, but an account of the clubs, teams and people in their local community this is less of a handicap than might be expected.


If any readers of this brief article have any memories or information about the three clubs at Portarlington, please share them with us. Peter Ashton can be contacted at 0418525474 or [email protected]




For more from Roy, click HERE.






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  1. Kevin Densley says

    Interesting and important local history, Roy.

    Thanks for bringing the subject matter to my attention.

  2. Thanks Roy, I have some head to head results that might add to the picture, I will email Peter to see if he is interested.

    That reminds me, Citrus Bob – did you finish the Lang Lang FC book?

  3. Thanks Kevin and Noel. I think Footy Town was a great inspiration from John Harms and Paul Daffey and I have shared it with the Portarlington folks. As with my Aboriginal books, the more I learn about local sport the more I realise that the real history of sport in Australia lies well below the surface of the national stories we tell ourselves.

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