Local Footy: The Maffra story – it’s all about beating Sale

by Rocket Gillett
In preparing my recent posting on the Rochester/Echuca rivalry I had planned to compare it to a very similar rivalry – and the most comparable is the Sale/Maffra rivalry – the parallels are striking similarly in terms of longevity, small town v big town, changing competitions, etc

However, I got carried away with advocating for a Goulburn Valley League heritage round. I had contacted Bill “Tracker” Traill, a co-author of The Maffra Story: The history of the Maffra Football Club published in 2007 to get a run-down on the Sale/Maffra rivalry. I got to know Bill through his son Michael (a former VFL Reserve Grade umpire) who coached my son in Sydney’s North Shore junior competition. Tracker had an illustrious career as a country footballer in such top competitions as the Latrobe Valley and the Ovens and Murray leagues in the 1950’s and early 1960’s through his vocation as a teacher, and later as a school principal.

He played in Wangaratta’s 1961 premiership team under Collingwood premiership defender Neville Waller. Bill was raised in Maffra but never played senior footy for the club as he won a scholarship to Melbourne High School and then went to the University of Melbourne where he played for Uni Blues before heading back to the bush. I’d like to share with you the background and comments from Tracker about the Sale/Maffra rivalry.

Hello Rocket,

                    I hope you are continuing your missionary zeal with respect to AFL expansion in the Middle East. In answer to your specific questions on Sale Maffra rivalry:


The first Sale/Maffra match was recorded on July 24th  1877 when Sale 3 goals defeated ‘Maffra United’ 1 goal. Until 1889 when the Gippsland Football Association was formed there was often no scheduled draw and certainly no formal competition for premiership honours. Games were social in nature although played, it seems, with an increasing competitive edge. The GFA was quickly impacted by the Depression which began in 1891. Maffra football was an early casualty and probably played only 3/4 seasons, leaving Sale and Bairnsdale to battle for honours.  The GFA was disbanded in 1900 and made way for the forerunner of the GFL in 1901. It was called the North Gippsland Senior competition and could truly be called Gippsland’s first major league.


Colours: Maffra almost certainly adopted the red and black combination from the outset in the 1870s. The first evidence of the club’s colour tradition emerging occurs in 1885 when the goal posts were painted red and black. The original configuration was black with a wide red chest hoop, red collar and red cuffs. Socks were originally black with red top and later red and black hoops. In 1978 this configuration was changed to red and black vertical stripes. There it remains.


Sale first adopted blue (probably royal) and white. The alignment of the colours was with a white yoke on the blue body of the jumper with blue and white hoops on the sleeve and socks. The Magpies came into being in 1911 with the conventional vertical stripes and black socks. For the first 8 years of the LVFL (1954/61) Sale wore a different configuration of the black and white. It was a white yoke on black with hoops on the socks. The reason for the change was to accommodate Yarragon, also an original member of the LVFL. They had been Magpies in the Central Gippsland league. With Yarragon’s departure in 1962, Sale reverted to their original Magpie colours which they wear to the present day. 


Rocket, I am not sure how deeply you are delving into Sale/Maffra rivalry, but I regarded it as integral to the ‘Maffra Football Story’ and devoted a lengthy chapter to it. If you want, I could extract the chapter and sundry embellishments. To statistically back this up, the two towns have been in major league competition for 94 years between 1901-2009 and have met an estimated 276 times. Apart from wartime suspensions, they have only been apart for 6 years, (1954/59) – the time it took for Maffra to follow Sale into the LVFL from the GFL. In hindsight that interregnum must have been a frustrating time for both protagonists; their ‘love to hate’ tendencies temporarily put on hold. The clubs have produced a remarkably even scorecard given the imbalance of populations – approx 5000 in Maffra as opposed to 14000 in Sale. Most Gippsland gate records, both finals and home and away, focus on Sale/Maffra games. It has always been thus over time.


Cheers, Tracker


  1. Rocket Rod Gillett says

    Bill “Tracker” Traill informs me that Maffra have won this year’s West Gippsland-Latrobe Valley Grand Final by just beating old nemesis Tralagon, 7.27.69 to 9.12.66.
    This was Maffra’s 5th premiership this decade which contrasts greatly with their period in the old but gold Latrobe Valley League from 1960 till 2000 when it never won a flag – making only one grand final in 1989 when beaten by a few points by Leongatha.
    Prior to that period Maffra had won 12 premierships in variously named Gippsland leagues, now it is set to be a member again of a league called the GFL from next season.
    While Tracker concedes that it was sweet to beat Tralagon which caused a major upset when it ended Maffra’s long unbeaten run in 2005, it was even sweeter to beat Sale in the 2006 and 2007 deciders.

  2. FROM THE GIPPSLAND TIMES September 2012
    These clubs share a remarkable rivalry, with only two wins separating them, in Sale’s favour, over 269 meetings since 1901. In 20 finals, Maffra holds an 11-9 edge.

  3. Lester Merlo says

    Maffra have won another premiership this year, I would like to send a report to Bill Trail could you contact him to give him my email address. We beat Sale twice this year, the home win was by just 1 point after different umpire cards but correct time keepers cards.

Leave a Comment