Maryborough’s proud history dates back to 1872

 by Richard Jones

MARYBOROUGH has had an established football club since mid-1872 when three matches were played against neighbouring Avoca.

Actually, an attempt was made to start up a club in June 1869 but it was unsuccessful. Nothing was done until 1872 when 30 men gathered at the Bull and Mouth Hotel and adopted rules for playing and for club management.

The club played its first competitive match against Avoca after challenges had been issued to committees in adjacent towns.

Maryborough’s players wore a scarlet cap, a uniform supplemented two years later by a white guernsey and knickerbockers (shorts) and red socks.

But back to those first matches against Avoca. Maryborough’s membership was two shillings and sixpence (2/6) while players paid one shilling a month to cover expenses.

In the first game against Avoca the first goal was not scored until an hour’s play had elapsed. The historic first encounter was drawn at one goal apiece!

A week later in the return match at Avoca, a three-hour fixture with a 20-minute interval, a draw was again the result. No goals to either club.

The decider was staged at Princes Park on August 26th, 1872. Avoca booted the opening goal in under an hour — and then the heavens opened.

Forty-five minutes passed and when play resumed large parts of the ground were three inches deep in water. Avoca scored two more goals to win handsomely.

MY INTEREST in Maryborough’s history was sparked by family involvement. Over the summer months I unearthed some old papers compiled by my maternal grandfather, Alfred Richard Outtrim jnr.

He captained Maryborough in 1902-03 and continued playing with the club in 1904-05. He states that in “all four years Maryborough won the premiership, even when the new association had been formed in the latter two years.”

Outtrim was born in 1883 so he was just 19 when captaining Maryborough during the 1902 season.

In the early part of the 20th century the competition comprised just four clubs: Maryborough, Royal Park, Bowenvale and Carisbrook.

By 1904 the new competition — mentioned by Outtrim in our family papers — included Bristol Hill and Havelock.

It wasn’t until 1924 the club was admitted, along with Ararat, into the powerful Ballarat Football League. This brought the number of clubs in the goldfields city to six.

Maryborough soon made its presence felt.

With nine wins and a draw from their 14 home-and-away matches the Magpies, as Maryborough was known, qualified for the 1924 finals in second place.

District newspaper writers of the time were astonished to see Maryborough beat South Ballarat and then minor premiers Ballarat twice to claim the premiership.

The arrival of Maryborough and Ararat had attracted record Ballarat League finals series crowds and provided the injection of new life the competition had sorely needed.

The Magpies’ success was no flash in the pan. Maryborough went top again in 1925, finished fourth in 1926, again claimed the flag in 1927 and finished fourth once more in 1928.

Before the 1929 season got under way the Maryborough Council made a bewildering decision. Princes Park Oval, the Magpies home ground, was allocated solely to the Maryborough District Football Association.

The Magpies were forced into temporary recess and did not resume playing in the Ballarat F.L. until 1931.

The short break from regular football hadn’t dented Maryborough’s enthusiasm or skills. The Magpies claimed their fourth Ballarat League flag courtesy of a 29-point win over Ballarat Imperial.

The match which decided the premiership was technically the league’s first true grand final. The league had instituted the Page-McIntyre system of playing finals for the 1931 season.

BUT it was never smooth sailing in and around Princes Park. During the 1931-32 off-season, the Magpie committee submitted what it believed to be a “secret” application to join the Bendigo Football League.

Of course, officials from Ballarat got wind of what was happening and were far from happy.

Maryborough was eventually suspended from the Ballarat F.L., a move which left most Maryborough players without a club for 1932.

The VCFL supported the Ballarat League’s position although many administrators worked hard behind the scenes to encourage Ballarat authorities to change their stances.

So a new club was formed. Maryborough United did contest the Bendigo League competition in 1932 and did so for eight, full seasons before disbanding three matches into the 1940 season because of World War 2.

Maryborough United lost the 1933 grand final to Sandhurst by a huge margin (29.15 to 10.12) but almost pinched the 1939 grand final from Golden Square. The Mustards won by eight points — 14.8 (92) to 12.12 (84).

By 1945 a re-constituted Maryborough Football Club was formed and after one season in the Maryborough District Football League were re-admitted to the Ballarat League.

The Magpies reached the grand final, but lost to Redan. In 1948 Maryborough went down to Golden Point by three points in front of a record grand final crowd of 14,602 persons.

A third grand final loss in four years came in 1949 when the Magpies were beaten by East Ballarat in the season decider.

The 1950s produced just one grand final appearance. That was in 1958 and it was a wholly forgettable one.

The Magpies managed just 1.6 (12) for the grand final and were outclassed by Geelong West, going down by 52 points.

I used to accompany my grandfather, by then a Maryborough businessman and publican, to Ballarat F.L. matches at Princes Park featuring the Magpies during the 50s.

The Magpies turned their form around in the sixties, winning three flags from five grand final appearances.

It wasn’t so great, though, as  the 1970s opened. Two successive wooden spoons as the 70s got rolling were followed by an astounding about turn, culminating in the 1972 premiership.

Maryborough also claimed the 1974 flag, fighting their way through from the elimination final. But that was to signal the end of the Magpies’ Ballarat Football League grand final appearances.

After struggling through the rest of the 1970s and for the majority of the 1980s, the club was granted a VCFL clearance to the Bendigo F.L.

That was in 1992 and the Magpies have been part of the BFL ever since, claiming consecutive premierships in 1998 and 1999.

Finals appearances haven’t been as frequent, though, in recent years. Down near the tail-end of the ladder in 2005, 2006 and 2007, the Magpies did finish fifth and contest the elimination final against Golden Square in 2008.

Last year Maryborough, under coach Shane Fisher, accounted for Sandhurst in the elimination final with a great victory.

But they lost to South Bendigo in the first semi-final, played at Country Vet Oval in Wade Street after a week’s delay caused by torrential rain and the sodden state of the QEO.

The Magpies saluted in the 2010 reserves grand final, however, with a stirring 12.17 (89) to 8.16 (64) victory over Sandhurst. Jayden Hooper was awarded the R.F. “Dick” Turner Medal for best afield.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS – 1/. Maryborough: A Social History, 1854-1904 by Betty Osborn and Tren Du Bourg and 2/.


  1. Richard – interesting stuff. I ran in the Maryborough Gift a few times. Lovely town. I also won the Avoca Gift in 1984. Happy days. Paid my airfare to London. Never been there to watch a game of footy but I might put it on the list.

  2. Richard Jones says

    DIPS …. many’s the time I’ve come back from a scorching New Year’s Day Maryborough Gift meeting to collapse into a cold bath at home.
    This was right through the 80s and into the 1990s.

    It could get well past 30 degrees at Princes Park, then there was the drive back to Bendigo, 2 to 3 hours in the Bendigo Addy newsroom writing and collating the Gift stories and sidebars — plus penning captions for the myriad of pics which were to accompany the January 2nd articles.

    It was late-ish evening before I could collapse into the said cold bath with an ice-cold frothie or 2. What a relief it was after a looooong day!
    BTW, Avoca’s ground has been flooded not once, but twice in recent months. In September blokes were jet-skiing around the oval. The water was halfway up the goal posts.

    The footy finals in the Maryborough-C’maine DFL (Avoca’s a member club) plus the Bendigo F.L.’s Week 2 finals were all postponed for a week because of unplayable grounds.
    Last month’s deluge was even more catastrophic. They had to clear all the carpets and furnishings from the Avoca clubrooms after water had swirled through.

  3. if its relevant I went to primary school in Ararat and I have a recall of some school sports meet [sorry] in Maryborough, Avoca or maybe Ampitheatre c1968-9. Very smooth running track is all ai recall

  4. Richard – hard to picture the Avoca ground that deep under water. It was a very fast track to run on, downhill slightly. I remember after winning the Gift in 1984 (it was a non penalty race but my old man had his eyes firmly fixed on the bookies a few weeks later at Stawell) my old man pulled me aside and said with obvious disgust in his voice – “Did you have to run so bloody fast?”.

    At Maryborough I never set myself to win, but it would have been a good Gift to pick up. Frothies must have tasted good after your loooooong days.

  5. Richard, would be good to connect as I’ve spent much time in my youth collating maryboroughs football history and would love to hear more about your father

  6. Ryan,
    Would you have any information on W. N. “Billy” Lacey’s involvement in Maryborough football?
    He was a champion Carlton footballer who had a brief footy career 1874 – 75 and then took up teaching and ran the Maryborough Grammar School around the mid 1880’s.
    Blueseum would really would like a photo of him.
    Check out Lacey’s bio page;

  7. Hi peter

    Unfortunately no photo yet but I’ll continue my research. I’m having some of my archives mailed to me in next few months on the club, but I do believe he was the first ever captain.

  8. Hi Ryan

    Thanks for your call. I have set the wheels in motion to try and find whatever info we can find about the club and my dad, Clarrie Kent and his involvement with the club. We are looking to see if we have any old photos taken at Princes Park. My nephew and sister are checking the old boxes of photos and newspaper clippings.
    Cheers Phil

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