Debate still raging over ‘wrong’ AFL date that’s shortchanged Geelong and Sydney’s flag count

Debate still raging over ‘wrong’ AFL date that’s shortchanged Geelong and Sydney’s flag count

Colin Carter caused heated debate and controversy with his proposal to change the VFL/AFL’s start date from 1897 to 1870.

What is undoubted is his ability to draw a crowd.

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AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan called it a “heavy room” on Tuesday as Carter launched his book, Football Forgotten Years.

The audience featured historian Geoffrey Blainey, former Carlton president Ian Collins, former Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett, current St Kilda president Andrew Bassatt and a host of current AFL top brass, including chairman Richard Goyder and his predecessor Mike Fitzpatrick.

The book continues a passion project of the former AFL commissioner and Geelong president, who argues that the start date of the then VFL should be moved to include the Victorian Football Association years back to 1870.

At the end of 1896, eight clubs broke away to form the VFL.

Adam Goodes and Jarrad McVeigh hold the 2012 Premiership Cup in front of Sydney fans at Lakeside Oval in Melbourne. Credit: JULIAN SMITH/AAPIMAGE

The obvious outcome of Carter’s argument would be to radically change what matters most to all football fans – who won the premierships.

As it stands, Carlton and Essendon have 16 and Collingwood is one behind.

If Carter gets his way and the VFA flags are counted, Carlton will move to 22 and Essendon will improve to 20.

Geelong would pick up a whopping seven extra flags and move to 17, while Collingwood would win just one more and share 16 with Melbourne. Sydney will also benefit, moving up from five to 10.

“I’m not here today to confirm Colin’s thesis … but I’m not here to challenge his conclusions either,” McLachlan said at the launch.

“That is for our historians, our clubs to scrutinize and no doubt to expand the debate.”

Carter is adamant that the only reason AFL history begins in 1897 is because of the bitter politics between the then VFL and the VFA, which came to a head in the 1920s.

If Colin Carter had his way, Geelong would have 17 AFL premiership cups, rather than 10. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

“It will be an issue for the commission to resolve and all I hope for is that the AFL, as the custodian of the code, will set up a heritage committee to consider the case for 1870,” Carter said.

“For the past 100 years, since the mid-1920s, the AFL has celebrated 1897 as its start. That date is wrong.”

Despite his club’s fierce rivalry with Geelong and the fact Hawthorn would get no flags by changing the date to 1870, Kennett Carter says his work should be applauded.

“I was there for the big debates at commission and club presidents meetings a few years ago and it was very, very vocal and personal,” Kennett said.

“But I have to say, it’s one code and whether it’s a business or sport, someone plants an acorn.

“I don’t accept Colin is motivated by Geelong … he’s done a lot of work. I’m not opposed to the concept that the history of the code is worth being inclusive.

“There is a lot of substance in what he says.”


16 – Carlton, Essendon

15 – Collingwood

13 – Hawthorn, Melbourne, Richmond

11 – Fitzroy/Brisbane

10 – Geelong

5 – South Melbourne/Sydney

4 – North Melbourne, West Coast

2 – Adelaide, Western Bulldogs

1 – Port Adelaide, St Kilda


22 – Carlton

20 – Essendon

17 – Geelong

16 – Collingwood, Melbourne

13 – Hawthorn, Richmond

12 – Fitzroy/Brisbane

10 – South Melbourne/Sydney

4 – North Melbourne, West Coast

2 – Adelaide, Western Bulldogs

1 – Port Adelaide, St Kilda

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