The Redlegs and the Demons; a shared history

by Reonaldo Cialini
NFC History Group

The relationship between the Melbourne and Norwood Football Clubs promises to be enhanced with the 2018 debut of Harrison Petty with the Demons. Petty, a Rostrevor College boarder from Wudinna, a small country town on the Eyre Peninsula, was selected by the Demons at pick number 37 in the national AFL Draft. He had played for Norwood at Under 18 and Reserves level in 2017.

Petty is set to follow in the footsteps of a long list of players who have represented both clubs since Norwood was formed in 1878. The common bond shared between the two clubs can be traced back to Norwood's first year. Melbourne was the oldest football club in the country, having been formed in 1858, and was already highly respected. Norwood made the decision to wear the red and blue colours worn by Melbourne after a suggestion from Louis Suhard, a former Melbourne footballer who had moved to South Australia.

The two clubs first met on July 1, 1880. Played on the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the game was almost called off before it even started, due to the wet and extremely muddy conditions. "The Australasian" newspaper reported : "The turf was utterly unfit for football of any description, and the Melbourne men were evident inclined to ‘pass’ and wait for a more convenient season, some of them not turning up; the Norwoods, however, were so eager to fulfill their engagements, that a few inches of mud was of little moment to them, and consequently it was agreed the game should proceed." The report went on to say that the umpire "entered the field clothed in white raiment, but came out of it very patchy indeed." Norwood won the encounter 2.8 to 0.5, with its better players being Pollock, McMichael, Morgan, Waldron and Traynor. It was the first time a SA club had beaten a team from the Victorian Football Association.

Norwood was on a mid-season tour, which also included matches against Carlton, Geelong, Hotham and South Melbourne. In its return visit in 1882, Norwood were convincingly beaten by Melbourne 1.4 to 8.8. This tour included matches against Ballarat, Carlton, Sandhurst and South Melbourne. Melbourne and Norwood met again in 1884, with Melbourne winning both games.

These tours and matches between interstate clubs were important in lifting the standard of football and in promoting the game across the country. Games between South Australian and Victorian clubs quickly became popular, and were soon followed by matches against teams from other states.

Melbourne and Norwood also shared the same nickname for many years. Melbourne was known as the Redlegs until it became the Demons in 1933.

While Norwood had dominated the South Australian football scene from the start, winning six premierships in its first six seasons (1878-1883), Melbourne's golden era ran from 1954 to 1960. During this period, the Melbourne Demons won five VFL flags, were runners-up in the other two seasons, and was the glamour Victorian club of the time.

In 1959 Norwood had not tasted success since 1950 and new coach Alan Killigrew believed the Norwood Football Club needed a change of image; the Melbourne Football Club appeared to be the obvious role-model. Thus the Norwood Redlegs became the Demons and Killigrew also changed the design of the Norwood jumper, introducing a red yoke similar to the Melbourne strip.

In 1964 however, after Killigrew had departed, Norwood reverted back to the Redlegs and discarded the Demons guernsey in favour of the traditional strip it had used since 1945. Between 1955 and 1964, Melbourne as the VFL premiers, played the SA premiers under lights on the Norwood Oval on four occasions. Melbourne won all four games, three against Port Adelaide, and one against South Adelaide.

Melbourne’s club song "A Grand Old Flag" which it had used since 1912 was adapted by Norwood in 1950s. Both clubs can be rightly proud of their history and tradition.

Norwood have won 30 SANFL premierships, while Melbourne have won 12 VFL premierships.

Over the years, many players and coaches have had a connection with both clubs including : Neil Balme (Coach, Nathan Bassett, Jace Bode, Peter Brenchley, Phil Carman, Neil Craig (Coach), Ross Dillon, Alex Georgiou, Art Gilchrist, Martin Heppell, Stephen Kerley, Arthur Longden,, Stephen McCarthy, George McNeilage, John Meesen, Algy Millhouse, Glenn Molloy, Graham Molloy,, Michael Newton ,Des O'Dwyer, Greg Parke, Martin Pike, Steven Pitt, Peter Rohde (Coach), David Rodan, Louis Suhard, Dean Terlich, John Watson, Austin Wonaeamirri.

A possible line-up could look like :

Michael NEWTON           Ross DILLON            Louis SUHARD
Steven PITT                  Greg PARKE               Neil CRAIG
Martin PIKE                   Phil CARMAN            John WATSON
Arthur LONGDEN         Stephen KERLEY         Nathan BASSETT
Jace BODE                   Alex GEORGIOU          Peter ROHDE

1st Ruck : Neil BALME     Graham MOLLOY     Algy MILLHOUSE (also coached 1914)


The team includes players who have represented both clubs at League level, or have been League coaches at one club, and played at least Reserves at the other. Those who have played League for Norwood, but only Reserves at Melbourne includes Cristian O'Brien, Ashley Reade, Peter Ryan, and Brett Zorzi.

Games played between the two clubs:

Date                  Venue                Norwood                Melbourne

1/7/1880          MCG                       2.8                        0.5
24/6/1882        MCG                       1.4                        8.8
29/05/1884      MCG                       3.8                        4.8
23/8/1884      Adelaide Oval            3.5                        5.7
1/6/1895          MCG                       6.9                       8.12
7/8/1909        Adelaide Oval            4.11                    11.10
20/3/1971        MCG                      9.11                     27.18
16/3/1972     Norwood Oval          15.9                      26.13
11/3/1974     Norwood Oval          19.13                    15.10
19/3/1992     Norwood Oval          11.14                    15.14

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