Perhaps the only thing more precious to Melbournians than their cafes is the game of Australian Rules Football. As the birthplace of the sport, the city’s suburbs have produced 9 professional teams that compete in the Australian Football League, the most popular sporting competition in the country.
If you’re coming to Melbourne and keen to embrace Australian football this article is designed to give you an idea of which team you’ll identify with best. If you’re looking to watch a game while you’re in town, you can find our guide right here.
Colours: Navy Blue and White
The Blues are the equal most successful club in Melbourne, having won 16 premierships. They’ve endured a lean period recently, but the club still has a huge supporter base, which includes many members of the city’s Italian, Greek and Lebanese communities centred around the suburb’s Lygon Street centre. If a simple, retro look and a rich history is your thing, Carlton could be the way to go.
Colours: Black and White
If you embrace the ‘us versus them’ mentality as a sports fan, look no further than Collingwood. Traditionally the most hated club in Melbourne, their supporters are loud, one-eyed and love the fact that no one else likes them and while their rivalry with Carlton is the most notable, they also have fierce battles with Richmond and Essendon. The players wear black and white stripes and home games at the MCG draw big crowds.
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Colours: Red and Black
Also known as ‘The Dons’, the team’s airplane mascot comes from the suburb’s Essendon Airport. Along with Carlton, they are Melbourne’s most successful club but haven’t won a Premiership cup since 2000. Recent scandals have tainted the club’s reputation, but Essendon has been the home of some of the sport’s greatest indigenous players and are a sleeping giant of the AFL.
Colours: Brown and Gold
Hawthorn is one of the hubs of Melbourne’s sought-after inner east and as such are viewed as a more upper-class team. While the club struggled to find their feet in their early days, they rose to be one of the games powerhouses in the late 70’s and 80’s, sparking a fierce and often violent rivalry with Essendon. The Hawks haven’t looked back since, having recently won three premierships in a row from 2012-2015.
Colours: Red and Blue
Also known as ‘The Dees’, the Melbourne Football Club is the oldest in Australia, founded all the way back in 1858. They wear red and dark blue jumpers and play their home games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Demons supporters have a reputation for coming from the city’s elite and the club has strong ties to the prestigious Melbourne Cricket Club. The team has been anything but successful over the last 20 years but their main redeeming feature is the club song: It’s A Grand Old Flag.
North Melbourne Kangaroos
Colours: Blue and White
‘The Kangas’ are one of the city’s smaller clubs, based in a pocket to the north of the CBD. If you’re after a uniquely Australian team, it’s hard to go past a one with a kangaroo as a mascot. Or if supporting the little guy is your thing, North is an option. They’ll definitely appreciate the extra fan and repay you with the odd successful season here and there. They play their home games at Marvel Stadium and if you feel like kicking the footy around, their Arden Street training ground is open to the public when the team isn’t using it.
Colours: Yellow and Black
‘The Tiges’ are currently the largest team in Melbourne , with over 100,000 paying members. After dominating the game through the 60s and 70s, they went almost 40 years without success before recent wins revitalised the club. If you get behind them now, you’ll undoubtedly be labelled a bandwagoner, but they have the best song in the league and don’t look like dropping off any time soon, so it’s probably worth it.
St. Kilda Saints
Colours: Red, White and Black
The Saints are Melbourne’s hard luck story. An inaugural member of the Victorian Football League in 1897, they’ve won just one premiership since. Still, the team has a rich history and a small but devoted fanbase. St. Kilda is also a lovely beachside area that is popular with recent international arrivals, so if you’re moving into the neighbourhood why not join the small but incredibly loyal group of Saint’s supporters?
Colours: Red, White and Blue
Having begun life as the Footscray Football Clubs, ‘The Doggies’ changed their name to include a larger region of Melbourne’s growing western suburbs. They’ve endured a similarly unsuccessful existence to St. Kilda, only winning their second premiership after a fairytale run in 2016. The Hemsworth brothers are some of their most passionate supporters.
Do Geelong Count?
Colours: Blue and White
The Geelong Cats are Victoria’s tenth team, based in the state’s second largest city. The cats wear navy blue and white and play most of their home games in Geelong, occasionally hosting bigger games at the MCG. While Geelong wouldn’t consider themselves a ‘Melbourne Team’, a lot of their supporters now live and work in Melbourne, so if you wanted to live in Melbourne but follow the Cats, you won’t be too out of place.
Still not sure?
As you can see, there is plenty of diversity amongst the city’s teams and while Aussie rules is always the talk of the town, you’ll also find a few soccer and rugby clubs rounding out the list of Melbourne’s professional football teams.
If you still can’t decide which club to support, why not join us on a walking tour? As a Melbourne local, your guide will likely have some strong opinions of their own to share.