Football in Launceston has its origins dating back to the mid 1860s, not long after the official birth of the game in Melbourne in 1858. The formation of the Launceston FC occurred in 1875, making the club the oldest in Tasmania’s history.
Launceston was a founding member of the Northern Tasmanian Football Association in 1886 and continued in that competition for a century. The Blues enjoyed early success in Tasmania and then dominated the state in the 1930s, winning five state premierships.
In the period from 1948 when the NTFA expanded, Launceston found it more difficult to achieve the same level of success. Highlights nonetheless occurred when the club moved to Windsor Park, Riverside and with great premiership triumphs in 1951, 1969, 1976 and 1985.
With the arrival of a statewide league in Tasmania in the mid-1980s Launceston was unable to gain a license and continued in the NTFL. In the early 1990s the Blues were finally accepted into the then-declining statewide league but in four seasons were unable to enjoy any success. The return to the NTFL in 1998 saw a long period of development culminate with premierships in 2006 and 2007.
Home ground: Windsor Park, Riverside (from 1968).
Formed: 1875 (merged with Tamar Rowing Club in 1888 and Union Football Club in 1889).
Colours: Navy blue with white monogram.
> Affiliated: NFA 1882-85; NTFA 1886-1986; NTFL 1987-93; TFL statewide 1994-97; NTFL 1998 to present.
> Premierships wins:
– Northern Tasmanian Football Association: 1888-89, 1892-94, 1897, 1899, 1900, 1909, 1913, 1920, 1924, 1926, 1929, 1933-38, 1940, 1945, 1951, 1969, 1976 and 1985.
– Northern Tasmanian Football League: 2006-07.
– State premierships: 1933-35, 1937-38.
Other achievements of the club have been:
> All Australians: Graeme ‘Gypsy’ Lee 1966.
> Tasman Shield Trophy winners: Neil Edwards 1928; Jim Milbourne 1929; K.W. ‘Bill’ Cahill 1933 and 1936; Tom Ryan 1939; Lance Crosswell 1946-47; Darrell Crosswell 1951; R. ‘Bob’ Bye 1959-60.
> Hec Smith Memorial Medallists: Alby Dunn 1968; Paul Ellis 1976; Grant Allford 1980; Darren Cook 1986.
> Baldock Medallists: Adam Sanders 2003; Anthony Taylor 2004; Brian Finch 2005.
> Leading goalkickers:
– NTFA top goalkickers: H. Murray (9) 1889; P. Tabart (9) 1892; R. Lawrence (11) 1893 and (12) 1894; J. Gorman (16) 1896; P. Bird (15) 1900; S. Willett (8) 1905; V. Valentine (12) 1906; A. Ramsay (6) and R. Thomas (6) 1911; B. Freeland (25) 1925; J. Foley (70) 1930 and (52) 1931; H. Ranson (62) 1933; A. Waddle (44) 1935; L. Smith (59) 1937 and (73) 1938; M. Flood (71) 1945; R. McCrimmon (102) 1948, (83) 1949, (76) 1950 and (55) 1951; C. Tabe (67) 1955; D. Seen (50) 1967; A. West (65) 1969 and (50) 1970; R. Smith (94) 1976 and (63) 1977; I. Donnachy (63) 1978 and (78) 1982.
– NTFL Top Goalkickers: A. Derbyshire (93) 2005 and (133) 2006.
> Highest score: 46.18 (294) vs. Deloraine on 19 May 1984.
> Most games: 252 by Paul Ellis from 1973 to 1985.
TEAM OF THE CENTURY
Backs: Leo McAuley, Trevor Ranson, Joe Cahill.
Half Backs: Gary Davis, Darrell Crosswell, ‘Paddy’ Martin.
Centres: Roy Cooper, Jack Beveridge, Cliff Tabe.
Half Forwards: Graeme Lee, Ken Walker, Lance Crosswell.
Forwards: Phil Haughan, Ross McCrimmon, Noel Atkins.
1st Ruck: Graham Wise, Bob Withers, Alby Dunn.
Interchange: Grant Allford, Robert Dutton, Paul Ellis, Murray Columbine, Ray Levett.
The history of Australian football in Tasmania dates back to the 1860s. In 1867 a committee was established in Launceston to oversee the Victorian code in that city, but initially at least it would seem that the sport was only played on a social basis. The Launceston Football Club was formed in 1875, making it the oldest club in Tasmania and also the first in Tasmania, but it was not until 1882 and the establishment of the Northern Football Association that organised football can genuinely be said to have commenced. This inaugural association only lasted four years before being replaced in 1886 by the Northern Tasmanian Football Association (NTFA), which would endure until the inception of a Tasmanian statewide competition precisely a hundred years later.
Launceston was one of three senior clubs to participate in the NTFA in its inaugural year, but one of the other clubs, Longford, was involved in a dispute with the association that eventually led to its withdrawal from the competition in July. This left Launceston to compete–unsuccessfully as it transpired–with City for the inaugural NTFA flag. Launceston thus achieved the rare ‘double’ of a wooden spoon and a runners-up berth in the same year.
In 1887 the competition expanded to four clubs with the admission of South Launceston and Tamar Rowing Club, and the following year Launceston and Tamar Rowing Club combined forces, winning the first of two consecutive premierships.
The 1890s was a depressed period economically, and this inevitably had an inimical effect on football. By the middle of the decade the NTFA was in dire straits and only two clubs–Launceston and Fitzroy–contested the 1896 season. In 1900 the Northern Tasmanian Cricket Association stepped in and undertook control of the competition, an arrangement that lasted until 1914.
Launceston provided a number of players for each of Tasmania’s teams at the three pre-World War One Australian Football carnivals, and at Adelaide in 1911 it supplied two of the very best in the shape of Gordon Challis (shown left), who was awarded the Senator Keating Medal as Tasmania’s outstanding player of the carnival, and A.D. (‘Algy’) Tynan, who was named at full back in an unofficial ‘All Australian’ side selected at the conclusion of the championships.
Launceston was intermittently successful during the pre-war period, contesting eight grand finals between 1900 and 1914 for three flags. After winning the 1909 premiership Launceston was involved in the first ever official play-off to determine the Tasmanian state premiers, losing to Cananore by 30 points in Hobart. Four years later Launceston again qualified to meet Cananore in the state premiership decider but, dissatisfied with the umpire appointed to take charge of the game, refused to take the field. The state title was awarded to Cananore and the TFL–the official controlling body for football throughout the state of Tasmania–suspended Launceston. It was not until midway through the 1914 season that this disqualification was finally lifted, by which time Launceston’s fellow NTFA clubs, City and North Launceston, had effectively also undergone suspension (at least as far as the TFL was concerned) for agreeing to play against Launceston in roster matches. The entire affair left something of a bitter after taste, but by the time it was resolved events in Europe had begun to supplant mere sporting considerations in most people’s minds.
During the early post-World War One phase the NTFA comprised three evenly matched clubs, Launceston, City and North Launceston, each of which secured two flags apiece between 1920 and 1925. In 1926 Longford re-entered the association after a forty-year break but the other three clubs continued to dominate for some time. Launceston won its thirteenth premiership that year and, in the state premiership play-off against Cananore, was desperately unlucky to lose by two points after amassing 25 scoring shots to 17.
The Launceston teams of the 1930s were some of the finest ever to grace Tasmanian football ovals. With players like ‘Bill’ Cahill, Roy Cooper, Tom Ryan and Doug Wheeler to the fore, the side won six consecutive flags between 1933 and 1938. Only North Hobart in 1936 prevented what would have been an identical sequence of wins in the state premiership.
Success since the 1930s has proved considerably harder to achieve. The NTFA expanded to six clubs in 1948 with the admission of Cornwall (later East Launceston) and Scottsdale, and the balance of power tended to rest more heavily with the second of these newcomers, together with North Launceston and City/City-South.
Launceston continued to provide a football home to a large number of accomplished players, such as the club’s only official All Australian, Graeme ‘Gypsy’ Lee (pictured right), Alby Dunn, Paul Vinar, Grant Allford, Paul Ellis and Wim Vaessen.
In 1994 the Blues entered the TFL statewide competition, at that stage a declining concern, but in four seasons failed to make much of an impression. The club finished last without a win in their debut season and last again with just one win in 1995, before improving marginally in 1996 (seventh out of 11 clubs) and 1997 (ninth out of 11).
Since 1998 Launceston has participated in the NTFL. After a twenty-one year wait, the side finally broke through to record its twenty-seventh senior premiership victory in 2006 after impressively downing Devonport in the grand final. In front of a crowd of 5,192 at Latrobe the final scoreboard showed Launceston 22.14 (146) defeated Devonport 13.11 (89).
A year later it was Ulverstone on the receiving end as the Blues claimed their first back-to-back premiership triumphs since the 1930s. Watched by a respectable crowd of almost 5,500 at Latrobe, Launceston had to battle hard for victory, with the Robins getting to within four points at one stage during the last term. However, the Blues were able to steady and pull away to record a 15 point triumph, 19.9 (123) to 16.12 (108).
In 2008 Adam Derbyshire broke the club goalkicking record of 445 goals previously held by Team of the Century full forward Ross McCrimmon (1947-54).