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There has been an age old debate within West Adelaide about our clubs birthday.  Were we formed in 1887 or 1891/2?

As a football historian, I have found the exact birthdates of both West Torrens (Natives) and North Adelaide (Medindie) using a multitude of SA Papers from the 19th Century. But when it comes to our club, I have failed to find an exact date of birth.  It was common in the 19th Century for communities and delegates to advertise that they were forming a new sporting club or identity. It was also common practise to read brief articles pertaining to a clubs annual report in the early summer months recounting the performances and finances of the entity prior to a forthcoming season. I am yet to find a newspaper or magazine article from the 1889-1893 era that narrows down our clubs formation. I can however confidently say that we were most likely formed between 1891 and 1892 as a junior side because of articles written some years later which I will share with you shortly.

Before I share these articles, perhaps you as a reader might hold the key which could unlock this and other mysteries lost in time. As club historian, I am trying to replenish our clubs annual reports, team photographs, minutes, statistical records and collections.  Unfortunately West Adelaide was one of the last clubs to find a home ground to store important documents pertaining to player and club history. Often club secretaries and board-members were in charge of storing minutes and important documents, pictures and trophies. As time passed by, so has our hold on these valuable documents and artefacts. Club annual reports tell us the deaths of past players, playing lists for seasons past, new life-members as well as recounting important events for a season.  If you know the whereabouts of the following annual reports which neither the club or state library holds, the WAFC would love to obtain a photocopy or original of the following annual reports  (1907, 1920, 1922, 1923, [1924 Balance Sheet], 1930 and 1931.) If you can help, please email, write or phone the West Adelaide Football Club and I will get back to you.
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Recently the discovery of the 1911 annual report has put beyond doubt that the current West Adelaide Football club was NOT founded in 1887.  Our 1911 annual report states…
“It is appropriate that whilst we are recording the glorious victories of 1911, we are celebrating the Twentieth Birthday of our Club.  Just 20 years ago our old friend Mr J McCabe (who throughout this long period has held office on the Committee of Management), was the principal factor in starting this club, and he had with him as Secretary Mr R. Mander, who piloted the Club through its first season.  Our sincerest thanks are due to these two gentlemen who remain staunch supporters.”
Furthermore, I recently found in my records at home, a copy of a magazine titled, “The Official Souvenir of THE AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL CARNIVAL 1911” with articles by the founder of Football  Mr H. C. A. Harrison.  On page 26, a history of West Adelaide is given.  The article reads,
“Originally formed about 1890, chiefly through the instrumentality of John McCabe, the club (West Adelaide) won the 1895 premiership in the City and Suburban Association, and in the following year, on the introduction of the Electorate System, joined the Senior Association.”

We do know that in 1892, West Adelaide wore red and white and their home ground was opposite Annesley College in the South Parklands. (This was formerly known as Way College and Methodist Ladies College).  In the second year of the clubs playing existence (1893), West Adelaide transferred its home ground to the West Parklands.
Adelaide City Council records confirm that the WAFC club wore a Red & White strip when it won the 1895 premiership in the City and Suburban Association with ten wins, one loss and a draw. West Adelaide went back-to-back winning the 1896 premiership and was recognised as the best side outside of the senior association.

On Wednesday March 31 of 1897, West Adelaide formally wrote to the S.A.F.A seeking admission to League football. This was duly granted on April 12 and hence the original programme circulated for the 1897 season was amended to six teams eliminating the weekly bye. West Adelaide had to change its colours from Magenta and White as it would have clashed with Port Adelaide and North Adelaide. The committee then decided to adopt the colours from the defunct Adelaide Football Club - Red and Black.

Unfortunately for West Adelaide and our historical record keeping, both Mr John Charles McCabe and Mr Reubner Milton Lavis Mander  (co-founders of this proud club) passed away in 1933. As our historian, I would like to think and hope that their passing has not taken with them, our only chance of unearthing the true birth date our mighty club – Hence the importance of finding lost annual reports.

Some points of interest –

Our club turned 25 in 1916/17 (WW1 – No Annual Report Printed) –
Our club turned 50 in 1941/42 (WW2 – Merged with Glenelg)

It seems history was against us when we celebrated major birthday milestones!


In 1887, a group of West Torrens players (Not the West Torrens Club which merged with Woodville in 1990) created a West Adelaide Football Club.  On April 5, 1887 the association voted to admit this newly formed West Adelaide as its newest member. The colours of this team were red, white and blue. The club won one game in 1887, drew two and lost the rest. After the conclusion of the 1887 season the club retired from the SAFL and played in parkland competitions. It is believed that this club ultimately disbanded during the 1888 season but evidence supporting this is yet to be found.

Article – Mark C.J Beswick   (WAFC Historian)


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