A BRIEF OVERVIEW
Established in 1876, Heidelberg Football Club is one of the oldest Australian Rules Football Clubs in the country. The club initially competed in the Melbourne Football League against other suburban clubs such as Northcote, Waverley, South Melbourne and Sandridge. Heidelberg's original Guernsey was blue and white until adopting the current strip of yellow and black during the 1880s prior to the Richmond Football Club being formed.
Heidelberg has competed in many different football leagues during its history. Commencing in the Melbourne Football League, the club was a founding member of Bourke-Evelyn Football League in 1890. Between 1900 and 1902, Heidelberg competed in the VFA before transferring to the Northern Suburban Football League. The club was a founding member of Heidelberg District Football League in 1909 before transferring to the fledgling Diamond Valley Football League in 1923.
Above: The earliest known picture of the Heidelberg Football Club, taken in 1897.
Heidelberg's dominance of the DVFL led to the club moving temporarily to VFL Sub-Districts League in 1925 whilst still successfully fielding a team in the DVFL (known as Heidelberg Juniors at the time).
The club returned exclusively to the DVFL in 1930 and has remained in this league since with considerable success whilst the Junior club now resides in the YJFL.
The Club has won a total 27 senior premierships including a record 19 in the Northern Football League, the first being in 1890, and the most recent in 2009.
The original home ground was at Heidelberg Park, but after a recess during World War II, the club moved across Beverley Road to Warringal Park in 1946 where they have remained ever since.
The club's darkest hour came at the end of the 1980 season when it was announced that the bottom four clubs of that season would be relegated to the newly formed Division 2. Heidelberg having finished 13th (third last) was demoted to second division for the 1981 season. After three seasons in Division 2 the club earned promotion with a breakthrough Grand Final victory over Northcote Park in 1983 under new coach Mick Sullivan.
The match was played in terrible conditions at Diamond Creek however the Tiger's snuck home by 7 points in the end to clutch the club's first Premiership since 1964 albeit in Division 2.
After two respectable years in 1984/85 the club went on to achieve success in the top flight in 1986 and became the first club to win a Premiership after gaining promotion from second division.
Four years later in 1990 and again under the leadership of playing coach Mick Sullivan Heidelberg upset Bundoora in the Grand Final to secure its 14th DVFL flag.
Following the club's celebrated 1990 Premiership the club went through a hard period on the field and at times during the mid 90's was fighting for Division 1 survival. The retirements of some of the club's greatest players from the mid to late 80's and early 90's left a huge hole in the club's playing stocks but to the credit of the playing group and committee Heidelberg survived relegation.
The late 90's and early 2000's was truly the beginning of what was the ultimate "rebuilding phase" for the Heidelberg Football Club. The Tiger's made a handful of finals appearances during this time and were unlucky never to have reached the Grand Final.
Finally, in 2004 after 14 years of tireless work the club secured that elusive senior Premiership. A young captain by the name of Blair Harvey in his third year at the club led the Tigers to a comprehensive 52-point victory over Bundoora played out in miserable conditions at Epping.
The Tiger's made further Grand Final appearances in 2005 & 2006 under coach Craig Hunter with success coming in 2006 in what was a memorable victory over Bundoora. The 2006 Grand Final was to be the last ever match under the "Diamond Valley Football League" heading after a formal audit by Football Victoria exposed corruption in the ranks, which ultimately resulted in the standing down of the entire DVFL board as well as a change to the league's name. The audit and subsequent overhaul was initially triggered after Heidelberg expressed concerns while unsuccessfully attempting to transfer to the
Heidelberg became the inaugural Northern Football League Premier and Champion in 2007, going through the season undefeated for the first time in its history.
The Tiger's backed up their impressive beginnings in the Northern League by claiming the Premiership for the third season in a row in 2008, losing only two matches along the way. During the Grand Final against bitter rival Montmorency the Tiger's looked beaten and at one stage late in the third term trailed the Magpies by 38 points. What came next few could have predicted as Heidelberg would go on to pile the next nine goals and restrict Montmorency to one solitary point to record a famous 22-point victory.
2009 was another monumental year for the club and was arguably the most dominant display by an NFL/DVFL side over the course of a season that has ever been seen. 20 wins from 20 matches for the second time in three seasons was in itself an unprecedented performance and coupled with that Heidelberg's dominance during the finals campaign few could argue to have seen a better side grace the Warringal Park oval.
A record breaking final term of the 2009 Grand Final versus Bundoora would ensure Heidelberg would end the season as Premier for the 5th year in a row and keep their title of the Northern League's most successful club.
Heidelberg seniors in 2009, Premiers & Champions.