A week after the 1909 VFL grand final, South Melbourne once again found themselves in action on the MCG, this time in an unofficial club championship of Australia decider against SAFL premier West Adelaide.  Watched by a miserly crowd of roughly 8,000, the two teams produced a closely fought encounter in which South pulled away in the final term to win by 24 points, after having led by just a point at the last change.  The main differences between the sides were South's superior fitness and their greater accuracy in front of goal.  Final scores were South Melbourne 11.8 (74); West Adelaide 6.14 (50).

South Melbourne's grand final victory over Carlton gave the club its sixth senior premiership, one more than the Blues.  It also represented the Blues' first finals defeat since the 1905 final against Fitzroy, since which time they had been victorious in no fewer than 8 major round matches in succession.

Both South and Carlton  would continue at the forefront of the game throughout the ensuing decade, with the former contesting the finals in eight out of nine possible seasons,[1] and the latter failing to contest the major round only once in ten years.  The two sides would again contest a challenge final in 1914, with the Blues avenging their 1909 defeat with a thrilling 6 point victory, a triumph that was especially sweet given that it was the fiftieth anniversary of the club's formation.  Carlton also went top in 1915, trouncing Collingwood in the challenge final by 33 points, and were runners-up twice during the decade.


South contested the premiership deciding game on three occasions between 1910 and 1919, losing to Essendon in 1912, and to Carlton as mentioned in 1914, before breaking through to claim their seventh flag in 1918 with a thrilling come from behind victory over Collingwood.  At the outset of the 1920 season only Essendon, with eight premierships, had been more successful than South and Carlton,[2] but the remainder of the twentieth century would produce a marked discrepancy in fortune, as the Blues and Dons vied with one another, and Collingwood, for the distinction of being the VFL's most successful club, while South's supporters became increasingly used to seeing their heroes battling to achieve some kind of respectability, or at very least to avoid yet another wooden spoon.[3]  Even more distressingly, from being one of the competition's most popular, well supported and wealthiest clubs, by the 1970s South Melbourne found itself enduring a hand to mouth existence that ultimately led to its feeling forced to relocate to Sydney in a bid to ensure its survival.  Whatever the rights and wrongs of that decision, by 2005, after a somewhat hair-raising roller-coaster ride lasting a quarter of a century, the Swans once again found themselves occupying a prominent position among the game's elite clubs.  As for the Bombers and the Blues, life by the early years of the twenty-first century had become a good deal less comforting and predictable, for success in top level Australian football - unlike many other major sports, most notably soccer - is, to the AFL's infinite credit, no longer entirely a purchasable commodity.  Whether, in the face of mass-media and business fuelled propaganda for inferior but more easily marketable pastimes, this will ultimately be enough to ensure its long-term survival remains to be seen, but such is the seemingly all pervasive power of corporate advertising these days that one is very hard pressed indeed to feel optimistic.


FOOTNOTES


[1]  South Melbourne was one of five VFL clubs which did not compete in 1916.


[2]  Geelong had also won seven senior grade flags. 


[3]  Between 1920 and the end of the twentieth century South succumbed to this dubious distinction on ten occasions. 

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Inauguration of Tasmanian State Premiership (TSP), contested by the premiers of the TFL and NTFA.  Cananore are first premiers after a 6.10 (46) to 2.6 (18) defeat of Launceston in Hobart. Grand final results - CoA: South Melbourne 11.8 (74) d. West Adelaide 7.14 (56); VFL: South Melbourne 4.14 (38) d. Carlton 4.12 (36); SAFL: West Adelaide 7.17 (59) d. Port Adelaide 6.5 (41); WAFL: East Fremantle 8.8 (56) d. Perth 4.6 (30); VFA: Brunswick 10.11 (71) d. Prahran 8.7 (55); NSWAFL: North Shore 7.5 (47) d. YMCA 5.5 (35); QFL: Wynnum 4.10 (34) d. Valley 1.3 (9); WA State Premiership: East Fremantle 8.10 (58) d. Boulder City 3.9 (27). Other premiers - TFL: Cananore (on points); NTFA: Launceston (on points).

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