Northam in the WANFL?

Football enthusiasts in the Northam district are looking forward to the time when they will be represented by a local team in the W.A. National Football League's competition

In February 1954, The West Australian reported that two football leagues in the Northam area would consider merging in an attempt to field a team from the district in time for the 1955 season. The paper said: “When the question of Northam’s distance from Perth (about 60 miles) is raised, the enthusiasts point to Geelong, which is in the Victorian league.” The two leagues were the Avon Valley Football Association, consisting of three teams from Northam – Federals, Towns and Unions – as well as teams from Beverley, York and Meckering; and the East Avon Football Association, which included teams from Tammin, Cunderdin, Kellerberrin, Quairading and Doodlakine. The Avon Valley area, governed by the Eastern Districts Football Council (formed in 1946), was one of the first non-metropolitan areas in Western Australia to play football – matches between W.A.F.A. clubs and Newcastle (now Toodyay) had been recorded as early as 1885. The district had also produced a number of notable players, including Herbie Screaigh, Eric Glass, Ted Tyson and “Brem” Birmingham, who was the leader of the movement for an Avon Valley club in the W.A.N.F.L.. Birmingham said:

There would be no doubt about the strength of a combined side which had its headquarters based at Northam. There are more polished players in this district than there were in some of last year’s league teams

Perhaps unfortunately for W.A. country football, no Northam/Avon Valley was forthcoming. The league had to wait until 1997 for another team to be admitted into the competition. The Avon Valley Football Association and the East Avon Football Association did eventually merge, in 1959, and are still going strong to this day, producing notable W.A.F.L. and A.F.L. footballers such as Darren Glass, the Carr brothers, the McGrath brothers, Sharrod Wellingham, Clancy Rudeforth, Byron Pickett and Chance Bateman. The A.F.A. is still comprised of seven of the 11 original clubs that formed the league – Beverley, Cunderdin, Federals, Kellerberrin/Tammin, Quairading, Railways and York. Meckering dropped out after the October 1968 earthquake which destroyed most of the town – ironically, the club had just won two consecutive premiership and were considered one of the strongest clubs in the league. Northams Towns and Unions had merged in the 1970s to form Railways. Brookton withdrew from the competition in the 1991, but returned to merge with Pingelly in 1997. The merged club now competes in the Upper Great Southern Football League.

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