The St Kilda Football Club was established on April 2, 1873 and is one of the oldest and proudest sporting institutions in the world.
It was on that historic day that the Saints were born, formed from the ashes of the disbanded South Yarra Football Club. Alongside other formalities, the significant occasion confirmed St Kilda’s iconic red, white and black colour scheme.
The red and white of South Yarra merged with the black and white of the new St Kilda, birthing the famous design which would ultimately stand the test of time. Initially, the guernsey was arranged in horizontal formation and was complete with a white handkerchief tied around the neck.
The Saints, as they became known, were considered to be a junior club before the formation of the VFA in 1877, playing their games at Alpaca Paddock.
St Kilda saw a spirited beginning to life as a football club and – largely though the talent of rover Alf Smith – showed themselves capable of pushing the most skilled teams in the state. But lulls in morale and drop-offs in form saw the club come incredibly close to extinction.
Despite a short-lived merger with University in 1875 to stay afloat, St Kilda competed well enough to become a foundation member of the body that would govern Australian Rules Football, the Victorian Football Association (VFA) in 1877.
The Saints continued to surprise every now and then, with their knack for rallying together against the best sides in the competition serving as a precursor to the fighting St Kilda spirit that would manifest over the following decades. But their brilliance would never last.
Flippant form, inadequate playing numbers and general inconsistency saw St Kilda dip in and out of the VFA’s senior ranks, with the club finding itself on the brink of collapse several times.
Lingering stories tell of players missing games to go to the races, or simply not showing up.
The Saints stabilised during their absence from the VFA and achieved full re-entry in 1886, now adorned with the famous red, white and black vertical stripes and new residency at Junction Oval.
Another merger with Prahran in 1888 left the Saints as one of the strongest clubs in the South, and saw a slight alteration to the uniform with the inclusion of blue shorts. The amalgamation was all but forgotten as St Kilda kept its name, home ground and colours, with the blue shorts fully discarded by 1909.
With the foundations set, the fledgling Saints managed to pull through the subsequent decade without a great deal of flair.
Nevertheless, the club would embark on a historic journey in 1897, when the unexpected proposition of joining a newly established football league was put forward.