Victoria’s first athletics club, the Melbourne Harriers, formed in 1890 at a meeting at the George Hotel, St Kilda, where the idea of forming an athletics association had first been raised. In September the following year, a committee was formed by the Melbourne Harriers to draft the rules for a proposed association. On October 8 1891, the Victorian Amateur Athletic Association (VAAA) was officially formed, at the Port Phillip Club Hotel on Flinders Street.
Along with the Melbourne Harriers, the founding members of VAAA were Melbourne University, Hawthorn Harriers, Melbourne Grammar School and Wesley College.VAAA held its first championships at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground in the Easter of 1892, and then the inaugural Men’s 10 Mile Cross Country Championship at Caulfield Racecourse in October of the same year. The 10 Mile Cross Country today serves as a key fixture of Athletics Victoria’s Cross Country and Road Racing series (XCR’12), and is believed to be the oldest continually run distance race in the world.
State Track and Field Championships continued to be held in the following years, with the interclub competition that would evolve into today’s AV Shield first taking place in 1913.
1909 — Group portrait photograph of the Victorian Amateur Athletics Association team for competition in Tasmania – Back row: George Richardson (Ballarat) — Dave Turnbull (East Melbourne) — Ted Neate (Carlton) — Centre: Arthur McMeekin (Essendon) — Phil Johnson (Hawthorn) — H. I. Smith (Melbourne) Secretary V.A.A.A. — Wicks (Essendon) — Jack Stuart (Essendon) — Cliff Manley (Carlton) — Front row: Ted Butler (Essendon) — Tom Vines (St. Columb’s)
The East Melbourne Cricket Ground hosted VAAA meets until the late 1890s, when the association relocated to the nearby Friendly Societies Ground on the banks of the Yarra River. The ground later became the Amateur Sports Ground, and then the Motordrome, before finally being known as Olympic Park. From its development into a world-class stadium in 1951 to its demolition in 2011, Olympic Park was considered the spiritual home of athletics in Victoria, serving as the administrative headquarters of the VAAA and AV for much of that time.
MELBOURNE – 1956: Ron Clarke of Australia lights the Olympic Torch at the opening ceremony of the 17th Olympic Games held in Melbourne. (Photo by Getty Images)
With competition restricted to men in the formative years of the VAAA, the idea of a women’s association began to gain momentum, and at a meeting at the Young Women’s Christian Association on December 9 1929, the Victorian Women’s Amateur Athletic Association (VWAAA) was formed. Interclub competition for women began in the 1930/31 season, with the Williamstown and Glenhuntly Cricket Grounds and the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds serving as host venues.
In 1936, the VWAAA acquired use of Royal Park in Parkville from the Melbourne City Council, and by 1939 a cinder track and change rooms had been installed. The facility remained as the home base of the VWAAA over a number of decades before its redevelopment into the present-day State Netball and Hockey Centre.
Following the amalgamation of the Australian Athletic Union and the Australian Women’s Amateur Athletic Union in 1978, talk of a merger between the VAAA and the VWAAA was soon underway. By 1982 the union had been formalised, a move that helped bring athletics in Australia into the modern age and saw the amalgamation of many of Victoria’s men’s and women’s clubs throughout the next decade.
MURRUMBEENA – 1945: Roy Foley and women members of the Glenhuntly Athletics Club. Roy Foley started to train women in athletics just after World War II, following his return to Australia from service.
In September 2011, Athletics Victoria left its long-time administrative home at Olympic Park for a redeveloped multi-million dollar facility at Lakeside Stadium in Albert Park. Located on the site of the former Bob Jane Stadium, the 10,000 capacity venue has provided Victoria with a modern, world-class track and field facility, complete with a brand new office and function space at the adjacent Athletics House building.
Today Athletics Victoria hosts a wide range of athletic competitions throughout the year, covering track and field, cross country, road racing and race walking. With over 60 member clubs across the state and events catering for the elite to the beginner, AV continues to strive to make athletics an enjoyable and accessible sport for all Victorians.
ALBERT PARK – 2011: The Victorian Government committed over $60 million to State Sports Facilities Project (SSFP) which included the construction of Lakeside Stadium (formerly known as Bob Jane Stadium) in Albert Park.
Many thanks to Paul Jenes
Athletics Australia Statistician