Formed in 1892, Collingwood Football Club has simultaneously been the most loved and loathed of Melbourne's sporting institutions. After winning the 1896 Victorian Football Association (VFA) premiership, Collingwood was one of eight foundation clubs that formed the Victorian Football League (VFL) in 1897. Its black-and-white vertically striped jumper and magpie emblem have become cultural icons.
Until World War II, Collingwood was the VFL's most successful club, winning premierships in 1902-03, 1910, 1917, 1919, 1927-30 and 1935-36. Its finest players included full-forwards W.H. 'Dick' Lee and Gordon Coventry, full-back Jack Regan and Brownlow Medal winners Syd Coventry (1927), Albert Collier (1929), Harry Collier (1930), Marcus Whelan (1939) and Des Fothergill (1940).
Collingwood's stability was illustrated by the long service of many of its officials, most notably E.W. Copeland (secretary, 1895-1923), R.T. Rush (treasurer, 1908-50), Jock McHale (coach, 1913-50), H. Curtis (president, 1924-50) and F.G. Wraith (secretary, 1930-50). Erosion of this stability after 1950 was reflected in gradual on-field decline, premierships in 1953 and 1958 notwithstanding.
Distinguished players after World War II included Bob Rose, who later coached Collingwood to three narrow Grand Final losses, 1953 premiership captain Lou Richards, who became one of football's best-known media personalities, full-forward Peter McKenna and Brownlow Medallists Len Thompson (1972), Peter Moore (1979) and Nathan Buckley (2003).
From 1964 to 1981 Collingwood won around two-thirds of its matches, but media and opposition supporters labelled its inability to win a premiership as the 'collywobbles'. The remainder of the century, except for 1990 when they won the inaugural Australian Football League (AFL) premiership, was the Magpies' least successful era. Despite this decline Collingwood had more members in 1999 than any other Victorian-based AFL club. Conversely, a 1997 survey by consultants Coopers & Lybrand confirmed widespread anecdotal belief that Collingwood was the most hated club in the AFL. In 1999 the team played its last game at its traditional home ground at Victoria Park, Abbotsford, before moving to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. In 2004 the club moved its training headquarters to Olympic Park.