South Melbourne’s early period in the VFL was highlighted by a Grand Final appearance in 1899. The red and white next made the finals in 1907, losing narrowly to Carlton in the Grand Final. After an inconsistent 1908 season, South appointed Charlie Ricketts as the first recognised coach at the Lake Oval for 1909.

On Saturday 9th October 1909, a crowd of 36,700 at the MCG saw South Melbourne 4.14 (38) defeat Carlton 4.12 (36) to win its first VFL Premiership. South were again runners-up in 1912 and 1914, before winning a second Premiership in 1918, defeating Collingwood 9.8 (62) to 7.15 (57) after trailing in the final minute of the Grand Final.

A team photo of the 1909 South Melbourne premiership side.