Initially playing in the VFA, the club joined seven other clubs in founding the breakaway VFL in 1896.
19 June 1874
The club relocated to Sydney in 1982, making it the first club in the competition to be based outside Victoria.
Blood Stained Angels
Aut Vincere Aut Mori
either conquer or die
South Melbourne was a junior foundation club of the VFA in 1877, and attained senior status in 1879.
The amalgamation with neighbouring Albert‑Park Football Club in 1880 formed a club that became the strongest in metropolitan Melbourne. South Melbourne took their colours and kept the South name.
It took until the early 1930s before they became known as the ❛Swans❜ due to the number of Western Australian imports at the club.
Over its first decade the club won five VFA premierships – in 1881, 1885 (undefeated), and three‑in‑a‑row in 1888, 1889 and 1890 – and was runner-up to Geelong in 1880, 1883 and 1886.
The Red and the White,
Honour the name by day and by night,
Lift that noble banner high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky
What though the odds be great or small,
Swans will go in and win over all
While her loyal sons are marching
Onwards to victory!
To the tune of the
Victory March, the song of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, Indiana, USA.
In its original oval configuration, the Lake Oval served most prominently as the home ground for South Melbourne, in both the VFA and the VFL.
When electric floodlighting was installed at the venue during the 1950s, it became one of the first venues in Melbourne to regularly host night football matches, including the night premiership series between 1956 and 1971.
Night premiership matches in the VFA in 1957 and 1958 and night interstate matches, including many matches at the 1958 Interstate Carnival were also held here.
The ground record crowd was set on 30 July 1932 when 41,000 turned out to see Carlton defeat South Melbourne by nine points.
The club used the ground, one of the best in the league, for home games until the end of the 1981.
The last VFL match played at Lake Oval was on 29 August 1981, when the Swans were defeated by 33 points by North Melbourne in front of 8484 fans.
At the end of the 1896 season, Collingwood and South Melbourne finished equal at the top of the VFA's premiership ladder with records of 14–3–1, requiring a playoff match to determine the season's premiership, the first time this had occurred in VFA history.
The match took place on 3 October 1896 at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground. Collingwood won the match, six goals to five, in front of an estimated crowd of 12,000.
This grand final would be the last match South Melbourne would play in the VFA, as the following season they would be one of eight founding clubs forming the breakaway Victorian Football League.