Victoria’s first athletics club, the Melbourne Harriers, formed in 1890 and 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.
Coburg Harriers was formed in 1896 and affiliated with the Victorian Amateur Athletic Association (VAAA) that same year – hence it is one of the oldest surviving clubs. Our clubrooms were originally in a shed at the rear of the “Corner Hotel” (now Browns Corner Hotel), corner Sydney Rd & Bell St. Showers were available either in the wash house or the horse trough in Bell Street. The publican Mr. Rollands was at one time, President of the Harriers.
Some highlights in the club’s history include:
1898 saw the first Coburg athlete win a Championship of Victoria – F.W. Durham in the 10 mile Junior Cross Country.
In 1900, the Harriers moved to Lake Hall, the old bluestone Presbyterian Church, corner Sydney Road and Rogers Street Coburg. After 3 years the use of outside water tap was augmented by a shower, covered by a corrugated iron screen.
In 1908, the club boasted its first Olympian with W.V. Aitken representing Australia at the London Olympic Games.
In WW1, 74 Members enlisted and sadly 19 Members fell in action.
Around 1919, the Club moved to Old Bluestone Hall at the rear of Church of England, Sydney Road, Coburg. A few years later another move to City Oval which was located in Bell Street (now McDonald Reserve)
1929: Coburg Womens Amateur Athletic Club formed in December with assistance of the Harriers.
1932: Coburg to Ballarat Relay – 7 hours 30 mins. 32 secs. So we were into long distances even in those early days.
1939/45: WW2 – 51 Members enlisted. 9 Members fell in action.
1945/46: Coburg Harriers win the first “A” Grade Interclub Track & Field Championship. Coburg 43 points defeated St Stephen Harriers 42 points. They won it again the following year.
1947/48: A circular Cinder Track is constructed at McDonald Reserve at Harriers expense.
1949/50: Coburg Harriers Membership with VAAA – 259.
1952: Alterations and extensions to Club Rooms. To Sam Wilson this was a labour of love in the memory of his two sons, Jack and Stan, members who were killed during the 1939/45 War.
1954: 16-17 October saw Australia’s first 24 Hour Relay Run, at McDonald Reserve. All Competitors ran 1 Mile legs. 53 competitors covered 255 Miles, 1424 yards.
1967: 4th July – Coburg Harriers put a proposal to Coburg City Council regarding an overall development of Jackson Reserve as a comprehensive sporting centre to include an Athletic Centre.
21st March 1971, Official Opening of Harold Stevens Athletic Field, Jackson Reserve, Outlook Road, East Coburg. This then became the location for Little Athletics, Coburg Women, and Coburg Harriers.
1984: September – Building Extensions Commenced. Summer Interclub Competition held at Harold Stevens Athletic Field.
1988: Victorian 24 Hour Track Championship moved from Box Hill to Coburg. It has been staged there every year since.