The 1870 season saw Victoria’s first ‘official’ premiership competition in which Carlton performed creditably to finish 3rd. The following year brought the club’s first premiership and in the remaining five seasons before the formation of the Victorian Football Association the club continued to shine, winning three consecutive premierships from 1873-75.
Carlton was a thriving club off the field as well. When the VFA was established in 1877 the club had no fewer than 215 fully paid up members and was one of the most prominent early voices in the Association. On the field, it swept all before it in the VFA’s inaugural year, scoring 56 goals and conceding just 11 to clinch the premiership with ease. However, this early phase in the club’s history was coming to an end. In 1878, the first chinks in the armour appeared when Carlton suddenly found itself without a home after being evicted from its ground at the University of Melbourne. Without the advantage of a home base the side slumped to 3rd behind premiers Geelong, and Melbourne.
The 1879 season saw Carlton playing its home matches at the southern end of Princes Park but it was not permitted either to charge admission or to enclose the land. The side improved slightly to finish as runner up to Geelong, which along with South Melbourne would dominate Victorian football for most of the next decade.
The only break in Geelong’s and South’s dominance came in 1887, courtesy of a Carlton side boasting some of the finest players of the time, notably Billy Strickland, Jack Baker, ‘Dolly’ Batters, Sam Bloomfield, Tommy Leydin and Mick Whelan. Of the 18 matches counted as being towards the Association premiership the Blues won 15 and drew 2, tasting defeat only in the away fixture against Geelong. It was thus as ‘Champions of the Colony’ that Carlton took part, a year later, in an historic match. The opposition was provided by a touring British rugby team which engaged in a total of 18 games of Australian football during the Victorian and South Australian legs of its tour, winning 5 and losing 13.