After years of scratch matches and disorganised fixtures, a "Challenge Cup" was set up under the auspices of the Athletic Sports Committee. The committee organised fixtures for the cup, with the rule that a side had to win three times to permanently receive the cup.
Competing teams for the trophy - worth 10 guineas - were Melbourne, Carlton, Geelong, Royal Park, South Yarra and University. The sports committee also suggested that players should confine themselves to one club and not switch teams mid-season.
It was claimed that Melbourne used this to block two players from appearing for Geelong but continued to supplement their side with South Yarra players for matches against Geelong. Melbourne denied this, suggesting that Henry Harrison and Tom Wills had been selected for both sides and had chosen to play with the metropolitan club.
Melbourne beat Geelong for the cup in May, lost it to University in August and then won it back off South Yarra in September. A match against South Yarra on Saturday 8 July was moved to the 15th due to athletics being held at the MCG being postponed for a week.
In a pre-season review of football rules, Wills fought for a crossbar to be introduced that players would have to kick over to score. The vote was tied but defeated on the casting vote of the meeting chairman. A change to the Melbourne Rules legislated that the side who concedes a goal should kick off. The club altered its rules to make anybody who had served as an official for another club ineligible to be on Melbourne's committee.
The club's uniform was set as a blue cap and white trousers, with practice each Tuesday and Thursday night. Treasurer Wardill reported that the club had a 'trifling' amount of money to its credit to start the year.
The first scratch match of the season was played on Saturday 8 May involving members of Melbourne and the Custom House club. The following Saturday players from Melbourne, Scotch College and Church of England Grammar mixed for a scratch match and the first major trial - the first 20 against the next 30 - was played on 20 May as a warm-up for the important Challenge Cup game against Geelong the following Wednesday. Tom Wills captained the first 20 and Henry Harrison the next 30. Harrison's side scored first, but with no other scores before darkness the match was drawn.
A further scratch match was played on Saturday 24 June between sides chosen by Harrison and Conway.
Tom Wills never played for Melbourne again after 1865, moving to Geelong permanently for the remainder of his career.
The club ended the year with debts of 4p 13s 8d which were liquidated by the Athletic Sports Committee.
|3 June||Customs-Scotch College-Royal Park||LOSS||0-2|
|17 June||South Yarra||DRAW||0-1|
|15 July||Royal Park||DRAW||0-1|
|22 July||South Yarra||DRAW||1-1|
|16 September||South Yarra||WIN||2-0|
A. Ainslie, W. Aitken, John Baker, A. Balcombe, John Bennie, F. Bruford, A. Campbell, Dal Campbell, Jimmy Campbell, W. Campbell, JE Clarke, Jack Conway, W. Darke, Davidson, Davidson, Delaney, W. Downes, Andrew Fleming, William Freeman, Bill Gorman, James Green, WJ Greig, William Hammersley, Henry Harrison, Tom Hope, James Ireland, Richard Ireland, Tom Ireland, G. Kennedy, Levick, Little, Lobb, Locke, J. MacPherson, Theophilis Marshall, T. McCarthy, Murphy, H. Murray, S. Murray, N. Neal, Orlando O'Brien, D. Ogilvy, Jas Ogilvie, G. O'Mullane, Osborne, W. Perraton, R. Pinnock, E. Powell, R. Richardson, William Riggall, Serrell, J. Shiels, G. Shoosmith, Mark Smith, Robert Smith, Thomas Smith, W. Thomas, Toohey, P. Treacy, R. Treacy, B. Wardill, Richard Wardill, Waugh, D. Wilke, J. Wilkie, Wiiams, Tom Wills, H. Woolley, J. Wright
Some sources say Melbourne were runners up to South Yarra, with University third but this has been compiled from unofficial sources as no organised league competition was played.
Newspapers seem to indicate that the crossbar rule was adopted at the annual meeting, though games were not played under these rules.
A game was originally set against South Yarra for 8 July but did not take place.
The Argus - 18/04/1865
The Argus - 12/05/1865
The Australasian - 20/05/1865
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/138039776|The Australasian] - 20/05/1865
The Australasian - 27/05/1865
The Australasian - 01/07/1865
Geelong Advertiser - 25/07/1865
Geelong Advertiser - 31/07/1865
The Argus - 08/05/1865
Leader - 13/05/1865
The Age - 02/05/1866
"Origins of Australian Football: Volume 1" by Mark Pennings