The doomed Fitzroy side of 1996 had it tough, but not as tough as University in 1913-14
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"You're worse than Fitzroy!"
It's a familiar refrain that has been levelled at several battling clubs in recent years, from Damien Hardwick's Richmond side in 2010 to an inept Melbourne fighting to find its feet under Mark Neeld in 2012.
The introduction of expansion clubs Gold Coast and GWS were accompanied by fears - since proven unfounded - that the Suns and Giants would be perennial strugglers as they pumped their talented teenagers full of senior experience.
But the stricken Fitzroy team that limped through its final season in 1996, stripped of talent and hope, was a long way from being the worst team to grace the VFL/AFL's long and colourful history.
That honour sits comfortably with the University sides of 1913-14. They remain one of the few teams to go winless through an entire season - and they did it twice in a row. Only St Kilda, in its first three years from 1897, has a worse record. Even Fitzroy die-hards got to sing the song once in their final year, celebrating a 31-point victory over Fremantle at the Whitten Oval.
And like Fitzroy, University's failings were not entirely of their own doing - although the Students, as they were known, contributed significantly more to their own demise than the luckless Lions, condemned to a merger by a league administration hell bent on expansion.
University's chief trouble was its restrictive eligibility clause. To represent the Students, prospective players had to hold a matriculation certificate (i.e. have completed their secondary education) or a higher degree. Indeed, many of Melbourne's finest future doctors and lawyers turned out in the blue and black.
University might well have been the smartest Australian football side ever fielded but that didn't help them when it came to actually putting players on the park.
Still, the Students fared better than fellow expansion club Richmond upon their simultaneous entry to the VFL in 1908. They finished above the Tigers in each of their first three seasons in the league, with a best result of sixth in their debut year with eight wins from 18 games.
However, the wheels quickly fell off the University bandwagon.
The combined pressure of exam schedules, term holidays and a chronically unstable line-up meant the club battled to compete with the established powers of the time - Carlton, Essendon and Collingwood.
In their final season, the Students finished with a percentage of just 47. A 15-point loss to South Melbourne at the Lake Oval was their best result; losses by 84 and 89 points to reigning premier Fitzroy were their worst.
The Great War was the final blow for the ailing club. Many of its players were also members of the University regiment and when war was declared it became clear the club could not go on.
But like the Lions in their final days, there were figures of hope. In Roy Park, the Students boasted the league's most prolific goalkicker in 1913. Park booted 53 of University's 123 goals that season despite the club failing to win a game.
Both Park and teammate Bert Hartkopf played Test cricket for Australia while Ted Cordner Sr - the father of the famous Melbourne quartet from the 1940s and '50s - was among the club's very best players.
No one player managed to represent the club in all of its seven VFL seasons but centreman Bert Hurrey went closest, playing 101 of a possible 126 games for the Students. He captained the club in 1913 and earned state selection against South Australia, where he was described as a "king in the centre".
And in its own way, the story of University provides a constant source of hope for supporters of struggling teams today. In an era of unprecedented professionalism for a league flush with funds, fans can rest assured that no matter how bad their team gets, they'll never have it as bad as University.
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