In 1928 the club was formed by a group of ex-pat Brits and Irishmen. The first event was a cricket match in 1929 between the Sydney Bohemians and the Melbourne Harlequins with touring MCC England players including Jack Hobbs and Patsy Hendren. Rugby started later in 1929.
The first clubrooms opened in the CBD in 1930 and hosted the British Lions. Training was conducted on the lawns of the Mercantile Rowing Club with the kicking of balls and wearing of studded boots forbidden. Attendance by the players was very poor as were the clubs results. In 1933 the club constitution was amended to allow members from outside the British Isles and Ireland to join, though the club continued to struggle and were relegated to the Second Division for the 1938 season, gaining immediate promotion in 1939. The war made the competition unviable with 21 Harlequins volunteering and 10 making the ultimate sacrifice.
After the War the club was reformed in 1947 and in 1949 gained our first home ground in Fawkner Park which was shared with a soccer club. 1949 saw the tradition commence of the Jersey Match against Hobart Harlequins (the Jersey being club stalwart Ron Bolton’s 1929 relic). In 1953 David Shepherd, our only home-grown Wallaby, joined the club and we immediately won the VRU sevens. Despite such success we did not win a first grade premiership until 1955. As it is to this day, the club was to record only one premiership each decade. In 1956 the club commenced a juniors club which prospers to the present day.
The 60’s were great years; the Harlequin song was adopted and our second premiership was won in 1962. Glen Iris, famous for smelly mud, basic plumbing and a great atmosphere became our home in 1963. By 1966 we were looking further ahead and bought land at Lyndhurst, developed it, bought and erected a clubhouse and began First and Second Grade home matches there in 1969.
The 70’s were great touring and hosting years. Adelaide, Hobart, Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Yass, Canberra and New Zealand were toured. VRU, Canberra and Croydon sevens were often won.
The Lyndhurst home oval was never popular, and the club had short stints at Glen Waverly and Wheelers Hill. In 1979 we celebrated our 50th birthday with “the World’s Longest Try”; hosted the first Veterans Rugby Tournament held in Australia and held a grand dinner at the Arts Centre.
The biggest event in the 80s was the development of our present headquarters at Ashwood. The Harlequin choir starred on popular comedy show "New Faces" and also appeared in a TV advertisement for "Recharge" sports drink. 1989 & 1992 saw two 1st Grade premierships only four years apart. Darts was played to maximise use of the rooms. Success on the playing field was more common in 2nd Grade and colts, with the juniors continuing to thrive.
In 2003, our 75th birthday, the clubrooms were extended and competition standard floodlights installed. Harlequins clubs from NSW and New Zealand came to play in our anniversary tournament. 2004 saw another 1st Grade Premiership, with the team narrowly missing going to back to back in 2005 and again in 2006 , narrowly losing the Grand Final on each occasion. 1st Grade made their fourth Grand Final in five years in 2008, unfortunately losing the match in a thriller by one point.
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