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The AFL Grand Final is an annual Australian rules football match, traditionally held on the final Saturday in September at the Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker in Melbournemarker, Australia to determine the Australian Football League premiership champions.

The game has become significant to Australian culture, spawning a number of traditions and surrounding activities which have grown in popularity since the VFL/AFL went national in the 1980s. In 2006, the Sweeney Sports Report concluded that the AFL Grand Final became Australia's most important sporting event, with the largest attendance, metropolitan television audience and overall interest of any annual Australian sporting event.

With an official attendance of 99,251 at the 2009 AFL Grand Final, it is currently the best attended domestic club championship event in the world.

Qualification and Prize

The two Grand Finalists qualify via finals series play-offs at the end of the season. In the current system, the eight teams finishing highest on the ladder after all the home and away rounds qualify for the four-week long finals series culminating in the Grand Final. The team that finishes the regular season at the top of the ladder is said to have won the minor premiership and is awarded the McClelland Trophy.

Premiership Glory

With the significance of the Grand Final taking on almost religious significance the biggest prize promoted by the media and supporters in the premiership is intangible. The vague sporting term "glory" is often used in association with the Grand Final. For the players, "Premiership Glory" symbolises fame, while for the club it symbolises both reward and the significance of taking part in a historic event. The term is often used play down the significance of the other prizes which have themselves become symbolic of these things to club supporters as well.

Premiership Glory and what it means to clubs is clearly expressed in different ways in the team songs of many of the VFL/AFL clubs. The Essendon song, for example, mentions the "premiership flag", "glory" and "fame" and the history of the "grand old game". Port Adelaide's song mentions "tradition", "history" and the "flag is ours for the taking". Collingwood's song refers to the "premiership". Some versions of the North Melbourne song declare that the club "will be premiers". Adelaide's song mentions "pride" and the "flag" as the goal. The West Coast Eagles song's "kings of the big game" refers to the Grand Final and premiership. The songs of Melbourne, Geelong and the Swans (Sydney) refer to the "banners" and "flag", which are meant to mean their supporters flag but can have the dual meaning of the premiership flag.

Premiership Cup

The winner of the Grand Final is presented with the AFL premiership cup.

The current Premiership Cup is silver (With the exception of 1996 - when a gold cup was awarded instead of the usual silver one in the AFL/VFL's 100th season) and manufactured by Cash's International at their metalworks in Frankston, Victoriamarker. The cup was first introduced in 1959 by the VFL, and before this, the reward was a pennant known by supporters simply as "The Flag". The AFL has since retrospectively awarded the premiers trophies based on the current design. Before the 1960s, premiership players received a personal premiership trophy instead of a medallion.

In recent years, the Premiership Cup has also been termed the "Holy Grail", and the Hunters and Collectors song by the same name is often used as an anthem for the AFL finals series and AFL Grand Final.

The Flag

Carlton Football Club hoist the 1906 AFL premiership flag at the Carlton Oval in 1907
The premiers are also awarded the premiership flag, a large pennant which is unfurled at the premiers' first home game of the following season. Although the cup features much more prominently in celebrations immediately following the Grand Final, the flag has far greater symbolic significance. This is particularly reflected in football parlance, in which one always speaks of a team winning the flag, rather than the cup. This is possibly the result of history. The presentation of the flag first occurred in 1895, when the old VFA recognised Fitzroy's first premiership win.

Cash Prize

Prize money is awarded to the victorious club.

However the amount is probably not reflective of the magnitude of participating in the event. It is often assumed simply that the winner of the premiership typically experiences an increase in revenue through increases in membership and merchandise sales.

The current cash prize for the winning club is AUD$1 million. Before 2006, a cash prize to the winning club of AUD$250,000 was awarded (In contrast, the winner of the NAB Cup, the far less important pre-season competition, is currently awarded a similar amount, AUD$220,000). Following the Sydney Swans premiership in 2005, many clubs publicly questioned the prize money [215056], which has not increased for many years and barely covers the cost of participation in the finals series.

Individual Honours

Each victorious premiership player is presented with a premiership medallion. Before the 1960s, players were awarded personal trophies and additionally some clubs also honoured their premiership players with premiership blazers.

The player judged by a panel of experts to be the best afield during the Grand Final is awarded the Norm Smith Medal, named after the great Melbourne Demons coach of the 50's and 60's and player of the 40's Norm Smith.

The winning coach receives the Jock McHale Medal, named after the coach of Collingwood Magpies from 1912-1949.


Early Experimentation

The concept of a "grand" final gradually evolved from experimentation by the Victorian Football League (VFL) in the initial years of competition following its inception in 1897. During the nineteenth century, Australian football competition adopted the approach used by the Football Association in England - that is, the team on top of the table (or "ladder" in the Australian vernacular) was declared the premiers. However, the fledgling VFL decided that a finals series played between the top four teams at the end of the season would generate more interest and gate money. For 1897, the VFL scheduled a round robin tournament whereby the top four played each other once and the team that won the most matches was declared the winner.

However, this method had flaws, so the VFL continued to experiment, playing "section" matches after the regular season and then a finals series where first on the ladder played the third team and second met fourth. The winners of these "semi" finals then met in a final to decide the premiership. The first such final was contested in 1898 between the Essendon Football Club and Fitzroy Football Club at the St Kilda Cricket Groundmarker, which Fitzroy won scoring 5.8 (38) to Essendon's 3.5 (23).

The new finals system caused problems in 1901 when Geelong finished on top of the ladder but was immediately eliminated when defeated in the semi final. A "right of challenge" was introduced, giving the team that finished on top at the end of the regular season (the minor premier) the right to challenge if they lost the semi final or the final. This challenge match came to be called the "grand final". The early finals were scattered around various Melbourne venues: Albert Park, St Kilda's Junction Oval and the now defunct East Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker. The selection of the venue could depend on the portion of the gate demanded by the ground's landlords.

The Move To the MCG

The public remained ambivalent to the concept of finals football until the VFL pulled off a coup in 1902. Previously, the MCG was unavailable to football in the early spring months as it was being prepared for the coming cricket season. The VFL convinced the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) to rent the ground for the finals series and the first grand final at what is today considered the home of the game attracted more than 35,000 people to watch Collingwood down Essendon. The success of the finals at the MCG was proven with big attendances every year, and soon all the major competitions around Australia were employing what was known as the "amended Argus system" of finals. The "original Argus system" had been instituted by the VFL in 1901, the amended system was instituted by the VFL in 1902. The 1907 VFL Grand Final attracted an Australian record sporting attendance of 45,477.

By 1908, a new record attendance of 50,261 was set, on a day when the crowd was so huge that it broke through the fence and filed onto the ground, sitting around the boundary line to watch the action. This figure was beaten in the 1912 VFL Grand Final when 54,463 saw Essendon defeat South Melbourne. The big finals crowds (and increasing cricket attendances) prompted the MCC to cut down the eleven fifty-year old elm trees inside the ground and turn the stadium into a concrete bowl, complete with extra stands and standing room. The record fell again in the last grand final before World War I, when the excitement of St Kilda's first premiership attempt drew 59,479 spectators.

Problems With the System

Obviously, the war had a big effect on the impact of the grand final and attendances plummeted. One critic called for the Carlton team to receive the Iron Cross after they defeated Collingwood in the thrilling 1915 VFL Grand Final, ironically dubbed a "glorious contest" by famous coach Jack Worrall. But many diggers supported the continuance of the game, and both the 1918 and 1919 VFL Grand Finals were notable for the large number of Australian servicemen in attendance, many of whom wore uniform. During the 1920s, the VFL grappled with the problems associated with the "amended Argus system", specifically that a true "grand" final was not played if the minor premier won both the semi final and the final. Although new attendance records were set in 1920 and 1922, these were for the semi finals, which often drew bigger crowds than the Grand Final. The VFL reverted to the round robin system in 1924, which was a disaster, then went back to the "amended Argus system" for 1925, when the Grand Final attracted a new record crowd of 64,288. This bumper attendance was the result of Geelong's first VFL premiership win, when a huge contingent from Victoria's second city descended on the MCG to watch their team make history.

Collingwood's famous four premierships in a row between 1927 and 1930 became the catalyst for change to the system. The other clubs felt that the Magpies had an unfair advantage from finishing all four seasons on top of the ladder when the right of challenge saved them on a number of occasions. In 1927, 1928 and 1930, the biggest crowd of the year was drawn to the semi final and not the Grand Final. The Page-McIntyre system (or 'final four") was introduced for 1931, whereby the semi finals (1 v 2 and 3 v 4) were followed by the preliminary final and then the grand final, with the right of challenge abolished. This proved satisfactory to all, and the new system ushered in a golden age for the Grand Final.

The Golden Age: the 1930s

New records were constantly set and when 75,754 attended the 1933 VFL Grand Final between South Melbourne and Richmond, it started the MCC thinking of expansion again. Just months earlier, cricket attendance records were shattered during the "bodyline" series between Australia and England. The MCC decided to build the southern stand, which enclosed almost half the ground and was completed in 1937. That year, the Geelong-Collingwood Grand Final attracted 88,540 and the spectators were sitting five deep along the boundary line. Somehow, the following year, 96,834 people turned up and squashed in to watch the Magpies take on Carlton. At the time, Melbourne's population was about one million, which meant that on Grand Final day, almost one tenth of the city was at the game.

The War and After

Football served as a distraction for people on the homefront during the war, particularly during the darkest days between 1941 and 1943. The Australian government requisitioned a number of VFL grounds, including the MCG. Therefore, the Grand Final was staged at Princes Park (Carlton) in 1942, 1943 and 1945, and at St Kilda's Junction Oval in 1944 when Fitzroy won its last premiership on the hottest Grand Final day on record. The 1943 clash was a thrilling contest, Richmond defeating Essendon by five points. The 1942 and 1945 matches were marred by violence, and the latter game has gone down in history as the "Bloodbath". An amazing crowd of 62,986 crammed into the Carlton ground for this game, which was played just weeks after the armistice with Japan was declared. Clearly, the people of Melbourne were keen to normalise their lives again and football was central to this desire.

So when the MCG was finally relinquished by the government in August 1946, there was great expectation in the build up to the Grand Final, where Essendon booted a record score to defeat Melbourne. Attendances were back to 1930s levels by 1947 and 85,815 turned up to see Carlton beat Essendon by a solitary point; a similar crowd a year later watched the Bombers play the first draw in Grand Final history. However, they lost a replay with Melbourne the following week. The sight of thousands sitting between the fence and the boundary line, first seen in the late 1930s, was now usual at the Grand Final. Spectators were admitted on a first-come basis, and thousands took to lining up outside the stadium in the days before the match to gain the best vantage point when the gates opened on the morning of the match. Some reservations were raised about spectator safety as the MCG was clearly being filled above its capacity.

The Olympic Year and Ticketing

As the MCG would be used as the main stadium for the 1956 Olympic Games, the ground was upgraded again with a new stand and extra capacity. Construction work restricted the crowd at the 1954 Grand Final when 80,897 people saw Footscray win their historic first (and only) flag. Eight thousand more witnessed the Grand Final the following year, before the stand was fully completed. The 1956 Grand Final was seen as a dry run for the opening ceremony of the games two months later, but no one was prepared for the outcome. Officially, 115,802 fans turned out to see Melbourne take on Collingwood for the second year in a row, but contemporary reports state that anywhere between twenty and thirty thousand people were turned away. Some gained admittance by storming the gates, while others perched precariously on the roof of the southern stand. The old record had been shattered by almost 19,000 but the chaos outside the ground prompted the VFL to introduce a ticketing system for the first time.

Attendances now hovered around the 100,000 mark during the coming years. Melbourne dominated the era with seven straight Grand Final appearances (for five flags), playing Collingwood three times and Essendon twice. The 1958 Grand Final, when Collingwood upset a Melbourne team attempting to equal the Magpies' proud record of four consecutive premierships, was arguably the greatest upset recorded in the biggest game of all. The Demons made amends by winning the next year, when the premiership cup was presented for the first time. Previously, the crowd descended on the arena at the end of the game, and the players were variously chaired off the ground or walked to the dressing room. The presentation of the cup gave the after-match a ceremonial focus and allowed the attention to settle on the premier team.

Following the 1956 introduction of television to Australia, there were repeated calls for the Grand Final to be telecast live, but the VFL refused on the basis that the crowd numbers might be affected. A delayed telecast was allowed for 1961, when Hawthorn won for the first time, but thereafter only a videotaped replay was shown.

Second Golden Era: the 1960s and 1970s

In contrast to the 1950s when a few teams were monopolising Grand Final places, the 1960s were a decade of variety. Between 1961 and 1968, seven teams won the flag and a number of classic encounters were played. In 1964, a thrilling finish enabled Melbourne to win their last premiership by four points. Two years later, in arguably the most famous Grand Final of them all, St Kilda won their only premiership by one point, and their players went for an impromptu lap of honour with the cup, a tradition that endures. In 1967, Geelong and Richmond played a match of the highest standard, with the Tigers winning in the last minutes to end a long premiership drought. The next season, Carlton also ended a long run without success and set a record as the only winning team to score fewer goals than the opposition as they defeated Essendon by three points.

By now, the MCG had been expanded again so that record crowds were set in 1968, 1969 and 1970. The epic Grand Final of 1970, when Carlton came back from a 44-point half time deficit to beat Collingwood, was watched by an all-time record crowd of 121,696 people. Most of the matches during this period had something to remember: Hawthorn's comeback to win in 1971, Carlton's record score in the highest scoring game ever played in 1972, Richmond's two wins over Carlton in 1969 and 1973 in very physical encounters, and North Melbourne's first Grand Final victory in 1975.

The AFL Era: 1990-2009

Since Collingwood's drought breaking 48-point triumph over Essendon in the 1990 Grand Final, interstate clubs have won the ultimate prize on 10 occasions, with Fremantle the only club not to achieve this feat. West Coast and North Melbourne vied for the unofficial title of Team of the 1990s, winning two flags apiece, as well as being runners-up in 1991 and 1998 respectively.

Throughout the 1990s, the standards of the Grand Finals never reached sensational heights, or concluded with nail biting finishes. Collingwood walked over the Bombers in the 1990 decider (which was played in October, due to the Magpies draw with the Eagles in the Qualifying Final, extending the finals series by a week), an aging Hawthorn unit was too classy for the Eagles in the 1991 Grand Final, who got their revenge the following season with a come-from-behind victory over Geelong, before going on to record their second flag under coach Mick Malthouse and captain John Worsfold two years later over the same opponent. Wedged in between was Essendon's 'Baby Bombers', Kevin Sheedy molding a group of talented youngsters, including James Hird, Dustin Fletcher, Mark Mercuri, Joe Misiti, Ricky Olarenshaw, David Calthorpe and Paul Hills into a premiership winning combination, overrunning their older Carlton counterparts in the 1993 Grand Final. The Blues, though, were not yet a spent force, trouncing the hapless Cats by 61 points in the 1995 Grand Final. Greg Williams starred, winning the Norm Smith Medal with his 32 disposals and five goals.

The 1996 Grand Final saw North Melbourne make up for their many years of near misses, downing Sydney with ease, to take home the only golden premiership cup yet to be used. Adelaide, under new coach Malcolm Blight, stunned the football world with two premierships in succession, defeating St Kilda in the 1997 Grand Final, and the Kangaroos in the 1998 Grand Final. On both occasions, Andrew McLeod did as he pleased at halfback to take home the Norm Smith Medal, whilst forward pocket Darren Jarman was a match winner in attack. An inaccurate second quarter cost the Kangaroos the chance to be in full control of the match at the halftime break, as they were only four goals ahead (6.15 (51) to 4.3 (27) despite having 21 scoring shots to only seven in the first half. Adelaide stormed home with 11 second half goals to the North Melbourne's two to be the first team since Hawthorn in 1988-89 to win back-to-back premierships.

Wayne Carey's Kangaroos fought back, however, to be premiers for the fourth time in the 1999 Grand Final. The Roos were fortunate to meet Carlton on the day, as they were the sixth ranked team after the home and away season. Essendon were the minor premiers and Carlton only reached the Grand Final on the back of one of the biggest upsets in league history, toppling flag favourites Essendon by a point in the Preliminary Final.

2000 saw one of the most dominant seasons of all time by Essendon, with the Bombers winning all bar one of their home and away matches, before pummelling the Kangaroos by a record 125 points in the Qualifying Final, demoralising Carlton, their enemy of the previous season, by 45 points, before outclassing Melbourne by 10 goals in the 2000 Grand Final. The club was led brilliantly by Norm Smith Medal winning skipper James Hird and master coach Kevin Sheedy.

The following season, 2001, saw the Brisbane Lions win the first of their three premierships in succession. The Lions overran a tiring Bomber outfit in the second half of the 2001 decider, underrated rover Shaun Hart a surprise yet deserving recipient of the Norm Smith Medal. The following season saw Collingwood, vast underdogs, push the Lions to the limit in the 2002 decider, the Lions pipping the Magpies at the post by a mere nine points. Collingwood skipper Nathan Buckley was exceptional in winning the Norm Smith Medal, while his Lion counterpart Michael Voss was all but his equal.

Brisbane's third and final premiership in their historic run of success came in 2003, again accounting for Collingwood, though on this occasion by a whopping 50 points, crushing the spirit of the Magpies, who had been favourites going into the match. Simon Black led the romp with a Grand Final record 39 possessions, while Jason Akermanis booted five majors.

The Lions' castle finally came tumbling down in 2004, when Port Adelaide rolled them in the second half, running out 40 point victors. Byron Pickett, a premiership winning defender with the Kangaroos in 1999, turned into a match winning onballer for the Power, and capped his day with the Norm Smith Medal. The fairytale of the afternoon was the story behind Josh Mahoney, the until then little-known Port forward pocket had been cast aside by Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs in the seven years prior, trying his luck with Essendon's VFL squad in 2001 before switching to Williamstown. He belatedly received a third chance at the highest level, and made every post a winner, instrumental in the Power's third quarter charge.

The Red and White army of Sydney Swans supporters celebrate a goal at the 2006 AFL Grand Final
Seasons 2005 and 2006 are best remembered to be 2 for the classic rivalry forged between Sydney and the West Coast Eagles. The Swans clung on grimly to win the 2005 decider by four points, Leo Barry's epic defensive mark in the dying seconds an image to resound throughout the ages. The following year, the same two clubs were at it again, only this time the tables were turned, but only just - the Eagles only one point ahead of the Swans when the final siren blew, the first time only a point had separated two clubs in a Grand Final since St Kilda's nail biting victory over Collingwood in 1966. The 2006 Grand Final will always be remembered as a classic and one of if not the best Grand Final in modern football history.

2007 belonged to Geelong, who, 44 years after their last premiership, stamped their authority on the competition, losing only one match after round five, and trouncing Port Adelaide in the decider by a record 119 points. Mercurial forward Steve Johnson took home the Norm Smith Medal, completing one of the most dominant seasons by one club on record.

2008 also appeared to be Geelong's year, after they blitzed the home and away season winning 21 out of 22 games equaling Essendons's record of most matches won in a home and away season from 2000. However Hawthorn stunned the favourites with a 26 point victory in the 2008 Grand Final.Grand Final.

In the 2009 AFL Grand Final, Geelong defeated St Kilda by 12 points in what was considered to be one of the great Grand Finals.

Famous Incidents

  • 1897 - The VFL's first season did not include a Grand Final. Instead, a round robin series was played, with Essendon becoming the first VFL premiers and Geelong the runner-up.
  • 1903 - Late in the last quarter, Fitzroy skipper Gerald Brosnan marked a pass from teammate Percy Trotter about thirty metres from goal with his team three points behind Collingwood. As he went back to line up his kick, the final bell rang. Brosnan's shot missed, but was so close that a Collingwood defender later claimed that he could hear the ball's lace brush the goal post.
  • 1910 - A massive brawl broke out between Collingwood and Carlton players during the last quarter. A number of players were felled and four players were reported (the first in Grand Final history), yet the fight kept going. Umpire Jack Elder settled matters by blowing his whistle and bouncing the ball. Most of the combatants looked on, stunned, as the game recommenced without them, so they had no option but to forget about the fight.
  • 1913 - Playing in their first Grand Final, St Kilda struggled to boot just one goal in the first three quarters against Fitzroy. But they came charging home in the last by closing a 25-point gap to one point with a few minutes remaining. A St Kilda player marked very close to goal on an angle and made a bad mistake by following a pre-game tactic of handballing. His intended target was covered, the Saints lost the ball and Fitzroy booted two goals to seal the match.
  • 1914 - With South Melbourne making a late charge at Carlton, the Blues led by six points when a long kick into South's goal square was contested by a pack of players. Just metres from the goal mouth, Ern Jamieson, Carlton's full back leaped straight into Tom Bollard's back, but Umpire Harry Rawle called play on and the ball was cleared. Moments later, the final bell rang. Had Bollard received a free and kicked it from point-blank range, the game would have ended in the first finals' tie.
  • 1918 - Collingwood had hit the front by a single point. In the final minute of play, South Melbourne went forward and a long kick into the teeth of goal by Gerald Ryan of South spilled from a pack of players. South Melbourne rover Chris Laird came rushing through and rather than attempt to pick the ball up, soccered it off the ground for a goal that won the game.
  • 1921 - Richmond led Carlton by four points in a low scoring game played on a very wet day. Both teams were covered in mud as Carlton mounted a series of attacks in an attempt to get a winning goal. In the dying minute, a Carlton player passed toward teammate Alec Duncan, who was close to goal. Somehow, Richmond's Max Hislop hurtled across to Duncan and punched the ball from his grasp to save the premiership for the Tigers.
  • 1924- Like in 1897, there was a round robin series played instead of a Grand Final. Once again, Essendon became the premiership team for this season with Richmond this time being the runner-up.
  • 1927 - Collingwood defeated Richmond in atrocious conditions, by the score 2.13 (25) d. 1.7 (13). It was the lowest scoring game, Grand Final or otherwise, played during the 20th century.
  • 1930 - Collingwood won it's record fourth consecutive VFL Grand Final in succession, the 'Machine Team', under the tutelage of the legendary Jock McHale, creating a record which has not been matched in ensuing seasons.
  • 1935- Star full forward Bob Pratt was forced to withdraw from the Grand Final after he was hit by a truck in trying to cross the road the day before the game. Pratt had booted 362 in three seasons. Without him the Swans lost to Collingwood by 20 points, despite having as many scoring shots as the Magpies.
  • 1948 - In the first drawn grand final, Essendon's inaccurate kicking led them to draw 7.27 (69) to Melbourne's 10.9 (69). Melbourne easily won the replay 13.11 (89) to Essendon's 7.8 (50).
  • 1958 - A Collingwood outfit hold sway in an 18-point victory over Melbourne, denying the Demons a fourth consecutive victory, successfully defending their club's record.
  • 1964 - Collingwood looked set for a victory last in the last quarter after Ray Gabelich's goal put them up by two points. Back pocket Neil Crompton kicked his first goal in 5 years to steal the match by 4 points, just moments from the final siren.
  • 1966 - St Kilda won their first premiership in 69 years of competition, defeating Collingwood in a one point encounter.
  • 1970 - Carlton make history in coming from 44-points down at halftime to defeat Collingwood, Alex Jesalenko takes the Mark of the Century late in the second quarter, and the attendance of 121,696 remains the largest crowd of all time.
  • 1972 - Carlton and Richmond scored a combined 50.27 (327), then the highest scoring game of all time, and still the highest-scoring Grand Final of all-time.
  • 1975 - North Melbourne win their first Grand Final - the last of the 12 VFL teams to do so.
  • 1977 - The Grand final resulted in a tie between North Melbourne and Collingwood. In a Grand Final replay the following week, North Melbourne were victorious.
  • 1979 - Wayne Harmes (Carlton) is awarded the inaugural Norm Smith Medal as best on field.
  • 1982 - Maurice Rioli (Richmond) becomes the first player to win the Norm Smith Medal despite being on the losing team.
  • 1987 - Carlton reversed the previous year's result in overcoming Hawthorn on the hottest Grand Final day (31 degrees) in the game's history.
  • 1988 - Champion Hawthorn defender Gary Ayres becomes the first footballer to win dual Norm Smith Medals in Hawthorn's then-record 96-point demolition of Melbourne.
  • 1989 - The Grand final was one of the closest and hardest fought in years, and nicknamed the "Battle of '89". The game was notable as one of the toughest in the history of the game, with injuries and incidents involving Dermott Brereton (famously knocked out by a solid Mark Yeates shirtfront but courageously returned to play) and Robert DiPierdomenico (played three quarters with a punctured lung) many players were hospitalised after the game. Gary Ablett was Norm Smith Medallist in a losing side.
  • 1990 - Collingwood broke a 32 year drought and ended the famous "Colliwobbles".
  • 1991 - Due to the major construction of the Southern Stand at the MCGmarker, the Grand Final was played at Waverley Parkmarker between Hawthorn and the West Coast Eagles. Hawthorn defeated West Coast by 53 points.
  • 1992 - West Coast becomes the first non-Victorian team to win a premiership, downing Geelong.
  • 1996 - North Melbourne defeated Sydney in the Grand Final of the Centenary season.
  • 1998 - In defeating North Melbourne, Adelaide win back-to-back premierships in their second year under Malcolm Blight, in doing so becoming the first team in the game's history to win a Grand Final from outside the top four (fifth).

Recent Grand Finals

  • 2001 - A victory to the Brisbane Lions over Essendon results in the premiership cup going to Queensland for the first time.
  • 2002 -Nathan Buckley became only the third player to win the Norm Smith Medal despite being on the losing team.
  • 2003 - Brisbane complete their hat-trick of premierships, the first since 1955-1957.
  • 2004 - The first Grand Final played between two non-Victorian teams; Port Adelaide won its first premiership, ending Brisbane's attempt at equalling Collingwood's record of four premierships in succession (1927-1930).
  • 2005 - In the closest result since the 1977 drawn Grand Final, the Sydney Swans win their first premiership in 72 years (and first for a New South Wales based club) by defeating the West Coast Eagles, a late pack mark by Leo Barry in the dying seconds deep in the West Coast forward 50 securing the 4-point victory. Chris Judd winning the Norm Smith medal in a losing team.
  • 2006 - In a rematch of the previous year, the West Coast Eagles avenge the previous year's narrow defeat with an even narrower win over Sydney becoming just the fourth Grand Final in history to be decided by a point.
  • 2007 - Geelong end a 44 year premiership drought, winning the match by the highest ever Grand Final winning margin of 119 points, against Port Adelaide Power.
  • 2008 - Hawthorn, in their first Grand Final since 1991, defeat favourites Geelong, in front of a crowd of 100,012 - the first crowd of over 100 000 since the 1986 Grand Final
  • 2009 - Geelong also became the first team to ever win a Grand Final after losing the first three quarters, and also become the first team in 24 years to win a Grand Final after being behind at three-quarter-time.


Many events happen during the week of the Grand Final.

Brownlow Medal

The Charles Brownlow Trophy, better known as the Brownlow Medal, is the medal awarded to the "fairest and best" player in the Australian Football League during the regular season (ie not including finals matches) as decided upon by umpires. It was named after a Geelong player and long-serving administrator who was the main advocate in establishing the Victorian Football League, Charles Brownlow. It is awarded on the Monday night before the Grand Final, recently at the Crown Casino in Melbourne.

Grand Final Parade

A traditional parade which regularly attracts up to 100,000 people is held in Melbourne city.

The event began in 1979 with the AFL adopting a tradition which had begun decades earlier in the amateur VAFA. The Grand Final parade became increasingly popular during the 1980s.

The parade usually proceeds along the city's main thoroughfares Swanston Street, turning into Collins Street, and ending at the steps outside the Old Treasury Buildingmarker. The parade, held at lunch time on the Friday before the Grand Final, features the players from the competing sides.

The players themselves have in the past appeared on parade floats, however in recent times it has become a motorcade of vehicles without roofs, however in 2009 due to poor weather, players were completely enclosed inside vehicles which drew criticism from fans.

Recent estimated parade crowds:
  • 2004 - ~40,000
  • 2005 - ~50,000
  • 2006 - ~75,000
  • 2007 - ~100,000
  • 2008 - ~100,000+
  • 2009 - ~80,000 (in rainy conditions)

Some of the estimated seventy five thousand people who lined the streets of Melbourne for the 2006 AFL Grand Final parade

Grand Final Parties

Grand Final parties are held in Australia and even in remote cities around the world. They typically involve watching the game on television in a group, a barbecue, and a game of kick-to-kick at half-time.

Annually in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Jakarta Bintangs Australian Football Club hosts a Grand Final function at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta. Over 600 ex-pats and locals attend this event, and is considered the largest Grand Final function outside of Melbourne. Special guests include current and former AFL players.


Over the years many big Australian and international stars have performed or appeared at the Grand Final, although it has been consistently criticized for poor pre-game entertainment.Notable entertainment includes:

Grand Final Entertainers
Year Entertainment
1977 Barry Crocker
1978 Keith Michell
1979 Mike Brady & John Farnham
1980 Peter Allen
1981 Jon English
1982 Rolf Harris
1983 Glenn Shorrock
1984 Slim Dusty
1985 Diana Trask
1986 Olivia Newton-John
1987 Daryl Somers
1988 Noel Watson
1989 John Farnham
1990 Normie Rowe
1991 Daryl Braithwaite and Angry Anderson
1992 Joan Carden
1993 Maroochy Barambah, Archie Roach & Yothu Yindi
1994 The Seekers & Debra Byrne
1995 Tina Arena
1996 A collection of past singers
1997 Marina Prior
1998 Muhammad Ali made an appearance. Mark Seymour sang Holy Grail. Rob Guest sang This Is The Moment and Advance Australia Fair. Jane Scali and Michael Cormick sang Waltzing Matilda.
1999 Human Nature
2000 The Idea of North, Trish Delaney-Brown, Megan Corson, Andrew Piper and Nick Begie, Mike Brady, Russell Morris and Rick Price
2001 Vanessa Amorosi
2002 Killing Heidi, The Whitlams, Kate Ceberano, The Human Tide. Mark Seymour sang Holy Grail.
2003 Christine Anu, Gorgi Quill, the Australian idols
2004 Guy Sebastian sang both Waltzing Matilda and Advance Australia Fair, The Ten Tenors, Davis Hobson
2005 Silvie Paladino sang Advance Australia Fair. Delta Goodrem sang I Am Australian. Michael Buble and Dame Edna Everage performed I Still Call Australia Home. The Whitlams performed No Aphrodisiac. Kath and Kim
2006 Brian Mannix, John Paul Young, Sean Kelly, Daryl Braithwaite and Shane Howard sang Advance Australia Fair. Irene Cara sang Flashdance plus appearances from Brian Mannix, John Paul Young, Sean Kelly, Daryl Braithwaite and Shane Howard performing a medley including Up There Cazaly, One Day in September, Solid Rock, Yesterday's Hero, The Horses, Everybody Wants to Work and I Hear Motion. Young Divas sang You're the Inspiration
2007 Natalie Bassingthwaighte sang Advance Australia Fair. Jet performed Are You Gonna Be My Girl & Rollover DJ
2008 Powderfinger performed On My Mind and AC/DC's It's a Long Way to the Top accompanied by the City of Melbourne Highland Pipe Band, Ian Moss performed electric guitar versions of Up There Cazaly and the competing club theme songs and Lucy Durack and Amanda Harrison sang the national anthem.
2009 Mark Seymour performed "Holy Grail" on stage, followed by Jimmy Barnes singing "No Second Prize". John Farnham then sang "You're the Voice", joined later by Seymour and Barnes. The Qantas choir performed "I Still Call Australia Home", and the national anthem was performed a capella by the cast of Jersey Boys.

Traditional songs

Tradition dictates that at every, or almost every, Grand Final, most of the following songs are performed, either by celebrity singers or choirs:

AFL Grand Final Sprint

A running race takes place on the day of the Grand Final, between players that are not taking part in the Grand Final. It is conducted over several heats run before the game and a final run at half time. In recent years, a handicapping system has been introduced. The traditional sprint was revived in 2002 (along with a short-lived goal kicking competition) after years in the wilderness.

Results since 2002
2002 Jared Crouch Sydney Swans Football Club
2003 James Walker Fremantle Football Club
2004 James Walker Fremantle Football Club
2005 Brett Deledio Richmond Football Club
2006 Brendan Fevola Carlton Football Club
2007 Jake King Richmond Football Club
2008 Matt White Richmond Football Club
2009 Rhys Stanley St Kilda Football Club


The Grand Final is traditionally played in Melbournemarker at the Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker. It has been played elsewhere only on a few occasions, being held at Lake Ovalmarker and the Junction Ovalmarker early in the league's history and Princes Parkmarker during World War II when the MCG was being used as barracks to house US Troops. When the MCG was being redeveloped in 1991, the Grand Final was contested at the AFL-owned Waverley Parkmarker.

The Grand Final has traditionally been played on the final Saturday in September each year and is referred to in popular Australian culture as the One day in September. The only notable exceptions were during 1990, when a draw in the finals meant the match was played in the first week of October, and in 2000, when the Sydney Olympics forced the season to be played early; in this season, the One day in September was the first Saturday, instead of the last.

Of the current clubs, only Fremantle has never made a Grand Final appearance. Defunct clubs which never made it include University and the Brisbane Bears (although their successor, the Brisbane Lions have won three Grand Finals and lost a fourth.)

The first interstate (non-Victorianmarker) team to play in the Grand Final was the West Coast Eagles, who lost in 1991 but came back to win their first Premiership in 1992. (The Swans had been in several Grand Finals before their move to Sydney in 1982, but always as South Melbourne: their first Grand Final appearance after their move to Sydney didn't come until 1996.) The first Grand Final matching two interstate teams was the 2004 contest where the Port Adelaide Power beat the Brisbane Lions 113-73.

Since the expansion of the league, the AFL Grand Final has become a truly national event. For six years in a row (2001-2006) the premiership had been won by teams outside of Victoriamarker (where the AFL's precursor competition, the Victorian Football League (VFL) had originated). An original VFL side, Geelong Football Clubmarker won the 2007 grand final by 119 points. As a result there have been calls for hosting Grand Finals on a national stage, similar to the Super Bowl in the USA. Since the construction of Stadium Australiamarker, Sydney has expressed interest in hosting the final on several occasions. So far, the AFL has resisted the temptation of doing so. Another challenge to tradition has been the proposal of a night grand final with anticipated increased television audience.

The 2006 Grand Final was officially regarded as the 110th Grand Final. Throughout history, Grand Finals were not staged in either of 1897 or 1924, with the premiership instead being awarded after a round robin amongst the top four teams; this accounts for 107 Grand Finals. An additional Grand Final was played in 1948 and 1977, each of which was necessitated by a tied Grand Final. These are generally referred to as Grand Final Replays or "Extra Finals", but count in the official tally of Grand Finals. Furthermore, under the "amended Argus finals system" which operated from 1902 until 1930, a "Grand Final" match depended upon the minor premiers having not won the previous week's game, known as the Final: each final which decided the premiership had hence been reclassified a Grand Final retrospectively.

Recent History of the AFL Grand Final (2000-2009)

Results since 2000
Year Results/Date Crowd Norm Smith Medalist
2000 Essendon 19. 21. (135) def. Melbourne 11. 9. (75) 96,249 James Hird
2001 Brisbane Lions 15. 18. (108) def. Essendon 12. 10. (82) 91,482 Shaun Hart
2002 Brisbane Lions 10. 15. (75) def. Collingwood 9. 12. (66) 91,817 Nathan Buckley (losing team)
2003 Brisbane Lions 20. 14. (134) def. Collingwood 12. 12. (84) 79,451* Simon Black
2004 Port Adelaide 17. 11. (113) def. Brisbane Lions 10. 13. (73) 77,671* Byron Pickett
2005 Sydney 8. 10. (58) def. West Coast 7. 12. (54) 91,828* Chris Judd (losing team)
2006 West Coast 12. 13. (85) def. Sydney 12. 12. (84) 97,431 Andrew Embley
2007 Geelong 24. 19. (163) def. Port Adelaide 6. 8. (44) 97,302 Steve Johnson
2008 Hawthorn 18. 7. (115) def. Geelong 11. 23. (89) 100,012 Luke Hodge
2009 Geelong 12. 8. (80) def. St. Kilda 9. 14. (68) 99,251 Paul Chapman

(* Capacity of ground reduced due to redevelopment for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games)

For all Grand Final winners in the VFL/AFL, see List of Australian Football League premiers.

Norm Smith Medallist

The medal, given to the player judged as best on the ground during the match, is named in honour of famed Melbourne premiership player and coach Norm Smith, who died in 1973. It was first awarded in 1979 when the winner was Wayne Harmes, a great nephew of Smith. In time the award has come to carry great prestige as an individual prize. There has been some minor criticism that the judging panel (appointed by the AFL and comprising ex-players and media people) must make its decision during the last quarter, before the game has ended, to fit into the post-game ceremonies. Therefore, the last minutes of the game are not taken into consideration when voting takes place.

Norm Smith Medallists
Year Winner Club Notes
1979 Wayne Harmes Carlton Great-nephew of Norm Smith, inaugural winner
1980 Kevin Bartlett Richmondmarker
1981 Bruce Doull Carlton
1982 Maurice Rioli Richmond First winner from losing team; First aboriginal winner
1983 Colin Robertson Hawthorn
1984 Billy Duckworth Essendon
1985 Simon Madden Essendon
1986 Gary Ayres Hawthorn
1987 David Rhys-Jones Carlton
1988 Gary Ayres Hawthorn First multiple winner
1989 Gary Ablett, Sr. Geelong Won in a losing team; equalled record for most goals (9)
1990 Tony Shaw Collingwood First captain to win
1991 Paul Dear Hawthorn
1992 Peter Matera West Coast First winner from a non-Victorian club
1993 Michael Long Essendon
1994 Dean Kemp West Coast
1995 Greg Williams Carlton First Brownlow medallist to win, Collected 32 possessions on his 32nd birthday the day of the Grand Final
1996 Glenn Archer North Melbourne
1997 Andrew McLeod Adelaide
1998 Andrew McLeod Adelaide First consecutive winner
1999 Shannon Grant Kangaroos
2000 James Hird Essendon Captain
2001 Shaun Hart Brisbane
2002 Nathan Buckley Collingwood Team lost, captain
2003 Simon Black Brisbane Most possessions ever recorded in Grand Final
2004 Byron Pickett Port Adelaide
2005 Chris Judd West Coast Team lost
2006 Andrew Embley West Coast
2007 Steve Johnson Geelong
2008 Luke Hodge Hawthorn
2009 Paul Chapman Geelong Tied on votes with Jason Gram, but won with more maximum (3) votes.

VFL/AFL Grand Final Records

Individual Records
Most Matches (Player) 11: Michael Tuck (Hawthorn)10: Gordon Coventry (Collingwood), Albert Collier (Collingwood), Dick Reynolds (Essendon), Bill Hutchison (Essendon)
Most Matches (Captain) 9: Dick Reynolds (Essendon)5: John Nicholls (Carlton), Michael Tuck (Hawthorn)
Most Matches (Coach) 17: Jock McHale (Collingwood)12: Dick Reynolds (Essendon)

11: Frank 'Checker' Hughes (Richmond/Melbourne)

10: Tom Hafey (Richmond/Collingwood)
Most Matches (Umpire) 10: Jack Elder (1908-22)9: Ian Robinson(1973-87)

7: Bob Scott (1929-35), Henry 'Ivo' Crapp (1898-1905)
Most Matches (Player/Coach) 20: Jock McHale (Collingwood)17: Ron Barassi (Melbourne/Carlton/N Melbourne)

14: F 'Checker' Hughes (Richmond/Melbourne), Norm Smith (Melbourne) 14
Most Wins (Player) 7: Michael Tuck (Hawthorn)6: Albert Collier (Collingwood), Harry Collier (Collingwood), Frank 'Bluey' Adams (Melbourne), Ron Barassi (Melbourne)
Most Wins (Captain) 4: Dick Reynolds (Essendon), Syd Coventry (Collingwood), Michael Tuck (Hawthorn)
Most Wins (Coach) 8: Jock McHale (Collingwood)6: Norm Smith (Melbourne)

5: Jack Worrall (Carlton/Essendon), F 'Checker' Hughes (Richmond/Melbourne)
Most Losses (Player) 6: Jack Titus (Richmond)

5: Dick Reynolds (Essendon), Bill Hutchison (Essendon), Rene Kink (Collingwood/Essendon), Thomas O'Halloran (Richmond), Jack Dyer (Richmond), Jack Bissett (Richmond/South Melbourne)
Most Losses (Captain) 4: Dick Reynolds (Essendon)3: Jack Bissett (South Melbourne), Jack Dyer (Richmond)
Most Losses (Coach) 9: Jock McHale (Collingwood)7: Dick Reynolds (Essendon)

5: Allan Jeans (St Kilda/Hawthorn), Tom Hafey (Richmond/Collingwood)
1st Game in GF Jack Prout (Essendon) 1908, Bill James (Richmond) 1920, George Rawle (Essendon) 1923, F 'Pop' Vine (Melbourne) 1926, Ken Batchelor (Collingwood) 1952, Vin Catoggio (Carlton) 1973
Most Games before 1st GF 313: Paul Roos (Fitzroy/Sydney) 1996

304: Shane Crawford (Hawthorn) 2008

267: Marcus Ashcroft (Brisbane) 2001

255: Greg Wells (Melbourne/Carlton) 1981

248: Alastair Lynch (Fitzroy/Brisbane) 2001
Most Goals in GF 9: Gordon Coventry (Collingwood) 1928, Gary Ablett, Sr. (Geelong) 19898: Dermott Brereton (Hawthorn) 1985
Most Behinds in GF 10: Ron Todd (Collingwood) 19368: Bob Pratt (South Melbourne) 1933, John Hendrie (Hawthorn) 1976
Game Records
Highest Score 28.9 (177) by Carlton vs Richmond 1972
Lowest Score 1.7 (13) by Richmond vs Collingwood 1927
Highest Aggregate 327 points Carlton vs Richmond 1972
Lowest Aggregate 38 points Collingwood vs Richmond 1927
Highest Winning Margin 119 points by Geelong vs Port Adelaide 2007
Lowest Winning Margin 1 point by Fitzroy vs South Melbourne 1899, by Carlton vs Essendon 1947, by St Kilda vs Collingwood 1966, by West Coast vs Sydney 2006
Drawn Games 19481977 Essendon vs Melbourne (Melbourne won replay)

Collingwood vs North Melbourne (North Melbourne won replay)
Postponed Games 1923 Essendon vs Fitzroy postponed one week due to bad weather
Highest Attendance 121,696 Collingwood vs Carlton 1970
Lowest Attendance 4,823 Fitzroy vs South Melbourne 1899
Best Score - 1st Qtr 8.4 (52) by Hawthorn vs Geelong 1989, by Carlton vs Richmond 1972
Best Score - 2nd Qtr 10.2 (62) by Carlton vs Richmond 1972
Best Score - 3rd Qtr 11.8 (74) by Essendon vs Melbourne 1946
Best Score - 4th Qtr 11.3 (69) by Essendon vs Hawthorn 1985


The event has been sold out every year for decades, and once drew a crowd of 121,696 spectators at Collingwood vs Carlton in 1970, primarily due to the presence of standing room (areas of the stadium without seats). However attendances have wavered due to re-development and reduced capacity of the main venue, the Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker; being favoured by increased seating of approximately 100,000. AFL members and nominated members of the participating clubs are given first rights to tickets, as are Melbourne Cricket Club members.

The 2005 AFL Grand Final was watched by a television audience of more than 3.3 million people across five of Australia's most highly populated cities, including 1.2 million in Melbournemarker and 991,000 in Sydney. The worldwide audience has grown substantially to a potential 170 million viewers from 72 countries., although the actual audience is likely to be around 30 million.

The AFL Grand Final has been in the top 5 TV programmes across the five Australian mainland state capitals in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005, and was the top-rating sports programme in both 2004 and 2005 and in 2005, AFL Grand Final related shows (Final, wrap up and pre-match) were the top 3 rating television programmes for the year. The program was second in the 2006 ratings after the coverage of the 2006 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.

Australian metropolitan television viewers

NOTE: figures do not include regional viewers

Season Date Team 1 Team 2 Network Viewers (metropolitan Australia)
2003 27 September Brisbane Collingwood Network Ten 2,965,600
2004 25 September Port Adelaide Brisbane Network Ten 2,796,000
2005 24 September Sydney West Coast Network Ten 3,386,000
2006 30 September Sydney West Coast Network Ten 3,145,000
2007 29 September Geelong Port Adelaide Network Ten 2,563,000
2008 27 September Geelong Hawthorn Seven Network 2,491,000
2009 26 September St Kilda Geelong Network Ten 2,878,000

International telecasts

The AFL Grand Final is televised into many countries and grand final parties are held around the world. The following are television details for the 2009 AFL Grand Final.

  • Papua New Guineamarker - EM TV, Australia Network (live)
  • New Zealandmarker - Sky Sport (live)
  • Asia-Pacific - Australia Network (live) (includes China, Hong Kong/Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Phillipines, Palau, Malaysia, Cambodia, Burma/Myanmar, Laos, Brunei, Fiji, Western Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Timor-Leste(East Timor), Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Micronesia, Kiribati)

See also

External links


  1.,21985,20154208-662,00.html Grand Final's our top event. 17 August 2006. URL accessed 5 September 2006
  2. AFL Official Website "Cats the last ones standing in epic battle"
  7. Grand folly
  8. Final show no-no
  9. Stadium rocks to old-style show
  10. See Early VFL Final systems for more details.
  11. Top 20 Programs - Ranking Report (E) 18-24 September 2005, OzTam.
  12. Grand final's free kick to economy a tough call
  13. Top 20 Programs - Ranking Report (E) 21-27 September 2003, OzTam.
  14. Top 20 Programs - Ranking Report (E) 19-25 September 2004, OzTam.
  15. Top 20 Programs - Ranking Report (E) 24-30 September 2006, OzTam.
  16. Top 20 Programs - Ranking Report (E) 23-29 September 2007, OzTam.
  17. Top 20 Programs - Ranking Report (E) 21-27 September 2008, OzTam.
  18. Top 20 Programs - Ranking Report (E) 20-26 September 2009, OzTam.
  19. International Broadcast Partners
  20. AFL and ESPN in U.S./Canada TV Rights deal

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