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The Australian Football League (AFL) is the major professional Australian national competition in the sport of Australian football and is arguably Australia's biggest sporting competition in terms of membership, corporate sponsorship and attendances (ranked 4th in the world for average attendances ).

The league comprises 16 teams which play 22 home and away rounds between late March and late August or early September. This is followed by a four-week finals series which culminates in two teams playing off for the Premiership, in the Grand Final.

There is also a pre-premiership-season Cup competition played between the 16 teams in the AFL in February/March, where teams that win go through to the next round and teams that lose play practice matches until the competition is finished. The current sponsor is National Australia Bank.

The organisation which became the Australian Football League was formed in 1897 when eight teams from the Victorian Football Association (VFA, established 1877) broke away to begin the Victorian Football League. By 1925 the league had expanded to twelve teams (all based in Victoriamarker), with no change until 1982 when the league commenced its expansion to a national competition by relocating South Melbourne to Sydneymarker, New South Walesmarker. Since then five other non-Victorian clubs have been added: two each from Western Australiamarker and South Australiamarker and one from Queenslandmarker with an existing Victorian club (Fitzroy) merging with this Queensland based club at the end of the 1996 season.

The league was officially renamed the Australian Football League in 1990 to reflect the new national perspective and is more commonly referred to by the acronym AFL. The VFA took over the Victorian Football League name in 1996.

The AFL has gained considerable media and financial strength. Through the AFL Commission it gained control over the game at most levels and controls the Laws of the Game through the AFL Rules Committee (consisting of members from the AFL Players Association). The Commission pushes for all affiliated leagues and bodies to co-brand with the league (although some state and local associations have sternly resisted). Additionally the Commission has pushed for the sport to be co-branded, requesting affiliated leagues and the media refer to Australian Football as "AFL", also encouraging participants to "Play AFL".

The AFL is the most attended sporting league in Australia . The AFL is currently the fourth-most attended professional sports league in the world in terms of attendance per match, with an average attendance of over 38,000 .

In national terms, however, Australian football in Australia is not the most popular sport in all areas. In recent decades, the AFL has increasingly focused on regions behind the Barassi Line, particularly in metropolitan areas (its "developing markets") where the league and sport has traditionally struggled. The league has granted concessions to teams based in these regions and invested large amounts of development funding. As a result, participation is increasing in New South Wales and Queensland.


The AFL operates on a single table system, with no divisions, conferences nor promotion and relegation from other leagues.

Many of the current AFL teams date back to the beginnings of the sport of Australian rules football, including the very first club, Melbourne Football Club (1859), a foundation VFL/AFL club whose founders also first codified the sport in 1859. The Victorian Football League, commonly known as the VFL, started in 1897 with eight teams from the Victorian Football Association (VFA): Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, South Melbourne, and St Kilda. Richmond and University entered in 1908, but University disbanded in 1915. In 1925, Footscray (later known as the Western Bulldogs), Hawthorn and North Melbourne entered the competition. It remained in this 12-team single-state configuration until 1982 when South Melbourne relocated to Sydney, New South Walesmarker to become the Sydney Swans.

The next phase of national expansion occurred in 1987, with the introduction of the West Coast Eagles from Western Australia and the Brisbane Bears from Queensland.

The league was renamed the Australian Football League in 1990 to reflect the expanded nature of the competition.

South Australia was first represented in 1991 when the Adelaide Crows joined the league. The Fremantle Football Club joined as the second WA team in 1995. After the 1996 season the Brisbane Bears merged with Fitzroy, creating the Brisbane Lions in 1996 and the Port Adelaide Football Club joined to maintain the league at 16 teams.

Present teams

Jumper Club Nickname Location Training Ground Home Ground and (Capacity) 2008 Official Membership 2009 Official Membership Debut Premiership Years
Adelaide Football Club Crows Adelaidemarker, South Australiamarker Football Parkmarker Football Parkmarker (51,515) 48,720 46,472 1991 1997, 1998
Brisbane Lions Lions Brisbanemarker, Queenslandmarker The Gabbamarker The Gabbamarker (42,000) 22,737 24,873 1997** 2001, 2002, 2003
Carlton Football Club Blues Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker Visy Parkmarker Docklands Stadiummarker (53,355)

Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker (100,000)
39,360 42,408* 1897 1906, 1907, 1908, 1914, 1915, 1938, 1945, 1947, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1995
Collingwood Football Club Magpies Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker Lexus Centre Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker (100,000)

42,498 46,927* 1897 1902, 1903, 1910, 1917, 1919, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1935, 1936, 1953, 1958, 1990
Essendon Football Club Bombers Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker Windy Hillmarker Docklands Stadiummarker (53,355)

41,947* 40,412 1897 1897, 1901, 1911, 1912, 1923, 1924, 1942, 1946, 1949, 1950, 1962, 1965, 1984, 1985, 1993, 2000
Fremantle Football Club Dockers Fremantlemarker, Western Australiamarker Fremantle Ovalmarker Subiaco Ovalmarker (43,500) 43,366 39,206 1995 Nil
Geelong Football Club Cats Geelongmarker, Victoriamarker Kardinia Park marker Kardinia Park marker (28,000)

37,129 37,160* 1897 1925, 1931, 1937, 1951, 1952, 1963, 2007, 2009
Hawthorn Football Club Hawks Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker Waverley Parkmarker Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker (100,000)

York Parkmarker (20,000)
41,436 52,496* 1925 1961, 1971, 1976, 1978, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2008
Melbourne Football Club Demons Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker Junction Ovalmarker Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker (100,000)

29,677 31,506* 1897 1900, 1926, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1948, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1964
North Melbourne Football Club Kangaroos Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker Arden Street Ovalmarker Etihad Stadiummarker (53,355) 32,600* 28,340 1925 1975, 1977, 1996, 1999
Port Adelaide Football Club Power Adelaidemarker, South Australiamarker Alberton Ovalmarker AAMI Stadiummarker (51,515) 34,185 30,605 1997 2004
Richmond Football Club Tigers Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker Punt Road Ovalmarker Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker (100,000)

30,820 36,981* 1908 1920, 1921, 1932, 1934, 1943, 1967, 1969, 1973, 1974, 1980
St Kilda Football Club Saints Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker Moorabin Ovalmarker Etihad Stadiummarker (53,355) 30,063 31,906* 1897 1966
Sydney Swans Swans Sydneymarker, New South Walesmarker SCGmarker Sydney Cricket Groundmarker (46,000)

ANZ Stadiummarker (81,500)
26,721 26,269 1897*** 1909, 1918, 1933, 2005
West Coast Eagles Eagles Perthmarker, Western Australiamarker Subiaco Ovalmarker Subiaco Ovalmarker (43,500) 44,863 43,927 1987 1992, 1994, 2006
Western Bulldogs Bulldogs Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker Whitten Ovalmarker Etihad Stadiummarker (53,355); TIO Stadiummarker (17,000); Manuka Ovalmarker (15,000) 28,306 28,215 1925 1954
  • * denotes club record membership
  • ** post merger
  • *** club was founded in Melbourne as 'South Melbourne Football Club,' but relocated to Sydney in 1982.

Former teams

Jumper Club Nickname(s) Location Last Home Ground Years In Competition Premierships Reason for Leaving
Fitzroy Football Club Lions Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker Brunswick Street Oval 1897-1996 1898, 1899, 1904, 1905, 1913, 1916, 1922, 1944 Merged playing operations with the Brisbane Bears to become the Brisbane Lions in 1997.
Brisbane Bears Bears Brisbanemarker, Queenslandmarker The Gabbamarker 1987-1996 - Merged playing operations with the Fitzroy Lions to become the Brisbane Lions in 1997.
Melbourne University Football Club or simply as University. Blues Parkvillemarker, Victoriamarker Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker 1908-1914 - The club was disbanded prior to the 1915 season, due to the outbreak of World War I, and players' enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force. After the club was revived in 1919, it did not apply to rejoin the competition.

New teams

In March 2008, the AFL won the support of the league's 16 club presidents to establish a side on the Gold Coast. In June 2008 it was announced that the new team would play in the TAC Cup in 2009 [13] before being promoted to play in the VFL in 2010. Since debuting in the TAC Cup in 2009, the Gold Coast form has been reasonable and will begin major recruitment ideas in late 2009 and 2010.

On 31 March 2009 the AFL issued a provisional licence to the Gold Coast Football Club. The club is expected to enter the league in 2011.

A Western Sydney team is being considered for a licence; if this is granted, the team is expected to enter the league in 2012 or 2013.

Early in 2008, a meeting held by the AFL discussed the issue of two new teams entering the AFL competition. AFL officials confirmed that a new team on the Gold Coast and possibly a new team in West Sydney would enter the competition around 2011 and 2012 respectively.

The West Sydney alternative has been met with much skepticism, as it seen as disadvantaging other clubs in its push to be successful in the first 10 years as well as being an unreasonable situation from which to draw an AFL fan base.

The AFL is also considering a bid from the Tasmanian Government for a licence for a Tasmanian team.In April 2009, Tasmanian premier Paul Lennon had a meeting with the AFL to discuss the possibility of a new team based in the State of Tasmania..

Canberra and Darwin are also often suggested as a future location for teams, however they were ruled out by the AFL at the time primarily on economic and demographic grounds.

In October 2009, Andrew Demetriou spoke for the first time about expanding the league to 20 teams - one from Tasmania, and one from either Western Australia (therefore becoming the third club from the state), Darwin, or in North Queensland (also the third club from Queensland). Demetriou stated that Tasmania would be the next logical place for expansion, meanwhile stating that Western Australia and Queensland are booming Australian rules football states.

Jumper Club Location Home Ground Joining Competition
Gold Coast Football Club Gold Coast, Queenslandmarker Carrara Stadiummarker 2011
Western Sydney Football Club Sydneymarker, New South Walesmarker ANZ Stadiummarker or Sydney Showground marker 2012


Name of Ground City State Capacity Current Tenant(s)
Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker Melbournemarker Victoriamarker 100,000 Hawthorn



ANZ Stadiummarker Sydneymarker New South Walesmarker 81,500 Sydney
Etihad Stadiummarker Melbournemarker Victoriamarker 53,355 Essendon

St Kilda

Western Bulldogs

North Melbourne



AAMI Stadiummarker Adelaidemarker South Australiamarker 51,515 Port Adelaide

Sydney Cricket Groundmarker Sydneymarker New South Walesmarker 46,000 Sydney
Subiaco Ovalmarker Perthmarker Western Australiamarker 43,500 West Coast

The Gabbamarker Brisbanemarker Queenslandmarker 42,000 Brisbane
Skilled Stadiummarker Geelongmarker Victoriamarker 27,000 Geelong
Aurora Stadiummarker Launcestonmarker Tasmaniamarker 20,000 Hawthorn
Carrara Stadiummarker Gold Coast Queenslandmarker 18,000 Gold Coast
Manuka Ovalmarker Canberramarker Australian Capital Territorymarker 15,000 Western Bulldogs
TIO Stadiummarker Darwinmarker Northern Territorymarker 15,000 Western Bulldogs^



Port Adelaide^

† These teams are part-time tenants through commercial/promotional agreements

^ These teams are part of a new deal involving the AFL and Northern Territorymarker Government that will see Melbourne, Richmond and the Western Bulldogs share 2 Regular season matches at TIO Stadiummarker for season 2010 and 2011. Port Adelaide will be the away team in each of these games.

  • There are a number of new stadiums proposed to accommodate AFL matches at various stages of planning. The West Australian State Government have announced plans for an all new, multi purpose stadium to be built more or less on the site of the current Subiaco Stadium. The AFL is currently exploring stadium requirements for the new Gold Coast team which is anticipated to enter the competition in 2011, with options including a redevelopment of the Gold Coast (Carrara) Stadium or the development of a purpose built stadium on a new site. In addition, the AFL has recently revealed that it is exploring opportunities for a purpose built 'boutique' stadium for Melbourne, to accommodate matches featuring Melbourne clubs which are unlikely to draw attendances large enough to warrant the use of the existing stadiums at Docklands and the MCG. The new Gold Coast and Melbourne stadiums are anticipated to be based on Kardinia Park in Geelong, with modern facilities and a capacity of around 30,000.

Playing lists

Close up of ruckwork from a Melbourne vs Western Bulldogs at Docklands Stadium with the roof open in Melbourne
The AFL has tight controls over the player lists of each club. Each club can have a senior list of 38 players plus up to six rookie or veteran players. From 2006, up to two international rookies are also permitted. Clubs can only trade players during a "trade week" at the end of each season and can only recruit new players through the AFL Draft. The rules for the draft have changed every few years since it was introduced in 1986, but the basic philosophy remains in that players are selected by clubs in the reverse of the order of their positions on the ladder at the end of the preceding season. That is, the club that finished last has first draft selection, then the club that finished second last. However, this philosophy has been compromised by giving priority picks to clubs which win fewer than four matches during the season and by allowing clubs to select sons of former players under a "father - son rule" which itself has been varied over the years.

A salary cap (known as the Total Player Payments or TPP) is also in place as part of the league's equalisation policy.

In 2007, this was A$7 million per club. Salaries of draft selections are fixed for two years. Salaries for senior players are not normally released to the public, although the average is estimated at over A$200,000 and the top few players can expect to earn up to $800,000 a year.

Infringements by clubs in relation to exceeding the TPP, not informing the AFL of payments or draft tampering are severe and can include large fines, loss of premiership points and exclusion from the AFL draft. However, the AFL has not yet penalised clubs premiership points for a breach of the salary cap, though it has fined the Carlton Football Club in 2002 $987,000 for breaching the salary cap.

Demographics of the AFL

Players by place of origin

Matthew Pavlich, a South Australian playing for a Western Australian based club Fremantle jumps to mark the ball at a Victorian oval (the MCG)
The following is the origin of 2007 AFL listed player based on player's nominated junior clubs.

Similar criteria were previously used for selection in the representative sides of the now defunct AFL State of Origin series.

Origin of AFL players in 2007
State/Country Players
Victoriamarker 309
South Australiamarker 198
Western Australiamarker 124
Queenslandmarker 48
New South Walesmarker 33
Northern Territorymarker 24
Tasmaniamarker 22
Australian Capital Territorymarker 3
Irelandmarker 5

 Note that players from Ireland were all converts from other sports as part of the Irish experiment.

Indigenous Australian players

In 2009, there is a total of 82 players of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent on AFL club playing lists, comprising approximately 11% of the overall playing list.This compares with the 2.3% of the Australian population who identified themselves as Indigenous in the 2006 census.

International recruitment

Recruitment from Ireland
A number of Gaelic footballers from Ireland have agreed contracts with AFL teams in recent years - there can be a financial lure as the GAA prohibits professionalism. This has caused some concern in the GAA. The prospect of two new AFL clubs in the coming years has exacerbated this tension.

Other countries
Reflecting the expansion of the game internationally, in 2009 the AFL gained its first Canadian player in former rugby international Mike Pyke. Additionally, in 2009 the Gold Coast Football Club recruited two players from Papua New Guineamarker and the Western Bulldogs recruited two players from Fijimarker.

Season structure

AFL Premiership season

The Toyota AFL Premiership Season, contested between the 16 teams from around Australia, lasts for 22 rounds and begins in late March. The McClelland Trophy is awarded to the team that finishes the home and away rounds in first position (the minor premiership).At the end of the 22 rounds, the top eight teams compete in the four-week AFL Finals Series. In the first week the top four teams play in Qualifying Finals (1st vs 4th & 2nd vs 3rd), the two winning Qualifying Final teams progress directly into a Preliminary Final in the third week, with the other four teams playing in Elimination Finals (5th vs 8th & 6th vs 7th). In the second week the two losing teams from the Qualifying Finals play the two winning teams from the Elimination Finals in the Semi Finals. The winners of the Qualifying Finals play the winners of the Semi Finals in the preliminary finals. The two winning Preliminary Final teams play in the Grand Final in the fourth week of the finals.The Premiership winning team is the team that wins the Grand Final.The winning team receives a Premiership Cup - there is a new one manufactured every year which the winning team gets to keep with the year engraved on it, Premiership Medallions and a Premiership Flag.The Premiership Flag is a giant triangular flag which is blue with a white border, has the AFL logo on it and the word PREMIERS and the YEAR - there is a new one manufactured every year which the winning team gets to keep. It is tradition to unfurl it at the first home game of the season the following year in front of the home supporters.

The Grand Final is traditionally played at the Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker in Melbourne on the last Saturday in September. Recent exceptions to this practice were in 1991 when the MCG was being redeveloped and the Grand Final was played at Waverley Parkmarker, and in 2000 when the Grand Final was played in early September as the Sydney Olympics started on 15 September.

The Premiership Cup

A trophy cup, known as the Premiership Cup, and a Premiership Flag are awarded to the winner of the AFL Grand Final. In addition, each player receives a premiership medallion.

The 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.

Themed rounds and special matches

Themed rounds have become immensely popular. There are themes such as Rivalry Round (in which traditional rivals are matched up against each other), Women's Round and Heritage Round (where teams play in old style guernseys). Some matches are also themed for special events. For example, each year Collingwood play Essendon in the annual ANZAC Day match at the MCG and the game will typically sell-out regardless of the positions of the two teams on the ladder due to their strong rivalry and huge followings. Another annual match is the Queen's Birthday game between Melbourne and Collingwood. As of 2006, Richmond and Essendon play in the Dreamtime at the 'G match. There are separate trophies for the matches between several clubs and former rivalries such as the Lake Trophy between St Kilda and Sydney Swans.


The national Cup competition is a tournament played and completed prior to the commencement of the Premiership season, which is why it is also known as the pre-season cup.

The series is played before the premiership season and on all bar one occasion (1997), the final was played at Waverley Park until the ground was sold by the league in 1999 (although a number of the lead-up matches of the 2000 series were played at the ground). The 2000 competition decider was held at the MCG. Since 2001, all bar three finals have been played at Docklands Stadiummarker, with the 2001, 2006 and 2008 deciders held at Football Parkmarker.

The player adjudged best on the ground in the final is awarded the Michael Tuck Medal, in honour of the footballer who has played more league matches than any other (426).

The Pre-season Cup competition is currently a four round format with a round of 16, quarter finals, semi finals and final. Teams that win move through to the next round, losing teams are eliminated and play practice matches until the competition finishes.


Competition timeline

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 bar:WB text:Western Bulldogs
 bar:WS text:Western Sydney
 bar:WC text:West Coast
 bar:Un text:University
 bar:Sy text:Sydney
 bar:St text:St Kilda
 bar:Ri text:Richmond
 bar:PA text:Port Adelaide
 bar:Me text:Melbourne
 bar:Ka text:North Melbourne
 bar:Ha text:Hawthorn
 bar:GC text:Gold Coast
 bar:Ge text:Geelong
 bar:Fr text:Fremantle
 bar:Fi text:Fitzroy
 bar:Es text:Essendon
 bar:Co text:Collingwood
 bar:Ca text:Carlton
 bar:BL text:Brisbane Lions
 bar:BB text:Brisbane Bears
 bar:Ad text:Adelaide
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 id:rup value:powderblue  # legend:Runner_Up  # need more data
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DateFormat = yyyyPeriod = from:1896 till:2015TimeAxis = orientation:horizontalScaleMajor = unit:year increment:10 start:1900 gridcolor:lgreyScaleMinor = unit:year increment:1 start:1897 gridcolor:vlgrey

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 pos:(150,560) fontsize:L text:VFL/AFL premierships
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   text:AFL name adopted

Before the VFL

Australian rules football dates back to 1858, when Tom Wills began to record the rules of the code. Melbourne Football Club was formed 14 May 1859. On 17 May 1859, at the Parade Hotel in East Melbourne, Wills, W.J. Hammersley and J.B. Thompson wrote the first set of written rules for Australian rules football. By 1866, several other clubs had also adopted an updated version of Melbourne's rules. In 1877, the amateur Victorian Football Association was established.

VFL begins

The Victorian Football League was established in 1896 when several clubs broke away from the Victorian Football Association which was the first Australian rules competition in Victoria, second in the country after the South Australian Football Association. The first games were played in 1897 between the foundation clubs – Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, St Kilda and South Melbourne. Essendon won the first VFL premiership.

Although the Victorian Football League and the Victorian Football Association continued to compete for spectator interest for many years, the VFL quickly established itself as the premier competition in Victoria. In the early years Fitzroy and Collingwood were the dominant teams, but by the mid-1900s Carlton began a dominating period of three successive flags from 1906 to 1908. Essendon under Jack Worrall - the first great coach - won a most convincing victory in 1911 with ten straight wins and surprisingly defended their flag in 1912 after being erratic during the home-and-away rounds.

In 1908, Richmond and University joined the VFL. Richmond eventually succeeded after a slow start, but University, after three promising seasons, won only one of its last seventy matches and its already thin ranks were so depleted it disbanded at the end of 1914.

More information on how war affected the VFL see: The VFL during the World Wars.

Between the world wars

The VFL Grand Final in 1945 from the stands of the Melbourne Cricket Ground
Richmond won its first premierships in 1920 and 1921 but Essendon - battlers since their 1912 flag - took over as the dominant team between 1922 and 1926. In 1924 the VFL inaugurated the Brownlow Medal for the player who received the most votes from the umpires for the Best and Fairest player.

In 1925, Footscray (now the Western Bulldogs), Hawthorn and North Melbourne joined the VFL. The conditions attached to joining the League for new clubs were particularly tough, especially the conditions put on North Melbourne who were forced to give up their entire playing zone to Essendon. As a result North along with Hawthorn who remained "chopping blocks" for a very long period. North Melbourne were not to win more than eight games in a season until 1944 and Hawthorn only once won more than seven until 1954. Between them, Hawthorn and North Melbourne finished in last place fifteen of the twenty-nine years from their admittance until 1953 – by which time however North had become a powerful side and finished in the first two on the ladder in 1949 and 1950. In all but two of the fifteen seasons between 1941 and 1955 either Hawthorn or St. Kilda finished last. Footscray adapted to the VFL with the most ease of the three clubs and by 1928 were well off the bottom of the ladder.

Between the years of 1927 and 1930, Collingwood FC became the first and so far, the only, team to win four successive premierships and finish a season without losing (or drawing) a game. This team became known as "the machine" because of the organised and consistent way it played. During this period of success Collingwood became the greatest club in the nation, possessing the largest and fiercest supporter base drawn originally from working class districts in inner Melbourne. With premiership victories in 1935 and 1936 the Collingwood Football Club had already won 11 premierships, and remained the most successful premiership club until Carlton began to lead the premiership tally in 1982.

In the 1930s, Richmond and South Melbourne rivaled Collingwood as the best team, with Richmond's brilliant defence destroying South's powerful attack in the 1934 Grand Final. Melbourne, which had won the premiership in 1926 but fallen off sharply, developed a powerful attacking side that swept all before it between 1939 and 1941 to win three successive flags; however Essendon, after years in the wilderness from 1927 to 1939, enjoyed a dominant period with nine grand final appearances between 1941 and 1951. For more information on how world wars affected the VFL see: The VFL during the World Wars.


In 1952, the VFL hosted ‘National Day’, when all 6 matches were played outside of Melbourne. Matches were played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Brisbane Exhibition Groundmarker, North Hobart Ovalmarker, Albury Sports Groundmarker and Victorian country towns Yallournmarker and Euroamarker.

In 1959, the VFL planned the first purpose built mega-stadium, Waverley Parkmarker, to give it some independence from the Melbourne Cricket Club which managed the Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker, Australian rules' spiritual home. Waverley Parkmarker was planned to hold 167,000 spectators (thus making it one of the largest stadiums in the world). Land for the stadium was purchased at Mulgrave, in those days just farmland, but one day predicted to be near demographic centre of Melbourne's population.

Geelong was the stand out team at the beginning of the 1950s, winning the premiership in 1951 then setting a record of 23 consecutive wins starting in Round 12, 1952 and ending in Round 13, 1953. This streak included the 1952 premiership.

After Footscray won its first premiership in 1954 by defeating Melbourne, Melbourne became a powerhouse, winning five premierships between 1955 and 1960, including three in a row between 1955 and 1957. In 1958 Collingwood famously defeated Melbourne in the Grand Final, thereby preventing Melbourne from equalling Collingwood's record of four successive premierships.

Television coverage began in 1957, with direct telecasts of the final quarter permitted. At first, several channels competed through broadcasting different games. However, when the VFL found that television was reducing crowds, it decided that no coverage was to be allowed for 1960. In 1961, replays (in Melbourne) were introduced although direct telecasts were rarely permitted in Melbourne (other States and Territories, however, enjoyed live telecasts every Saturday afternoon).


In the 1960s, television began to have a huge impact, which continues unabated to this day. Spectators hurried home from games to watch replays and many former players took up positions as commentators on pre-game preview programs and post-game review programs. There were also several attempts at variety programs featuring VFL players, who generally succeeded in demonstrating that their skills were limited to the football ground.

The VFL played the first of a series of exhibition matches in 1962 in an effort to lift the international profile of the league.

Hawthorn won its first ever Grand Final in 1961, beating Footscray. Melbourne's period of success ended with its premiership win in 1964 over Collingwood, after which Carlton famously recruited Melbourne's champion player Ron Barassi as its captain-coach.

St Kilda won its first Grand Final by one point over Collingwood in 1966, and after many years in the doldrums, Richmond won the Grand Final in 1967, starting a revival which lasted until the early 1980s. Under Barassi's leadership, Carlton won the premiership in 1968, its first since 1947.

With the number of players recruited from country leagues increasing, the wealthier clubs were gaining an advantage that metropolitan zoning and the Coulter law restricting player payments had prevented in the past. Country zoning was introduced in the late 1960s, and whilst it pushed Essendon and Geelong from the top of the ladder, it created severe inequality during the 1970s and 1980s. Only six teams made the grand final between 1972 and 1987, as against nine between 1961 and 1967.


The 1970s saw the opening of Waverley Park, with the inaugural match being played between Geelong and Fitzroy, on 18 April 1970. Construction work was carried out at the stadium as the 1970s progressed, culminating in the building of the now heritage listed Sir Kenneth Luke stand. The Queen of Australia, Elizabeth II was a guest at the game and officially opened the stadium to the public.

The 1970s were memorable for being a decade of dominance for North Melbourne, where they played in 6 consecutive Grand Finals from 1974-1978.

The decade began with the Grand Final between Carlton and Collingwood attracting a record crowd for a football game in Australia of 121,696. This game also saw the greatest comeback in Grand Final history when after trailing by 44 points at half time, Carlton managed to win by 10 points. Alex Jesaulenko took one of the most memorable marks in the sport's history during this game.

Hawthorn defeated St. Kilda in the Grand Final in 1971, beginning a long period of success that lasted into the early 1990s. The match was notable for Peter Hudson's famed attempt at breaking Bob Pratt's long held record of 150 goals in a season. Hudson kicked three goals in the match, equalling Pratt's season tally.

North Melbourne won its first ever premiership in 1975, then won again in 1977 in the Grand Final replay, following the second ever drawn Grand Final, against Collingwood. 1977 also saw the commencement of State of Origin representative matches, where players were only able to represent the state of their birth, as opposed to representing the state in which they were currently playing.

The 1979 VFL Grand Final is remembered for a controversial goal that sealed the Premiership for Carlton. After leading by 28 points during the second quarter, Collingwood had fallen behind by 21 points before mounting a late comeback. They were trailing by four points in the dying stages of the match when Carlton's Wayne Harmes miskicked, chased the ball towards the boundary line and knocked it to his team mate Ken Sheldon who kicked a goal to give Carlton a 10-point lead. Their eventual winning margin was just five points. Although Harmes won the inaugural Norm Smith Medal for the best player in the Grand Final, he is best-remembered for this incident as Collingwood supporters still claim that the ball had crossed the boundary line before Harmes knocked it to Sheldon.

Many rule changes were made during the decade in efforts to increase the attractiveness of the game:
  • A "final five" system was introduced in 1972. The Grand Final was the highest scoring Grand Final in history, accumulating a total of 327 points with Carlton defeating Richmond by 27 points.
  • The centre diamond and a limit of four players per team at the centre bounce were introduced in 1973. The diamond was changed to the square in 1975.
  • The two-umpire system was introduced in 1976.
  • In 1978 the interchange law was introduced, to allow players to be able to be interchanged at any time (like basketball), rather than a one-off replacement (as in soccer).

1980s – national expansion

At the time, there was no national league for Australian rules that incorporated interstate clubs. The VFL was the most popular and dominant league around the country in terms of overall attendance and interest and began expanding its influence into other states. In 1980, the match of the day was broadcast on television. Interest around the country followed, and new sides from other capitals (many with their own local leagues) soon expressed interest in new licences.

In 1982, South Melbourne relocated to Sydney to become the Sydney Swans. The West Australian Football League and Queensland Australian Football League were awarded licences to join the VFL and the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears were formed. These expansion team licences were awarded on payment of multi-million dollar fees which were not required of the existing VFL clubs. The first National Draft was introduced in 1986. The West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears joined the league in 1987. The night premiership, the Panasonic Cup moved to the pre-season instead of mid-year.

In 1984, a revival of the International Rules representative series against Ireland occurred. In 1987, a salary cap was introduced. In 1988, the rules changed to make players awarded free kicks be obliged to kick the ball, rather than handpass. This rule change was reversed in 1990.

Ross Oakley was appointed CEO of the VFL in 1986, and immediately set about plans for national expansion of the competition.

In 1989, the league began encouraging some of the fledgling Victorian clubs to merge or relocate interstate. Footscray and Fitzroy were almost forced into amalgamation, but a fundraising event from Footscray supporters stopped the proposed merger at the eleventh hour.

Collingwood played in its third successive Grand Final in 1981, yet didn't win any of them. This added to Collingwood's already infamous record in Grand Finals, signified by the term "the Colliwobbles" - after their Premiership triumph of 1958, Collingwood lost the next eight Grand Finals in which they played, often after seemingly having the match in their keeping. They also finished on top of the ladder twice after the regular season matches (in 1969 and 1973), only to experience a loss of form in the finals and miss the Grand Final altogether. "The Colliwobbles" was introduced after the 1970 Grand Final loss to Carlton.

A bitter rivalry between Essendon and Hawthorn emerged after competing in three consecutive Grand Finals between 1983 and 1985. Essendon's win in the 1984 marked the first time since 1966 that a team other than Richmond, Carlton, Hawthorn or North Melbourne had won the premiership. The dominance of these few clubs and mounting financial problems for several clubs resulted in the VFL adopting an equalisation policy, centred around the player draft and salary cap measures.

In 1988, Melbourne made its first appearance in a Grand Final since 1964, but it wasn't a memorable return to the big stage. Hawthorn crushed an underdog Melbourne side by 96 points, the then biggest Grand Final win in history, a record which stood until 2007.

In what many believe to be the finest VFL/AFL Grand Final of the modern era, Hawthorn overcame a strong challenge from Geelong in 1989. It was a physical game right from the start when Geelong's Mark Yeates ran through Dermott Brereton at the opening bounce, bruising Brereton's kidney and causing internal bleeding. In a courageous display, Brereton refused to leave the ground and marked and goaled several minutes later to stem Geelong's attempt to establish superiority. Later heavy clashes would see John Platten knocked out and Robert DiPierdomenico suffer broken ribs and a punctured lung. Despite a Grand Final record nine goals from Geelong's Gary Ablett, Hawthorn still went on to win by six points.

1990s – Australian Football League

Former AFL Logo (1990-99)

To reflect the steps towards a national competition, the VFL was renamed as the Australian Football League in 1990. The VFL name disappeared until it was adopted by the AFL's state feeder competition which was the most recent incarnation of the former VFA.

Collingwood won the inaugural AFL premiership in 1990, ending a drought of near misses that had seen the club lose grand finals in 1960, 1964, 1966, 1970, 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1981. By 1990 Collingwood had played in 36 Grand Finals, just under 40% of all grand finals played.

1990 also saw the Port Adelaide Football Club make a bid for an AFL licence. In response, a team called the Adelaide Crows was formed which was awarded the licence and joined the league in 1991. That same year the Grand Final was played at Waverley Park for first and only time as the MCG underwent redevelopment. This game was also the first time that a team based outside the state of Victoria, Australia - West Coast Eagles - contested the Grand Final, only to be outclassed by a Hawthorn side coming to the end of their era of dominance.

With Adelaide bringing the number of teams to 15, the final six was introduced in 1991. In 1992, Waverley Park was renamed "AFL Park" and the West Coast Eagles became the first non-Victorian team to win a premiership, beating Geelong. 1992 was also the final year the Brisbane Bears called Carrara Stadium home, as they moved to the Brisbane Cricket Ground at Woolloongabba (commonly known as The 'Gabba) in time for the 1993 season.

In 1994, the Fremantle Football Club was formed in Western Australia to represent the strong history of Australian Football in Fremantlemarker and played its first game in the AFL in 1995. That year, the first Western Derby was played between the two Western Australian based teams, beginning a fierce local rivalry with West Coast dominating until Fremantle broke the shackles in their 10th meeting in 1999. Carlton made the record books by winning its 16th premiership after 16 consecutive wins and only two losses for the entire season.

Some of the rule changes of the decade included:
  • In 1994, a third field umpire was introduced.
  • In 1994, the McIntyre Final Eight System was introduced.
  • A fourth interchange player was added for the 1998 season, increasing match day squads to 22 players.

In 1996, the VFL/AFL celebrated its centenary. One round of games featured a repeat of the games in Round 1, 1897, with players wearing replicas of the guernseys worn 100 years earlier. Late in the season, after it looked like the Fitzroy Lions would succumb to financial problems and merge with North Melbourne, the AFL dramatically announced that Brisbane Bears would merge with Fitzroy and play as the Brisbane Lions from 1997. North Melbourne recovered from being jilted, and became the only team to win the once-off gold premiership cup by defeating Sydney, which had not played in a Grand Final since 1945 (when they competed as South Melbourne).

Later in 1996, an attempt to merge Melbourne and Hawthorn to form the Melbourne Hawks made headlines, but failed to eventuate. Ross Oakley stepped down as the AFL's Chief Executive and was replaced by Wayne Jackson. The AFL also rejected bids from Queensland club Southport Sharks and the Tasmanianmarker government to enter teams.

In 1997, the Port Adelaide Football Club were finally awarded a licence to join the AFL, coinciding with the Brisbane/Fitzroy merger to keep the league a 16 team competition. The inaugural Showdown occurred in that year, with Port Adelaide causing an upset victory over Adelaide who recovered from the shock and went on to win the first of two consecutive premierships and become the first side in history to win four finals in one series to win the premiership. St. Kilda won the minor premiership and were playing in their first Grand Final since 1971, entering the game as favourite. Adelaide, their opponent, managed to keep pace with St Kilda in the first half and eventually overhauled them with a championship final quarter to win the Grand Final.The Footscray Bulldogs were renamed the Western Bulldogs, in order to reflect the club's representation of Melbourne's western suburbs. 1997 was a year in which the perennial underdogs prospered. St Kilda, the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide all shot up the ladder, renewing the spirits of their clubs, and the competition.

In 1998, Adelaide repeated its feat of the previous year to win the premiership (after losing their first finals match to Melbourne), beating favourites North Melbourne. North had major goal scoring problems in the match and had a dismal second half. Andrew McLeod won his second Norm Smith Medal in two years, and the Adelaide Crows became the first team since Richmond in 1921 to turn their maiden Premiership into a double the following season. The International Rules series against the Gaelic Athletic Association was rekindled in 1998, after the series was erased from the league fixtures following 1990. Wayne Carey skippered one of the league's finest teams, including Nathan Buckley, Robert Harvey, Matthew Lloyd and Mark Ricciuto.

In 1999, the league sold Waverley Parkmarker stadium and used the funds in a joint venture to begin construction of a brand-new stadium situated at Melbourne's Docklandsmarker. The league announced the last AFL State of Origin match (with Victoria thumping South Australia on a wet day at the MCG), its intentions to instead to focus on the new national league. Finishing in sixth place at the end of the regular season, Carlton fought hard in the finals and recorded a remarkable one-point upset victory in the Preliminary Final against Essendon. In what was the final Grand Final of the 20th century, the Blues lined up against North Melbourne who the same year had renamed themselves as the "Kangaroos" in order to appeal to a national audience. A competitive game up to half time, the Roos, with thanks to Norm Smith Medallist Shannon Grant, ran away with the game and the premiership by 35 points.


The AFL logo was again changed in 2000, with a new look for the new millennium. The competition's two most bitter rivals, Collingwood and Carlton, signed off on the 1900s with the 'Millennium Match', played at the MCG on New Year's Eve. As a spectacle, the runners up in the previous season's Grand Final comfortably defeated the 16th placed Magpies, with young forward Brendan Fevola supplying Blues fans with a taste of things to come, booting 12 goals. The first indoor AFL match was held at Docklands Stadiummarker in round one of 2000. In the first game at the new venue, Essendon crushed Port Adelaide by 94 points. It was a sign of things to come, as Essendon lost only one match for the entire season equaling Collingwood's team of 1929 (dubbed "The Machine"), and one of the highest percentages at 159.1%. They faced Melbourne in the Grand Final and belted them by 60 points. Skipper James Hird was awarded the Norm Smith Medal, capping off a fine season following three successive injury plagued campaigns; Matthew Lloyd took out the Coleman Medal after breaking the 100 goal barrier for the first time in his career, and Melbourne's previously unheralded Shane Woewodin was a surprise winner of the Brownlow Medal.

Season 2001 was the first of several seasons of dominance by the non-Victorian teams. The Brisbane Lions won the first of their historic three successive premierships, becoming the first team north of the Murray River to win a premiership, and non-Victorian team to win more than two on the trot. The changing of the guard from Essendon's dominance took place at the Gabba in round 10 with the Lions overcoming Kevin Sheedy's men by 28 points. It was the first of the Lions record 19 victories in succession. Port Adelaide, Hawthorn and Richmond all made significant inroads in 2001 and Hawthorn fell short by a mere nine points against Essendon in the Preliminary Final. Several Bombers subsequently headed into the Grand Final against Brisbane seven days later under injury clouds before losing by 26 points. Brisbane's victory sparked jubilation from fans of Fitzroy and Brisbane Bears, who were finally brought together in arguably the spiritual completion of the 1996 merger. Lion Jason Akermanis took home the Brownlow Medal, whilst Lloyd was again the John Coleman Medallist, once more notching up his ton in the Qualifying Final, on this occasion against Richmond at the MCG. The season was also notable as it was the 45th and final season of the television broadcast rights remaining in the hands of Channel Seven, with Channels 9, 10 and pay-TV operator Foxtel granted the rights for 2002-2006.

The 2002 season was one of the closest on record and Collingwood finally emerged from a seven year exile from finals action. Carlton, too, suffered from winds of change, winning the first Wooden Spoon in the club's history, a season which terminated the coaching career of Wayne Brittain, John Elliot's ruling as president, and paved the way for Denis Pagan to leave the Kangaroos for Optus Oval. Brisbane, however, were at the peak of their powers, and along with Port Adelaide vied for top spot on the league table for much of the season, a battle resolved in the final round at Football Parkmarker, when Power onballer Roger James snapped the match winning goal with a minute remaining. The season began in a media frenzy, with North Melbourne captain, and arguably the greatest footballer of the 1990s, Wayne Carey, quitting the Kangaroos after an off field uproar. In the face of adversity, the Roos stuck tight, and the famed Shinboner Spirit continued to prosper, as veterans Anthony Stevens, Glenn Archer and David King helped propel their side back into the September action, only to have their year cut short by Melbourne in the Elimination Final, marking the end of John Blakey's career as a player, and Pagan's 10 year tenure at Arden Street. The Grand Final between Brisbane and Collingwood was a close contest from start to finish, with Brisbane victorious on a sodden, overcast day. The final margin was the largest of the entire match, making it one of the closest Grand Finals in history.
Season 2003 was, to an extent, a continuation of the previous season, in terms of form, however it was also a year of transition, when Andrew Demetriou was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the league, with Wayne Jackson (1997-2003) stepping down from his role. The season saw one highly emotional moment on 6 June, when Jason McCartney returned to play for North Melbourne after suffering life-threatening burns in the 2002 Bali bombingmarker; he retired immediately after the game was won against Richmond. The status quo remained at the top of the ladder, with Collingwood acting as the premiership favourite for much of the season, whilst Port Adelaide and Brisbane were snapping at their heels. At season's end, all six non-Victorian teams filled positions in the top eight, Collingwood (2nd) and Essendon (8th) the only Victorian teams to keep a foothold in the helter-skelter of league football. The Magpies overcame their bogey side, the Lions, in a tense Qualifying Final, with thanks to Alan Didak's magical left foot goals late in the last quarter. Earning a two week break, the Magpies steamrolled the Power in the Preliminary Final to the tune of 44 points to book their second Grand Final in as many seasons, which was played against, once again, Brisbane. The Lions, after their defeat at the hands of the Magpies in the first week of the finals series, were forced to take the long road home, accounting for Adelaide on home soil before overrunning the Swans at Stadium Australia. Sydney had earned their home Preliminary Final with their shock victory over Port Adelaide at Football Park in the First Preliminary Final, a victory which ensured that the Power had much work to do to do away with their take as 'chokers'.Despite going in as favourites, and equipped with Brownlow Medallist Nathan Buckley, who shared it with Adelaide's Mark Ricciuto and Sydney's Adam Goodes, the Magpies Grand Final preparations were interrupted by the suspension of their centre half forward, Anthony Rocca, who was booked and suspended for two weeks for striking Port's Brendon Lade the week prior. Collingwood appeared to be all at sea on the biggest day of the year, in contrast to their efforts of the previous title tilt, the experienced Brisbane defeated the Magpies by 50-point. Brisbane became the first team since Melbourne in the 1950s to win three consecutive premierships.

The 2004 season saw St Kilda lead the competition at the mid-way point, undefeated with 10 wins. After the break, however, St Kilda struggled to find its best form, although it made the finals. A closely fought preliminary final played in Adelaide saw Port Adelaide pip St Kilda by a single goal for a spot in the Grand Final. The Grand final was the first in history not to be contested by a Victorian team. Brisbane were out to get their fourth consecutive premiership; however, it was Port Adelaide who took home the cup.

2005 saw a very defensive style of play dominate and the longest premiership drought in history broken. It was the first time in 72 years, and the first time since they relocated from South Melbourne, that the Sydney Swans took home the cup. In a tightly fought contest from start to finish, Sydney defeated the West Coast Eagles by four points, one of the lowest scoring Grand Finals in history and the closest final scores since 1966, made possible by a memorable mark from Swan's defender Leo Barry in the dying seconds that halted a late charge by the Eagles.

A series of new rule changes were introduced for the 2006 season intended to speed up the game, including allowing the ball to be brought back into play immediately after a point is scored (instead of waiting for goal umpires to wave their flag) and limiting the time allowed for players with a mark to kick for goal to 30 seconds. The Swans and Eagles had built a close rivalry with the Eagles beating the Swans during the season by only four points. In the first Qualifying final, Sydney took their revenge by earning a weeks rest by defeating West Coast 85-84. The Grand Final was almost identical, with the Swans and Eagles facing off again in the decider. This time it was the Eagles who triumphed 85-84, exacting revenge on the Sydney Swans also for the 2005 Grand Final defeat. Over the past 8 Meetings between the 2 clubs, the total winning margin was under 10 points.

In 2007, Geelong had one of the most dominant seasons in the competition's history. After finishing the home and away season three games clear in first place, winning 19 of the last 20 matches including 15 in a row, having a record nine All-Australian players and winning most of the individual awards including the Brownlow Medal, AFL Rising Star, Leigh Matthews Trophy and the J. J. Liston Trophy (VFL B&F), they completed the finals series with only one close match against Collingwood in a preliminary final. After doing away with an unexpected Kangaroos outfit in the first week, whom had been plagued with board instability and pressure to relocate to the Gold Coast, the Cats faced Collingwood two weeks later in the preliminary for a close fought match. The Magpies made the preliminary final only by beating the Eagles in Perth the week before in extra time. The Grand Final then saw Geelong end their 44 year premiership drought with a record breaking 119 point victory over Port Adelaide with Steve Johnson winning the Norm Smith Medal.

In December 2007, the Kangaroos declined an AFL offer of subsidies to relocate to Queensland. The AFL then announced that the league would begin work on a 17th club - Gold Coast Football Club in 2010 or 2011.

In February 2008 the AFL announced plans to increase the competition to 18 clubs by 2012, with one team to be at Gold Coast and one in Sydney's west, both areas with established National Rugby League teams and where rugby league is the most popular sport. However, Tasmania has launched a bid for one of the two licenses on offer.

In 2008, Geelong was the leading club of the league, only losing one match in the home and away season. At the end of the 22-game season, the Cats were at the top of the ladder four games ahead of Hawthorn, who were a further game and a half ahead of the Western Bulldogs. Fourth spot was not settled until the last home and away round and was finally secured in spectacular fashion by St Kilda with a 100-point plus thumping of Essendon. Fifth was the Adelaide Crows, sixth was the Sydney Swans, seventh was North Melbourne, having been fourth at the start of the round but lost to 13th placed Port Adelaide Power, and eighth was Collingwood Magpies, who were fifth at the start of the round but lost to the 14th placed Fremantle Dockers.

The first week of the 2008 finals went largely as expected, as Geelong defeated St Kilda by 58 points, Hawthorn defeated the Western Bulldogs by 51 points and Sydney defeated North Melbourne by 35 points. But the upset of the week went to the eighth placed Collingwood as they defeated fifth placed Adelaide by 31 points. In the second week of the finals, the Western Bulldogs defeated Sydney by 37 points, and St Kilda defeated Collingwood by 34 points. The third week saw Geelong defeat the Western Bulldogs by 29 points, and Hawthorn defeat St Kilda by 54 points. Hawthorn defeated Geelong (who had previously only lost one match in the whole season) by 26 points in the Grand Final to win the AFL Premiership, with Luke Hodge of Hawthorn winning the Norm Smith Medal for best on ground.

In 2009, the season was widely taken over by Geelong and St Kilda. But it was St Kilda who had only lost two games in the season which were to Essendon and the North Melbourne Football Club. Both Geelong and St Kilda stayed top of the table, with Collingwood and Western Bulldogs behind. Collingwood lost to the Saints in the Qualifying Final, while The Western Bulldogs lost to Geelong. After losing their respective games and going out of the finals, it was left to Geelong and St Kilda to fight it out in the 2009 AFL Grand Final. Geelong narrowly defeated St Kilda in a tough match. Paul Chapman was named Norm Smith medallist, being the only player to score more than 2 goals on the day.

Individual awards

Major annual awards

Team of the Century

To celebrate the 100th season of the AFL, the "AFL Team of the Century" was named in 1996.

Jack Elder was declared the Umpire of the Century to coincide with the Team of the Century. Since the naming of this side, most AFL clubs have nominated their own teams of the century. An Indigenous Team of the Century was also selected in 2005, featuring the best Aboriginal players of the previous 100 years from both the VFL/AFL and other state leagues.

VFL/AFL records

  • Highest winning margin in a grand final

    119 points - Geelong 24.19 (163) defeated Port Adelaide 6.8 (44)

    MCGmarker, 29 September 2007
  • Highest score

    Geelong 37.17 (239) defeated Brisbane Bears 11.9 (75)

    Carrara Stadiummarker, 3 May 1992
  • Highest winning margin

    190 points - Fitzroy 36.22 (238) defeated Melbourne 6.12 (48)

    Waverley Parkmarker, 28 July 1979
  • Highest aggregate score

    52.33 (345) - Melbourne 21.15 (141) wdb St Kilda 31.18 (204)

    MCGmarker, 6 May 1978
  • Highest score in one quarter

    South Melbourne - 17.4 (106) vs. St Kilda 0.0 (0) in 4th quarter

    Lake Ovalmarker, 26 July 1919

    Final score: South Melbourne 29.15 (189) vs. St Kilda 2.6 (18)
  • Largest crowd

    Carlton v Collingwood - 121,696

    MCGmarker, 26 September 1970 (Grand Final)
  • Largest Home & Away Season crowd

    Melbourne v Collingwood - 99,346

    MCGmarker, 1958
  • Largest crowd for a game between a Victorian and non-Victorian club

    St Kilda Saints v Adelaide Crows - 98,828

    MCGmarker, 27 September 1997 (Grand Final)
  • Largest crowd for a game between non-Victorian clubs

    West Coast Eagles v Sydney Swans - 97,431

    MCGmarker, 30 September 2006 (Grand Final)
  • Largest International crowd

    Melbourne v Sydney - 32,789

    Placemarker, Vancouvermarker, Canada, 1987
  • Most premierships

    Carlton 16, most recent 1995, Essendon 16, most recent 2000
  • Most last placed finishes at the end of the Home and Away Season

    St Kilda - 26
  • Most consecutive premierships

    Collingwood - 4

  • Most games won in a season

    24 (incl. finals)

    Essendon - 2000
  • Most consecutive Grand Final appearances

    Melbourne (7 between 1954 and 1960) and Hawthorn (7 between 1983 and 1989)
  • Most consecutive Finals appearances

    Hawthorn (13 between 1982 and 1994)
  • Most consecutive Preliminary Finals appearances

    North Melbourne (8 between 1993 and 2000)
  • Most consecutive wins

    Geelong - 23

  • Most consecutive games unbeaten

    Geelong - 26
  • Most consecutive losses

    University - 51 (1911-1914)
  • Most games played in a career

    Michael Tuck (Hawthorn) - 426 games
  • Most games as club captain

    Stephen Kernahan (Carlton) - 226 games
  • Most goals in a career

    Tony Lockett (St Kilda/Sydney) - 1,360 goals
  • Most goals in a game

    Fred Fanning (Melbourne) - 18 goals, 30 August 1947
  • Most goals in a season

    Bob Pratt (South Melbourne, 1934) and Peter Hudson (Hawthorn, 1971) - 150 goals
  • Most consecutive matches

    Jim Stynes (Melbourne) - 244
  • Most consecutive matches from debut

    Jared Crouch (Sydney) - 194 (Ended Rd 13, 2006 due to shoulder injury)
  • Tallest player

    Aaron Sandilands (Fremantle) 211 cm
  • Shortest player

    James "Nipper" Bradford (North Melbourne/Collingwood) - 154 cm
  • Heaviest player

    Aaron Sandilands (Fremantle) - 124 kg
  • Longest kick

    Albert Thurgood (Essendon) - 98.48m (109 yards, 1 foot, 3.2 inches)
  • Heaviest Suspension

    Doug Fraser and Alex Lang (Carlton) - 99 matches (bribery) from 1910-1915 (John Bourke of Collingwood was suspended for 10 years plus 16 matches (numerous offences) in the reserves competition from 1985-1996)
  • Heaviest fine imposed on club

    AUD$987,500 imposed on Carlton F.C. 2002 (gross salary cap breaches)
  • Heaviest fine imposed on player

    AUD$40,000 imposed on Simon Goodwin of Adelaide F.C. 2007 (gambling on AFL matches), AUD$40,000 imposed on Rhan Hooper of Brisbane F.C. 2009 (multiple discipline breaches)

Representative football

State football

There is currently no official state representation for AFL players despite the concept being well supported among fans and calls to re-introduce a State of Origin series.

History of the VFL/AFL's Involvement

VFL players first represented the Victoria representative team in 1897 regardless of their state of origin.

Being the dominant league drawing many of the country's best players, the Victoria Australian rules football team (nicknamed the "Big V" and comprised mostly of VFL players) dominated interstate matches until the introduction of State of Origin selection criteria by the Australian Football Council (of which the VFL was a member) in 1977.

The AFL Commission assumed control of interstate football in 1993 and co-ordinated an annual State of Origin series typically held during a mid-season bye round. However after the 1999 series, the AFL declared the concept of interstate football "on hold" citing club's unwillingness to release star players and a lack of public interest and shifted its focus of representative football to the International Rules Series where it draws a greater television revenue.

The last time AFL players played interstate football was in the 1999 State of Origin Series when Victoria inflicted a massive defeat on South Australia in wet conditions in front of a crowd of 26,063. Just 10 years earlier, the same match with a plethora of star players attracted a crowd of 91,960.

Some past AFL players participate and help promote the E. J. Whitten Legends Game, however this event is not affiliated with or promoted by the AFL.

AFL Hall of Fame Tribute Match

The AFL Hall of Fame Tribute Match was a one-off match held at the MCG during the first bye weekend of season 2008 as part of the 150th anniversary of Australian Football celebrations to acknowledge the historical contribution of State Football. In promoting the match, the AFL declared it as "The game that has been 150 years in the making".

While many fans (particularly those outside Victoria) had hoped for a traditional interstate series, the AFL instead held an All-Star event featuring the senior Victorian team against a composite "Dream Team".

While the crowd and television audience for the match was impressive and the AFL debated the merits of reintroducing state football, Andrew Demetriou since stated that there is little chance that even an All-Star match will be repeated.

International Rules Series

For information on the International Rules Series please refer to the article International Rules Series.


The AFL Commission is responsible for the administration of the AFL. It was established in December 1985 after club parochialism and self interest threatened to undermine the competition.

The Commission's chairman is Mike Fitzpatrick, a former Subiaco and Carlton player, and the Chief Executive is Andrew Demetriou. After playing for North Melbourne and Hawthorn, Demetriou had a successful business career before returning to the football world as chief executive of the AFL Players Association. He then crossed to the AFL as Manager of Football Operations before succeeding Wayne Jackson.

The Commission's composition remains almost exclusively Victorian based with one exception, Bob Hammond from South Australia.

In addition to administering the national competition, the AFL is heavily involved in promoting and developing the sport in Australia. It provides funds for local leagues and in conjunction with local clubs, administers the Auskick program for young boys and girls.

The AFL also plays a leading role in developing the game outside Australia, with projects to develop the game at junior level in other countries eg South Africa) and by supporting affiliated competitions around the world (See Australian football around the world).

The players of the AFL are represented by the AFL Players Association.



The following are the most recent season attendances:
Year Home and Away Average Finals1 Average1 Grand Final
2009 6,375,622 36,225 615,463 68,385 99,251
2008 6,512,999² 37,006 571,760 63,258 100,012
2007 6,475,521 36,793 575,424 63,936 97,302
2006 6,204,056 35,250 532,178 59,131 97,531
2005 6,283,788 35,703 480,112 53,346 91,898 ³
2004 5,909,836 33,579 458,326 50,925 77,671³
2003 5,876,515 33,389 478,425 53,158 79,451³
2002 5,648,021 32,091 449,445 49,938 91,817
2001 5,919,026 33,631 525,993 58,444 91,482
2000 5,731,091 32,563 566,562 62,951 96,249
1999 5,768,611 32,776 472,007 52,445 94,228
1998 6,119,861 34,772 572,733 63,637 94,431
1997 5,853,449 33,258 560,406 62,267 99,645
1996 5,222,266 29,672 478,773 53,197 93,102
1995 5,119,694 29,089 594,919 66,102 93,670

1 Finals total and Finals average include Grand Final crowds.

² Record.

³ Capacity reduced due to MCG refurbishment.


Australian television

The official free-to-air television partners of the AFL are the Seven Network and Network Ten. They own the rights to all eight matches per round, but have on-sold four of those to pay-TV providers Foxtel and Austar, meaning only two are actually shown on each network. Fox Sports shows the other four matches exclusively live across Australia and replays for all eight matches.

In a complicated arrangement, Seven holds exclusive rights to Friday Night Football in all the southern states where it is shown at 8:30pm local time (except Canberra & Tasmania, where in Canberra a baffling programming move relegated the coverage to 9.30pm on local Seven affiliate Prime Television. While in Tasmania, the Friday night game is shown live on local Seven affiliate Southern Cross Television) In NSW and Queensland (except Gold Coast region where it is shown live on Seven affiliate Prime Television), the game is broadcast live on Fox (effectively a fifth match) through the Main Event channel, and delayed on Seven at different times into different regions of the two states. Seven also shows the Sunday mid-afternoon game live or on delay depending on the market. Ten shows one Saturday afternoon and one Saturday night match live or on delay depending on the market, the same as under the previous deal. Fox however shares first choice of game for the "match of the day" Saturday afternoon and Saturday night matches, and have exclusive access to the early Sunday afternoon game and twilight Sunday game. In Victoria, if the early Sunday game is played at Canberra, Launceston or the Gold Coast, Seven replays the match at about 10.30pm that night. South Australia and Western Australia also have the privilege of most of their local clubs' away matches being shown live or near live on FTA TV through Fox, even if Fox is scheduled to show it live.

The Grand Final was broadcast on Ten in 2007, and alternate between the two FTA networks until 2011, meaning Ten will screen three Grand Finals to Seven's two. As a consolation, Seven screened the Brownlow medal count, the Pre-Season Grand Final and had their choice of the best finals throughout the finals series in the years they don't broadcast the Grand Final. Ten will have the same privilege in 2008 and 2010.

Ten have discussed moving the traditional AFL Grand Final to a twilight time (5:00 P.M) to increase viewers. However, this is unlikely given community support is against any changes.Ten have also announced that their Saturday Night and Finals matches will be shown in full high definition.

Telecast history
1957 was the first VFL season after the commencement of television in Australia in 1956 to coincide with the Melbourne Olympic Games. During the late 1950s, 60s and 70s, all Melbourne stations (ABV2marker, HSV7marker, GTV9marker and, after it commenced in 1965, ATV0/ATV10marker) broadcast some games. However, in the late 1950s / early 60s, the VFL was afraid that direct telecasts may affect attendances and stations were only permitted to telecast a delayed replay of the last quarter of games. In the 1980s, the Seven Network was given exclusive rights to VFL/AFL games. The only year Seven didn't telecast games was 1987, when the rights were bought by Broadcom, which on-sold the rights to the Australian Broadcasting Corporationmarker (ABC). The exclusive rights were won back by Seven in 1988. The games were also shown on cable by C7 Sport through Optus and Austar but not Foxtel.

In late 2000, the Seven Network's main rivals, the Kerry Packer led Nine Network, Network Ten and pay-tv's Foxtel set up a consortium which bid $500 million for the right to broadcast the 2002-2006 seasons inclusive. Seven had purchased a guaranteed right to make the last bid in 1995, but decided not to outbid their rivals. The games were split between the networks, with Nine screening Friday Night Football and two matches on Sunday, Ten showing a Saturday afternoon and a Saturday night match and the remaining four matches shown on Foxtel. Foxtel set up a dedicated AFL-only channel, the Fox Footy Channel, which showed every game on replay during the week as well as many news, talkback and general interest shows related to football.

When the rights were offered again in January 2006 for the 2007 to 2011 seasons, Seven formed an alliance with Ten and used its guaranteed last bid rights to match Nine's offer of $780 million to win back the broadcast rights in what was the biggest sport telecasting deal in Australian history. After lengthy negotiations, Foxtel agreed to be a broadcast partner and now shows four live matches each week, although no longer on a dedicated AFL channel. Seven took back the Friday night match and only one game on Sunday, while Ten retained showing two matches on Saturdays. Foxtel shows two games on Saturday and two on Sunday, including a late afternoon or twilight game.

Global Telecasts

In 2007, after the record domestic television rights deal, the AFL secured an additional bonus, greater international television rights and increase exposure to overseas markets, including a 5 year deal with Setanta Sports, and new deals with other overseas pay tv networks.

In July 2009 due to Setanta going into administration in Great Britain, the AFL re-negotiated the broadcast rights for the Republic of Ireland and the UK. The new ESPN UK channel picked up the rights for the UK and ROI. New broadcast deals with ESPN for the USA and TSN for Canada were negotiated and completed at around the same. This happened because Setanta could not afford to continue screening the AFL in North America due to the owners financial problems.

The following countries are ranked by the approximate extent of their television coverage.

  • North America – The United States,Canada and the British Caribbean receive AFL telecast games but not on free-to-air channels. In the 1980s, ESPN telecast a highlights package called Fosters Australian Rules, and late-night coverage of Australian football )including live coverage of the Grand Final) became a cult hit on what was then a fledgling network. When ESPN dropped coverage Prime Network a regional network of cable networks (most notable SportsChannel America) picked up the weekly highlight show along with live coverage of the Grand Final. Fox Soccer Channel carried the licence since 2003, but in 2006, announced it was dropping the coverage of AFL games so that it could focus on soccer. However, fellow niche-sports network Setanta Sports North America picked up the rights, and now shows live coverage of the AFL in the United States and the English speaking Caribbean nations, featuring at least 3 live games per week. MHz Worldview also shows a telescoped "Game of the Week" (one of the Setanta games, with pregame, intermissions, and postgame edited out) on Monday nights and the one-hour highlights package on Wednesday afternoons, both on a one-week delay.

Setanta lost their rights for all of North America in early August 2009.

For the U.S.A.marker and English speaking Caribbeanmarker nations, ESPN picked up the broadcast rights. They show several matches a week on, along with a few matches a season on ESPN2.In 2009, the AFL Grand Final will be screened live on ESPN Classic from 12.30AM ET. In Canadamarker, TSN and TSN2 now show one match per week.The AFL Grand Final will be broadcast LIVE on TSN2 from 12.30AM ET/9.30PM PT. The AFANA is an organization aimed at increasing coverage in North America.

  • Europe Eurosport 2 – Screens highlights packages plus one match every weekend on replay.The AFL Grand Final is broadcast LIVE.

  • United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland - From 2007, Setanta Sports use to show 2-3 games a week live plus all the finals and the AFL Grand Final LIVE. In 2008, selected NAB Cup games were screened.Setanta and state broadcaster RTÉmarker (Rep.of Ireland and N.Ireland only) televise the International Rules tests between Ireland and Australia. Irish language broadcaster TG4 (Rep.of Ireland and N.Ireland only) airs highlights of the previous week's AFL matches free-to-air on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Beginning Friday 7 August for the rest of 2009 season and all of the 2010 season,the new ESPN UK channel will broadcast around 3 games per week during the regular season into the Republic Of Irelandmarker and United Kingdommarker to Sky Digital and NTL Chorus/UPC Ireland subscribers and Virgin Media subscribers in the UK. ESPN UK is available in both both Standard Definition and High Definition.The Standard Definition channel is also avaialable to Tiscali TV, Top Up TV and BT Vision subscribers in the UK. Selected matches from the 2009 AFL Finals Series will be shown LIVE.The 2009 AFL Grand Final will be broadcast LIVE from approximately 0430-0900 HRS BST on Saturday 26 September,2009. Replays of this match, most of the regular season and finals games, will be screened during the following week.The weekly highlights show called "Toyota Aussie Rules" will be screened mid-week during the regular season and finals series.

  • Continental Africa/South Africa/Latin Caribbean regions - ESPN Africa and ESPN Latin Caribbean networks screen 1 game LIVE or on delay per week. AFL Grand Final broadcast LIVE in Africa, delayed/LIVE in Caribbean.

  • SpainCanal+ Spain shows highlights packages and delayed coverage of matches.

No broadcasting agreements have been made for viewers in other regions of Latin America.

In 2010/2011,the AFL plan to enter negotiations with all international broadcasters regarding future broadcast rights deals.


The first broadcast of a VFL game was by 3AR in 1923, the year that broadcasting officially commenced in Australia. The first commentator was Wallace Shallard, a former Geelong player who went on to have a long and respected career in the print and broadcast medias. The VFL/AFL has been broadcast every year since then by the ABC and (since 1927) by various commercial stations. The saturation period was the early 1960s when seven of the eight exant radio stations (3AR, 3UZ, 3DB, 3KZ, 3AW, 3XY and 3AK) broadcast VFL games each week, as well as broadcasts of Geelong games by local station 3GL. (At this time, the only alternative that radio listeners had to listening to the football on a Saturday afternoon were the classical music and fine arts programs that were broadcast by 3LO).

Currently, the official radio broadcast partners of the AFL are:

  • Triple M Melbourne
  • K-Rock Geelong
  • 3AW Melbourne
  • FIVEaa Adelaide
  • 6PR Perth
  • SEN 1116 Melbourne
  • 98.9FM Brisbane
  • Triple M Sydney (Broadcasts only Swans matches)
  • Triple M Brisbane (Broadcasts only Lions matches)
  • Triple M Adelaide


The official internet/mobile broadcast partner of the AFL is Bigpond. The AFL also provides exclusive broadband content including streaming video for international fans via its website. Bigpond also hosts the official websites of all the 16 AFL clubs excluding Essendon.

The service is also provided to international fans. Video is available in as little as 12 hours after the game. Video quality is reasonable for internet protocol.

However, the website is frequently derided by users in Australia for its convoluted information architecture and bloated presentation.

Corporate relations


The following are the official naming sponsors of the VFL/AFL competition:

¹Note: In 2001 CUB and Coca-Cola were joint sponsors

Publishing and print

The official print broadcast partner of the AFL is News Limited.The AFL Record is a match-day magazine published by the AFL and is read by around 225,000 people each week.


The AFL sells memberships that entitle subscribers to reserve seats for matches at Docklands Stadiummarker and Melbourne Cricket Groundmarker in Melbourne. AFL members also receive priority access to finals. AFL Members can nominate a club to get priority Grand Final tickets.


The AFL runs a chain of stores that sell merchandise from all clubs. Merchandise is also available from other retailers.

AFL World

A modern museum called the Hall of Fame and Sensation opened in Melbourne in 2003 to celebrate the culture of the AFL and to provide a venue for the Australian Football Hall of Fame. The museum, a licensed off-shoot of the AFL, was originally touted for the MCG, but the Hall of Fame failed to get support from the Melbourne Cricket Club. The new QV shopping centre on Swanston Street was then chosen as the location. However, controversy followed the appointment of an administrator as the museum began running at a loss. Many blamed high entry prices, which were subsequently reduced, and the museum remains open to the public. In early 2006 the name was changed to AFL World. It features various honour boards and memorabilia as well as a range of innovative interactive displays designed to immerse visitors in the experience of elite Aussie Rules. It was closed down in 2008.

Video games

These are computer/video games that were licensed to use the AFL / Australian Football sports brand:


The AFL is the subject of footy tipping and betting competitions around Australia run by individuals, syndicates, workplaces and professional bookmakers. In recent years national website based tipping competitions have started to replace the traditional, but more labour intensive, office or pub run competitions.

Fantasy football competitions based on actual player statistics (number of kicks, marks, goals etc) are also very popular on websites and in newspapers.

See also


  1. AFL wants SANFL name change, 27/6/2008,
  3. V8 Supercars a TV ratings winner
  5. Record Community Growth; AFL Annual Report 2007
  6. Wilson, Caroline; Raid on home turf of league;
  7. Flanagan, Martin; Go north or south, AFL, not west of the east;; 2008-05-10
  8. Stokes, Brett; No way, never, says Demetriou; Hobart Mercury; 2008-04-18
  9. NSW Game Plan
  10. Massive pay hike
  13. Richardson (2002), p. 18.
  14. Witham, Jennifer; Drought over: Cats win by massive 119 points;;29 September 2007
  15. AFL expansion: 18's enough?
  16. Fox Sports: Tassie edge closer to AFL licence,, 9 July 2008
  17. Robertson, Doug; Cornes calls for Origin return; Adelaide Now; 25 February 2007
  18. Day, Mark (1 Feb 2007); Pay TV strikes a deal on AFL; The Australian
  19. Reynolds, Fiona (25 January 2001); Seven gives up AFL rights; PM (ABC radio)
  20. Live and sweaty; 22 August 2002
  21. Barrett, Damian (20 January 2007); Foxtel in footy twilight zone; Herald Sun
  22. AFL seals UK, US TV deal from
  23. New AFL Website – Whirlpool forums.
  24. New AFL website - how bad is it? - BigFooty

External links

Statistics and Results Major AFL news Sites



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