AFL Grand Final
Part of the pre-match entertainment at the 2006 AFL Grand Final. Giant banners were unfurled featuring the colours and emblems of all 16 AFL clubs.
|City or region||Melbourne, Victoria|
|First contested||24 September 1898|
|Number of meetings||117|
|Most wins||Carlton (16)|
|Most recent meeting||29 September 2012|
|Next meeting||28 September 2013|
|Broadcasters||Seven Network (1977–1986, 1988–2001, 2008, 2010, 2012-)
Network Ten (2002–2007, 2009, 2011)
The AFL Grand Final is an annual Australian rules football match, traditionally held on the final Saturday in September or October at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia to determine the Australian Football League (AFL) premiership champions for that year. The game has become significant to Australian culture, spawning a number of traditions and surrounding activities which have grown in popularity since the interstate expansion of the VFL in the 1980s and the subsequent creation of the national AFL competition in the 1990s. The 2006 Sweeney Sports Report concluded that the AFL Grand Final has become Australia's most important sporting event, with the largest attendance, metropolitan television audience and overall interest of any annual Australian sporting event.
The winner of the Grand Final is presented with the AFL Premiership Cup and the Premiership Flag.
Game history 
1897–1901: Origin 
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 Ground, which Fitzroy won scoring 5.8 (38) to Essendon's 3.5 (23).
The second finals format was ultimately discarded by the VFL after the unsatisfactory conclusion to the 1900 VFL season, where Melbourne won the premiership after having finished sixth out of the eight teams after the home-and-away season (ahead of Carlton and St Kilda) with a record of 6–8; as of 2012, this is the lowest ladder position from which a team has won the premiership.
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 first four Grand Finals were scattered around various Melbourne venues: one at Albert Park, two at St Kilda's Junction Oval and one at the now defunct East Melbourne Cricket Ground. The selection of the venue could depend on the portion of the gate demanded by the ground's landlords.
1902–1914: MCG move 
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.
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 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.
1915–1930: World War I and the end of the challenge final system 
The war had a considerable 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 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 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.
There was no Grand Final in 1924; a once-off finals system was trialled, in which the top four contested a round robin, with the top team from the round robin to face the minor premiers in a Grand Final if required; but, when minor premiers Essendon also won the round robin, no Grand Final was staged.
The league reverted to the "amended Argus system" for 1925, when the Grand Final attracted a new record crowd of 64,288: the match was Geelong's first VFL premiership win, and a huge contingent from Victoria's second city descended on the MCG to watch their team make history. From 1927 until 1930, Collingwood won four premierships in a row, which remains the league record.
In 1927, 1928 and 1930, the biggest crowd of the year was again drawn to the semi final and not to the Grand Final. This, coupled with the perception that the minor premier could find losing its semi-final to be advantageous, resulted in the league abandoning the amended Argus system after 1931, replacing it with the Page-McIntyre System.
1931–1939: New finals system and start of a golden age 
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.
New records were constantly set and when 75,754 attended the 1933 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.
1940–1953: World War II and after 
Football served as a distraction for people on the home front 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 and Demons play the first draw in Grand Final history. Melbourne won the replay 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.
1954–1961: Melbourne Olympic Games 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 so far only) flag. Eight thousand more witnessed the 1955 Grand Final, 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 the 1961 Grand Final, when Hawthorn won for the first time, but thereafter only a videotaped replay was shown.
1962–1982: Second golden age 
In contrast to the 1950s when a few teams were monopolising Grand Final places, the 1960s was a decade of variety. Between 1961 and 1968, seven teams won the flag and a number of classic encounters were played. In the 1964 Grand Final, a thrilling finish enabled Melbourne to win their last premiership by four points. Two years later, in arguably one of 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 the 1967 Grand Final, 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. In what's commonly referred to as the all time greatest grand final the 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 Grand Final 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. In 1977, North Melbourne came from 27 points down at three quarter time to play the second drawn Grand Final in history [the first in 1948]. The momentum continued on the first Saturday in October 1977, when they defeated Collingwood in the replay.
By the start of the early 80's, Collingwood had lost eight grand finals in a row since winning its 1958 premiership. The term "Colliwobbles" began to be used at this time to describe the team's inability to win grand finals.
1982–1989: National team competition 
The 1980s saw the Sydney Swans enter the VFL after South Melbourne's move to Sydney. In 1987, The Brisbane Bears and The West Coast Eagles entered the VFL. This era saw a sustained period of dominance by Hawthorn. The Hawks appeared in every Grand Final from 1983 to 1989, winning four of them in 1983, 1986, and back to back in 1988 and in the classic 1989 contest. ( The Hawks ended up winning 5 premierships in 9 years when the 1991 win is considered).
The 1989 grand final is regarded in football circles as one of the greatest of all time. It was a bruising encounter with several players ending up in hospital, including Robert Diperdominico who bravely played for 3 quarters with a punctured lung. In the first few minutes Hawthorns Dermot Brereton was king hit by Geelongs Mark Yates. Brereton who moments before was on the ground vomiting and seemingly out of the game, took a strong mark, steadied, and kicked truly to open Hawthorn's account. Brereton's inspirational act lifted the Hawks.
Geelong seemed to be targeting the man, while Hawthorn went on to kick a comfortable lead. Geelongs genius forward Gary Ablett ( God as his fans called him) performed several miracles and kept the Cats in the game single handedly. The Hawks continued to hang on throughout the game, with mounting injuries, while Ablett kept kicking goals in perhaps the greatest individual performance ever in a losing grand final.
In the end Hawthorn, with only 13 fit men, held on for a famous victory by six points to take back-to-back flags, and cement their status as the most successful team of the 1980s
1990–1999: AFL introduction 
With the transformation of the VFL into the Australian Football League in 1990, and the move to a truly national competition, there emerged a new era in which non-Victorian based clubs now competed for the Premiership. 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 and now Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney the only clubs not to have achieved this feat.
Throughout the 1990s, the standards of the Grand Finals never reached sensational heights, or concluded with nail biting finishes. In this decade, West Coast and North Melbourne vied for the unofficial title of 'team of the decade', winning two flags apiece, as well as being runners-up in 1991 and 1998 respectively. 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. Thus, West Coast became the first interstate team to take the premiership outside of Victoria. Wedged in between was Essendon's 'Baby Bombers', Kevin Sheedy moulding a group of talented youngsters 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.
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. Adelaide was the first team since Hawthorn in 1988–89 to win back-to-back premierships, and the first interstate team 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 defeated the sixth-placed Carlton on the day, who had qualified for the Grand Final after a one point victory over minor premiers and bitter rivals Essendon in the preliminary final.
2000–2009: New millennium 
2000 saw one of the most dominant seasons of all time by Essendon, with the Bombers winning all but 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, and then outclassing Melbourne by 10 goals in the 2000 Grand Final.
The following season, 2001, saw the Brisbane Lions win the first of their three premierships in succession. The Lions outplayed a tiring Bomber outfit in the second half of the 2001 decider. The following season saw Collingwood, vast underdogs, push the Lions to the limit in the 2002 Grand Final, the Lions pipping the Magpies at the post by nine points. 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 convincing 50 points, crushing the spirit of the Magpies, who had been favourites going into the match. The Lions' castle finally came tumbling down in 2004, when Port Adelaide outclassed them in the second half with a 40 point victory.
Seasons 2005 and 2006 are best remembered 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, remembered for Leo Barry's epic defensive mark in the dying seconds. The following year, the same two clubs met again, though this time West Coast emerged victorious by one point – the first time a point had separated two clubs in a Grand Final since St Kilda's victory over Collingwood in 1966.
The years 2007 to 2009 saw a dominant Geelong appear in all three Grand Finals. 2007 belonged to the Cats, 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. The following year also appeared to be Geelong's after they blitzed the home and away season winning 21 out of 22 games, equalling Essendons's 2000 record of most matches won in a home and away season. However, Hawthorn stunned the favourites with a 26 point victory in the 2008 Grand Final. In the 2009 AFL Grand Final, Geelong defeated St Kilda by 12 points in an intense encounter.
In 2010 Collingwood and St Kilda met each other for the first time in a grand final since 1966. The result was the third draw in grand final history - with Collingwood winning the replay the following week by 56 points. The Magpies also competed in the 2011 Grand Final, but were defeated by Geelong, who won their third premiership in five years. In 2012, the Sydney Swans defeated Hawthorn.
Notable grand finals 
- 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, kicking 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 draw.
- 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.
- 1927 — Collingwood defeated Richmond in atrocious conditions, 2.13 (25) to 1.7 (13). It was the lowest scoring game, Grand Final or otherwise, played during the 20th century.
- 1930 — Collingwood won its 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 which had been badly beaten by Melbourne only two weeks earlier held sway in an 18-point victory over Melbourne to denying the Demons a fourth consecutive premiership and successfully defend their club's record of 4 consecutive premierships.
- 1960 — After an historic six consecutive years at the top of the ladder at the end of the home-and-away season, Melbourne won their 5th premiership in seven years, with a convincing win over Collingwood in wet conditions, in which the Demons more than quadrupled the Magpies' score 8.14 (62) to Collingwood's 2.2 (14).
- 1964 — Collingwood, playing Melbourne, looked set for a victory 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 snatch back the lead and the match for Melbourne by 4 points, just moments from the final siren.
- 1966— St Kilda won their first premiership in 69 years of competition, defeating Collingwood by a solitary point. With only moments left, the two sides were locked level. Finally, Barry Breen snapped the point that gave the club its only premiership in its history thus far.
- 1970 — Carlton makes history by overcoming a 44-point deficit at half-time to defeat Collingwood by 10 points by the final siren. Alex Jesaulenko takes the Mark of the Year 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) under the changing brand of football, 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 first ever Grand Final to be televised live resulted in a draw between North Melbourne and Collingwood. In a Grand Final replay the following week, North Melbourne was victorious.
- 1979 — Carlton defeats Collingwood by five points. Wayne Harmes (Carlton) is awarded the inaugural Norm Smith Medal as best on field, and famously tapped the ball from the boundary line to the goal square to Ken Sheldon for the winning goal.
- 1982 — Maurice Rioli (Richmond) becomes the first player to win the Norm Smith Medal despite being on the losing team.
- 1988 — Champion Hawthorn defender Gary Ayres becomes the first footballer to win two Norm Smith Medals in Hawthorn's then-record 96-point demolition of Melbourne.
- 1989 — The Grand final between Hawthorn and Geelong 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 of Geelong was Norm Smith Medallist in a losing side.
- 1990 — Collingwood broke a 32 year drought and ended the famous "Colliwobbles", winning the first Grand Final of the new AFL era.
- 1991 — Due to the major construction of the Southern Stand at the MCG, the Grand Final was played at VFL Park between the Hawthorn Hawks 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, defeating Geelong by 28 points.
- 1998 — In defeating North Melbourne, Adelaide wins back-to-back premierships in their second year under Malcolm Blight, becoming first club in modern times to win the premiership after finishing lower than fourth on the premiership ladder after the home-and-away season. Andrew McLeod wins the Norm Smith Medal for the second consecutive year, the first to achieve the feat.
- 2003 — Brisbane beats Collingwood by 50 points to win its third premiership in a row, the first club to achieve the feat since Melbourne in 1955–1957.
- 2004 — Port Adelaide defeats Brisbane by 40 points the first Grand Final not to include a Victorian team to win their first premiership despite being minor premiers three years in a row.
- 2005 — Sydney defeats West Coast by four points in a tight, low scoring game to win their first premiership since 1933 (when they were South Melbourne), ending a record drought of 72 years. A late, game-saving pack mark in defence by Leo Barry became an iconic finals moment.
- 2007 — Geelong defeated Port Adelaide by a Grand Final record of 119 points to win its first premiership since 1963.
- 2010 — The Grand Final between St Kilda and Collingwood is drawn, the third drawn Grand Final in VFL/AFL history. Collingwood won the Grand Final replay the following week by 56 points.
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, since 1991, has been 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 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.
The premiers are also awarded the "premiership flag", a large pennant which is unfurled at the premiers' first home game of the following season. The current flag is blue with the AFL logo, the word "premiers" and the year of the premiership. Although the cup features much more prominently in celebrations immediately following the grand final, the flag has far greater symbolic significance. This is reflected in football parlance, in which speaking of a team winning the flag rather than the cup is much more common; this is possibly the result of history, as the presentation of the flag first occurred in 1895 when the VFA recognised Fitzroy's first premiership win, while the cup was not introduced until 1959 (retrospective cups were awarded by the AFL in 2010 for VFL/AFL premierships prior to that time).
Between 1929 and 1978 the winning team was awarded the E. L. Wilson Shield. It was named after Edwin Lionel Wilson, who was the secretary of the Victorian Football League from its inception in 1897 until his retirement in 1929. It was discontinued in 1978, when there was no room remaining on the shield.
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, Victoria. 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.
Prize money 
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 A$1 million. Before 2006, a cash prize to the winning club of A$200,000 was awarded (In contrast, the winner of the NAB Cup, the far less important pre-season competition, is currently awarded a similar amount, A$210,000). Following the Sydney Swans premiership in 2005, many clubs publicly questioned the prize money, which has not increased for many years and barely covers the cost of participation in the finals series.
Brownlow Medal 
The Chas 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 (i.e. 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 at a special dinner on the Monday night before the Grand Final, recently at the Crown Casino in Melbourne.
Grand Final Parade 
A traditional Grand Final parade featuring the players from each team is held in the Melbourne city centre on the Friday before each Grand Final. The event began in 1979, with the VFL 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 from St Kilda Road along the city's main thoroughfares Swanston Street, turning into Collins Street, and ending at the steps outside the Old Treasury Building. The parade, held at lunch time on the Friday before the Grand Final, features the players from the competing sides. The players have in the past appeared on parade floats, however in recent times it has become a motorcade of open-top vehicles, except the 2009 parade, where inclement weather saw players completely enclosed inside vehicles.
Since 2007, the parades have attracted in excess of 100,000 fans each year (except in 2009, when inclement weather kept the crowd down to 80,000). Crowds were smaller from 2004 until 2006, ranging from 40,000 to 75,000, although there were no Victorian teams participating in those Grand Finals.
Pre-match entertainment 
Over the years many big Australian and international stars have performed or appeared as pre-match entertainment at the Grand Final. The game has often been criticised for poor pre-game entertainment; in particular, performances by Angry Anderson in 1991 and Meat Loaf in 2011 have been singled out as poor performances by the entertainers involved.
Each team's club song is performed live as part of the pre-match entertainment (with the recorded version also played as the team enters the field, in the traditional fashion). For a time, many or all of a selection of traditional football and Australian songs (Up There Cazaly, One Day in September, That's the Thing About Football, Holy Grail and Waltzing Matilda) were performed each year, although this has fallen out of favour.
Advance Australia Fair is performed when teams and the umpires are on the field, and lined up on the wing.
AFL Grand Final Sprint 
Since 1977 a running race has taken place on Grand Final day between various players who are not taking part in the game. In 1977-78 it was a long-distance race run over a mile with each league club able to nominate up to two entrants. In 1979 the race was changed to a 100m sprint with one player per club taking part.
Between 1979-87 the two clubs participating in the Grand Final had the option of providing one of their players who missed selection in the match, but generally chose not to do so, meaning the sprint was usually contested by a field of 10 players during this era.
The race was not held from 1988 to 2001 but was reintroduced in 2002 (along with a goalkicking contest - the TXU Sharpshooter - which only lasted one year). With the number of league clubs having grown to 16 during the break in competition, a new format was adopted with the players now split into two groups of eight for the heats (held before the Grand Final), with the top four from each heat advancing to the final (held at half-time of the Grand Final). In recent years a handicapping system has also been introduced.
|1979||Geoff Ablett||Hawthorn Football Club|
|1980||Geoff Ablett||Hawthorn Football Club|
|1981||Geoff Ablett||Hawthorn Football Club|
|1982||Michael Conlan||Fitzroy Football Club|
|1983||Frank Marchesani||Carlton Football Club|
|1984||Douglas Cox||Essendon Football Club|
|1985||Geoff Ablett||St Kilda Football Club|
|1986||Unknown Winner||Unknown Football Club|
|1987||Russell Richards||Melbourne Football Club|
|2002||Jared Crouch||Sydney 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|
|2010||Luke Miles||St Kilda Football Club|
|2011||Patrick Dangerfield||Adelaide Football Club|
|2012||Patrick Dangerfield||Adelaide Football Club|
Venue and schedule 
The Grand Final has always been played in Melbourne and all but nine have been at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The venues used on these nine occasions were:
- Junction Oval - 1898, 1899 and 1944 (due to the MCG housing US troops during World War II)
- East Melbourne Cricket Ground - 1900
- Lake Oval - 1901
- Princes Park - 1942, 1943 and 1945 (due to the MCG housing US troops during World War II)
- Waverley Park - 1991 (Due to the MCG being redeveloped)
Under an agreement between the Melbourne Cricket Club, the MCG Trust, the AFL and the Victorian State Government, the AFL Grand Final will be played at the MCG every year until at least 2034.
The Grand Final has traditionally been played on the final Saturday in September each year and is often referred to in popular Australian culture as the "One day in September". The match has, on occasion, been played in early October, and in 2000, to avoid a clash with the Sydney Olympics, it was played on the first Saturday in September.
Numbering of Grand Finals 
The AFL officially gives its Grand Finals the same ordinal number as the season: e.g. the 1996 Grand Final was regarded as the 100th Grand Final, due to it being the 100th season. This is anachronistic to some extent:
- There was no Grand Final match in two seasons, 1897 and 1924; the finals systems in use in those seasons allowed the premiership to be awarded after a round-robin finals tournament, without the need for a deciding match.
- Under the Argus finals systems in use from 1902 to 1930, the "Grand Final" was a term given to a challenge match between the minor premiers and whichever team won the knock-out section of the finals. In the eight seasons where the minor premiers also won the knock-out phase, that club was awarded the premiership without need for a true Grand Final; in these cases, the last knock-out match is retrospectively considered to be the Grand Final.
- There have been three Grand Final Replays played after drawn Grand Finals, in 1948, 1977 and 2010.
Norm Smith Medal 
The Norm Smith Medal is presented to the player judged as best on the ground during the Grand Final by a panel of experts. The award is named in honour of Melbourne premiership player and coach Norm Smith, who died in 1973. It was first awarded in 1979, to Carlton's Wayne Harmes, a great nephew of Smith. In time the award has come to carry great prestige as an individual prize.
VFL/AFL Grand Final records 
|Most matches (player)||11: Michael Tuck (Hawthorn)|
|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)
|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)|
|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)|
|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)
|First game in GF||Jack Prout (Essendon) 1908, Bill James (Richmond) 1920, George Rawle (Essendon) 1923, F 'Pop' Vine (Melbourne) 1926, Ken Batchelor (Collingwood) 1952|
|Most games before first 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 Norm Smith Medals[note 1]||2: Gary Ayres (Hawthorn), Andrew McLeod (Adelaide)|
|Most possessions in a match[note 2]||39: Simon Black (Brisbane) 2003
37: Kane Cornes (Port Adelaide) 2007
36: Peter Burgoyne (Port Adelaide) 2007
|Most goals||35: Gordon Coventry (Collingwood)
25: Dermott Brereton (Hawthorn)
|Most goals in a match||9: Gordon Coventry (Collingwood) 1928, Gary Ablett, Sr. (Geelong) 1989
8: Dermott Brereton (Hawthorn) 1985
|Most goals in a quarter||5: Darren Jarman (Adelaide) 1997-4Q|
|Most behinds in a match||10: Ron Todd (Collingwood) 1936|
|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|
|Essendon vs Melbourne (Melbourne won replay)
Collingwood vs North Melbourne (North Melbourne won replay)
Collingwood vs St Kilda (Collingwood 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|
|Highest score - 1st Qtr||8.4 (52)||by Hawthorn vs Geelong 1989, by Carlton vs Richmond 1972|
|Highest score - 2nd Qtr||10.2 (62)||by Carlton vs Richmond 1972|
|Highest score - 3rd Qtr||11.8 (74)||by Essendon vs Melbourne 1946|
|Highest score - 4th Qtr||11.3 (69)||by Essendon vs Hawthorn 1985|
|Biggest comeback - Quarter time||29||by Carlton vs Collingwood 1970|
|Biggest comeback - 2nd Half||44||by Carlton vs Collingwood 1970|
|Biggest comeback - 4th Qtr||23||by Essendon vs Hawthorn 1984|
|Biggest comeback - Overall||44||by Carlton vs Collingwood 1970|
The event has been sold out every year for decades and once drew a crowd of 121,696 spectators for 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 redevelopment and reduced capacity of the main venue, the Melbourne Cricket Ground; being favoured by increased seating of approximately 110,000. 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 Melbourne 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 five 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: OzTAM figures for five-city metropolitan audience (SYD-MEL-BRI-ADE-PER), does 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|
|20101||25 September||Collingwood||St Kilda||Seven Network||2,768,000|
|2011||1 October||Collingwood||Geelong||Network Ten||2,641,000|
In the past (2007–2011) AFL domestic broadcast arrangement, Network Ten and the Seven Network had exclusive hosting rights for the decider with the 2007, 2009 and 2011 AFL Grand Final on Network Ten and the 2008 and 2010 deciders on the Seven Network. In the event of a Grand Final replay, the network that televised the first match will also broadcast the second match.
With the new television broadcasting deal announced in April 2011, the Seven Network have exclusive rights to televising the AFL Grand Final for the next five years (i.e. 2012–2016).
1 Figures include both drawn Grand Final and Replay.
International telecasts 
- Papua New Guinea – EM TV, Australia Network (live)
- New Zealand – Sky Sport (live)
- Asia-Pacific – Australia Network (live) (includes China, Hong Kong/Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, 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)
- Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan) – Australia Network (live)
- Middle East – Australia Network and Showtime Arabia (ShowSports) (live)
- Israel – Fox Sports Israel (live)
- North America
- United States – ESPN3.com and ESPN2 (live), MHz Worldview (delayed).
- Canada – TSN (live).
- United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland – ESPN UK (live)
- Spain – Canal+ Spain (live/delayed coverage to be confirmed)
- ALL of Europe – Eurosport 2 (live/delayed coverage to be confirmed)
- Africa – ESPN International (Pan-Africa channel) (live)
- Latin America and Caribbean – ESPN International (to be confirmed)
See also 
- Grand Final
- Australian Football League
- Early VFL Final systems
- McIntyre System
- AFL finals system
- List of Australian Football League premiers
- One Day in September (song)
- The Norm Smith Medal for best on ground in the Grand Final was first Awarded in 1979
- Statistic for most possessions in a Grand Final date from 1999
- Grand Final's our top event. heraldsun.com.au 17 August 2006. URL accessed 5 September 2006
- Rodgers, Stephen (1992), Every Game Ever Played: VFL/AFL Results, 1897–1991 (3rd ed.), Ringwood, VIC: Viking O'Neil
- "League Football - Premiership Rounds - New System Adopted". The Argus. 25 April 1931. p. 20.
- Manuka Oval - History
- Phelan, Jason (27 September 2008). "Hawks break 17-yr drought, Cat hearts". afl.com.au. Archived from the original on 30 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- Melbourne won the premiership after finishing sixth after the fourteen-game home-and-away season in 1900, qualifying for the semi-finals after a strong performance in the three-week sectional round robin that followed the home-and-away season.
- "Well known men amongst footballers". Football Record (Round 1): 13. 1930.
- Lovett, Michael (1999). "Shield of success". Football Record: 45.
- Butler, Steve (29 October 2005). The West Australian http://footystats.freeservers.com/Archive/D-06-Oct-05.html
|url=missing title (help).
- Scott, Edwina (25 September 2009). "Thousands flock to AFL Grand Final parade".
- Ten of thousands fans gather for Australia Football League grand final parade
- Hunter, Thomas (25 September 2009). "Fans brave rain to watch grand final parade – RFNews – theage.com.au". The Age (Melbourne).
- Grand final parade takes over Melbourne's streets - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- "City of Melbourne, Events Melbourne Branch, 2005/2006 Report". Archived from the original on 15 September 2007.
- Grand folly
- Ralph, Jon (28 October 2011). "AFL says Meat Loaf ‘just couldn't sing' at Grand Final performance". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Most possessions in a Grand Final since 1999". 1st of September 2012.
- "A Short History of the MCG". Archived from the original on 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
- "Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E)". OzTam. 18–24 September 2005. Archived from the original on 24 June 2008.
- Grand final's free kick to economy a tough call
- "Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E)". OzTam. 21–27 September 2003. Archived from the original on 21 August 2006.
- "Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E)". OzTam. 19–25 September 2004. Archived from the original on 20 August 2006.
- "Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E)". OzTam. 24–30 September 2006. Archived from the original on 10 October 2006.
- "Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E)". OzTam. 23–29 September 2007. Archived from the original on 21 July 2008.
- Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E) 21–27 September 2008, OzTam.
- Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E) 20–26 September 2009, OzTam.
- Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E) 19–25 September 2010, OzTam.
- Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E) 26 September-2 October 2010, OzTam.
- Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E) 25 September-1 October 2011, OzTam.
- International Broadcast Partners
- AFL and ESPN in U.S./Canada TV Rights deal
Media related to AFL Grand Final at Wikimedia Commons
- Grand Final Day video
- 2009 AFL Finals Live Stream details
- The Big Dance, a poem celebrating the AFL Grand Final