In 1924, the VFL competition consisted of nine teams of 18 on-the-field players each, with no reserves, although any of the 18 players who had left the playing field for any reason could later resume their place on the field at any time during the match.
Each team played each other twice in a home-and-away season of 18 rounds (i.e., 16 matches and 2 byes).
In 1924, the VFL dispensed with the amended Argus system and adopted a new finals system initially proposed by Carlton delegate Reg Hunt. The new scheme saw the top four clubs play a round-robin semi-finals series over three weeks, with two matches played each Saturday. Then, if the minor premiers did not finish on top of the round-robin ladder, a Grand Final would be played between the minor premiers and round-robin winner. Essendon ultimately finished on top of the finals ladder on the basis of its greater percentage than Richmond; and, as minor premier, Essendon won the premiership without a Grand Final.
The scheme was developed primarily as a result of demand for entry to finals matches in the early 1920s exceeding the capacity of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was noted that while an average of 80,000 spectators attended a four-game home-and-away round, the capacity of the Melbourne Cricket Ground was limited to about 55,000; and as such, under the Argus system in which only one final was played each day, many spectators were turned away. However, playing two semi-finals on each day would allow more spectators to attend.
The original intent of the system was partially realised, with 65,000 spectators attending the first week of semi-finals and 60,000 attending the second week; although only 42,000 attended the third week – when the dead rubber between South Melbourne and Fitzroy was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the premiership-deciding Richmond–Essendon match was played on the smaller South Melbourne Cricket Ground. However, even the weeks with higher spectator numbers did not translate to better financial performance: extra competing teams meant more clubs whose members were entitled free admission and fewer neutral spectators paying at the gate. As a result, the new scheme was abandoned at the end of the year and the amended Argus system resumed from 1925.
As there was no designated grand final, this also meant that there were no grand final teams in 1924; instead there was an "Essendon finals squad", a "Fitzroy finals squad", a "Richmond finals squad", and a "South Melbourne finals squad".
Listed in alphabetical order the four squads were:
Administrator Charles Brownlow died on 23 January 1924; the Charles Brownlow Trophy, more commonly known as the Brownlow Medal, was instituted in his memory. The trophy is to be awarded to "the best and fairest player" in the VFL as determined by the votes of the field umpire at the end of each home-and-away match. From 1924 to 1930, there was a single vote cast per match.
The VFL started fixing the schedule from 1924 to ensure that neither South Melbourne and St Kilda nor Melbourne and Richmond played home matches on the same day due to the heavy transport and labour burden associated with running the two nearby venues at the same time. This arrangement continued as long as the clubs played at nearby locations.
The Fitzroy versus Carlton match in the opening round was the first VFL match in which both teams scored 100 points.
The VFL adopts the convention of home teams wearing black shorts and away teams wearing white shorts.
Because the 1924 premiership was determined by a round-robin system, Essendon won the premiership despite being beaten by runners-up Richmond 9.13 (67) to 6.11 (47) in the last round-robin match; this is the only time in VFL/AFL history that the premiers lost their last match of the season. Richmond would have needed to win by at least 43 points to challenge Essendon to a grand final.
Many of the Essendon players were unhappy at the poor performances of some of their teammates in the final round robin match against Richmond, and there were heated arguments and fist-fights in the rooms after the match and after a post-match function later that evening, related to accusations of match fixing and receiving bribes.
On the Saturday after the VFL grand final, Essendon (in its role as 1924 VFL premiers) was challenged by 1924 VFA premiers, Footscray, to a match in aid of Dame Nellie Melba's Limbless Soldiers' Appeal, purportedly (but not officially) for the championship of Victoria. Footscray unexpectedly defeated Essendon 9.10 (64) to 4.12 (36). Again there were accusations of match fixing, and champion centre half-back Tom Fitzmaurice was so disgusted with many of his teammates having, in his view, deliberately lost the match, he never played again for Essendon.
The Seconds grand final, to have been staged between Geelong and minor premiers Essendon on 4 October, was originally scheduled to be played at Geelong's home ground, Corio Oval, but after Essendon raised its objections, the Seconds League rescheduled the match for Kardinia Park, which was a neutral venue, but still located in Geelong. Essendon again objected, and after the league dismissed their complaint, refused to travel to Geelong. Consequently, the match was scratched and the Seconds premiership was awarded to Geelong.
Maplestone, M., Flying Higher: History of the Essendon Football Club 1872–1996, Essendon Football Club, (Melbourne), 1996. ISBN0-9591740-2-8
Rogers, S. & Brown, A., Every Game Ever Played: VFL/AFL Results 1897–1997 (Sixth Edition), Viking Books, (Ringwood), 1998. ISBN0-670-90809-6
Ross, J. (ed), 100 Years of Australian Football 1897–1996: The Complete Story of the AFL, All the Big Stories, All the Great Pictures, All the Champions, Every AFL Season Reported, Viking, (Ringwood), 1996. ISBN0-670-86814-0