Sydney were playing in a Grand Final for the first time since relocating from South Melbourne. It was the Swans' first appearance in a premiership decider since losing the 1945 VFL Grand Final, while it was North Melbourne's first since losing the 1978 VFL Grand Final.
At the conclusion of the home and away season, Sydney had finished first on the AFL ladder with 16 wins and 5 losses and one draw, winning the McClelland Trophy. North Melbourne had finished second with 16 wins and 6 losses.
The AFL's centenary year was crowned by North Melbourne which made amends for the disappointment of three successive failed finals campaigns. The Kangaroos won their third flag (and the only Gold Premiership Cup in history) despite a slow start. Led by bullocking defender Glenn Archer and superstars Corey McKernan and Wayne Carey, the Kangaroos were hellbent in their premiership quest.
The Swans, although overwhelmed at the finish, started well and kicked the last three goals of the first quarter to lead by 18 points at quarter time. When Jason Mooney goalled early in the second quarter the Swans' lead extend to 24 points. However, Glenn Freeborn's move to the forward line sparked the Kangaroos, with Freeborn kicking three goals for the quarter and Darren Crocker and Brett Allison each kicking one, and by half time the Kangaroos led by 2 points.
North Melbourne dominated the third quarter, with two goals to Craig Sholl and one each to Peter Bell and Crocker, which saw them leading by 26 points at three quarter time.
The Kangaroos kicked the first two goals of the final quarter through Anthony Stevens and Mark Roberts to effectively kill the contest. The two teams traded goals until the end of the game, with North ultimately triumphing by 43 points.
Tony Lockett tried hard for the Swans in his first and only Grand Final, booting six goals. Paul Roos was playing in his 314th game of VFL/AFL football. He continues to hold the record for the most games played before participating in his first Grand Final.
The Norm Smith Medal was awarded to Archer for being judged the best player afield.