1997 AFL Grand Final
|1997 AFL Grand Final|
The Melbourne Cricket Ground, where the 1997 AFL Grand Final took place.
|Date||27 September 1997|
|Stadium||Melbourne Cricket Ground|
|Umpires||Hayden Kennedy (7), Bryan Sheehan (9), Mark Nash (14)|
|Pre-match entertainment||Marina Prior|
|National anthem||Marina Prior|
|Norm Smith Medallist||Andrew McLeod (Adelaide)|
|Jock McHale Medallist||Malcolm Blight|
|Broadcast in Australia|
|Commentators||Bruce McAvaney (host)|
Dennis Cometti (commentator)
Sandy Roberts (commentator)
Peter McKenna (expert commentator)
Robert Dipierdomenico (boundary rider)
Neil Kerley (boundary rider)
The 1997 AFL Grand Final was an Australian rules football game contested between the Adelaide Football Club and the St Kilda Football Club, held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne on 27 September 1997. It was the 101st annual grand final of the Australian Football League (formerly the Victorian Football League), staged to determine the premiers for the 1997 AFL season. The match, attended by 99,645 spectators, was won by Adelaide by a margin of 31 points, marking that club's first premiership victory.
The 1997 grand final saw the Saints playing in their first premiership decider since losing the 1971 VFL Grand Final, and looking to win just their second premiership after their famous one point win against Collingwood in 1966. The Crows were appearing in their first grand final since entering the competition in 1991.
It was a very even home and away season, with St Kilda finishing on top of the AFL ladder after 22 rounds, winning the McClelland Trophy. Their record of 15 wins and 7 losses was the lowest season tally to win the award in the modern era. The Saints had won their last seven matches to overtake Geelong and claim top spot by percentage. Adelaide, with former Woodville and North Melbourne star Malcolm Blight taking over as coach, had finished fourth (behind Geelong and the Western Bulldogs) with 13 wins and 9 losses. They had made the finals for only the second time in their club history, after losing in a preliminary final in 1993 to eventual premiers Essendon. Tony Modra was the club's leading goalkicker for the fifth straight season with a total of 84.
Adelaide won their qualifying final encounter against West Coast at Football Park by 33 points, and due to a quirk in the finals system at the time (which has since been altered), were drawn to play a home semifinal against the higher-ranked Geelong at Football Park, despite the Crows finishing two places lower than the Cats on the ladder. In a tense, hard-fought encounter, they eventually overcame the Cats by 8 points, in a game best remembered for a crucial mark by Geelong's Leigh Colbert during a critical period in the third quarter which was not awarded by field umpire Grant Vernon. Capitalising on this good fortune, the Crows then progressed to a preliminary final against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG, a match in which they came from behind to snatch victory by just two points (after the Bulldogs Tony Liberatore famously celebrated what he thought was a goal early in the last quarter, but was signalled as a behind by the umpire). This victory was, at that time, the greatest win in the Crows' team history. However, in this game Adelaide lost Modra in the first quarter to an ACL injury, meaning he would not be available for the grand final.
St Kilda won their qualifying final against the eighth placed Brisbane Lions by 46 points at Waverley Park before over 50,000, sending them to a home preliminary final against seventh placed North Melbourne at the MCG, which they won by 31 points in front of crowd of 77,531. The Saints went into the grand final as heavy favourites.
St Kilda's Robert Harvey won the Brownlow Medal earlier in the week for having been the best player in the AFL for the 1997 season. Western Bulldogs player Chris Grant polled the highest number of votes, but as he had been suspended for a one match ban - in Round 7 against Hawthorn for striking - he was deemed ineligible for the award.
It was an intense and exciting Grand Final, with Adelaide starting well and leading by 2 points at quarter time (with unlikely goalkicker Shane Ellen, who was playing at full forward replacing the injured Tony Modra, kicking the Crows first major - a move which was later regarded as a masterstroke by coach Malcolm Blight), before St Kilda got the jump in the second quarter and led by 13 points at half time. Adelaide then started to take control after the break and took back the lead at three quarter time by 10 points, before overpowering the Saints in the last quarter to eventually win by 31 points. The Crows kicked 8 straight goals to the Saints 4.3 in the final quarter which sealed the premiership. Adelaide became the first team to win four consecutive finals to claim the premiership - a feat matched by the Western Bulldogs in 2016.
Andrew McLeod won his first Norm Smith Medal for being judged the best player afield. Shane Ellen, typically a defensive player for the Crows, provided a cameo at full-forward in place of Modra and finished with five goals, while Darren Jarman booted a grand final record of five in the last quarter, taking him to six for the match and sealing the game. Other influential Crows players included Shaun Rehn, Kane Johnson, David Pittman, Troy Bond and Ben Hart.
St Kilda's Austinn Jones kicked the goal of the match, or what could have been goal of the year. In an effort reminiscent of Phil Manassa in the replayed 1977 Grand Final, Jones ran almost the full length of the ground and kicked the goal from the boundary. Saints forward Barry Hall, who kicked three goals, would later feature in the Sydney Swans' premiership winning team in 2005.
|1997 AFL Grand Final|
|Saturday, 27 September (2:30 pm)||Adelaide||def.||St Kilda||MCG (crowd: 99,645)|
|Umpires: Kennedy (7), Sheehan (9), Nash (14)|
Norm Smith Medal: Andrew McLeod (Adelaide)
Television broadcast: Seven Network
National anthem: Marina Prior
|Jarman 6, Ellen 5, Bond 4, Smart, Goodwin, Rintoul, Caven||Goals||Heatley 3, Hall 3, Loewe 2, Jones, Burke, Winmar, Peckett, Harvey|
|McLeod, Jarman, Johnson, Ellen, Goodwin, Caven||Best||Harvey, Jones, Burke, Hall, Cook, Keogh|