Grand final

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2006 National Rugby League Grand Final (Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm)
Part of the pre-match celebrations at the AFL Grand Final, unfurling of the banners of every club in the competition

A Grand final is a game that decides a sports league's championship (or premiership) winning team, i.e. the conclusive game of a finals (or play-off) series. Synonymous with a championship game in North American sports, grand finals have become a significant part of Australian culture. The earliest competitions to feature a Grand final were Australia's AFL (Australian rules football) and NRL (rugby league football). They influenced other competitions such as soccer's A-League, the National Basketball League, netball's ANZ Championship and European rugby league's Super League to adopt grand finals as well. Most grand finals involve a prestigious award for the player voted best on field.


The Anglo-Norman term "grand" to describe a sporting event, documented in England as "grand match" in 1836,[1] was used in Australia from the 1850s. A steeplechase in England has been called the "Grand National Steeple Chase" ("Grand National" alone for short) since at least 1839.[1]

Use of the term in Australian Football dates back to the first organised and widely publicised match between Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College on August 7, 1858 at Yarra Park, Melbourne (formerly Richmond Park). The game was advertised as the "grand football match" in the Melbourne Morning Herald and several other local newspapers.[2]

In 1859, a "grand football match" was advertised in Richmond, Tasmania for St Patrick's Day on Friday 18 March.[3]

Mentioned in The Argus of 1861, the Royal Caledonian Society of Melbourne invited clubs to compete in a "grand football-match" which was to be football's first ever trophy, the Caledonian Challenge Cup, however the match did not proceed until the following year.

The earliest known event described as "grand" in Sydney was a cricket match in 1862.[4]

When the two top teams of the 1871 South Yarra Challenge Cup were on even wins, a "grand match" (advertised in The Argus) was announced to decide the championship.

Initially, a football premiership final appeared to be called a "grand final" only when the losers of a final were the minor premiers and they exercised the "right to challenge" the winners to a second premiership decider.[5]

New South Wales Rugby Football League[edit]

The New South Wales Rugby Football League (NSWRFL) experimented with a finals system in 1908, its inaugural year, but abandoned it the following season. Finals were reintroduced in 1926, and the premiership decider appeared to only be called a "grand final" if it involved the minor premiers.

By the 1930s, the NSWRFL adopted the term "grand final" to describe the premiership decider.[6] Up until 1954 a 'grand final' match was only held if the minor premiers were beaten.[7] The adoption of the VFL's Page–McIntyre system for the 1954 NSWRFL season meant for the first time grand finals would become necessary every season, so the term Grand Final has become used to describe all premiership deciders.

The tradition is maintained by the present-day NRL National Rugby League.

South Australian Football Association[edit]

Main article: 1889 SAFA Grand Final

At the time Australian rules football premierships in the South Australian Football Association (SAFA, now SANFL) were decided simply upon end-of-season ladder placings, but a game played on 5 October 1889 was necessitated when Norwood and Port Adelaide finished equal on wins and goals. In promoting the decider match, local press dubbed the match a "play off"[8] or a "deciding match"[9] rather than "grand final". Norwood won the game 7.4 (46) to 5.9 (39).[10]

The following years saw two more Grand Finals necessitated by ties at the top of the ladder. In 1894, Norwood played South Adelaide; the game was drawn 4.8 (32) apiece, leading to the first of only five Grand Final Replays in senior Australian football history. Norwood won the replay 4.7 (31) to South Adelaide 3.5 (23).[11]

Victorian Football Association[edit]

In the Victorian Football Association, which was Victoria's top level of senior football from 1877 until 1896, the premiership was typically awarded solely on the basis of the rostered premiership matches (which would today be known as the home-and-away season). However, the rules stipulated that where two or more teams finished with an equal number of premiership points, a playoff match or matches would be scheduled amongst those teams to determine the premiers. This was first required in 1896, when South Melbourne and Collingwood finished level atop the ladder. The playoff match between them, which is retrospectively treated as Victoria's first Grand Final, was won by Collingwood 6.9 – 5.10.[12]

There was one previous premiership playoff match during this time in the VFA, played between Geelong and Melbourne in 1878. This match did not break a tie at the top of the league, as the victorious Geelong team already had a better win-loss record than Melbourne.[12]

Victorian Football League[edit]

In 1897, when eight teams broke away from the VFA to form the VFL, the concept of finals football was high on the agenda, with teams buoyed by the success and attendances of the 1896 Grand Final. Over the following ten years, all top-level Australian football leagues had adopted a finals structure.

In 1931 the VFL adopted a system, the Page–McIntyre system, which ensured a Grand Final, and the concept became entrenched.


The term "Grand Final" was introduced to Europe in 1995[citation needed] in a completely different sport—golf. In that year, the Challenge Tour, the official developmental tour for the European Tour, launched its season-ending Challenge Tour Grand Final. British rugby league would adopt the term in 1998, two years after the start of Super League. The Super League Grand Final has now become an accepted part of the British scene, and the term 'grand final' is used to describe the final of leagues below Super League as well, such as the Championship, Championship 1 and the Conference. Prior to this, a Championship Final was introduced to determine the winner of the British Rugby Football League Championship in 1904, though it only became a regular fixture from 1906 onwards. In 1973, the competition format was changed so that the championship was won by the team finishing top of the league table, with an end of season knock-out competition for the top teams that became known as the Premiership being created.

Starting in 2009–10, the rugby union competition historically known as the Celtic League, at the time involving teams from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, introduced a playoff system to determine its champion. (Although the league conducted a knockout competition in its early years, it was a parallel cup competition instead of a championship tournament.) The final match was branded as a Grand Final. This usage continued for the 2010–11 season, the first that included teams from Italy. Starting with the 2011–12 season, the first under the current sponsored name of RaboDirect Pro12, the "Grand Final" terminology was scrapped; the final match is now simply called the "Final".[13]

List of current notable competitions with "Grand Final"s[edit]


League (Region) Sport Event Year first used
Super League (Europe) Rugby league Super League Grand Final 1998
National Rugby League (Australasia) Rugby league NRL Grand Final 1930 (1908 if Minor Premiers were challenged)
Australian Football League (Australia) Australian rules football AFL Grand Final 1898
National Basketball League (Australasia) Basketball NBL Grand Final 1979
A-League (Australasia) Association football (soccer) A-League Grand Final 2004
South Australian National Football League (Australia) Australian rules football SANFL Grand Final 1889
Victorian Football League (Australia) Australian rules football VFL Grand Final 1896
West Australian Football League (Australia) Australian rules football WAFL Grand Final 1904
Magners League (Europe) Rugby union Magners League Grand Final 2010; term abandoned in 2012
Women's National Basketball League (Australia) Basketball WNBL Grand Final 1981
ANZ Championship (Australasia) Netball ANZ Championship Grand Final 2008
Challenge Tour (Europe) Golf Challenge Tour Grand Final 1995
W-League (Australia) Association football (soccer) W-League Grand Final 2009
Australian Ice Hockey League (Australia) Ice hockey AIHL Grand Final 2000

Reality television[edit]

Grand final replays[edit]

A Grand Final Replay is a method of deciding the winner of a competition when a Grand Final is drawn by replaying the entire match the following week, rather than playing overtime or extra time on the same day. It is commonly used in Australian rules football and most notably in the Australian Football League, where it has been used three times, most recently in 2010.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary 2nd. ed, grand (9A)
  2. ^ Melbourne Morning Herald. August 7, 1858
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Football: Rugby League Final". The Argus (Australia). 1923-09-07. p. 4. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  6. ^ "RUGBY LEAGUE: Grand Final". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). 1931-09-08. p. 13. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  7. ^ "The start of a grand tradition". The Sun-Herald. 1 March 1987. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "FOOTBALL NOTES.". The Advertiser (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 4 October 1889. p. 6. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "FOOTBALL.". The Advertiser (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 7 October 1889. p. 6. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "THE FIGHT FOR THE PREMIERSHIP.". The Advertiser (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 7 October 1889. p. 6. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  11. ^ "The Final Struggle". South Australian Chronicle (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 13 October 1894. p. 15. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Observer (28 September 1896). "Football Notes". The Argus (Melbourne). p. 6. 
  13. ^ "Final Homepage". Celtic Rugby Limited. Retrieved 2012-04-20. 


  • 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. ISBN 0-670-86814-0