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 19th century, Australian football competition adopted the approach that the team on top of the ladder 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.
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 East Melbourne Cricket Ground. The selection of the venue could depend on the portion of the gate demanded by the ground's landlords.
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.
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.
The Page playoff 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.
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 second 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.
So when the MCG was finally relinquished by the government in August 1946, there was great expectation in the buildup 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.
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 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.
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 to date by four points. Two years later, in arguably one of the most famous grand finals 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 is commonly referred to as the greatest of all-time, the 1970 grand final saw Carlton come back from a 44-point half time deficit to beat Collingwood; it 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 the memorable 1977 grand final, North Melbourne came from 27 points down at three quarter time to play the second drawn grand final in history (the first since 1948). The momentum continued on the first Saturday in October 1977, when they defeated Collingwood in the replay.
After the 1981 grand final, the old scoreboard was removed to Manuka Oval. The MCG installed a new electronic colour scoreboard in 1982.
By the start of the early 1980s, 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.
The 1980s saw a sustained period of dominance by Hawthorn, who appeared in every grand final from 1983 to 1989, winning four of them in 1983, 1986, and back to back in 1988 and in 1989 contest. The 1989 Grand Final, a high scoring and very physical encounter in which Hawthorn defeated Geelong by six points, is considered to be one of the greatest of all time.
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. Between 1992 and 2006, non-Victorian clubs won ten out of fifteen premierships. The first club to achieve the feat was West Coast in 1992 and 1994, and Adelaide won back-to-back premierships in 1997 and 1998. North Melbourne was the only other club to win two grand finals in the 1990s, 1996 and 1999 respectively, as no team dominated the era.
Between 2001 and 2003, the Brisbane Lions won three consecutive grand finals, with its nine-point win against Collingwood in 2002 the closest of the three matches. In 2004, Port Adelaide defeated Brisbane Lions in the first grand final ever played between two non-Victorian teams. The 2005 and 2006 grand finals were played between Sydney and West Coast, with each winning one premiership by less than a goal; the 2005 match is remembered for the strong defensive mark taken by Sydney's Leo Barry in the dying seconds.
The years 2007 to 2011 saw a dominant Geelong appear in four out of five grand finals, winning three premierships. The only match to not feature Geelong was in 2010, when Collingwood and St Kilda played the third draw in grand final history, with Collingwood winning the subsequent replay by 56 points.
After 2011, Hawthorn established itself as a dominant force, finishing runners up to Sydney in 2012 then winning the 2013, 2014 and 2015 premierships against Fremantle, Sydney and West Coast.
On 19 April 2016, the AFL announced that drawn grand finals will be resolved by the use of two five minute extra time periods, with the siren not being sounded to end the second period until the tie is broken, abolishing the use of a full replay.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. The match is generally considered to have initiated the long-standing rivalry between the two clubs.
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.
1945 – Known as 'the bloodbath', the game was marred by constant brawling and fighting. Carlton defeated South Melbourne 15.13 (103) to 10.15 (75); ten players were reported and received a combined 73 weeks suspensions.
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 four 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).
1961 – In their first ever grand final, Hawthorn defeated Footscray to claim their first VFL/AFL premiership. Until 2016, the Bulldogs did not make another grand final
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, and breaking a premiership drought of 68 years.
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) was awarded the inaugural Norm Smith Medal as best on field; Harmes famously tapped the ball from the boundary line to the goal square for his teammate, Ken Sheldon, to kick the winning goal.
1982 – Maurice Rioli (Richmond) became the first player to win the Norm Smith Medal despite being on the losing team.
1989 – The grand final between Hawthorn and Geelong was one of the closest and hardest fought in years, and nicknamed the "Battle of '89". Noted for its toughness, the game saw injuries and incidents involving Dermott Brereton (famously knocked out by a solid shirtfront from Mark Yeates but continued to play) and Robert DiPierdomenico (played three quarters with a punctured lung), and many players were hospitalised after the game.
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.
1992 – West Coast became the first non-Victorian team to win a premiership, defeating Geelong by 28 points.
1996 – North Melbourne defeat the Sydney Swans and receive the only gold-coloured premiership cup in history when the league commemorates the AFL/VFL's 100th season.
1998 – In defeating North Melbourne, Adelaide won 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 won the Norm Smith Medal for the second consecutive year, the first to achieve the feat.
2003 – Brisbane defeated Collingwood by 50 points to win its third premiership in a row, the first club to achieve the feat since Melbourne in 1955–1957, and the first interstate club to achieve this.
2004 – Port Adelaide defeated Brisbane by 40 points in the first grand final not to include a Victorian team.
2005 – Sydney defeated 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.
2006 – West Coast defeated Sydney by one point in a match similar to the previous year. This continued a run of very close games between the two clubs and mirrored the qualifying final result a month earlier.
2007 – Geelong defeated Port Adelaide by a grand final record margin of 119 points to win their first premiership since 1963.
2010 – The grand final between St Kilda and Collingwood was drawn, the third drawn grand final in VFL/AFL history. Collingwood won the grand final replay the following week by 56 points, breaking a 20-year premiership drought in the process.
2015 – Hawthorn became just the second club in the modern era to win three premierships in a row, defeating the West Coast Eagles in the hottest conditions ever recorded for a VFL/AFL grand final.
2016 - The Western Bulldogs (Footscray) appeared in their first grand final since 1961 against the Sydney Swans, winning three consecutive finals from a record seventh position on the ladder to progress through to the grand final. The Western Bulldogs defeated the Sydney Swans by 22 points.
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.
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).
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. 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.
The premier is also recorded on the perpetual E. L. Wilson Shield, which resides at AFL House. The shield, inaugurated in 1929, 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 initially discontinued after 1978, when there was no room remaining on the shield for more names. In 2016, the shield was rediscovered, refurbished, extra space was added to bring the shield up to date, and it was reintroduced as a premiership trophy.
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 had not increased significantly for many years and barely covered the cost of participation in the finals series.
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.
Since 1977, a traditional grand final parade featuring the players from each team has been held around midday on the Friday before each grand final. The parade was adopted from a tradition which had begun decades earlier in the amateur VAFA, and it became increasingly popular during the 1980s.
From its inception until 2014, the parade was based in the Melbourne city centre, usually proceeding 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 featured the players from the competing sides. The players have in the past appeared on parade floats; in recent times it has become a motorcade of open-top vehicles (weather permitting).
When the Friday of the parade was declared a public holiday in Victoria in 2015, the AFL determined that the traditional city route no longer made sense with most office buildings set to be vacant. The new route will begin at the Old Treasury Building, head south down Spring St, east along Wellington Parade, and end within Yarra Park outside the MCG.
Since 2007, the parades have generally attracted in excess of 100,000 fans each year (except in inclement weather). Crowds have historically been smaller in years when no Victorian clubs contested the grand final – such as between 2004 and 2006, when crowds ranged only from 40,000 to 75,000. A record crowd of 150,000 people attended the first public holiday parade in 2015.
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.
The 2012 AFL Grand Final and 2013 AFL Grand Final, in addition to having pre-match entertainment, also included half-time and post-match entertainment. The post-match entertainment that follows the grand final takes place after the presentations and player celebrations have concluded, and unlike the main match, is free and open to the general public, with anybody invited to attend, regardless of whether they attended the match or not. As of 2012, the half-time and post-match shows are sponsored by Virgin Australia, with the half-time show known as the Virgin Australia Half-Time Show and the post-match shown named the Virgin Australia Premiership Party as a result. In 2012, the half-time and post-match entertainment was provided by Paul Kelly and The Temper Trap, while in 2013, this consisted of Hunters and Collectors and Birds of Tokyo.
Half-time entertainment was absent from the 2014 AFL Grand Final, with the entertainment occurring pre-match. However, it retained the post-match entertainment concert, which featured Tom Jones and Ed Sheeran. This was repeated again for the 2015 AFL Grand Final, with Ellie Goulding and Bryan Adams providing both pre-match and post-match entertainment, and Chris Isaak providing pre-match entertainment alone.
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 100 m 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, 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; however this was not used in the 2014 Grand Final.
The grand final has always been played in Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon, and all but nine have been played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The venues used on the other nine occasions were:St Kilda Cricket Ground – 1898, 1899 and 1944 (due to the MCG housing US troops during World War II)
East Melbourne Cricket Ground – 1900
South Melbourne Cricket Ground – 1901
Princes Park – 1942, 1943 and 1945 (due to the MCG housing US troops during World War II)
Waverley Park – 1991 (due to construction work on the Great Southern Stand at the MCG)
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 last Saturday in September each year and is often referred to in popular Australian culture as the "One day in September"; however, 24 Grand Finals have been played in October (most recently in 2016), and 10 Grand Finals have been played on another Saturday in September (most recently in 2000 to avoid a clash with the Sydney Olympics).
In 2015, the Friday before the grand final became a gazetted public holiday in Victoria, following an election promise by the incoming state government, under the premiership of Daniel Andrews.
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 as 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.
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.
The coach of the winning team receives the Jock McHale Medal, named in honour of Collingwood coach Jock McHale who holds the record of winning eight premierships as coach. The medal was first awarded in 2001, and was retrospectively awarded to all premiership-winning coaches starting from 1950, the first season after McHale's retirement from coaching.
The leading goalkicker or goalkickers in the grand final receive the Jack Collins Medal, named after Jack Collins who kicked seven goals in Footscray's grand final victory in 1954. The award was first presented by the AFL Premiership Players' Club in 2010, and was also awarded retrospectively to leading goalkickers from previous grand finals.
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.
NOTE: OzTAM figures for five-city metropolitan audience (SYD-MEL-BRI-ADE-PER), does not include regional viewers
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.
The AFL Grand Final is televised into many countries and grand final parties are held around the world. The following are television details for the 2009 AFL Grand Final.Papua New Guinea – EM TV, Australia Plus (live)
New Zealand – Sky Sport (live) and Freeview (live)
Asia-Pacific – Australia Plus (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 Plus and Showtime Arabia (ShowSports) (live)
Israel – Fox Sports Israel (live)
United States – ESPN3.com and ESPN2 (live), MHz Worldview (delayed).
Canada – TSN (live).
United Kingdom and Ireland – ESPN UK (live)
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)