Australian Football League


Australian Football League

Infobox sports league
name=Australian Football League
current_season=
logo=Australian Football League.pngpixels=150px
sport=Australian rules football
founded=1897
ceo=Andrew Demetriou
teams=16
country=AUS
champion=Hawthorn Hawks
most_champs=Carlton Blues and Essendon Bombers (16)
TV= Seven Network, Network Ten, Fox Sports
website= [http://www.afl.com.au AFL.com.au]

The Australian Football League (AFL) is both the professional Australian national competition in the sport of Australian Rules Football and its highest governing body.

The league comprises sixteen teams which play against each other in 22 home and away rounds between late March and late August or early September. This is followed by a four-week finals series which culminates in two teams playing off for the Premiership in the AFL Grand Final.

The organisation which became the Australian Football League was formed in 1897 when eight teams from the Victorian Football Association (VFA, established 1877) broke away to begin the Victorian Football League (VFL). By 1925 the league had expanded to twelve teams (all based in Victoria), a configuration that remained stable until 1982 when the league commenced its expansion towards a national competition by relocating a team from Melbourne to Sydney, New South Wales. Since then five additional teams from Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia have joined the league.

The league was officially renamed the "Australian Football League" in 1990 to reflect the sport's official name of "Australian Football" and the league's new national perspectivecite book|last=Linnell|first=Garry|title=Football Ltd|publisher=Pan Macmillan Australia|location=Sydney|date=1995|pages=p297|isbn=0-330-35665-8] and today has teams based in five of the six Australian states - with matches played in all states and territories of Australia.

The AFL has gained considerable media and financial strength, as well as control over the game at most levels through the AFL Commission. It is now responsible for the rules of Australian Football through the AFL Rules Committee (consisting of members from the AFL Players Association). The AFL also became the "de facto" world governing body in 2002. Since 2000, through the commission, the AFL has pushed for all affiliated leagues and bodies to co-brand with the league as well as refer to the sport as "AFL" in preference to its official name of "Australian Football".

The AFL is the most attended professional sporting league in Australia; it is the most popular sport competition in terms of attendances and TV ratings of the nation. [ [http://news.theage.com.au/v8-supercars-a-tv-ratings-winner/20080205-1qb7.html V8 Supercars a TV ratings winner] ] The previous three AFL Premiership Seasons have each had a total home and away season attendance of over six million (currently the 10th most attended professional sports league in the world) with an average attendance of over 36,000. The AFL is the dominant league in television, print, and radio news in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania. [http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/football/ Football in Australia] ] In addition, Australian rules football is the most participated football code in these states and territories. [ [http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&41770_1999-2000.pdf&4177.0&Publication&457EBA78D2392F36CA25698200013B7F&0&1999-2000&24.10.2000 4177.0 - Participation in Sport and Physical Activities, Australia, 1999-2000] ; Australian Bureau of Statistics; p10-14] Despite the traditional popularity of rugby league in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, the popularity of the AFL and participation in Australian rules football is increasing. [ [http://www.afl.com.au/Portals/0/afl_docs/afl_hq/annual_reports/2007/GameDevelopment.pdf Record Community Growth] ; AFL Annual Report 2007]

Clubs

Since 1997 the AFL has consisted of nine clubs based in Melbourne, Victoria, one in Geelong, Victoria, two teams based in Adelaide, South Australia, two Western Australian teams and one each in Sydney, New South Wales and Brisbane, Queensland. The league operates on a single group system, with no divisions, conferences nor relegation and promotion from other leagues.

Many of the current AFL teams date back to the beginnings of the sport of Australian rules football, including the very first club, Melbourne Football Club (1858), a foundation VFL/AFL club whose founders also first codified the sport in 1859. The Victorian Football League, commonly known as the VFL, started in 1897 with eight teams from the Victorian Football Association (VFA): Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, South Melbourne, and St Kilda. Richmond and University entered in 1908, but University disbanded in 1915. In 1925, Footscray (later known as the Western Bulldogs), Hawthorn and North Melbourne entered the competition. It remained in this 12-team single-state configuration until 1982 when South Melbourne relocated to Sydney, New South Wales to become the Sydney Swans.

The next phase of national expansion occurred in 1987, with the introduction of the West Coast Eagles from Western Australia and the Brisbane Bears from Queensland.

The league was renamed the Australian Football League in 1990 to reflect the expanded nature of the competition.

South Australia was first represented in 1991 when the Adelaide Crows joined the league. The Fremantle Football Club joined as the second WA team in 1995. After the 1996 season the Brisbane Bears merged with Fitzroy, creating the Brisbane Lions in 1996 and the Port Adelaide Football Club joined to maintain the league at 16 teams.

Present teams


In recent years, teams based in the state of Victoria, Australia have played games in other states. Recently, this has included Hawthorn which plays home games in Launceston, Tasmania - St. Kilda which has played home games at Aurora Stadium in Launceston, Tasmania in the recent past - North Melbourne which has played games at Manuka Oval in Canberra, and Carrara Oval on the Gold Coast - the Western Bulldogs which has played games at Manuka and at Marrara Oval in Darwin, Northern Territory and at the Sydney Cricket Ground - and Melbourne which has played games at Carrara Oval and The Gabba in Queensland.

There are a number of new stadiums proposed to accommodate AFL matches at various stages of planning. The West Australian State Government have announced plans for an all new, multi purpose stadium to be built more or less on the site of the current Subiaco Stadium. The AFL is currently exploring stadium requirements for the new Gold Coast team which is anticipated to enter the competition in 2011, with options including a redevelopment of the Gold Coast (Cararra) Stadium of the development of a purpose built stadium on a new site. In addition, the AFL has recently revealed that it is exploring opportunities for a purpose built 'boutique' stadium for Melbourne, to accommodate matches featuring Melbourne clubs which are unlikely to draw attendances which warrant the use of the larger Melbourne stadiums at Docklands and the MCG. The new Gold Coast and Melbourne stadiums would be anticipated to be roughly based on Kardinia Park in Geelong, with modern facilities and a capacity of around 30,000

Playing lists

The AFL has tight controls over the player lists of each club. Each club can have a senior list of 38 players plus up to six rookie or veteran players. From 2006, up to two international rookies are also permitted. Clubs can only trade players during a "trade week" at the end of each season and can only recruit new players through the AFL Draft. The rules for the draft have changed every few years since it was introduced in 1986, but the basic philosophy remains in that players are selected by clubs in the reverse of the order of their positions on the ladder at the end of the preceding season. That is, the club that finished last has first draft selection, then the club that finished second last. However, this philosophy has been compromised by giving priority picks to clubs which win fewer than four matches during the season and by allowing clubs to select sons of former players under a "father - son rule" which itself has been varied over the years.

A salary cap (known as the Total Player Payments or TPP) is also in place as part of the league's equalisation policy.

In 2007, this is AUD$7 million per club. Salaries of draft selections are fixed for two years. Salaries for senior players are not normally released to the public, although the average is estimated at over A$200,000 [ [http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,19028426-23211,00.html NSW Game Plan] ] and the top few players can expect to earn up to AUD$800,000 a year. [ [http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,21424440-23211,00.html?from=news Massive pay hike] ]

Infringements by clubs in relation to exceeding the TPP, not informing the AFL of payments or draft tampering are severe and can include large fines, loss of premiership points and exclusion from the AFL draft. However, the AFL has not yet penalised clubs premiership points for a breach of the salary cap, though it has fined the Carlton Football Club in 2002 $987,000 for breaching the salary cap.

AFL players by state/territory/nation

The following is the origin of 2007 AFL listed player based on player's nominated junior clubs. [ [http://www.theage.com.au/flash/aflhotspots/start.html www.theage.com.au] ] [ [http://afl.com.au/Season2007/News/NewsArticle/tabid/208/Default.aspx?newsId=44779 afl.com.au] ]

* Victoria (309)
* South Australia (198)
* Western Australia (124)
* Queensland (48)
* New South Wales (33)
* Northern Territory (24)
* Tasmania (21)
* Australian Capital Territory (3)
* Ireland (5)fn|1

fnb|1 Note that players from Ireland were all converts from other sports.

Indigenous players in the AFL

In 2008, there is a total of 73 players of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent on AFL club playing lists, comprising approximately 11% of the overall playing list. [cite web
url = http://www.aboriginalfootball.com.au/afl08.html
title = AFL Current Players and Game Totals (2008)
publisher = AboriginalFootball.com.au
accessdate = 2008-03-23
] This compares with the 2.3% of the Australian population who identified themselves as Indigenous in the 2006 census. [Census 2006 AUS|id=0|name=Australia|quick=on|accessdate = 2007-11-09]

Recruitment from Ireland

Recruitment from the ranks of Gaelic Football in Ireland has increased substantially recently. This has caused much concern in the still-amateur GAA and throughout the sport in Ireland. The prospect of two new AFL clubs in the coming years has excerbated this tension.

This concern was aggravated recently when player agent and former AFL player Ricky Nikon announced a trial is to be held in Ireland in August 2008 for young Irish Gaelic footballers.

This issue is seen as a factor influencing the GAA's move to recommence the International Rules series between the two countries as stronger formal links between the associations would make managing the flow of players easier.

eason structure

AFL Premiership season

The "Toyota AFL Premiership Season", contested between the 16 teams from around Australia, lasts for 22 rounds and begins in late March. The McClelland Trophy is awarded to the team that finishes the home and away rounds in first position (the minor premiership).At the end of the 22 rounds, the top eight teams compete in the four-week "AFL Finals Series". In the first week the top four teams play in Qualifying Finals (1st vs 4th & 2nd vs 3rd), the two winning Qualifying Final teams progress directly into a Preliminary Final in the third week, with the other four teams playing in Elimination Finals (5th vs 8th & 6th vs 7th). In the second week the two losing teams from the Qualifying Finals play the two winning teams from the Elimination Finals in the Semi Finals. The winners of the Qualifying Finals play the winners of the Semi Finals in the preliminary finals. The two winning Preliminary Final teams play in the Grand Final in the fourth week of the finals.

The Premiership winning team is the team that wins the Grand Final. The winning team receives a Premiership Cup - there is a new one manufactured every year which the winning team gets to keep with the year engraved on it, Premiership Medallions and a Premiership Flag.The Premiership Flag is a giant triangular flag which is blue with a white border, has the AFL logo on it and the word PREMIERS and the YEAR - there is a new one manufactured every year which the winning team gets to keep. It is tradition to unfurl it at the first home game of the season the following year in front of the home supporters.

The Grand Final is traditionally played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne on the last Saturday in September. Recent exceptions to this practice were in 1991 when the MCG was being redeveloped and the Grand Final was played at Waverley Park, and in 2000 when the Grand Final was played in early September as the Sydney Olympics started on 15 September.

The Premiership Cup

A trophy cup, known as the Premiership Cup, and a Premiership Flag are awarded to the winner of the AFL Grand Final. In addition, each player receives a premiership medallion.

The 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 [http://www.jjcash.com.au/ Cash's International] at their metalworks in Frankston, Victoria. The cup was first introduced in 1959 by the VFL, and before this, the reward was a pennant known by supporters simply as "The Flag". 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.

Themed rounds and special matches

Themed rounds have become immensely popular. There are themes such as Rivalry Round (in which traditional rivals are matched up against each other), Women's Round and Heritage Round (where teams play in old style guernseys). Some matches are also themed for special events. For example, each year Collingwood play Essendon in the annual ANZAC Day match at the MCG and the game will typically sell-out regardless of the positions of the two teams on the ladder. Another annual match is the Queen's Birthday game between Melbourne and Collingwood. As of 2006, Richmond and Essendon play in the "Dreamtime at the 'G" match. There are separate trophies for the matches between several clubs and former rivalries such as the Lake Trophy between St Kilda and Sydney Swans.

Pre-season Cup

The Pre-season Cup competition is a tournament played and completed prior to the commencement of the Premiership season.

The series is played before the premiership season and on all bar one occasion (1997), the final was played at Waverley Park until the ground was sold by the league in 1999 (although a number of the lead-up matches of the 2000 series were played at the ground). The 2000 competition decider was held at the MCG. Since 2001, all bar three finals have been played at Telstra Dome, with the 2001, 2006 and 2008 deciders held at AAMI Stadium.

The player adjudged best on the ground in the final is awarded the Michael Tuck Medal, in honour of the footballer who has played more league matches than any other (426).

The Pre-season Cup competition is currently a four round format with a round of 16, quarter finals, semi finals and final. Teams that win move through to the next round, losing teams are eliminated.

History

Competition timeline

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Before the VFL

Australian rules football dates back to 1858, when Tom Wills began to devise the rules of the code. Melbourne Football Club was formed 14 May 1859. On 17 May 1859, at the Parade Hotel in East Melbourne, Wills, W.J. Hammersley and J.B. Thompson wrote the first set of written rules for Australian rules football. By 1866, several other clubs had also adopted an updated version of Melbourne's rules. In 1877, the amateur Victorian Football Association was established.

VFL begins

The Victorian Football League was established in 1896 when several clubs broke away from the Victorian Football Association which was the first Australian rules competition in Victoria, second in the country after the South Australian Football Association. The first games were played in 1897 between the foundation clubs – Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, St Kilda and South Melbourne. Essendon won the first VFL premiership.

Although the Victorian Football League and the Victorian Football Association continued to compete for spectator interest for many years, the VFL quickly established itself as the premier competition in Victoria. In the early years Fitzroy and Collingwood were the dominant teams, but by the mid-1900s Carlton began a dominating period of three successive flags from 1906 to 1908. Essendon under Jack Worrall - the first great coach - won a most convincing victory in 1911 with ten straight wins and surprisingly defended their flag in 1912 after being erratic during the home-and-away rounds.

In 1908, Richmond and University joined the VFL. Richmond eventually succeeded after a slow start, but University, after three promising seasons, won only one of its last seventy matches and its already thin ranks were so depleted it disbanded at the end of 1914.

More information on how war affected the VFL see: The VFL during the World Wars.

Between the World Wars

Richmond won its first premierships in 1920 and 1921 but Essendon - battlers since their 1912 flag - took over as the dominant team between 1922 and 1926. In 1924 the VFL inaugurated the Brownlow Medal for the player who received the most votes from the umpires for the Best and Fairest player.

In 1925, Footscray (now the Western Bulldogs), Hawthorn and North Melbourne joined the VFL. The conditions attached to joining the League for new clubs were particularly tough, especially the conditions put on North Melbourne who were forced to give up their entire playing zone to Essendon. As a result North along with Hawthorn who remained "chopping blocks" for a very long period. North Melbourne were not to win more than eight games in a season until 1944 and Hawthorn only once won more than seven until 1954. Between them, Hawthorn and North Melbourne finished in last place fifteen of the twenty-nine years from their admittance until 1953 - by which time however North had become a powerful side and finished in the first two on the ladder in 1949 and 1950. In all but two of the fifteen seasons between 1941 and 1955 either Hawthorn or St. Kilda finished last. Footscray adapted to the VFL with the most ease of the three clubs and by 1928 were well off the bottom of the ladder.

Between the years of 1927 and 1930, Collingwood FC became the first and so far, the only, team to win four successive premierships and finish a season without losing (or drawing) a game. This team became known as "the machine" because of the organised and consistent way it played. During this period of success Collingwood became the greatest club in the nation, possessing the largest and fiercest supporter base drawn originally from working class districts in inner Melbourne. With premiership victories in 1935 and 1936 the Collingwood Football Club had already won 11 premierships, and remained the most successful premiership club until Carlton began to lead the premiership tally in 1982.

In the 1930s, Richmond and South Melbourne rivaled Collingwood as the best team, with Richmond's brilliant defence destroying South's powerful attack in the 1934 Grand Final. Melbourne, which had won the premiership in 1926 but fallen off sharply, developed a powerful attacking side that swept all before it between 1939 and 1941 to win three successive flags; however Essendon, after years in the wilderness from 1927 to 1939, enjoyed a dominant period with nine grand final appearances between 1941 and 1951.

1950s

In 1952, the VFL hosted ‘National Day’, when all 6 matches were played outside of Melbourne. Matches were played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Brisbane Exhibition Ground, North Hobart Oval, Albury Sports Ground and Victorian country towns Yallourn and Euroa.

In 1959, the VFL planned the first purpose built mega-stadium, Waverley Park, to give it some independence from the Melbourne Cricket Club which managed the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australian rules' spiritual home. Waverley Park was planned to hold 167,000 spectators (thus making it one of the largest stadiums in the world). Land for the stadium was purchased at Mulgrave, in those days just farmland, but one day predicted to be near demographic centre of Melbourne's population.

Geelong was the stand out team at the beginning of the 1950s, winning the premiership in 1951 then setting a record of 23 consecutive wins starting in Round 12, 1952 and ending in Round 13, 1953. This streak included the 1952 premiership.

After Footscray won its first premiership in 1954 by defeating Melbourne, Melbourne became a powerhouse, winning five premierships between 1955 and 1960, including three in a row between 1955 and 1957. In 1958 Collingwood famously defeated Melbourne in the Grand Final, thereby preventing Melbourne from equalling Collingwood's record of four successive premierships.

Television coverage began in 1957, with direct telecasts of the final quarter permitted. At first, several channels competed through broadcasting different games. However, when the VFL found that television was reducing crowds, it decided that no coverage was to be allowed for 1960. In 1961, the modern system of replays was introduced and only very rarely have direct telecasts been permitted since.

1960s

In the 1960s, television began to have a huge impact, which continues unabated to this day. Spectators hurried home from games to watch replays and many former players took up positions as commentators on pre-game preview programs and post-game review programs. There were also several attempts at variety programs featuring VFL players, who generally succeeded in demonstrating that their skills were limited to the football ground.

The VFL played the first of a series of exhibition matches in 1962 in an effort to lift the international profile of the league.

Hawthorn won its first ever Grand Final in 1961, beating Footscray. Melbourne's period of success ended with its premiership win in 1964 over Collingwood, after which Carlton famously recruited Melbourne's champion player Ron Barassi as its captain-coach. St Kilda won its first Grand Final by one point over Collingwood in 1966, and after many years in the doldrums, Richmond won the Grand Final in 1967, starting a revival which lasted until the early 1980s. Under Barassi's leadership, Carlton won the premiership in 1968, its first since 1947. On the whole, though, Essendon and Geelong were the best teams during the 1960s, even though they only won three of the ten premierships.

With the number of players recruited from country leagues increasing, the wealthier clubs were gaining an advantage that metropolitan zoning and the Coulter law restricting player payments had prevented in the past. Country zoning was introduced in the late 1960s, and whilst it pushed Essendon and Geelong from the top of the ladder, it created severe inequality during the 1970s and 1980s. Only six teams made the grand final between 1972 and 1987, as against nine between 1961 and 1967.

1970s

The 1970s saw the opening of Waverley Park, with the inaugural match being played between Geelong and Fitzroy, on 18 April 1970. Construction work was carried out at the stadium as the 1970s progressed, culminating in the building of the now heritage listed Sir Kenneth Luke stand. The Queen of England, Elizabeth the second was a guest at the game and officially opened the stadium to the public.

The 1970s were memorable for being a decade of dominance for North Melbourne, where they played in 6 consecutive Grand Finals from 1974-1978.

The decade began with the Grand Final between Carlton and Collingwood attracting a record crowd for a football game in Australia of 121,696. This game also saw the greatest comeback in Grand Final history when after trailing by 44 points at half time, Carlton managed to win by 10 points. Alex Jesaulenko took one of the most memorable marks in the sport's history during this game.

Hawthorn defeated St. Kilda in the Grand Final in 1971, beginning a long period of success that lasted into the early 1990s. The match was notable for Peter Hudson's famed attempt at breaking Bob Pratt's long held record of 150 goals in a season. Hudson kicked three goals in the match, equalling Pratt's season tally.

North Melbourne won its first ever premiership in 1975, then won again in 1977 in the Grand Final replay, following the second ever drawn Grand Final, against Collingwood. 1977 also saw the commencement of State of Origin representative matches, where players were only able to represent the state of their birth, as opposed to representing the state in which they were currently playing.

The 1979 VFL Grand Final is remembered for a controversial goal that sealed the Premiership for Carlton. After leading by 28 points during the second quarter, Collingwood had fallen behind by 21 points before mounting a late comeback. They were trailing by four points in the dying stages of the match when Carlton's Wayne Harmes miskicked, chased the ball towards the boundary line and knocked it to his team mate Ken Sheldon who kicked a goal to give Carlton a 10-point lead. Their eventual winning margin was just five points. Although Harmes won the inaugural Norm Smith Medal for the best player in the Grand Final, he is best-remembered for this incident as Collingwood supporters still claim that the ball had crossed the boundary line before Harmes knocked it to Sheldon.

Many rule changes were made during the decade in efforts to increase the attractiveness of the game:
* A "final five" system was introduced in 1972. The Grand Final was the highest scoring Grand Final in history, accumulating a total of 327 points with Carlton defeating Richmond by 27 points.
* The centre diamond and a limit of four players per team at the centre bounce were introduced in 1973. The diamond was changed to the square in 1975.
* The two-umpire system was introduced in 1976.
* In 1978 the interchange law was introduced, to allow players to be able to be interchanged at any time (like basketball), rather than a one-off replacement (as in soccer).

1980s - national expansion

At the time, there was no national league for Australian rules that incorporated interstate clubs. The VFL was the most popular and dominant league around the country in terms of overall attendance and interest and began expanding its influence into other states. In 1980, the match of the day was broadcast on television. Interest around the country followed, and new sides from other capitals (many with their own local leagues) soon expressed interest in new licences.

In 1982, South Melbourne relocated to Sydney to become the Sydney Swans. The West Australian Football League and Queensland Australian Football League were awarded licences to join the VFL and the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears were formed. These expansion team licences were awarded on payment of multi-million dollar fees which were not required of the existing VFL clubs. The first National Draft was introduced in 1986. The West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears joined the league in 1987. The night premiership, the Panasonic Cup moved to the pre-season instead of mid-year.

In 1984, a revival of the International Rules representative series against Ireland occurred. In 1987, a salary cap was introduced. In 1988, the law changed to make players awarded free kicks be obliged to kick the ball, rather than handpass. This rule change was reversed in 1990.

Ross Oakley was appointed CEO of the VFL in 1986, and immediately set about plans for national expansion of the competition.

In 1989, the league began encouraging some of the fledgling Victorian clubs to merge or relocate interstate. Footscray and Fitzroy were almost forced into amalgamation, but a fundraising event from Footscray supporters stopped the proposed merger at the eleventh hour.

Collingwood played in its third successive Grand Final in 1981, yet didn't win any of them. This added to Collingwood's already infamous record in Grand Finals, signified by the term "the Colliwobbles" - after their Premiership triumph of 1958, Collingwood lost the next eight Grand Finals in which they played, often after seemingly having the match in their keeping. They also finished on top of the ladder twice after the regular season matches (in 1969 and 1973), only to experience a loss of form in the finals and miss the Grand Final altogether. "The Colliwobbles" was introduced after the 1970 Grand Final loss to Carlton.

A bitter rivalry between Essendon and Hawthorn emerged after competing in three consecutive Grand Finals between 1983 and 1985. Essendon's win in the 1984 marked the first time since 1966 that a team other than Richmond, Carlton, Hawthorn or North Melbourne had won the premiership. The dominance of these few clubs and mounting financial problems for several clubs resulted in the VFL adopting an equalisation policy, centred around the player draft and salary cap measures.

In 1988, Melbourne made its first appearance in a Grand Final since 1964, but it wasn't a memorable return to the big stage. Hawthorn crushed an underdog Melbourne side by 96 points, the then biggest Grand Final win in history, a record which stood until 2007.

In what many believe to be the finest VFL/AFL Grand Final of the modern era, Hawthorn overcame a strong challenge from Geelong in 1989. It was a physical game right from the start when Geelong's Mark Yeates ran through Dermott Brereton at the opening bounce, bruising Brereton's kidney and causing internal bleeding. In a courageous display, Brereton refused to leave the ground and marked and goaled several minutes later to stem Geelong's attempt to establish superiority. Later heavy clashes would see John Platten knocked out and Robert DiPierdomenico suffer broken ribs and a punctured lung. Despite a Grand Final record nine goals from Geelong's Gary Ablett, Hawthorn still went on to win by six points.

1990s - Australian Football League

To reflect the steps towards a national competition, the VFL was renamed as the "Australian Football League" in 1990. The VFL name disappeared until it was adopted by the AFL's state feeder competition which was the most recent incarnation of the former VFA.

Collingwood won the inaugural AFL premiership in 1990, ending a drought of near misses that had seen the club lose grand finals in 1960, 1964, 1966, 1970, 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1981. By 1990 Collingwood had played in 36 Grand Finals, just under 40% of all grand finals played.

1990 also saw the Port Adelaide Magpies make a bid for an AFL licence. In response, a team called the Adelaide Crows was formed which was awarded the licence and joined the league in 1991. That same year the Grand Final was played at Waverley Park for first and only time as the MCG underwent redevelopment. This game was also the first time that a team based outside the state of Victoria, Australia - West Coast Eagles - contested the Grand Final, only to be outclassed by a Hawthorn side coming to the end of their era of dominance.

With Adelaide bringing the number of teams to 15, the final six was introduced in 1991. In 1992, Waverley Park was renamed "AFL Park" and the West Coast Eagles became the first non-Victorian team to win a premiership, beating Geelong. 1992 was also the final year the Brisbane Bears called Carrara Stadium home, as they moved to the Brisbane Cricket Ground at Woolloongabba (commonly known as The 'Gabba) in time for the 1993 season.

In 1994, the Fremantle Football Club was formed in Western Australia to represent the strong history of Australian Football in Fremantle and played its first game in the AFL in 1995. That year, the first Western Derby was played between the two Western Australian based teams, beginning a fierce local rivalry with West Coast dominating until Fremantle broke the shackles in their 10th meeting in 1999. Carlton made the record books by winning its 16th premiership after 16 consecutive wins and only two losses for the entire season.

Some of the rule changes of the decade included:
* In 1994, a third field umpire was introduced.
* In 1994, the McIntyre Final Eight System system was introduced.
* A fourth interchange player was added for the 1998 season, increasing match day squads to 22 players.

In 1996, the VFL/AFL celebrated its centenary. One round of games featured a repeat of the games in Round 1, 1897, with players wearing replicas of the guernseys worn 100 years earlier. Late in the season, after it looked like the Fitzroy Lions would succumb to financial problems and merge with North Melbourne, the AFL dramatically announced that Brisbane Bears would merge with Fitzroy and play as the Brisbane Lions from 1997. [cite news|url=http://www.abr.business.gov.au/(z2yvqy2wuqpjll2idwocz5vz)/search.aspx?StartSearch=True&SearchText=43054263473|title=ABN lookup|publisher=Aust Govt|date=8 April 2007] North Melbourne recovered from being jilted, and became the only team to win the once-off gold premiership cup by defeating Sydney, which had not played in a Grand Final since 1945 (when they competed as South Melbourne).

Later in 1996, an attempt to merge Melbourne and Hawthorn to form the Melbourne Hawks made headlines, but failed to eventuate. Ross Oakley stepped down as the AFL's Chief Executive and was replaced by Wayne Jackson. The AFL also rejected bids from Queensland club Southport Sharks and the Tasmanian government to enter teams.

In 1997, the Port Adelaide Magpies were finally awarded a licence to join the AFL as the Port Adelaide Power, coinciding with the Brisbane/Fitzroy merger to keep the league a 16 team competition. The inaugural "Showdown" occurred in that year, with Port Adelaide causing an upset victory over Adelaide. who recovered from the shock and went on to win the first of two consecutive premierships and became the first side in history to win four finals in one series and win the premiership. St. Kilda, after finishing on top and winning the minor premiership were playing in their first Grand Final since 1971. Adelaide their opponent, went on to win the first of two consecutive premierships and became the first side in history to win four finals in one series and win the premiership.The Footscray Bulldogs were renamed the Western Bulldogs, in order to reflect the club's representation of Melbourne's western suburbs. 1997 was a year in which the perennial underdogs prospered. St Kilda, the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide all shot up the ladder, renewing the spirits of their clubs, and the competition.

Adelaide repeated its feats of a year before to win the premiership (after losing their first finals match to Melbourne), beating favourites North Melbourne. North had major goal scoring problems in the match and had a dismal second half. Andrew McLeod won his second Norm Smith Medal in two years, and the Adelaide Crows became the first team since Richmond in 1921 to turn their maiden Premiership into a double the following season. The International Rules series against the Gaelic Athletic Association was rekindled in 1998, after the series was erased from the league fixtures following 1990. Wayne Carey skippered one of the league's finest teams, including Nathan Buckley, Robert Harvey, Matthew Lloyd and Mark Ricciuto.

In 1999, the league sold Waverley Park stadium and used the funds in a joint venture to begin construction of a brand-new stadium situated at Melbourne's Docklands. The league announced the last AFL State of Origin match (with Victoria thumping South Australia on a wet day at the MCG), its intentions to instead to focus on the new national league. Finishing in sixth place at the end of the regular season, Carlton fought hard in the finals and recorded a remarkable one-point upset victory in the Preliminary Final against Essendon. In what was the final Grand Final of the 20th century, the Blues lined up against North Melbourne who the same year had renamed themselves as the "Kangaroos" in order to appeal to a national audience. A competitive game up to half time, the Roos, with thanks to Norm Smith Medallist Shannon Grant, ran away with the game and the premiership by 35 points.

2000s

The AFL logo was again changed in 2000, with a new look for the new millennium. The competition's two most bitter rivals, Collingwood and Carlton, signed off on the 1900s with the 'Millennium Match', played at the MCG on New Years Eve. As a spectacle, the runners up in the previous season's Grand Final flogged the 16th placed Magpies, with Brendan Fevola supplying Blues fans with a taste of things to come, booting 12 goals. The first indoor AFL match was held at Docklands Stadium, now Telstra Dome, in round one of 2000. In the first game at the new venue, Essendon crushed Port Adelaide by 94 points. It was a sign of things to come, as Essendon lost only one match for the entire season equaling Collingwood's team of 1929 (dubbed "The Machine"), and one of the highest percentages at 159.1%. They faced Melbourne in the Grand Final and belted them by 60 points. Skipper James Hird was awarded the Norm Smith Medal, capping off a fine season following three successive injury plagued campaigns; Matthew Lloyd took out the Coleman Medal after breaking the 100 goal barrier for the first time in his career, and Melbourne's previously unheralded Shane Woewodin was a surprise winner of the Brownlow Medal.

Season 2001 was the first of several seasons of dominance by the non-Victorian teams. The Brisbane Lions won the first of their historic three successive premierships, becoming the first team north of the Murray River to win a premiership, and non-Victorian team to win more than two on the trot. The changing of the guard from Essendon's dominance took place in a famed clash at the Gabba in round 10 with the Lions overcoming Kevin Sheedy's men by 28 points. It was the first of the Lions record 19 victories in succession. Port Adelaide, Hawthorn and Richmond all made significant inroads in 2001, the Hawks falling short by a mere nine points against Essendon in the Preliminary Final, Trent Croad's shot for goal in the dying minutes looked destined to put the Hawks into the decider, before it swung into the goalpost. Paul Barnard sealed the win, albeit an unconvincing one, with several Bombers heading into the Grand Final seven days later under injury clouds. After a closely contested first half, Brisbane streaked away in the third term to record a 26 point victory in the Grand Final, sparking jubilation from fans of Fitzroy and Brisbane Bears, who were finally brought together in arguably the spiritual completion of the 1996 merger. Rover Shaun Hart was awarded the Norm Smith Medal, Lion maverick Jason Akermanis took home the Brownlow Medal, whilst Lloyd was again the John Coleman Medallist, once more notching up his ton in the Qualifying Final, on this occasion against Richmond at the MCG. The season was also notable as it was the 45th and final season of the television broadcast rights remaining in the hands of Channel Seven, with Channels 9, 10 and pay-TV operator Foxtel granted the rights for 2002-2006.

The 2002 season was one of the closest on record, with a change in the status quo taking place. Hawthorn and Richmond both missed out on their share in the September action, and Collingwood finally emerged from a seven year exile from finals action. Carlton, too, suffered from winds of change, winning the first Wooden Spoon in the club's history, a season which terminated the coaching career of Wayne Brittain, John Elliot's ruling as president, and paved the way for Denis Pagan to leave the Kangaroos for Optus Oval. Brisbane, however, were at the peak of their powers, and along with Port Adelaide vied for top spot on the league table for much of the season, a battle resolved in the final round at AAMI Stadium, when Power onballer Roger James snapped the match winning goal with a minute remaining. The season began in a media frenzy, with North Melbourne captain, and arguably the greatest footballer of the 1990s, Wayne Carey, quitting the Kangaroos after an off field uproar. In the face of adversity, the Roos stuck tight, and the famed Shinboner Spirit continued to prosper, as veterans Anthony Stevens, Glenn Archer and David King helped propel their side back into the September action, only to have their year cut short by Melbourne in the Elimination Final, marking the end of John Blakey's career as a player, and Pagan's 10 year tenure at Arden Street. The brave young Magpies began the season in strong form, before striking an end of season slump, which saw them win only one of their final four matches of the premiership season. The form table was swung dramatically in the first week of the finals, as they shell-shocked Port Adelaide in foreign territory in South Australia in the Qualifying Final. The Magpies were superb early, and held off a late Power surge to secure a home Preliminary Final. The win was achieved sans hamstrung skipper Nathan Buckley, with Paul Licuria admirably filling his sizeable breach with a heroic 40 disposals. The Magpies had an unfortunate setback though, when courageous debutant Jason Cloke was suspended for two matches for a clumsy yet honest strike on Crow Tyson Edwards. He was to miss the biggest day of the year, in a cruel twist of fate for a youngster who had not missed a match since his debut in round two against the Eagles. The Grand Final was an absorbing contest from start to finish, with Brisbane finishing the day only nine points ahead of Collingwood on a sodden, overcast day. The final margin was the largest of the entire match, making it one of the closest Grand Finals in history. It was the little known Magpie second tier which caught the Lions off guard early, the experienced bodies of Glenn Freeborn, Rupert Betheras and Steve McKee, combined with the strong tackling of Scott Burns unsettling the normally unflappable Lions. Not to be outdone, Brisbane ruckman Clark Keating rose to the fore following an injury to teammate Beau McDonald, controlling the centre bounces, while Nigel Lappin and Alistair Lynch threatened all afternoon. However, the biggest battle was left to the two biggest names, opposing skippers Nathan Buckley and Michael Voss slugging it out for not only the Norm Smith Medal, but the flag itself. Although Buckley finished the day with the Norm Smith dangling around his neck, it was Voss who held the "Holy Grail" aloft at the days end.

Season 2003 was, to an extent, a continuation of the previous season, in terms of form, however it was also a year of transition, when Andrew Demetriou was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the league, with Wayne Jackson (1997-2003) stepping down from his role. The season saw one highly emotional moment on 6 June, when Jason McCartney returned to play for North Melbourne after suffering life-threatening burns in the 2002 Bali bombing; he retired immediately after the game was won against Richmond. The status quo remained at the top of the ladder, with Collingwood acting as the premiership favourite for much of the season, whilst Port Adelaide and Brisbane were snapping at their heels. At season's end, all six non-Victorian teams filled positions in the top eight, Collingwood (2nd) and Essendon (8th) the only teams from the "homeland" to keep a foothold in the helter-skelter of league football. The Magpies overcame their bogey side, the Lions, in a tense Qualifying Final, with thanks to Alan Didak's magical left foot goals late in the last quarter. Earning a two week break, the Magpies steamrolled the Power in the Preliminary Final to the tune of 44-points to book their second Grand Final in as many seasons, which was played against, once again, Brisbane. The Lions, after their defeat at the hands of the Magpies in the first week of the finals series, were forced to take the long road home, accounting for Adelaide on home soil before overrunning the Swans at Telstra Stadium. Sydney had earned their home Preliminary Final with their shock victory over Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium in the First Preliminary Final, a victory which ensured that the Power had much work to do to do away with their take as 'chokers'.Despite going in as favourites, and equipped with Brownlow Medallist Nathan Buckley, who shared it with Adelaide's Mark Ricciuto and Sydney's Adam Goodes, the Magpies Grand Final preparations were turned upside down by the suspension of their centre half forward, Anthony Rocca, who was booked and suspended for two weeks for striking Port's Brendon Lade the week prior. Collingwood appeared to be all at sea on the biggest day of the year, in contrast to their efforts of the previous title tilt, the experienced Brisbane flogged the Magpies, winning their third consecutive premiership by 50-points, a win highlighted by a Grand Final record 39 disposals from Simon Black, and five incredible goals from livewire Jason Akermanis. Brisbane became the first team since Melbourne in the 1950s to win three consecutive premierships.

The 2004 season was another dominated by the non-Victorian teams, so much so that it was the first Grand final in history not contested by a Victorian team. The Brisbane Lions were out to get their fourth consecutive premiership, however it was Port Adelaide that took home the cup. The Power overran the tiring Brisbane outfit ending its reign as kings of the AFL jungle.

2005 saw a very defensive style of play dominate and the longest premiership drought in history broken. It was the first time in 72 years, and the first time since the relocated from South Melbourne, that Sydney Swans took home the cup. In a tightly fought contest from start to finish, Sydney defeated the West Coast Eagles by four points, one of the lowest scoring Grand Finals in history and the closest final scores since 1966, made possible by a memorable mark from Swan's defender Leo Barry in the dying seconds that halted a late charge by the Eagles.

A series of new rule changes were introduced for the 2006 season intended to speed up the game, including allowing the ball to be brought back into play immediately after a point is scored (instead of waiting for goal umpires to wave their flag) and limiting the time allowed for players with a mark to kick for goal to 30 seconds. The Swans and Eagles had built a close rivalry with the Eagles beating the Swans during the season by only four points. In the first Qualifying final, Sydney took their revenge by earning a weeks rest by only one point. The Grand Final was another carbon copy, with the Swans and Eagles facing off again in the decider. This time it was the West Coast Eagles who triumphed by one point, exacting revenge on the Sydney Swans also for the 2005 Grand Final defeat.

In 2007, the Geelong Cats had one of the most dominating seasons in the competition's history. After finishing the home and away season three games clear in first place, winning 19 of the last 20 matches including 15 in a row, having a record nine All-Australian players and winning most of the individual awards including the Brownlow Medal, AFL Rising Star, Leigh Matthews Trophy and the J. J. Liston Trophy (VFL B&F), they competed the finals series with only one close match against collingwood in a preliminary final. After doing away with an unexpected Kangaroos outfit in the first week, whom had been plagued with board instability and pressure to relocate to the Gold Coast, the Cats faced up against Collingwood two weeks later in the preliminary for a close fought match. The Magpies made it only by beating the Eagles in Perth the week before in extra time. The Grand Final then saw Geelong end their 44 year premiership drought with a record breaking 119 point victory over Port Adelaide with Steve Johnson winning the Norm Smith Medal. [Witham, Jennifer; [http://www.afl.com.au/Season2007/News/NewsArticle/tabid/208/Default.aspx?newsId=51933 Drought over: Cats win by massive 119 points] ; AFL.com.au;29 September 2007]

In 2008, the Geelong Cats again dominated the league, only losing one match in the entire home and away season. The whole home and away season was really only a contest between the top three teams, Geelong Cats, the Hawthorn Hawks and the Western Bulldogs. At the end of the 22-game-long season, the Cats were at the top of the ladder by four games over Hawthorn, who were a further game and a half ahead of the Western Bulldogs. Fourth to eight spot was undecided up to the last round, and fourth spot was up in the air as late as the last game of the round, and was finally taken by St Kilda. Fifth was the Adelaide Crows, sixth was the Sydney Swans, seventh was North Melbourne, having been fourth at the start of the round but lost to 13th placed Port Adelaide Power, sending them to seventh, and eighth was the Collingwood Magpies, who were fifth at the start of the round but lost to the 14th placed Fremantle Dockers, which dropped them to eighth place.

The first week of the 2008 finals went largely as expected, as Geelong defeated St Kilda by 58 points, Hawthorn defeated the Western Bulldogs by 51 points and Sydney defeated North Melbourne by 35 points. But the upset of the week went to the eighth placed Collingwood as they defeated fifth placed Adelaide by 31 points. In the second week of the finals, the Western Bulldogs defeated Sydney by 37 points, and St Kilda defeated Collingwood by 34 points. The third week saw Geelong defeat the Western Bulldogs by 29 points, and Hawthorn defeat St Kilda by 54 points. In what was probably the upset of the season, Hawthorn defeated Geelong (who had previously only lost one match in the whole season) by 26 points in the Grand Final to win the AFL Premiership, with Luke Hodge of Hawthorn winning the Norm Smith Medal for best on ground.

Future

In December 2007, the Kangaroos declined an AFL offer of subsidies to relocate to Queensland. The AFL then announced that the league would begin work on a 17th club, to open in Queensland (most likely based at Carrara Stadium with some home games at the Gabba) in 2010 or 2011, however the AFL signed an agreement with the Gabba and the Queensland state government stating when the Gabba's capacity was increased that any new Queensland based club must be based there.

In February 2008 the AFL announced plans to increase the competition to 18 clubs by 2012 with one team on the Gold Coast and one in Sydney's west, both areas with established National Rugby League teams are located and where rugby league is the most popular sport. [http://www.realfooty.com.au/articles/2008/02/18/1203190740417.html AFL expansion: 18's enough?] ] However, Tasmania has launched a bid for one of the two licenses on offer. [http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,23987957-23211,00.html FOX Sports: Tassie edge closer to AFL licence] , foxsports.com.au, 9 July 2008]

Individual awards

Major annual awards

* Brownlow Medal
* Coleman Medal
* AFL Rising Star
* Leigh Matthews Trophy
* AFLPA Awards
* Norm Smith Medal
* Jock McHale Medal
* Michael Tuck Medal
* AFL Mark of the Year
* AFL Goal of the Year
* AFL Army Award
* All Australian Team
* Club Best and Fairest Awards

Team of the Century

To celebrate the 100th season of the AFL, the "AFL Team of the Century" was named in 1996.

Aussie rules team | title = AFL Team of the Century
backpocket1 = Bernie Smith (Geelong)
fullback = Stephen Silvagni (Carlton)
backpocket2 = John Nicholls (Carlton)
halfbackflank1 = Bruce Doull (Carlton)
centrehalfback = Ted Whitten (Footscray); Captain
halfbackflank2 = Kevin Murray (Fitzroy)
wing1 = Francis Bourke (Richmond)
centre = Ian Stewart (St Kilda/Richmond)
wing2 = Keith Greig (North Melbourne)
halfforwardflank1 = Alex Jesaulenko (Carlton/St Kilda)
centrehalfforward = Royce Hart (Richmond)
halfforwardflank2 = Dick Reynolds (Essendon)
forwardpocket1 = Leigh Matthews (Hawthorn)
fullforward = John Coleman (Essendon)
forwardpocket2 = Haydn Bunton, Sr. (Fitzroy)
ruck = Graham Farmer (Geelong)
ruckrover = Ron Barassi (Melbourne/Carlton)
rover = Bob Skilton (South Melbourne)
interchange1 = Gary Ablett, Sr. (Hawthorn/Geelong)
interchange2 = Jack Dyer (Richmond)
interchange3 = Greg Williams (Geelong/Sydney/Carlton)
interchange4 =
interchange5 =
interchange6 =
coach = Norm Smith(coached Fitzroy / Melbourne / South Melbourne)

Jack Elder was declared the "Umpire of the Century" to coincide with the Team of the Century. Since the naming of this side, most AFL clubs have nominated their own teams of the century. An Indigenous Team of the Century was also selected in 2005, featuring the best Aboriginal players of the previous 100 years from both the VFL/AFL and other state leagues.

VFL/AFL records

* Highest winning margin in a grand final
119 points - Geelong 24.19 (163) def Port Adelaide 6.8 (44) MCG, 27 September 2007
* Highest score
Geelong 37.17 (239) def Brisbane Bears 11.9 (75)
Carrara Oval, 3 May 1992
* Highest winning margin
190 points - Fitzroy 36.22 (238) def Melbourne 6.12 (48)
Waverley Park, 28 July 1979
* Highest aggregate score
52.33 (345) - Melbourne 21.15 (141) wdb St Kilda 31.18 (204)
MCG, 6 May 1978
* Highest score in one quarter
South Melbourne - 17.4 (106) vs. St Kilda 0.0 (0) in 4th quarter
Lake Oval, 26 July 1919
* Largest crowd
Carlton v Collingwood - 121,696
MCG, 26 September 1970 (Grand Final)
* Largest Home & Away Season crowd
Melbourne v Collingwood - 99,346
MCG, 1958
* Largest crowd for a game between a Victorian and non-Victorian club
St Kilda Saints v Adelaide Crows - 98,828
MCG, 27 September 1997 (Grand Final)
* Largest crowd for a game between non-Victorian clubs
West Coast Eagles v Sydney Swans - 97,431
MCG, 30 September 2006 (Grand Final)
* Largest International crowd
Melbourne v Sydney - 32,789
B.C. Place, Vancouver, Canada, 1987
* Most premierships
Carlton 16, most recent 1995, Essendon 16, most recent 2000
* Most last placed finishes at the end of the Home and Away Season
St Kilda - 27
* Most consecutive premierships
Collingwood - 4
1927-1930
* Most games won in a season
Essendon - 24 (incl. finals)
2000
* Most consecutive Grand Final appearances
Melbourne (7 between 1954 and 1960) and Hawthorn (7 between 1983 and 1989)
* Most consecutive Finals appearances
Hawthorn (13 between 1982 and 1994)
* Most consecutive Preliminary Finals appearances
North Melbourne (8 between 1993 and 2000)
* Most consecutive wins
Geelong - 23
1952-1953
* Most consecutive games unbeaten
Geelong - 26
1952-1953
* Most consecutive losses
University - 51 (1911-1914)
* Most games played in a career
Michael Tuck (Hawthorn) - 426 games
* Most games as club captain
Stephen Kernahan (Carlton) - 226 games
* Most goals in a career
Tony Lockett (St Kilda/Sydney) - 1,360 goals
* Most goals in a game
Fred Fanning (Melbourne) - 18 goals
* Most goals in a season
Bob Pratt (South Melbourne, 1934) and Peter Hudson (Hawthorn, 1971) - 150 goals
* Most consecutive matches
Jim Stynes (Melbourne) - 244
* Most consecutive matches from debut
Jared Crouch (Sydney) - 194 (Ended Rd 13, 2006 due to shoulder injury)
* Tallest player
Aaron Sandilands (Fremantle), Peter Street (Western Bulldogs) - 211cm
* Shortest player
James "Nipper" Bradford (Kangaroos/Collingwood) - 154cm
* Heaviest player
Aaron Sandilands (Fremantle) - 124 kg
* Longest kick
Albert Thurgood (Essendon) - 98.48m (109 yards, 1 foot, 3.2 inches)
* Heaviest Suspension
Doug Fraser and Alex Lang (Carlton) - 99 matches (bribery) from 1910-1915 (John Bourke of Collingwood was suspended for 10 years plus 16 matches (numerous offences) in the reserves competition from 1985-1996)
* Heaviest fine imposed on club
AUD$987,000 imposed on Carlton F.C. 2002 (gross salary cap breaches)
* Heaviest fine imposed on player
AUD$40,000 imposed on Simon Goodwin of Adelaide F.C. 2007 (gambling on AFL matches)

Representative football

International

Each year, the AFL's representative team plays the Gaelic Athletic Association in a compromise rules game - International rules football - as part of the International Rules Series. This has been called off for a while because of incidents in the last few series involving players.

tate

There is currently no official state representation for AFL players, but Interstate and State of Origin matches took place between 1879 and 1999. Despite calls for the return of the concept, [ [http://www.crikey.com.au/articles/2004/07/07-0005] dead link|date=September 2008] the popularity of the E. J. Whitten Legends charity event and the popularity of Rugby League State of Origin, a return of the representation series is an unpopular idea with the AFL clubs and ultimately unlikely as the competition becomes more national and the International Rules series continues. In recent years, the WAFC and SANFL have named symbolic State of Origin Teams of the Year, to publicly acknowledge the best AFL players from each state.

The AFL has confirmed that there will be a 2008 State of Origin style match to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the codification of Australian rules football. It will be a Victoria V. All-Stars match (rather than the much-hoped traditional format i.e. Vic, Sa, WA, Tasmania) at the MCG during the first bye weekend of season 2008. Victoria will be coached by Geelong's 2007 premiership coach Mark Thompson and captained by Brisbane Lions star forward Johnathan Brown, whilst the All-Stars will be coached by Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams and captained by Adelaide's creative midfielder Andrew McLeod. Each side will be composed of 25 players rather than the usual 22 with 18 players on the field (the same amount as a normal match) and 7 on the bench (up 3 from a normal match). The AFL have stated that the chances of this match being repeated in the future (past the 150 years celebration of the game in 2008) is minimal.

Administration

The AFL Commission is responsible for the administration of the AFL. It was established in December 1985 after club parochialism and self interest threatened to undermine the competition.

The Commission's chairman is Mike Fitzpatrick, a former Subiaco and Carlton player, and the Chief Executive is Andrew Demetriou. After playing for North Melbourne and Hawthorn, Demetriou had a successful business career before returning to the football world as chief executive of the AFL Players Association. He then crossed to the AFL as Manager of Football Operations before succeeding Wayne Jackson.

The Commission's composition remains almost exclusively Victorian based with one exception, Bob Hammond from South Australia.

In addition to administering the national competition, the AFL is heavily involved in promoting and developing the sport in Australia. It provides funds for local leagues and in conjunction with local clubs, administers the Auskick program for young boys and girls.

The AFL also plays a leading role in developing the game outside Australia, with projects to develop the game at junior level in other countries eg South Africa) and by supporting affiliated competitions around the world (See Australian football around the world).

The players of the AFL are represented by the AFL Players Association.

Audience

Attendance

The following are the most recent season attendances:

1 Finals total and Finals average include Grand Final crowds.
² Record.
³ Capacity reduced due to MCG refurbishment.

Television

Australian television

The official free-to-air television partners of the AFL are the Seven Network and Network Ten. They own the rights to all eight matches per round, but have on-sold four of those to pay-TV providers Foxtel and Austar, meaning only two are actually shown on each network. Fox Sports shows the other four matches exclusively live across Australia and replays for all eight matches.

In a complicated arrangement, Seven holds exclusive rights to Friday Night Football in all the southern states where it is shown at 8:30pm local time. In NSW and Queensland (except Gold Coast region where it is shown live on Seven affiliate Prime Television), the game is broadcast live on Fox (effectively a fifth match) through the Main Event channel, and delayed on Seven at different times into different regions of the two states. Seven also shows the Sunday mid-afternoon game live or on delay depending on the market. Ten shows one Saturday afternoon and one Saturday night match live or on delay depending on the market, the same as under the previous deal. Fox however shares first choice of game for the "match of the day" Saturday afternoon and Saturday night matches, and have exclusive access to the early Sunday afternoon game and twilight Sunday game. In Victoria, if the early Sunday game is played at Canberra, Launceston or the Gold Coast, Seven replays the match at about 10.30pm that night. South Australia and Western Australia also have the privilege of most of their local clubs' away matches being shown live or near live on FTA TV through Fox, even if Fox is scheduled to show it live. [cite news|url=http://afl.com.au/Season2007/News/NewsArticle/tabid/208/Default.aspx?newsId=38001|title=More games, more viewers|publisher=Australian Football League|date=8 February 2007]

The Grand Final was broadcast on Ten in 2007, and alternate between the two FTA networks until 2011, meaning Ten will screen three Grand Finals to Seven's two. As a consolation, Seven screened the Brownlow medal count, the Pre-Season Grand Final and had their choice of the best finals throughout the finals series in the years they don't broadcast the Grand Final. Ten will have the same privilege in 2008 and 2010. [cite news|url=http://sportal.com.au/football.asp?i=news&id=92645|title=Ten to screen 2007 GF|publisher=Sportal.com.au|date=21 December 2006]

Ten have discussed moving the traditional AFL Grand Final to a twilight time (5:00 P.M) to increase viewers. However, this is unlikely given community support is against any changes. Ten have also announced that their Saturday Night and Finals matches will be shown in full high definition.

Telecast history

1957 was the first VFL season after the commencement of television in Australia in 1956 to coincide with the Melbourne Olympic Games. During the late 1950s, 60s and 70s, all Melbourne stations (ABV2, HSV7, GTV9 and, after it commenced in 1965, ATV0/ATV10) broadcast some games. However, in the late 1950s/early 60s, the VFL was afraid that direct telecasts may affect attendances and stations were only permitted to telecast a delayed replay of the last quarter of games. In the 1980s, the Seven Network was given exclusive rights to VFL/AFL games. The only year Seven didn't telecast games was 1987, when the rights were bought by Broadcom, which on-sold the rights to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). The exclusive rights were won back by Seven in 1988. The games were also shown on cable by C7 Sport through Optus and Austar but not Foxtel.

In late 2000, the Seven Network's main rivals set up a consortium which won the rights. This resulted in matches being broadcast on Nine, Ten and Fox Footy Channel for the 2002-2006 seasons inclusive. Seven, however, purchased a guaranteed last rights bid which proved to be handy when the AFL invited bids for the rights to telecast the AFL after 2006. In January 2006, shortly after the death of media magnate Kerry Packer, a Seven/Ten alliance used Seven's last rights bid to match Nine's offer of $AUD 780 million for broadcast rights in what was the biggest sport telecasting deal in Australian history.

The Nine/Ten/Fox Footy consortium saw the AFL telecast regularly on pay-TV, with three matches per round shown un-interrupted. These included one Saturday afternoon, one Saturday night, and one Sunday match. Nine screened Friday Night Football and two matches on Sunday - the 1pm match live, and a 4pm match on delay - while Ten showed a Saturday afternoon and a Saturday night match, with the live or delayed status depending on the viewers location in the country.

Global telecasts

In 2007, after the record domestic television rights deal, the AFL secured an additional bonus, greater international television rights and increase exposure to overseas markets, including a 5 year deal with Setanta, and new deals with other overseas pay tv networks. [ [http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/footy/common/story_page/0,8033,21519961%255E19742,00.html AFL seals UK, US TV deal] from heraldsun.com.au]

The following countries are ranked by the approximate extent of their television coverage.

*Papua New Guinea - EM TV shows up to 3 games per week free-to-air, as does the Australia Network

*New Zealand - Sky Television Sport pay-TV shows up to 3 games live, highlights packages and AFL Grand Final live

*South East Asia - Australia Network shows highlights packages and some games free-to-air in some countries.

*Middle East - Australia Network shows highlights packages and some games free-to-air in some countries. In Israel Fox Sports Israel broadcasts highlights and the AFL Grand Final.

*Indian subcontinent - Australia Network shows highlights packages and some games free-to-air in some countries.

*North America - The United States and Canada receive AFL telecast games but not on free-to-air channels. In the 1980s, ESPN telecast a highlights package called "Fosters Australian Rules", and late-night coverage of Australian football became a cult hit on what was then a fledgling network. Fox Soccer Channel carried the licence since 2003, but in 2006, announced it was dropping the coverage of AFL games so that it could focus on soccer. However, fellow niche-sports network Setanta Sports North America picked up the rights, and now shows live coverage of the AFL in the United States, featuring at least 3 live games per week. MHz Worldview also shows a telescoped "Game of the Week" (one of the Setanta games, with pregame, intermissions, and postgame edited out) on Monday nights and the one-hour highlights package on Wednesday afternoons, both on a one-week delay. The AFANA is an organization aimed at increasing coverage in North America.

* Europe - Shows one live match on Eurosport 2, but is on pay tv.

*United Kingdom - AFL matches are not shown on free-to-air, however Sky Sports used to show a weekly highlights package with the Grand Final live. From 2007 Setanta Sports will show 2 or 3 live games, per week, during the season with a 1 hour highlights show.

*Ireland - Setanta broadcasts 3 games per week live including all of the AFL Finals and the AFL Grand Final live. From 2008, selected NAB Cup games will be also live, while both Setanta and state broadcaster RTÉ televise the International Rules tests between Ireland and Australia. Irish language broadcaster TG4 airs highlights of the previous week's AFL matches free-to-air on Wednesdays.

*Spain - Canal+ Spain shows highlights packages and delayed coverage of matches.

Radio

The first broadcast of a VFL game was by 3AR in 1923, the year that broadcasting officially commenced in Australia. The first commentator was Wallace (Jumbo) Shallard, a former Geelong player who went on to have a long and respected career in the print and broadcast medias. The VFL/AFL has been broadcast every year since then by the ABC and (since 1927) by various commercial stations. The saturation period was the early 1960s when seven of the eight exant radio stations (3AR, 3UZ, 3DB, 3KZ, 3AW, 3XY and 3AK) broadcast VFL games each week, as well as broadcasts of Geelong games by local station 3GL. (At this time, the only alternative that radio listeners had to listening to the football on a Saturday afternoon were the classical music and fine arts programs that were broadcast by 3LO).

Currently, the official radio broadcast partners of the AFL are:

*Triple M Melbourne (The Premier Radio Broadcast Partner of the Australian Football League)
*K-Rock Geelong (The Premier Radio Broadcast Partner of the Geelong Football Club)
*ABC Local Radio
*3AW Melbourne
*FIVEaa Adelaide
*6PR Perth
*SEN 1116 Melbourne
*98.9FM Brisbane
*Triple M Sydney (Broadcasts mostly only Swans matches)
*Triple M Brisbane (Broadcasts mostly only Lions matches)
*Triple M Adelaide

Internet

The official internet/mobile broadcast partner of the AFL is Bigpond. The AFL also provides exclusive broadband content including streaming video for international fans via its website. Bigpond also hosts the official websites of all the 16 AFL clubs excluding Essendon.

The service is also provided to international fans. Video is available in as little as 12 hours after the game. Video quality is reasonable for internet protocol.

However, the website is frequently derided by users in Australia for its convoluted information architecture and bloated presentation. [ [http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=688538 New AFL Website] - Whirlpool forums.] [ [http://www.bigfooty.com/forum/showthread.php?t=429368&highlight=website New AFL website - how bad is it?] - BigFooty]

Corporate relations

ponsorship

The following are the official naming sponsors of the VFL/AFL competition:
*Carlton & United Breweries (1980-81, 86, 89-94, 2001-03)
*Holden (1982-83)
*Nissan (1984-85)
*Sportsplay (1987)
*Elder's IXL (1988)
*Coca-Cola (1995-2001)
*Toyota (2004-present)

¹Note: In 2001 CUB and Coca-Cola were joint sponsors

Publishing and print

The official print broadcast partner of the AFL is News Limited.The AFL Record is a match-day magazine published by the AFL and is read by around 225,000 people each week [http://www.aflpublishing.com.au/ www.aflpublishing] .

Membership

The AFL sells memberships that entitle subscribers to reserve seats for matches at the Telstra Dome and Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne. AFL members also receive priority access to finals. AFL Members can nominate a club to get priority Grand Final tickets.

Merchandising

The AFL runs a chain of stores that sell merchandise from all clubs. Merchandise is also available from other retailers.

AFL World

A modern museum called the Hall of Fame and Sensation opened in Melbourne in 2003 to celebrate the culture of the AFL and to provide a venue for the Australian Football Hall of Fame. The museum, a licensed off-shoot of the AFL, was originally touted for the MCG, but the Hall of Fame failed to get support from the Melbourne Cricket Club. The new QV shopping centre on Swanston Street was then chosen as the location. However, controversy followed the appointment of an administrator as the museum began running at a loss. Many blamed high entry prices, which were subsequently reduced, and the museum remains open to the public. In early 2006 the name was changed to AFL World. It features various honour boards and memorabilia as well as a range of innovative interactive displays designed to immerse visitors in the experience of elite Aussie Rules.

Video games

These are computer/video games that were licensed to use the AFL / Australian Football sports brand:
*"Australian Rules" (1987) C64
*"Aussie Rules Footy" (1991) NES - first game to have Adelaide; three fictional teams are included
*"AFL Finals Fever" (1996) PC - first game to use Fremantle
*"AFL '97" (1996) PC - last game to have Fitzroy
*"AFL '98" (1997) PC/PS1 (PAL) - first game to have Port Adelaide
*"AFL '99" (1998) PC/PS1 (PAL)
*"Aussie Rules Coach" (2001) PC
*"Kevin Sheedy Coach" (2002) PC
*"AFL Live 2003" (2002) PC/PS2/Xbox (PAL)
*"AFL Live 2004" (2003) PC/PS2/Xbox (PAL)
*"AFL Live Premiership Edition" (2004) PC/PS2/Xbox (PAL)
*"AFL Premiership 2005" (2005) PC/PS2/Xbox (PAL)
*"AFL Premiership 2006" (2006) PS2 (PAL)
*"AFL Premiership 2007" (2007) PS2

Gaming

The AFL is the subject of footy tipping and betting competitions around Australia run by individuals, syndicates, workplaces and professional bookmakers. In recent years national website based tipping competitions have started to replace the traditional, but more labour intensive, office or pub run competitions.

Fantasy football competitions based on actual player statistics (number of kicks, marks, goals etc) are also very popular on websites and in newspapers.

References

See also

* List of Australian Football League grounds
*
* List of Australian Football League coaches
* List of Australian Football League premiers
* Australian Football League Pre-Season Cup Premiers
* List of Australian Football League night premiers
* List of VFL/AFL presidents
* List of Australian rules football incidents
* AFL Draft
* List of overseas-born AFL players
* List of VFL/AFL players by ethnicity
* Sports attendances
* Australian rules football in Australia
* List of sports venues in Australia
* Goal of the Year
* Mark of the Year
* AFL Heritage Round
* History of Australian rules football in Victoria (1853-1900)
* Victorian Football League

External links

* [http://www.afl.com.au AFL official site]

Statistics and Results
* [http://www.allthestats.com AlltheStats]
* [http://stats.rleague.com/afl/afl_index.html Complete VFL/AFL results]
* [http://www.finalsiren.com Final Siren with comprehensive AFL Statistics 1980-2008]
* [http://www.footywire.com AFL Statistics by FootyWire] Major AFL news Sites
* [http://www.realfooty.theage.com.au The Age Footy News]
* [http://www.foxsports.com.au/afl/ Fox Sports Australia AFL news]
* [http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/footy/ Herald Sun Footy News]
* [http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/index/0,22045,5006065,00.html Daily Telegraph Footy Features]

History
* [http://www.fullpointsfooty.net/ Full Points Footy]

Discussion
* [http://www.bigfooty.com/forums/ Bigfooty]
* [http://senforums.com/forums/index.php/ SENForums]
* [http://www.aflonline.com.au/ AFL Online]


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