The VFL (Victoria Football League) was formed 1897 when six of the strongest clubs proposed to break away from the then VFA (Victorian Football Association) after a power struggle over financial matters. Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne and South Melbourne agreed to form a new competition and were quickly joined by Carlton and St Kilda.

The inaugural season of the new league occurred in 1897 and since then it has been the major Australian rules football competition in the country and was eventually became Australia wide before officially becoming the AFL (Australian Football League) in 1990.

Here is a list of all the VFL/AFL premiers from 1897 until today.

VFL Premiers 1897 to 1899

The final series in the very first season was a little bit different to how it has been played since. It was setup as a round robin competition with the top four teams on the ladder after the 14 round home and away season playing three matches each. This meant that which ever team finished on top of the ‘finals ladder’ after the three games would be named premiers for that year. Essendon won all three of their matches and became the first premiers of the newly formed VFL (Victorian Football League).

For most seasons up until 1931, the finals followed the Argus system. While this system had a number of variations over the course, the basic premise was that if the team that had finished on top of the ladder after the home and away season progressed through the finals but didn’t win, they could then challenge in one last match for the title.

After finishing sixth in the first season, Fitzroy rose to third in 1898 to win the premiership after defeating top of the table Essendon. The following season they finished top of the ladder before becoming the first team to go back-to-back.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1897 Essendon Geelong No Grand Final
1898 Fitzroy  Essendon 5.8.38 vs 3.5.23
1899 Fitzroy South Melbourne 3.9.27 vs 3.8.26

VFL Premiers 1900 to 1909

After finishing the century with back-to-back premierships, Fitzroy were unable to make it a three-peat, losing the Grand Final to Melbourne in 1900.

Collingwood won their first premiership in 1902 and also went back-to-back, beating Fitzroy in 1903. However, Fitzroy would continue to be one of the leader clubs, winning consecutive premierships for a second time in 1904 and 1905.

Carlton, who finished runners-up to Fitzroy in 1904 would get their revenge two years later to win their first trophy in 1906. The Blues would go on to become the first club to win three premierships in a row after also winning in 1907 and 1908. They were denied a fourth straight premiership in 1909 when South Melbourne won their first cup after defeating the Blues by just two points.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1900 Melbourne Fitzroy 4.10.34 vs 3.12.30
1901 Essendon  Collingwood 6.7.43 vs 2.4.16
1902 Collingwood Essendon 9.6.60 vs 3.9.27
1903 Collingwood Fitzroy 4.7.31 vs 3.11.29
1904 Fitzroy Carlton 9.7.61 vs 5.7.37
1905 Fitzroy Collingwood 4.6.30 vs 2.5.17
1906 Carlton Fitzroy 15.4.94 vs 6.9.45
1907 Carlton South Melbourne 6.14.50 vs 6.9.45
1908 Carlton Essendon 5.5.35 vs 3.8.26
1909 South Melbourne Carlton 4.14.38 vs 4.12.36

VFL Premiers 1910 to 1919

Carlton entered their fifth straight grand final in 1910 but despite finishing on top of the ladder they lost the grand final for the second consecutive year, this time to Collingwood.

Essendon won their first back-to-back premierships in 1911 and 1912 before Carlton got back into the action winning two consecutive premierships as World War I broke out.

The first season to be affected by the war efforts was 1916 which saw only four teams compete that year. This produced one of the most amazing results in the history of the league with Fitzroy finishing last on the ladder after the home and away season but also win the premiership. In the reduced competition they still entered the final four finals system but progressed through to the Grand Final before defeating top of the table Carlton, preventing them from winning their second three-peat.

Collingwood became the force toward the end of the decade, winning in 1917 and 1919 but lost to South Melbourne in the 1918 Grand Final.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1910 Collingwood Carlton 9.7.61 vs 6.11.47
1911 Essendon  Collingwood 5.11.41 vs 4.11.35
1912 Essendon South Melbourne 5.17.47 vs 4.9.33
1913 Fitzroy St Kilda 7.14.56 vs 5.13.43
1914 Carlton South Melbourne 6.9.45 vs 4.15.39
1915 Carlton Collingwood 11.12.78 vs 6.9.45
1916 Fitzroy Carlton 12.13.85 vs 8.8.56
1917 Collingwood Fitzroy 9.20.74 vs 5.9.39
1918 South Melbourne Collingwood 9.8.62 vs 7.15.57
1919 Collingwood Richmond 11.12.78 vs 7.11.53

VFL Premiers 1920 to 1929

Following a loss to Collingwood in their first grand final appearance the previous year, Richmond took revenge in 1920 to win their first premiership since entering the league in 1908. They then went back-to-back after also winning in 1921.

Fitzroy continued to lead the pack, winning their seventh premiership while Essendon stayed hot on their heels winning consecutive cups in 1923 and 1924.

It wouldn’t be until 1925 that Geelong won their maiden VFL premiership after finishing on top of the ladder.

After losing to Geelong and then Melbourne the following year, Collingwood then created a dynasty, winning four consecutive premierships at the end of the decade, a feat that has never been bettered since.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1920 Richmond Collingwood 7.10.52 vs 5.5.35
1921 Richmond Carlton 5.6.36 vs 4.8.32
1922 Fitzroy Collingwood 11.13.79 vs 9.14.68
1923 Essendon Fitzroy 8.15.63 vs 6.10.46
1924 Essendon Richmond No Grand Final
1925 Geelong Collingwood 10.19.79 vs 9.15.69
1926 Melbourne Collingwood 17.17.119 vs 9.8.62
1927 Collingwood Richmond 2.13.25 vs 1.7.13
1928 Collingwood Richmond 13.18.96 vs 9.9.63
1929 Collingwood Richmond 11.13.79 vs 7.8.50

VFL Premiers 1930 to 1939

Collingwood’s fourth straight premiership came in 1930 and marked a sixth grand final appearance in as many years.

The Magpies were finally toppled in 1931 after being knocked out in the semi finals by Carlton. The Blues went on to lose to Geelong in the Grand Final.

After finishing runner-up in four out of the past five seasons, Richmond finally broke through to win their third premiership in 1932. They were runner-up again the following year to South Melbourne before getting revenge in 1934.

South Melbourne themselves were unlucky, losing a further two grand finals to Collingwood handing them three defeats in a row. Collingwood tasted the same bitter pill losing three consecutive grand finals as well between 1937 and 1939.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1931 Geelong Richmond 9.14.68 vs 7.6.48
1932 Richmond Carlton 13.14.92 vs 12.11.83
1933 South Melbourne Richmond 9.17.71 vs 4.5.29
1934 Richmond South Melbourne 19.14.128 vs 12.17.89
1935 Collingwood South Melbourne 11.12.78 vs 7.16.58
1936 Collingwood South Melbourne 11.23.89 vs 10.18.78
1937 Geelong Collingwood 18.14.122 vs 12.18.90
1938 Carlton Collingwood 15.10.100 vs 13.7.85
1939 Melbourne Collingwood 21.22.148 vs 14.11.95

VFL Premiers 1940 to 1949

With the second World War breaking out in 1939, the new decade was again impacted by events around the globe, however while many players were enlisted in the war efforts, most clubs continued to play throughout the period.

Melbourne dominated the competition and after winning the premiership in 1939, went back-to-back at the turn of the decade. They then entered their third straight grand final in 1941 and despite missing at least a dozen players to the war efforts, defeated the Bombers by 29 points to complete a three-peat.

The following year Melbourne struggled to field a team and were unable to make the finals. Essendon capitalised to bounce back and win in 1942 beating Richmond in a Grand Final that was moved to Princes Park, the first time it wasn’t played at the MCG since 1901.

The two teams met again the following year, but this time Richmond was able to hang on to win by 5 points.

Toward the end of the decade Essendon were the team to beat, participating in four grand finals in a row and winning two of them. The Bombers participated in the 1948 final against Melbourne, the first ever drawn grand final. The teams returned the next week and Melbourne won easily by 39 points.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1940 Melbourne Richmond 15.17.107 vs 10.8.68
1941 Melbourne Essendon 19.13.127 vs 13.20.98
1942 Essendon Richmond 19.18.132 vs 11.13.79
1943 Richmond Essendon 12.14.86 vs 11.15.81
1944 Fitzroy Richmond 9.12.66 vs 7.9.51
1945 Carlton South Melbourne 15.13.103 vs 10.15.75
1946 Essendon Melbourne 22.18.150 vs 13.9.87
1947 Carlton Essendon 13.8.86 vs 11.19.85
1948 Melbourne Essendon 10.9.69 drew 7.27.69
13.11.89 vs 7.8.50
1949 Essendon Carlton 18.17.125 vs 6.16.52

VFL Premiers 1950 to 1959

Essendon made their fifth straight grand final appearance in 1950 against North Melbourne who made the first appearance since entering the league in 1925. The Bombers denied North their first premiership to go back to back and securing their 10th trophy.

They were unable to complete a three-peat the following year as Geelong knocked them off in the Grand Final, a sixth consecutive appearance. The Cats went back to back a year later, defeating Collingwood but the Magpies got revenged, beating Geelong in the 1953 grand final.

Footscray won their first ever premiership in 1954, almost 30 years after entering the league in 1925.

By the mid 50’s Melbourne became a power house under the leadership of Norm Smith. After their defeat to the Bulldogs in 1954, Melbourne won three consecutive premierships. Collingwood managed to prevent the Demons from matching their record of four straight grand final wins, defeating them in 1958. Melbourne went on to win again in the following year, a fourth cup in five seasons.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1950 Essendon North Melbourne 13.14.92 vs 7.12.54
1951 Geelong Essendon 11.15.81 vs 10.10.70
1952 Geelong Collingwood 13.8.86 vs 5.10.40
1953 Collingwood Geelong 11.11.77 vs 8.17.65
1954 Footscray Melbourne 15.12.102 vs 7.9.51
1955 Melbourne Collingwood 8.16.64 vs 5.6.36
1956 Melbourne Collingwood 17.19.121 vs 6.12.48
1957 Melbourne Essendon 17.14.116 vs 7.13.55
1958 Collingwood Melbourne 12.10.82 vs 9.10.64
1959 Melbourne Essendon 17.13.115 vs 11.12.78

VFL Premiers 1960 to 1969

Melbourne participated in an unprecedented seventh consecutive grand final in 1960, defeating Collingwood to claim five flags in that period.

The Demons run finally came to end in 1961 when a Ted Whitten led Footscray upset them in the preliminary final. However, the Bulldogs were defeated by Hawthorn in the Grand Final the following week.

Melbourne wouldn’t make the grand final again until 1964 when the defeated Collingwood to claim their 12th premiership, putting them just one behind the Magpies.

Essendon matched the Demons 12th cup the following year, defeating St Kilda who made just their second Grand Final appearance. The Saints would make the grand final again in 1966 and went on to record their first premiership, defeating Collingwood by a point in a nail-biter. St Kilda’s Barry Breen kicked a wobbly punt that wobbled through for a behind in the dying minutes to give his side the lead, allowing them to hang on secure their maiden grand final victory.

Richmond won their first premiership in 24 years, beating Geelong to claim the 1967 flag, while Carlton entered a purple patch winning in 1968, defeating the Bombers by just three points. However, they were unable to overcome Richmond the following year who recorded their second premiership in three years.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1960 Melbourne Collingwood 8.14.62 vs 2.2.14
1961 Hawthorn Footscray 13.16.94 vs 7.6.51
1962 Essendon Carlton 13.12.90 vs 8.10.58
1963 Geelong Hawthorn 15.19.109 vs 8.12.60
1964 Melbourne Collingwood 8.16.64 vs 8.12.60
1965 Essendon St Kilda 14.21.105 vs 9.16.70
1966 St Kilda Collingwood 10.14.74 vs 10.13.73
1967 Richmond Geelong 16.18.114 vs 15.15.105
1968 Carlton Essendon 7.14.56 vs 8.5.53
1969 Richmond Carlton 12.13.85 vs 8.12.60

VFL Premiers 1970 to 1979

Carlton met the old foe Collingwood in the 1970 grand final, their third straight appearance. The match produced, still to this day, the largest attendance record to any football code in Australia. A record crowd of 121,696 piled into the MCG to watch the Blues overcome a 44-point deficit at half time to record a famous 10-point victory.

Hawthorn won their second premiership in 1971, exactly ten years after securing their first cup, before Carlton won again the next year, defeating the Tigers. Richmond would bounce back quickly, winning back-to-back premierships in 1973 and 1974.

North Melbourne would finally taste premiership success 50 years after their addition to the league in 1925. Under the leadership of coach Ron Barassi, North Melbourne defeated Hawthorn by 55 points to claim their first premiership cup. Hawthorn got revenge the following season, defeating the Roos to win their third grand final.

North bounced back to face Collingwood in the 1977 decider, a match that produced just the second draw in grand final history. It would be the Kangaroos who would easily in the grand final replay the following week.

Hawthorn got the better of the North Melbourne again in 1978 while Carlton became a dominant side, as they had at the end of the last decade, winning again in 1979.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1970 Carlton Collingwood 17.9.111 vs 14.17.101
1971 Hawthorn St Kilda 12.10.82 vs 11.9.75
1972 Carlton Richmond 28.9.177 vs 22.18.150
1973 Richmond Carlton 16.20.116 vs 12.14.86
1974 Richmond North Melbourne 18.20.128 vs 13.9.87
1975 North Melbourne Hawthorn 19.8.122 vs 9.13.67
1976 Hawthorn North Melbourne 13.22.100 vs. 10.10.70
1977 North Melbourne Collingwood 9.22.76 drew 10.16.76
21.25.151 vs 19.10.124
1978 Hawthorn North Melbourne 18.13.121 vs 15.13.103
1979 Carlton Collingwood 11.16.82 vs 11.11.77

VFL Premiers 1980 to 1989

Old rivals Richmond and Collingwood met in the 1980 Grand Final with the Magpies making it to the big dance after finishing fifth in the final five competition. They became the first team to proceed through to the grand final via the elimination in which they beat fourth placed North Melbourne in the first week.

The Tigers proved to be too good for Collingwood jumping out to a 43 point half-time lead before running away with a commanding 81 point victory to claim the flag.

Carlton would inflict a third straight grand final defeat for the Magpies the following season beating them by 20 points, before going back-to-back defeating Richmond in 1982.

Hawthorn started an amazing run in 1983 that would see them participate in every grand final for the rest of the decade. After winning in ’83 they were defeated twice by Essendon in 1984 and 1985 but bounced back to beat Carlton in 1986. Carlton were able to get revenge a year later but Hawthorn’s dominance continued, belting Melbourne in 1988 by 96 points, a record at the time.

Hawthorn entered a seventh straight grand final in 1989 against a high scoring Geelong team. In a match that is still today considered one of the best grand finals ever, the Hawks held on late to win by just 6 points despite a record equaling 9 goals from Cats star Gary Ablett Snr, a feat which saw him awarded the Norm Smith Medal in a losing side.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1980 Richmond Collingwood 23.21.159 vs 9.24.78
1981 Carlton Collingwood 12.20.92 vs 10.12.72
1982 Carlton Richmond 14.19.103 vs 12.13.85
1983 Hawthorn Essendon 20.20.140 vs 8.9.57
1984 Essendon Hawthorn 14.21.105 vs 12.9.81
1985 Essendon Hawthorn 26.14.170 vs 14.8.92
1986 Hawthorn Carlton 16.14.110 vs 9.14.68
1987 Carlton Hawthorn 15.14.104 vs 9.17.71
1988 Hawthorn Melbourne 22.20.152 vs 6.20.56
1989 Hawthorn Geelong 21.18.144 vs 21.12.138

AFL Premiers 1990 to 1999

The new decade saw the league officially become a nation wide competition, changing its name to the Australian Football League (AFL) in 1990. 

Collingwood entered the season looking to break a premiership drought that had extended to 32 years that encompassed nine grand final losses. The Magpies went on to defeat Essendon in the last dance to record their 14th premiership.

Hawthorn would bounce back in 1991 to claim their third premiership in four years defeating West Coast, who made their grand final debut since entering the league in 1987. The match was the only grand final since the second world world to be played at a venue other than the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), with the game moved to VFL Park, Waverley due to re-construction works.

The West Coast Eagles won their first premiership in 1992 and went on to win again in 1994, while Essendon’s “Baby Bombers” defeat the Blues in 1993.

However, Carlton would impress in 1995, becoming the first team to win 20 home and away match . Their defeat of Geelong marked the fourth grand final loss for the Cats since 1989.

The 1996 ‘Centenary’ Grand Final saw North Melbourne win their third premiership, before Adelaide won their first cup in 1997 after joining the competition in 1992. The Crows went back to back defeating North in 1998, before the Kangaroos bounced back in 1999 to defeat Carlton in the last grand final of the millennium.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
1990 Collingwood Essendon 13.11.89 vs 5.11.41
1991 Hawthorn West Coast 20.19.139 vs 13.8.86
1992 West Coast Geelong 16.17.113 vs 12.13.85
1993 Essendon Carlton 20.13.133 vs 13.11.89
1994 West Coast Geelong 20.23.143 vs 8.15.63
1995 Carlton Geelong 21.15.141 vs 11.14.80
1996 North Melbourne Sydney 19.17.131 vs 13.10.88
1997 Adelaide St Kilda 19.11.125 vs 13.16.94
1998 Adelaide North Melbourne 15.15.105 vs 8.22.70
1999 North Melbourne Carlton 19.10.124 vs 12.17.89


AFL Premiers 2000 to 2009

After being one of the dominant teams in the later part of the 90’s, the Bombers missed out on two grand finals births by a single point. However, Essendon would lose just one game in 2000 to be the first premiers of the new millennium.

The Bombers would make the Grand Final the following year but 2001 saw the rise of the Brisbane Lions who went on to become one of the greatest teams of the modern era, winning three premierships in a row.

The Lions entered the 2004 big dance looking to become just the second team to record four consecutive premierships, however they couldn’t overcome Port Adelaide who recorded their first AFL premiership.

Sydney also won their first trophy since 1933 (as South Melbourne) beating West Coast in 2005, however the Eagles would get their revenge the following year knocking off the Swans by 1 point.

Geelong also ended their premiership drought after losing four grand finals in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The Cats belted Port Adelaide by a record 119 points in 2007 to claim their first cup since 1963.

They would also participate in the follow two grand finals, losing to Hawthorn in 2008 before defeating St Kilda the following year.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
2000 Essendon Melbourne 19.21.135 vs 11.9.75
2001 Brisbane Lions Essendon 15.18.108 vs 12.10.82
2002 Brisbane Lions Collingwood 10.15.75 vs 9.12.66
2003 Brisbane Lions Collingwood 20.14.134 vs 12.12.84
2004 Port Adelaide Brisbane Lions 17.11.113 vs 10.13.73
2005 Sydney West Coast 8.10.58 vs 7.12.54
2006 West Coast Sydney 12.13.85 vs 12.12.84
2007 Geelong Port Adelaide 24.19.163 vs 6.8.44
2008 Hawthorn Geelong 18.7.115 vs 11.23.89
2009 Geelong St Kilda 12.8.80 vs 9.14.68

AFL Premiers 2010 to 2019

Season 2010 saw just the third drawn Grand Final in VFL/AFL history, with Collingwood and St Kilda playing out a tie in front of 100,016 at the MCG. The teams would return the week later with the Magpies proving too strong.

Geelong proved they were one of the best teams in recent times, beating the Pies the following year to claim their third premiership in five years.

Sydney got the better of the Hawks in 2012, winning a hard fought Grand Final by 10 points but Hawthorn would get the last laugh, matching the Lions by completing a three peat including their 2014 win over the Swans. 

The Western Bulldogs were another team to end their long premiership drought, beating the Swans in 2016 to win their first premiership since 1954.

Richmond joined the party in 2017, claiming their first flag since 1980 by defeating the Crows.

West Coast completed their fourth grand final victory in 2018, handing Collingwood another defeat before the Tigers won their second premiership in three years by belting the GWS in the Giants’ first grand final appearance.

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
2010 Collingwood St Kilda 9.14.68 drew 10.8.68
16.12.108 vs 7.10.52
2011 Geelong Collingwood 18.11.119 vs 12.9.81
2012 Sydney Hawthorn 14.7.91 vs 11.15.81
2013 Hawthorn Fremantle 11.11.77 vs 8.14.62 
2014 Hawthorn Sydney 21.11.137 vs 11.8.74
2015 Hawthorn West Coast 16.11.107 vs 8.13.61
2016 Western Bulldogs Sydney 13.11.89 vs 10.7.67
2017 Richmond Adelaide 16.12.108 vs 8.12.60
2018 West Coast Collingwood 11.13.79 vs 11.8.74
2019 Richmond GWS Giants 17.12.114 vs 3.7.25

AFL Premiers 2020 to Present

Richmond proved they were a dominant team, winning their third premiership in four years in 2020. The Grand Final was played at the Gabba in Brisbane, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the first time it was away from the MCG since 1991. This continued into the following season with the 2021 Grand Final played at Perth Stadium, as Melbourne won their first premiership since 1964. 

Season Premiers Runner-Up Score
2020 Richmond Geelong 12.9.81 vs 7.8.50
2021 Melbourne Western Bulldogs 21.14.140 vs 10.6.66
2022 Geelong Sydney 20.13.133 vs 8.4.52
2023 Collingwood Brisbane Lions 12.18.90 vs 13.8.86