Beginner’s Guide to the AFL Grand Final.

Football comes in many different forms across the world, even across different Australian states, but there is only one sport called “Aussie Rules”. Victorians take it for granted, but many interstate and international guests have no idea what it’s all about. So today we provide you with a beginner’s guide to footy history. It may differ in many parts of Queensland and NSW, but when Melbourne folk refer to “The Grand Final” they are only referring to one thing: the AFL (Australian Football League) Grand Final.

The AFL Grand Final has long been acclaimed as being one of the most important and biggest events that takes place in Australian sport. The event has historically taken place on the last Saturday of every September. The AFL Consists of eighteen teams, nine of which are based in Melbourne, one coming from regional Victoria, and another eight coming from other Australian states. Formerly known as the VFL (Victorian Football League), from 1897 until the 1980s, the league used to be based out of Victoria until its expansion.

The event is famous for usually being hosted at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, often referred to as the MCG (or even just “The G”). Although there are many exceptions to being played at the MCG, including the somewhat recent 1991 Grand Final at Waverley Park, where Angry Anderson famously sang “Bound for Glory” for the half time entertainment from a replica Bat Mobile car.

Football itself is an important part of Australian culture. Originally a sport invented to keep cricket players fit during winter, the choice of season continues to this day. It is not uncommon for stadiums to find themselves filled to capacity with thousands of Aussies from all walks of life cheering on their favourite team during every weekend of the colder months in Australia.

The 2016 Australian Football League season is in full swing right now, and the Grand Final, which will take place on Saturday, 1 October this year, is fast approaching. As has been the case during the previous four AFL seasons, 18 teams are competing to win. Footy fans from all over Australia follow this event extremely closely, gathering at football stadiums across the country to support their favourite team. The winners of the 2016 Grand Final will go down in history with the other past winners of this important aspect of Australian culture. Such is the importance and reverence of the game that even spectators get a public holiday to really mark the big weekend in their calendar. Although most locals celebrate the game day already, the newly created public holiday is on the Friday before the grand final match, known as AFL Grand Final Eve.

View from crowd for 2013 AFL Grand Final

Image: 2013 AFL Grand Final panorama shot 2013. Credit: Steve Davidson

September is a celebration of the current football season, and features many end of season awards including the prestigious Brownlow Medal, a preview of which can be found here. During the month, the football intensifies as the entire season boils down to the Grand Final on 1 October. The team that reigns victorious will be among past AFL legends such as Geelong in 2011, Sydney in 2012, and Hawthorn for the past three years in a row! In the 2015 Grand Final, the Hawks (Hawthorn) won by 46 points against the West Coast Eagles, a convincing win to nail the three-peat premiership.

One of the largest Australian sporting events, for over 20 years, the AFL Grand Final has been a sell-out event, packed with enthusiastic football fans from all over the country, the stadium a sea of colours with mad fans supporting their various team’s colours and merchandise, with the crowds made up from an equal amount of colourful personalities. The premiership final has long been known to be difficult to purchase tickets for because very few members of the public are able to get their hands on them. Many tickets are sold to existing club members first. Those of the general public who do get a ticket however, are as lively and enthusiastic as ever.

The largest crowd the Grand Final ever attracted was back in 1970, when a total of 121,696 people flocked to see one of the best AFL Grand Finals to ever take place, when Carlton had a historic win over Collingwood. Modern stadium seats take up more space than the old bench seats, so such high numbers may be hard to repeat in future due to the current maximum capacity of the MCG being 100,024. The television showing of the match tends to draw in audiences of more than 2.5 million avid football fans yelling at the screen for their favourite team.

During the entirety of footy season, football fans from across Australia crowd lively stadiums donned in the colours of their favourite team. New to footy or have you followed your team your whole life, or maybe for generations of family? Do you have a favourite club that you think will rise above the rest this and come out as 2016 premiers? Let us know, who is your favourite to win this year?