1898 VFL finals series

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The Victorian Football League's 1898 finals series determined the premiers of the 1898 VFL season. Played under a new playoff system, the finals featured all eight teams, beginning on 27 August and concluding with the 1898 VFL Grand Final on 24 September.

The premiership was won by Fitzroy, who defeated Essendon by 15 points in the Grand Final.

Finals system[edit]

The VFL introduced a new system of finals for the 1898 season. Under the new arrangement the season was to take place as follows:

  • The eight teams played each other in a home-and-away season of fourteen matches. At the end of the season, the team on top of the ladder (based on win-loss record, with percentage as a tie-breaker), was declared the Minor Premier.
  • The eight teams were split into two groups based on their position on the ladder at the end of the home-and-away season. The groupings were:
    • Group A: teams finishing 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th.
    • Group B: teams finishing 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th.[1]
  • Each group played a separate three-match round-robin tournament. These were known as "sectional matches". At the end of the sectional matches, a ladder was prepared for each of the groups, based on sectional matches only.

The finals then took place over one or two weeks as follows:

  • Week One: one final was played between 1st Group A vs 1st Group B.
    • If the winner in Week One was the Minor Premier, or the Minor Premier did not have at least eight premiership points from its sectional matches, then the winner of the match immediately became the Major Premier, and won the premiership for the season.
    • If the winner in Week One was not the Minor Premier, and the Minor Premier had at least eight premiership points from its sectional matches,[2] then the finals progressed to week two.
  • Week Two: if required, one final was played between Minor Premier vs Winner Week one
    • The winner of this match became the Major Premier for the season.

The essence of this format is that all teams had the chance to contest the major premiership, but the minor premier – as reward for its performances during the home-and-away season – had the right to challenge for the major premiership if it was either eliminated in the sectional rounds, or lost the first final. A stipulation was included to remove the minor premier's right to challenge if it performed poorly in the sectional rounds in order to prevent the team from resting its players or failing to take the sectional rounds seriously. The minor premier's right to challenge was not included in the original release of the fixture, but was added shortly before the start of the season.[3]

The finals system was also used in an adapted form by the South Australian Football Association for three seasons from 1899 until 1901. The SAFA amended the system for its six team competition by having two sections of three teams instead of two sections of four teams;[4] and in 1901 amended it for its seven-team competition by staging an entire seven-team round-robin without a final instead of splitting the teams into two sections. Under the SAFA's 1901 variation, the minor premier was entitled to two challenge matches instead of one.[5]

Problems with the finals system[edit]

The finals system introduced this year was used for three seasons from 1898 until 1900, but it had its drawbacks.

Firstly, there was confusion over the allocation of the minor placings. At the end of the season, on the Monday following the Grand Final between Fitzroy and Essendon, the football correspondent of The Age made it clear that he was not entirely sure which team should be thought to have finished second:

     "The peculiar arrangement by which the premiership [in the 1898 season] was determined has given rise to some discussion as to which club is entitled to second place.

     In the competition for the major premiership both Geelong and Collingwood have better records of wins as against defeats than Essendon, and I have therefore heard it argued that Collingwood must be considered the runners up, with Geelong third and Essendon fourth.
     In winning the minor premiership however, Essendon secured a record which gave them the right to play off with the best performing team in the series of matches played for the major premiership (viz., Fitzroy), and as, moreover, the runners up are by custom recognised in the losers of the final encounter, I do not see how any team but Essendon can be entitled to the honor.
     At the same time the situation is not wholly satisfactory, and without wishing to cavil at the existing system I still favor the old custom of recognising only one premiership, to be won by the club holding the best record for one whole season.
     The premiers for the season which closed on Saturday [Essendon] happen to hold that distinction, but it might not have been so."[6]

Secondly, and more significantly, the system had the drawback that it allowed a team to claim the major premiership by playing well only at the end of the year, regardless of its form during the home-and-away season. This came to a head after the unsatisfactory conclusion to the 1900 VFL season, when Melbourne won the premiership after having finished sixth out of the eight teams after the home-and-away season with a 6-8 record. A similar outcome could have occurred in 1899: South Melbourne reached the Grand Final and lost by one point to Fitzroy despite having finished sixth with a record of 5-9 at the end of the home-and-away season.[7] Consequently, from the 1901 season, this scheme was replaced with the Argus system.


Section allocations[edit]

The clubs were divided into two groups for the sectional rounds as follows. The minor premiership was won by Essendon.

Section A Section B

Sectional round results[edit]

Sectional Round 1[edit]

Sectional Round 1
Saturday, 27 August (2:30 pm) Essendon 9.21 (75) def. Carlton 1.2 (8) East Melbourne Cricket Ground
Saturday, 27 August (2:30 pm) South Melbourne 5.3 (33) def. by Fitzroy 6.11 (47) Lake Oval
Saturday, 27 August (2:30 pm) St Kilda 4.3 (27) def. by Collingwood 14.19 (103) Junction Oval
Saturday, 27 August (2:30 pm) Geelong 11.12 (78) def. Melbourne 2.4 (16) Corio Oval

Sectional Round 2[edit]

Sectional Round 2
Saturday, 3 September (2:30 pm) Fitzroy 12.18 (90) def. Carlton 1.1 (7) Brunswick Street Oval
Saturday, 3 September (2:30 pm) South Melbourne 3.6 (24) def. by Essendon 5.11 (41) Lake Oval
Saturday, 3 September (2:30 pm) Collingwood 6.9 (45) def. Geelong 4.6 (30) Victoria Park
Saturday, 3 September (2:30 pm) St Kilda 2.5 (17) def. by Melbourne 5.8 (38) Junction Oval

Sectional Round 3[edit]

Sectional Round 3
Saturday, 10 September (2:30 pm) Collingwood 7.13 (55) def. Melbourne 6.5 (41) Victoria Park
Saturday, 10 September (2:30 pm) Fitzroy 5.15 (45) def. Essendon 2.4 (16) Brunswick Street Oval
Saturday, 10 September (2:30 pm) South Melbourne 6.11 (47) def. Carlton 3.4 (22) Lake Oval
Saturday, 10 September (2:30 pm) Geelong 14.18 (102) def. St Kilda 4.3 (27) Corio Oval

Sectional ladders[edit]

Section A Ladder
Team P W L D PF PA % Pts
1 Fitzroy 3 3 0 0 182 56 189.58 12
2 Essendon 3 2 1 0 132 77 171.43 8
3 South Melbourne 3 1 2 0 104 110 94.55 4
4 Carlton 3 0 3 0 37 212 17.45 0
Key: P = Played, W = Won, L = Lost, D = Drawn, PF = Points for, PA = Points against
Section B Ladder
Team P W L D PF PA % Pts
1 Collingwood 3 3 0 0 203 98 207.14 12
2 Geelong 3 2 1 0 210 88 238.64 8
3 Melbourne 3 1 2 0 95 150 63.33 4
4 St Kilda 3 0 3 0 71 243 29.22 0
Key: P = Played, W = Won, L = Lost, D = Drawn, PF = Points for, PA = Points against

Semi Final[edit]

Semi Final
Saturday, 17 September (2:30 pm) Fitzroy def. Collingwood Brunswick Street Oval (crowd: 13,120)
0.3 (3)
1.5 (11)
1.8 (14)
 2.10 (22)
1.2 (8)
1.4 (10)
1.4 (10)
 1.5 (11)
Fontaine 1, Potter 1 Goals Gillard 1

Grand final[edit]

Grand Final
Saturday, 24 September (2:50 pm) Fitzroy def. Essendon Junction Oval (crowd: 16,538)
2.5 (17)
4.5 (29)
5.6 (36)
 5.8 (38)
1.0 (6)
3.1 (19)
3.2 (20)
 3.5 (23)
Grace 2, McDougall 1, Grace 1, McSpeerin 1 Goals Collins 2, Moore 1

See also[edit]

1898 VFL season


  1. ^ The Major Premiership, The Argus, (Monday, 22 August 1898), p.7.
  2. ^ The minor premier could have won two games, or won one game and drawn its other two games to reach eight premiership points.
  3. ^ "Victorian Football League – the premiership scheme amended". The Age. Melbourne. 30 April 1898. p. 10. 
  4. ^ Goalpost (11 August 1900). "Football notes". Evening Journal. Adelaide, SA. p. 7. 
  5. ^ Goalpost (17 August 1901). "Football notes". Evening Journal. Adelaide, SA. p. 7. 
  6. ^ Follower, "The Past Season", The Age, Monday, 26 September 1898, p.3, cols. H and I.
  7. ^ Boy, Old (18 September 1899). "Football – A Review of the Season". The Argus. p. 6.