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The wooden spoon is the imaginary and ironic "award" which is said to be won by the team finishing in last place in the Australian Football League. No physical wooden spoon award exists, other than those brought by opposition fans to taunt struggling teams, nor is such an award officially sanctioned by the VFL/AFL. However, most betting agencies will take wagers on the wooden spoon.

Criteria

The team which finishes on the bottom of the ladder wins the wooden spoon. This is determined by:

No countback exists if teams finish equal on points but with a different number of wins.

1901–1907

From 1901 to 1907, the VFL season was set up such that each team played fourteen regular season games: two games against each opponent. Based upon regular season ladder positions, teams were divided into pools A (1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th) and B (2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th), and each team played the opponents from its pool once each in the "sectional round."

Following the sectional round, the results of these matches were added to the ladder to give a final ladder based on seventeen matches per team. As such, the wooden spooner is considered to be the team which finishes last after all seventeen matches.

The three sectional games changed the outcome of the wooden spoon twice in the seven seasons of this format: in 1905, St Kilda beat Geelong in their last game, relegating Melbourne to last, and in 1907, Fitzroy won all three of their games, relegating Essendon to last.

1916

In the 1916, only four teams (Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Richmond) competed due to World War I. Fitzroy finished last after the home-and-away season with a record of 2–9–1 (10 pts), and Richmond finished third with a record of 5–7–0 (20 pts).

All four teams competed in the finals under the amended Argus system in place at the time. Richmond lost their Semi-Final and finished in overall last place as the lowest placed Semi-Final loser, while Fitzroy won their Semi-Final, the Final and the Grand Final to win the premiership.

This has created uncertainty to some extent regarding which team lays claim to the 1916 wooden spoon; by analogy with the minor and major premierships, it could be said that Fitzroy won the "minor wooden spoon" and Richmond won the "major wooden spoon".

The official AFL Season Guide recognises Richmond as the wooden spooners for the 1916 VFL season, while the Football Record in 1917–1923 listed the teams' positions for 1916 as Fitzroy, Carlton, Collingwood and Richmond.

Wooden spoons by season

Season Wooden spoon Wins Losses Draws Percentage Points
1897 St Kilda 0 14 0 29.1 0
1898 St Kilda (2) 0 14 0 33.5 0
1899 St Kilda (3) 0 14 0 28.0 0
1900 St Kilda (4) 1 13 0 39.1 4
1901 St Kilda (5) 1 16 0 4
1902 St Kilda (6) 0 17 0 0
1903 South Melbourne 2 15 0 8
1904 St Kilda (7) 3 14 0 12
1905 Melbourne 3 14 0 12
1906 Melbourne (2) 1 16 0 4
1907 Essendon 5 12 0 20
1908 Geelong 2 16 0 8
1909 St Kilda (8) 2 15 0 59.3 8
1910 St Kilda (9) 1 17 0 62.3 4
1911 University 1 17 0 52.1 4
1912 University (2) 1 17 0 57.0 4
1913 University (3) 0 18 0 57.6 0
1914 University (4) 0 18 0 47.0 0
1915 Geelong (2) 3 13 0 68.0 12
1916 Minor
1916 Major[1]
Fitzroy
Richmond
2
5
9
7
1
0
81.6
89.9
10
20
1917 Richmond (2) 3 11 1 14
1918 Essendon (2) 3 11 0 64.2 12
1919 Melbourne (3) 0 16 0 43.0 0
1920 St Kilda (10) 2 14 0 57.2 8
1921 Essendon (3) 3 11 2 80.8 16
1922 South Melbourne (2) 4 11 1 91.3 18
1923 Melbourne (4) 3 13 0 80.4 12
1924 St Kilda (11) 4 12 0 75.7 16
1925 Hawthorn 3 14 0 66.1 12
1926 North Melbourne 0 17 1 73.7 2
1927 Hawthorn (2) 1 17 0 63.1 4
1928 Hawthorn (3) 0 18 0 61.6 0
1929 North Melbourne (2) 1 17 0 60.2 4
1930 North Melbourne (3) 1 17 0 51.8 4
1931 North Melbourne (4) 0 18 0 50.8 0
1932 Hawthorn (4) 3 15 0 64.1 12
1933 Essendon (4) 2 16 0 77.1 12
1934 North Melbourne (5) 0 18 0 66.4 0
1935 North Melbourne (6) 1 17 0 65.1 4
1936 Fitzroy (2) 2 16 0 68.9 8
1937 North Melbourne (7) 3 15 0 64.2 12
1938 South Melbourne (3) 2 16 0 71.8 8
1939 South Melbourne (4) 3 15 0 70.8 12
1940 North Melbourne (8) 4 14 0 75.1 16
1941 Hawthorn (5) 3 15 0 68.2 12
1942 Hawthorn (6) 1 14 0 65.6 8
1943 St Kilda (12) 1 8 1 73.9 10
1944 Geelong (3) 1 17 0 58.6 4
1945 St Kilda (13) 2 18 0 62.2 8
1946 Hawthorn (7) 3 16 0 70.5 12
1947 St Kilda (14) 1 17 1 58.7 6
1948 St Kilda (15) 2 17 0 59.9 8
1949 Hawthorn (8) 3 16 0 61.1 12
1950 Hawthorn (9) 0 18 0 49.8 0
1951 Melbourne (5) 1 17 0 70.5 4
1952 St Kilda (16) 2 17 0 68.1 8
1953 Hawthorn (10) 3 15 0 68.5 12
1954 St Kilda (17) 4 13 1 72.7 18
1955 St Kilda (18) 1 17 0 45.4 4
1956 North Melbourne (9) 3 16 0 69.5 12
1957 Geelong (4) 5 12 1 88.2 22
1958 Geelong (5) 4 14 0 73.8 16
1959 Footscray 3 15 0 73.3 12
1960 Richmond (3) 2 14 2 65.1 12
1961 North Melbourne (10) 4 13 1 79.1 18
1962 South Melbourne (5) 3 15 0 74.4 12
1963 Fitzroy (3) 1 17 0 57.5 4
1964 Fitzroy (4) 0 18 0 59.7 0
1965 Hawthorn (11) 4 14 0 68.9 16
1966 Fitzroy (5) 1 17 0 53.8 4
1967 Footscray (2) 4 14 0 71.8 16
1968 North Melbourne (11) 3 17 0 74.3 12
1969 Melbourne (6) 3 17 0 83.1 12
1970 North Melbourne (12) 4 18 0 79.1 16
1971 South Melbourne (6) 3 19 0 69.9 12
1972 North Melbourne (13) 1 21 0 62.9 4
1973 South Melbourne (7) 4 18 0 79.0 16
1974 Melbourne (7) 3 19 0 77.1 12
1975 South Melbourne (8) 2 20 0 75.0 8
1976 Collingwood 6 16 0 86.4 24
1977 St Kilda (19) 3 17 2 73.5 16
1978 Melbourne (8) 5 17 0 69.1 20
1979 St Kilda (20) 3 19 0 65.0 12
1980 Fitzroy (6) 4 17 1 86.0 18
1981 Melbourne (9) 1 21 0 63.5 4
1982 Footscray (3) 3 19 0 68.1 12
1983 St Kilda (21) 5 17 0 79 20
1984 St Kilda (22) 5 17 0 76 20
1985 St Kilda (23) 3 19 0 64.7 12
1986 St Kilda (24) 2 20 0 71.9 8
1987 Richmond (4) 5 17 0 83 20
1988 St Kilda (25) 4 18 0 82 16
1989 Richmond (5) 5 17 0 71 20
1990 Brisbane Bears 4 18 0 71 16
1991 Brisbane Bears (2) 3 19 0 70 12
1992 Sydney (9) 3 18 1 74 14
1993 Sydney (10) 1 19 0 63 4
1994 Sydney (11) 4 18 0 78 16
1995 Fitzroy (7) 2 20 0 58.2 8
1996 Fitzroy (8) 1 21 0 49.5 4
1997 Melbourne (10) 4 18 0 60.8 16
1998 Brisbane Lions 5 16 1 75 22
1999 Collingwood (2) 4 18 0 84.8 16
2000 St Kilda (26) 2 19 1 70.5 10
2001 Fremantle 2 20 0 72.0 8
2002 Carlton 3 19 0 73.1 12
2003 Western Bulldogs (4) 3 18 1 74.8 14
2004 Richmond (6) 4 18 0 69.2 16
2005 Carlton (2) 4 17 1 75.5 18
2006 Carlton (3) 3 18 1 74.2 14
2007 Richmond (7) 3 18 1 77.2 14
2008 Melbourne (11) 3 19 0 62.6 12
2009 Melbourne (12) 4 18 0 74.7 16
2010 West Coast 4 18 0 77.1 16
2011 Gold Coast 3 19 0 56.27 12
2012 Greater Western Sydney 2 20 0 46.17 8
2013 Greater Western Sydney (2) 1 21 0 50.97 4
2014 St Kilda (27) 4 18 0 60.8 16
2015 Carlton (4) 4 18 0 64.8 16
2016 Essendon (5) 3 19 0 61 12
2017 Brisbane Lions (2) 5 17 0 74.3 20
2018 Carlton (5) 2 20 0 59.3 8
2019 Gold Coast (2) 3 19 0 60.5 12
2020 Adelaide 3 14 0 64.4 12
2021 North Melbourne (14) 4 17 1 70.3 18

Wooden spoons by club

Club Total
Wooden
Spoons
Years of Wooden Spoon
St Kilda
27
1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1904, 1909, 1910, 1920, 1924, 1943, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 2000, 2014
North Melbourne
14
1926, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1940, 1956, 1961, 1968, 1970, 1972, 2021
Melbourne
12
1905, 1906, 1919, 1923, 1951, 1969, 1974, 1978, 1981, 1997, 2008, 2009
Hawthorn
11
1925, 1927, 1928, 1932, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1949, 1950, 1953, 1965
South Melbourne/Sydney
11
1903, 1922, 1938, 1939, 1962, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1992, 1993, 1994
Fitzroy
8
1916,[1] 1936, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1980, 1995, 1996
Richmond
7
1916,[1] 1917, 1960, 1987, 1989, 2004, 2007
Carlton
5
2002, 2005, 2006, 2015, 2018
Essendon
5
1907, 1918, 1921, 1933, 2016
Geelong
5
1908, 1915, 1944, 1957, 1958
University
4
1911, 1912, 1913, 1914
Footscray/Western Bulldogs
4
1959, 1967, 1982, 2003
Brisbane Bears
2
1990, 1991
Brisbane Lions
2
1998, 2017
Collingwood
2
1976, 1999
Gold Coast
2
2011, 2019
Greater Western Sydney
2
2012, 2013
Fremantle
1
2001
West Coast Eagles
1
2010
Adelaide
1
2020
Port Adelaide
0
N/A

Bold indicates clubs currently playing in the AFL.

Longest wooden spoon droughts

Club Time period Years
Carlton 1897–2002 105
Essendon 1933–2016 83
Collingwood 1897–1976 79
Geelong 1958–present 64
Hawthorn 1965–present 57
North Melbourne 1972–2021 49
Fitzroy 1897–1936[a] 39
Footscray 1925–1959 34
Adelaide 1991–2020 29
Geelong 1915–1944 29
Sydney 1994–present 28
Melbourne 1923–1951 28
Richmond 1960–1987 27
Fitzroy 1936–1963 27
Port Adelaide 1997–present 25
Collingwood 1999–present 23
West Coast 1987–2010 23
Collingwood 1976–1999 23
South Melbourne 1939–1962 23
St Kilda 1955–1977 22
Fremantle 2001–present 21
Footscray 1982–2003 21

Active wooden spoon droughts

Club Last won Years since
Geelong 1958 64
Hawthorn 1965 57
Sydney 1994 28
Port Adelaide 1997 25
Collingwood 1999 23
Fremantle 2001 21
Western Bulldogs 2003 19
Richmond 2007 15
Melbourne 2009 13
West Coast 2010 12
Greater Western Sydney 2013 9
St Kilda 2014 8
Essendon 2016 6
Brisbane Lions 2017 5
Carlton 2018 4
Gold Coast 2019 3
Adelaide 2020 2
North Melbourne 2021 1

AFL Women's

Season Wooden spoon Wins Losses Draws Percentage Points
2017 Greater Western Sydney 1 5 1 51.8 6
2018 Carlton 2 5 0 54.1 8
2019 No single last-placed finisher due to conferences; lowest ranked team overall was Collingwood
2020 No single last-placed finisher due to conferences; lowest ranked team overall was Richmond
2021 Gold Coast 0 9 0 36.5 0
2022 West Coast 1 9 0 42.9 4

References and Notes

  1. ^ Assumes Richmond won the wooden spoon in 1916.