Publicised Image of McClelland Trophy at AFL House in 2015

The McClelland Trophy is an Australian rules football trophy which, since 2023, has been awarded each year to the combined Champion Club across the Australian Football League (AFL) and AFL Women's (AFLW) home-and-away seasons.[1]

From 1951 to 2022, the Australian Football League (which was known prior to 1990 as the Victorian Football League) awarded the trophy to the best-performing club in the home-and-away season; until 1990, the Trophy was presented to the club with the highest aggregate points across the three grades of competition that were sanctioned by the VFL/AFL - seniors, Reserves, and Under-19s - with senior wins carrying a higher value.

In 1991, the AFL announced that the Under-19s competition would be shut down at the end of the season to be replaced with a separate Under-18s competition in Victoria with clubs unaffiliated with the AFL (now known as the Talent League).[2] From 1991 to 2022, the Trophy was presented to the club that finished the AFL home-and-away season on top of the ladder, thus merging the Trophy with the minor premiership.

In 2023, the AFL announced that the trophy would henceforth be awarded to the team with the highest aggregate points across both the AFL and AFLW competitions, and that $1 million prize money would be awarded to the winning club, with the prize money being shared equally between the club and its AFL and AFLW players.

The Trophy was first awarded in 1951 when it was awarded to Essendon, and the last season it was awarded to the club with the highest aggregate points across the three grades of competition was 1990 when it was awarded to Melbourne (McClelland's original club).

The first season that the Trophy was awarded to the AFL minor premiers was 1991 when it was awarded to the West Coast Eagles, while the last season it was awarded to the AFL minor premiers was 2022 when it was awarded to Geelong.

Teams that win the trophy are given a simplified replica of the middle panel of the perpetual trophy, which features the AFL lettering and a round die-cast of McClelland.


The award was instituted in 1951 and is named in honour of Dr. William C. McClelland, who at that time had reached 25 years' service as President of the Victorian Football League. He had previously played 91 games for Melbourne in the VFA in 1894 and in the VFL from 1898-1904, playing in its 1900 premiership team, and captaining the club in 1901-1904. After retiring as a player, he served as a club delegate in 1905-1911, and then as club President from 1912-1926 (when he resigned to become VFL President).

1951-1990: Original three-grade format

From 1951-1990, the trophy was presented to the club with the highest aggregate points across the three levels of VFL/AFL competition: seniors, Reserves and Under-19s.[3] The points system in 1951-1953 had five points being awarded for a win in first grade (seniors), three points for a win in the 'seconds' (Reserves), and one point for a win in the 'thirds' (Under-19s). In the event of a drawn match, each team received half of the points.[4]

In 1954, the points system was amended, weighting results slightly more in favour of senior level success and eliminating half-points in drawn matches: seniors wins were now worth ten points, with Reserves wins being worth four points and Under-19s wins being worth two points.[5]

The 1985 season was the only time that there were joint winners of the McClelland Trophy, with Hawthorn and Carlton both finishing the home-and-away season with 228 points.

The Hawks were originally declared the winners via countback, which separated the two clubs by just 0.5% (or less than five goals) over the course of the entire season.[6] However, less than a week later, the VFL rescinded this decision after it was discovered that the McClelland Trophy followed the rules of the Brownlow Medal, which had removed its countback system five years earlier: consequently, the Hawks and Blues were declared joint winners.[7]

The countback system was used for the McClelland Trophy once, in 1954, after Geelong and Melbourne finished tied on points: Geelong were declared the winners by virtue of having a higher percentage in the seniors.[8]

Interstate award

In 1957, a unrelated trophy of the same name was struck to reward the best Victorian player in interstate matches played against South Australia.[9] The inaugural winner was Peter Pianto,[10] and evidence of the award being presented continued up until at least 1965, when Footscray defender David Darcy was awarded the trophy.[11]

1991-2022: Dissolution of minor grades, trophy awarded to minor premiers

With the VFL's interstate expansion from 1987 and rebranding as the AFL, the three-grade format became problematic. While Sydney had continued to field teams in all three grades following the club's relocation from South Melbourne in 1981, Brisbane had fielded a Reserves team from 1989 but not an Under-19s team, whereas WAFL and SANFL officials rejected VFL/AFL proposals for West Coast and Adelaide to field teams in the Reserves and Under-19s.

Subsequently, the AFL announced that the Under-19s competition would be shut down at the end of the 1991 season, to be replaced with a new Under-18s competition (the TAC Cup) featuring teams that were unaffiliated with the AFL clubs, and the McClelland Trophy's criteria were changed: from 1991 to 2022, the Trophy was awarded to the team finishing on top of the AFL ladder at the end of the home-and-away season, thus merging the Trophy with the minor premiership.[2]

Despite this change, some newspapers continued to publish cumulative results of the McClelland Trophy across the three grades up until Round 8,[12] while there was notable apathy throughout the league about the award's relevance.[13] In the event, the dissolution of the AFL Under-19s competition confirmed the format change.

At the end of the 1999 season, the AFL Reserves competition was shut down, being replaced by alignments with the Victorian Football League and other state leagues, thus completing the league's shift to having each AFL club field one team.

2023 onwards: AFL and AFLW Combined Champion Club

In March 2023, the AFL Commission announced it had approved a proposal to incorporate the results from the AFL Women's (AFLW) competition into the awarding of the trophy, thus bringing an end to its 1991 format.

From the 2023 AFL and 2023 AFLW seasons onward, the trophy will be presented to the club with the highest aggregate points across the home-and-away seasons of both competitions, with the winning club also being awarded $1 million prizemoney: $500,000 goes to the winning club, with $250,000 being split between that club's AFL players ($6250 per player), and $250,000 being split between that club's AFLW players ($8333 per player).

The points system for 2023 has four points being awarded for a win in the AFL home-and-away season, and eight points being awarded for a win in the AFLW home-and-away season (adjusted to reflect the AFLW's shorter season length). In the event of a drawn match, each team receives half of the points. The points system will be reviewed each year, based on changes in season length.

In the event that two or more clubs are tied on aggregate points at the conclusion of both seasons, the club with the highest percentage over both the AFL and AFLW will win the trophy.[1]

The trophy

The trophy is a perpetual shield that is kept at AFL House.[13] The original trophy features McClelland's head embossed in bronze on the centre of five panels of wood, where the names of each winning club is inscribed over the years.[14] Clubs also receive a smaller one-panel replica of the trophy. When the trophy evolved into the Champion Club Trophy in 2023, the trophy itself was redesigned entirely. The new design consists of a glass plate in the shape of a typical Australian rules football, it also includes the logos of both the AFL and AFLW competitions in the centre, on the side of the panel it is inscribed the words Dr. WM C McClelland Trophy. On the base plate it also includes name of the winning club. The new trophy was presented at the AFLW Awards night in 2023.


The award has been relatively low-key, with no prize money until 2023, although in recent seasons there had been a private presentation to clubs released in video format on websites.

Prior to 1991, there was no trophy for the team that qualified for the finals in first position as minor premiers, even though winning the minor premiership did come with some prestige: finishing on first on the ladder at the end of the home-and-away season ensures an advantageous draw in the AFL finals series, and is also part of the official records.[15]

In April 2018, following a proposal by then-AFL Commission boss Richard Goyder to boost the significance of the McClelland Trophy and recognise the achievement of finishing on top of the ladder, AFL chief executive officer Gillon McLachlan agreed to consider introducing prize money alongside the award for the 2019 season and beyond.[16] However, monetary winnings were not introduced until 2023.

List of winners

1951–1990: Three-grade format

Year Winner
1951 Essendon
1952 Geelong
1953 Essendon
1954 Geelong
1955 Melbourne
1956 Melbourne
1957 Essendon
1958 Melbourne
1959 Collingwood
1960 Collingwood
1961 Hawthorn
1962 Geelong
1963 Geelong
1964 Collingwood
1965 Collingwood
1966 Collingwood
1967 Richmond
1968 Essendon
1969 Carlton
1970 Collingwood
1971 Hawthorn
1972 Richmond
1973 Richmond
1974 Richmond
1975 Richmond
1976 North Melbourne
1977 Richmond
1978 North Melbourne
1979 Carlton
1980 Geelong
1981 Geelong
1982 Richmond
1983 North Melbourne
1984 Hawthorn
1985 Carlton
1986 Hawthorn
1987 Carlton
1988 Hawthorn
1989 Essendon
1990 Melbourne

1991–2022: AFL minor premiers

Year Winner
1991 West Coast
1992 Geelong
1993 Essendon
1994 West Coast
1995 Carlton
1996 Sydney
1997 St Kilda
1998 North Melbourne
1999 Essendon
2000 Essendon
2001 Essendon
2002 Port Adelaide
2003 Port Adelaide
2004 Port Adelaide
2005 Adelaide
2006 West Coast
2007 Geelong
2008 Geelong
2009 St Kilda
2010 Collingwood
2011 Collingwood
2012 Hawthorn
2013 Hawthorn
2014 Sydney
2015 Fremantle
2016 Sydney
2017 Adelaide
2018 Richmond
2019 Geelong
2020 Port Adelaide
2021 Melbourne
2022 Geelong

2023–present: AFL & AFLW Combined Champion Club

Year Winner
2023 Melbourne

Trophy winners

See also: List of Australian Football League minor premiers

1951–1990: Three-grade format

Team Wins
Carlton 4
Collingwood 6
Essendon 5
Fitzroy 0
Footscray 0
Geelong 6
Hawthorn 6
Melbourne 4
North Melbourne 3
Richmond 7
St Kilda 0
South Melbourne/Sydney 0

1991–2022: AFL minor premiers

Team Wins Last win
Adelaide 2 2017
Brisbane 0 Never
Carlton 1 1995
Collingwood 2 2011
Essendon 4 2001
Fitzroy 0 N/A [17]
Footscray/Western Bulldogs 0 Never
Fremantle 1 2015
Geelong 5 2022
Gold Coast 0 Never
Greater Western Sydney 0 Never
Hawthorn 2 2013
Melbourne 1 2021
North Melbourne 1 1998
Port Adelaide 4 2020
Richmond 1 2018
St Kilda 2 2009
Sydney 3 2016
West Coast 3 2006

2023-present: AFL and AFLW Combined Champion Club

Melbourne won the inaugural McClelland Trophy contested under this format in 2023.

See also


  1. ^ a b "AFL and AFLW combined Champion Club introduced". 9 March 2023.
  2. ^ a b "McClelland Trophy! A New Look". Football Record (30/31 March/1 April 1991): 3.
  3. ^ Lovett, Michael, ed. (2005). AFL Record: Guide to season 2005. Melbourne: AFL Publishing. p. 738. ISBN 0-9580300-6-5.
  4. ^ Cannon, Jack (24 May 1951). "Dons top League contest". The Argus. p. 9. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  5. ^ "VFL to handle late permits". The Herald. 14 April 1954. p. 19. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Hawthorn wins the McClelland". The Age. 5 September 1985. p. 28.
  7. ^ Smithers, Patrick (10 September 1985). "It's a tie". The Age. p. 56.
  8. ^ "V.F.L. Championship". Football Record. 4 September 1954. p. 15. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  9. ^ "S.A. Gesture to Victoria". The Age. 20 July 1957. p. 16.
  10. ^ "Peter Pianto wins Trophy". The Age. 23 July 1957. p. 16. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
  11. ^ "Skilton happiest man in the side". The Age. 21 June 1965. p. 21.
  12. ^ "Dr McClelland Trophy". Sydney Morning Herald. 13 May 1991. p. 36.
  13. ^ a b Perkin, Steve (5 May 1991). "Exposed! The Dr McClelland Trophy". The Age. p. 69.
  14. ^ "League topics". Football Record. 19 April 1952. p. 14. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  15. ^ Stevens, Mark (18 July 2007). "Cats should be rewarded". Herald Sun. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
  16. ^ Ralph, Jon (20 April 2018). "Cash prize on cards for minor premiers". The West Australian. p. 78. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  17. ^ Fitzroy had its playing operations taken over by Brisbane at the end of 1996.