Publicised Image of McClelland Trophy at AFL House in 2015
Publicised Image of McClelland Trophy at AFL House in 2015

The McClelland Trophy is an Australian rules football trophy which has been awarded each year since 1951 by the Australian Football League (known prior to 1990 as the Victorian Football League) to the best-performing club in the home-and-away season.

Between 1951 and 1990, the Trophy was presented to the club with the highest aggregate points across the three grades of competition - seniors, Reserves and Under-19s - with senior wins carrying a higher value.

After the AFL announced that the Under-19s competition would be shut down at the end of the 1991 season, to be replaced with an Under-18s competition independent of the AFL clubs, the Trophy has been presented to the club finishing the AFL home-and-away season on top of the ladder, thus merging the Trophy with the minor premiership.

The first season that the Trophy was awarded to the AFL minor premiers was 1991, when it was awarded to the West Coast Eagles.[1]

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).

Original three-grade format

From 1951 to 1990, the trophy was presented to the club with the best overall home-and-away record across the three levels of VFL/AFL competition: seniors, Reserves and Under-19s.[2] 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. [3]

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.[4]

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. [5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

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 had become problematic by 1991: while Sydney 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, while WAFL and SANFL officials had rejected proposals for West Coast and Adelaide to field teams in the AFL Reserves and Under-19s.

Subsequently, the AFL announced that the Under-19s competition would be shut down at the end of the 1991 season, and the McClelland Trophy's criteria was changed: since 1991, the Trophy has been 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. [1]

Despite this change, some newspapers continued to publish cumulative results of the McClelland Trophy across the three grades up until Round 8,[8] while there was notable apathy throughout the league about the award's relevance.[9] In the event, the dissolution of the AFL Under-19s competition, being replaced with a new Under-18s competition (the TAC Cup) featuring teams that were unaffilated with the AFL clubs, confirmed the format change.

At the end of 1999, the AFL Reserves competition was dissolved in favour of alignments with the Victorian Football League and other state leagues, thus completing the league's shift to having each club field one AFL team.

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.[10] The inaugural winner was Peter Pianto,[11] and evidence of the award being presented continued up until at least 1965, when Footscray defender David Darcy was awarded the trophy.[12]

The trophy

The trophy is a perpetual shield that is kept at AFL House.[9] 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.[13] Clubs also receive a smaller one-panel replica of the trophy.


The award is relatively low-key, with no prize money, although in recent seasons there has been an attempt at 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.[14]

In April 2018, following a suggestion 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.[15] However, any monetary winnings have yet to be introduced as of 2022.

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-present: 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

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-present: Minor premiers

Team Wins Most recent win
Adelaide 2 2017
Brisbane 0 Never
Carlton 1 1995
Collingwood 2 2011
Essendon 4 2001
Fitzroy 0 N/A [16]
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

See also


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