AAP AFL

2020 AFL premiership still legitimate

By AAP Newswire

The 2020 AFL season will be unique in many ways, but should there really be an asterisk placed next to the premiership winner?

The legitimacy of this year's flag has been questioned due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the fixture to be slashed to 17 rounds, quarters shortened and crowds barred from attending games.

"I've heard the asterisk label bandied around and it is a different season, a different time, but we'll be happy to have an asterisk next to our name," Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said in April.

The global health crisis has plunged not only the AFL, but the entire world of sport, into territory not experienced for almost 80 years.

But AFL games will resume from June 11 with all 18 clubs fielding teams, unlike previous world crises.

The 1916 VFL season is described as "farcical" in the AFL's official guide - and it's not hard to see why.

Just four of the league's nine teams - Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond and Fitzroy (all inner north Melbourne clubs) - took to the field that year as leading players served during World War I.

The regular season consisted of just 12 rounds (the fewest in league history) as the Blues dominated and claimed the minor premiership.

Fitzroy (then known as the Maroons) struggled to finish fourth and last with only two victories.

But in a stunning finals series, Fitzroy defeated Carlton twice to win their sixth premiership, including a comfortable 29-point grand final victory in front of 21,130 fans at the MCG.

Fitzroy faithful proudly claim that flag (and notoriety as the only team to finish last and win the premiership in the same season) as part of their collection of eight in the VFL before merging with Brisbane in 1996.

As do other clubs that won premierships in disrupted years.

It wasn't until 1919, after the Great War had ended, when the league again had a full complement of teams, with Melbourne the last club to rejoin.

Geelong and South Melbourne came back in 1917, while Essendon and St Kilda resumed the following year.

Two of the Bombers' equal-record 16 premiership came during years when no grand final was held.

The VFL's inaugural season in 1897 concluded in the Bombers being crowned premiers following a round-robin finals series involving the top-four sides.

That format was revived for 1924 as Essendon's famed 'Mosquito Fleet' led the Bombers to their sixth premiership after edging the Tigers on percentage.

World War II didn't have as big an impact on football as the proceeding conflict, with the exception of Geelong, as the Cats withdrew from the competition in 1942 and 1943 due to severe transport restrictions.

Grand finals between 1942 and 1945 were played at Carlton's Princes Park and St Kilda's Junction Oval when the MCG served as a military base.

With clubs resuming modified training schedules this week, coaches and players have argued the 2020 flag could even end up carrying extra significance.

"It's going to be a little bit different, but this will be one of the greatest premierships ever won in the AFL," two-time Richmond premiership coach Damien Hardwick said.