Although the league was still called the VFL until the start of the 1990 season, the 1997 season was the unofficial 11th AFL season as the league expanded from 12 clubs to 14 clubs in 1987.
The new clubs were West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears. In 1991 Adelaide Crows joined followed by Fremantle Dockers in 1995.
1997 was the start of a new era of the AFL. Footscray changed its name to Western Bulldogs. Brisbane Bears and Fitzroy Lions merged to become Brisbane Lions. And Port Adelaide Power joined retaining the league with 16 clubs.
In this new era of the AFL, four of the six interstate clubs - Adelaide, West Coast Eagles, Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions - participated in the 8 club finals series.
- Malcolm Blight replaced Robert Shaw as coach at Adelaide and achieved immediate success by winning the Premiership.
- Footscray's name change to Western Bulldogs also brought immediate success climbing 12 places from 15th into the Preliminary Finals.
- After a poor start to the season, Jeff Gieschen replaced Robert Walls as Richmond coach.
- Whilst Hawthorn fell 7 places finishing one place above the wooden spoon.
Finishing 4th on the ladder, Adelaide won its 1st AFL Premiership. It required them winning four finals matches. St Kilda were minor premiers and played them in the Grand Final. Whilst Melbourne won the wooden spoon.
Tony Modra of Adelaide won the Coleman Medal for the leading goalscorer. Robert Harvey of St Kilda won the Brownlow Medal.
|5||West Coast Eagles|
|West Coast Eagles|
|Qualifying Final||North Melbourne||Preliminary Final|
|8||Brisbane Lions||North Melbourne|
|1||St Kilda||St Kilda||Grand Final|
|Qualifying Final||Preliminary Final||Adelaide|
|3||Western Bulldogs||Western Bulldogs|
|6||Sydney Swans||Semi Final||Adelaide|