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Although the league was still called the VFL until the start of the 1990 season, the 2001 season was the unofficial 15th 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 - Brisbane Lions, Port Adelaide, Sydney Swans, Adelaide - participated in the 8 club finals series.
- Wayne Brittain replaced David Parkin as coach at Carlton.
- Malcolm Blight coached St Kilda until mid-season before being replaced with Grant Thomas.
- On route to the wooden spoon, mid-season Ben Allan replaced Damian Drum as coach at Fremantle.
West Coast Eagles and Fremantle ended playing matches at the WACA and Subiaco Oval was their only home ground.
Port Adelaide had the biggest improvement for the season, climbing 11 places to finish 3rd on the ladder and played in the Semi Finals. Whilst North Melbourne fell 9 places to 13th and out of the final series.
Brisbane Lions finishing second on the ladder won their 1st premiership. Essendon were minor premiers for the third season in a row and played them in the Grand Final. Whilst Fremantle won their 1st wooden spoon.
Matthew Lloyd of Essendon won the Coleman Medal for the leading goalscorer for the second season in a row. Jason Akermanis of Brisbane Lions won the Brownlow Medal.
|Elimination Final||Carlton||Preliminary Final|
|Elimination Final||Preliminary Final||Brisbane Lions|
|6||Hawthorn||Semi Final||Brisbane Lions|
|Qualifying Final||Port Adelaide|