Although the league was still called the VFL until the start of the 1990 season, the 2002 season was the unofficial 16th 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, three of the six interstate clubs - Brisbane Lions, Port Adelaide, Adelaide - joined Collingwood in the Preliminary Finals.
- John Worsfold replaced Ken Judge as coach at West Coast Eagles.
- After a poor start to the season, Paul Roos replaced Rodney Eade as Sydney Swans coach.
- Peter Rohde was appointed coach at Western Bulldogs.
- Chris Connolly was appointed coach at Fremantle.
North Melbourne and West Coast Eagles both climbed 6 places to qualify for the finals series. Carlton fell 11 places to win the wooden spoon. Whilst Richmond fell 10 places to finish 14th
A repeat from last season, Brisbane Lions finished second on the ladder and won the premiership. Collingwood finishing 4th played them in the Grand Final. Port Adelaide were minor premiers. Whilst Carlton won the wooden spoon.
David Neitz of Melbourne won the Coleman Medal for the leading goalscorer. Simon Black of Brisbane Lions won the Brownlow Medal.
|1||Port Adelaide||Semi Final|
|Elimination Final||Essendon||Preliminary Final|
|8||West Coast Eagles||Adelaide||Grand Final|
|Elimination Final||Preliminary Final||Brisbane Lions|
|7||North Melbourne||Port Adelaide|
|6||Melbourne||Semi Final||Brisbane Lions|