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Although the league was still called the VFL until the start of the 1990 season, the 2003 season was the unofficial 17th 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, all six of the interstate clubs - Adelaide, Brisbane Lions, Fremantle, Port Adelaide, Sydney Swans, West Coast Eagles - participated in the 8 club finals series.

Club Changes[]

Denis Pagan left North Melbourne to become the coach at Carlton. Dean Laidley replaced him as coach at North Melbourne.

Fremantle climbed 8 places to 5th on the ladder and qualify to its 1st finals series. Whilst Melbourne had the biggest decline, falling 8 places to 14th.


It was a season of déjà vu. Brisbane Lions won the premiership for the third season in a row. Collingwood were runners-up for the second season in a row. Port Adelaide were minor premiers, the same as 2002. But Carlton escaped winning back-to-back wooden spoons and was won by Western Bulldogs.


Matthew Lloyd of Essendon won the Coleman Medal for the leading goalscorer, the third time in 4 seasons. The Brownlow Medal was shared between Nathan Buckley of Collingwood, Mark Ricciuto of Adelaide and Adam Goodes of Sydney Swans.


# 2002 Team Home Ground Coach Captain
1   2010 Logo Port Adelaide.png Port Adelaide   Football Park   Mark Williams   Matthew Primus
2 ▲ 2   2010 Logo Collingwood.png Collingwood   MCG   Mick Malthouse   Nathan Buckley
3 ▼ 1   2010 Logo Lions.png Brisbane Lions   Gabba   Leigh Matthews   Michael Voss
4 ▲ 7   2010 Logo Sydney.png Sydney Swans   SCG   Paul Roos   Stuart Maxfield
5 ▲ 8   Fremantle-dockers.png Fremantle   Subiaco Oval   Chris Connolly   Peter Bell
6 ▼ 3   2010 Logo Adelaide.png Adelaide   Football Park   Gary Ayres   Mark Ricciuto
7 ▲ 1   2010 Logo West Coast.png West Coast Eagles   Subiaco Oval   John Worsfold   Ben Cousins
8 ▼ 3   2010 Logo Essendon.png Essendon   Docklands Stadium   Kevin Sheedy   James Hird
9 ▲ 1   2010 Logo Hawthorn.png Hawthorn   MCG   Peter Schwab   Shane Crawford
10 ▼ 3   2010 Logo North Melbourne.png North Melbourne   Docklands Stadium   Dean Laidley   Anthony Stevens
11 ▲ 4   2010 Logo St Kilda.png St Kilda   Docklands Stadium   Grant Thomas   Aaron Hamill
12 ▼ 3   2010 Logo Geelong.png Geelong   Kardinia Park   Mark Thompson   Steven King
13 ▲ 1   2010 Logo Richmond.png Richmond   MCG   Danny Frawley   Wayne Campbell
14 ▼ 8   Melbourne logo 2014.png Melbourne   MCG   Neale Daniher   David Neitz
15 ▲ 1   2010 Logo Carlton-Football.png Carlton   Princes Park   Denis Pagan   Brett Ratten
16 ▼ 4   2010 Logo Western Bulldogs.png Western Bulldogs   Docklands Stadium   Peter Rohde   Chris Grant

Finals Series[]

  Qualifying Final    
4  Sydney Swans  
1  Port Adelaide     Semi Final    
     Port Adelaide    
Elimination Final        Essendon       Preliminary Final  
8  Essendon        Sydney Swans  
5  Fremantle          Brisbane Lions     Grand Final  
         Brisbane Lions
  Elimination Final         Preliminary Final        Collingwood
7  West Coast Eagles          Port Adelaide  
6  Adelaide     Semi Final          Collingwood  
Qualifying Final        Brisbane Lions    
3  Brisbane Lions  
2  Collingwood  
Key:       Losing team progressing       Winning team progressing