The McClelland Trophy is an Australian rules football trophy, which has been awarded each year since 1951 by the Australian Football League (known prior to 1990 as the Victorian Football League) to the best-performing club in a regular season, calculated using varying and evolving criteria. Between 1951 and 1990 it was presented to the club that performed the best across the three levels of competition; seniors, reserves and under 19s. Since 1991, the honour has been bestowed upon the team that finishes the home-and-away season on top of the AFL ladder.
The award was instituted in 1951 and is named after Dr. William C. McClelland, who at that time was president of the Victorian Football League, having previously played for Melbourne from 1898–1904, captaining the club and then serving as a club delegate. The trophy was initially presented to the team with the best overall home-and-away record across the three levels of VFL/AFL play: seniors, reserves and under 19s. Five points were awarded for a first grade (seniors) victory, three points for a win in the 'seconds', and one point for a third eighteen win. By 1954, the points system was altered to weight results more heavily in favour of senior-level success. Seniors wins were now worth ten points, reserves were worth four, and under 19s were worth two (with the values halved for drawn games).
The 1985 season was the only time that joint winners of the McClelland Trophy were declared, with both Hawthorn and Carlton finishing the home-and-away season with 228 points. The Hawks were at first declared sole winners via a countback system that separated the two clubs by just 0.5 per cent, or less than five goals over the course of the entire season. Yet less than a week later, the VFL amended its decision to declare that a countback would not apply as the McClelland Trophy followed the rules of the Brownlow Medal, which had abolished its countback system five years earlier. The countback system was previously used for the McClelland Trophy in 1954 when Geelong and Melbourne tied for the award; the Cats were named winners as they had the best percentage in the senior competition.
From 1991, the criteria for winning the McClelland Trophy was changed to its current status, being awarded to the team finishing on top of the AFL ladder at the end of the home-and-away season. Newspapers continued to publish cumulative results of the McClelland Trophy across the three grades up until a third of the way through the season, despite the alteration, and there was notable apathy throughout the league about the award's relevance. At the end of 1991, the Under 19s level of the league was replaced with a separate junior competition to be known as the TAC Cup (now the NAB League), effectively rubber-stamping the award's format change. The league's reserves competition was then scrapped at the end of 1999 in favour of an alignment with the Victorian Football League and other state leagues.
In 1957, a unrelated trophy of the same name was struck to reward the best Victorian player in interstate matches played against South Australia. The inaugural winner was Peter Pianto, and evidence of the award being presented continued up until at least 1965, when Footscray defender David Darcy was awarded the trophy.
The trophy is a perpetual shield that is kept at AFL House. The original trophy featured McClelland's head embossed in bronze on the centre of five panels of wood, where the names of each winning club would be inscribed over the years. Clubs also received a small replica of the trophy.
The award is relatively low-key, with no prize money: although finishing on top of the ladder ensures a slightly advantageous draw in the AFL finals series, the main goal of all teams is to win the AFL Premiership, by winning the grand final.
Unofficially and colloquially, winners of the McClelland Trophy are also given the title "minor premiers". In April 2018, following a suggestion by then AFL Commission boss Richard Goyder to boost the significance of the McClelland Trophy and recognise the achievement of finishing on top of the ladder, AFL chief executive officer Gillon McLachlan agreed to consider introducing prize money alongside the award for the 2019 season and beyond. However, any monetary winnings have yet to be introduced.
List of winnersEdit
|Team||All grades (1951–1990)||Top of Ladder (1991–present)||Total||Most Recent Win|
|Greater Western Sydney||N/A||0||0|
- Richmond won the trophy four times in a row from 1972 until 1975, the most consecutive of any team.
- Collingwood (1964–1966), Hawthorn (1984–1986, inc 1985 tied), Essendon (1999–2001) and Port Adelaide (2002–2004) each won it three times in a row.
- Thirteen of the 41 McClelland Trophy winners between 1951 and 1990 went on to win the premiership in the same year.
- McClelland Trophy winners have missed the grand final seven times since 1991: Essendon (1999), Port Adelaide (2002, 2003), Adelaide (2005), Fremantle (2015), Richmond (2018) and Geelong (2019).
- "McClelland Trophy! A New Look". Football Record (30/31 March/1 April 1991): 3.
- Lovett, Michael, ed. (2005). AFL Record: Guide to season 2005. Melbourne: AFL Publishing. p. 738. ISBN 0-9580300-6-5.
- Cannon, Jack (24 May 1951). "Dons top League contest". The Argus. p. 9. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
- "VFL to handle late permits". The Herald. 14 April 1954. p. 19. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
- "Hawthorn wins the McClelland". The Age. 5 September 1985. p. 28.
- Smithers, Patrick (10 September 1985). "It's a tie". The Age. p. 56.
- "V.F.L. Championship". Football Record. 4 September 1954. p. 15. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
- "Dr McClelland Trophy". Sydney Morning Herald. 13 May 1991. p. 36.
- Perkin, Steve (5 May 1991). "Exposed! The Dr McClelland Trophy". The Age. p. 69.
- "S.A. Gesture to Victoria". The Age. 20 July 1957. p. 16.
- "Peter Pianto wins Trophy". The Age. 23 July 1957. p. 16. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
- "Skilton happiest man in the side". The Age. 21 June 1965. p. 21.
- "League topics". Football Record. 19 April 1952. p. 14. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
- Stevens, Mark (18 July 2007). "Cats should be rewarded". Herald Sun. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
- Wilson, Caroline (13 November 2009). "Saints struggle for profit despite successful season". The Age. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
- Wilson, Caroline (24 August 2003). "Only one trophy good enough for Port". The Age. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
- Ralph, Jon. "Long break no-go for minor premiers, says AFL". Herald Sun.
- Ralph, Jon (20 April 2018). "Cash prize on cards for minor premiers". The West Australian. p. 78. Retrieved 7 February 2020.