AFL Round 1 Premiers 1990 – 2020


They say “you don’t get crowned premiers in March” although you could have been forgiven for even briefly thinking that Port Adelaide would be the 2020 AFL Premiers.

The three month hold on the 2020 AFL season has meant that Power fans have (in between debating Collingwood over who “owns” the prison bar design) been able to spend the last 10 weeks enjoying their team sitting on top of the ladder.

But that then led to an inter-office discussion, who would have been crowned Premiers if every season had only had one round?

We’ve reached into the history books to bring you the Round 1 Premiers since the VFL became the AFL – 1990 and the results will surprise!

ROUND 1 PREMIERS 1990 – 2020

1990 – Hawthorn

After what many regard as the greatest Grand Final ever played, The Hawks faced Geelong at Waverley for the season opener and belted them to the tune of 115 points.

Jason Dunstall kicked 12 goals, with Gary Ablett was kept quiet at the other end with only five (This was considered a quiet day back then).

1991 – West Coast*

The 1991 season saw the Adelaide Crows join the League making the AFL a 15 team competition.

While the Crows famously thrashed the Hawks by 86 points in the season opener at Football Park, West Coast would actually finish the round on top on percentage after thumping Melbourne by 79 points at Subiaco.

Hawthorn’s final score of 9-15 (69) against Adelaide gave them more points for and against, whereas Melbourne’s total was 2-8 (20) putting the Eagles on top.

With a 15 team competition now in place the Brisbane Bears, Carlton, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, North Melbourne and Sydney all had the bye in the first round. 

1992 – Carlton*

The opening round of the 1992 season saw Collingwood, Fitzroy, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond, Sydney and West Coast all have the bye.

Footscray upset Adelaide by 27 points at Football Park however, the for and against in percentage didn’t work in their favour resulting in Carlton’s 24 point win over the Brisbane Bears at Carrara putting the Blues on top.

1993 – Adelaide*

A man by the name of Tony Modra kicked 10 goals as Adelaide thumped Richmond to the tune of 94 points at the MCG. 

This resulted in the Crows sitting very comfortable on top after the first round.

The Sydney Swans had the bye in the opening round of the season and many would argue the club was on the bye for the entire season. 

1994 – Adelaide


A sold-out Football Park plays host to the Crows and Carlton and it was one of Tony Modra’s greatest goals with 13 goals to his name.

The Crows did it easy with a 66 point win.

North Melbourne had the bye. 

1995 – Essendon

With Fremantle joining the competition, the AFL was an even 16 teams.

Essendon ventured over to the Whitten Oval to play a hapless Fitzroy in the first round.

The Roys failed to register a score in the first half of the match and the Bombers did it easy with a 74 point win.

1996 – Geelong

The 1996 AFL Centenary Season opened with yet another Gary Ablett masterclass as the Cats smashed the Demons to the tune of 127 points.

Ablett kicked 9 and the Cats had 12 individual goal scorers.

1997 – West Coast

Fitzroy merged with the Bears to become the Lions and Port Adelaide joined the competition.

The Power play Collingwood at the MCG in their historic first AFL match and go down by 79 points.

However, West Coast find themselves on top of the ladder despite only beating Sydney by 41 points.

Collywobbles doesn’t discriminate in Round 1 premierships with the Pies losing on percentage as they allowed Port to score 13-9 (87) whereas the Swans only managed 5-7 (37) against the Eagles.

1998 – Western Bulldogs

A fairly even first round of football, the Western Bulldogs traveled to Brisbane to take on the Lions at the Gabba and beat them by 46 points.

Redemption after the tragedy of the 1997 preliminary final with the Round 1 Premiership! 

1999 – Brisbane Lions

The Leigh Matthews era at Brisbane begins with the Lions thrashing St.Kilda by 89 points at the Gabba.

Brisbane finished Round 1, 1999 on top of the ladder with a whooping 241.3%! 

2000 – Essendon

The Bombers started their 2000 season the way they finished it – on top.

Essendon played host to Port Adelaide in the very first game at what was then known as Colonial Stadium (Marvel) and belted them by 94 points.

Had the 2000 season been called off at any stage, the Bombers would still have been default premiers. 

2001 – Essendon

Fresh off their 2000 premiership triumph, the Bombers easily account for North Melbourne in the opening match of the 2001 season with an 85 point win at the MCG.

The Bombers would win the minor premiership for the third year running but fall short in the actual Grand Final to the Brisbane Lions. 

2002 – Essendon


The Bombers play Geelong in the opening game of the 2002 season which saw the likes of Gary Ablett and Jimmy Bartel debut for the Cats.

Matthew Lloyd kicked six as the Dons cruised to a 56 point victory. 

2003 – Sydney

After winning their first wooden spoon in 2002, the Blues led by new coach Dennis Pagan travel to Sydney to take on the Swans at Stadium Australia.

The Swans do it easy over the Blues with a 74 point win. 

2004 – Port Adelaide

Good news for Port fans! 

In this hypothetical, you’re still premiers! 

The Power destroy Essendon by 94 points in the season opener with Warren Tredrea and Stewart Dew kicking six each.

2005 – Sydney

The Swans started 2005 the way they finished – with a victory on the MCG!

Although less dramatic than the famous Grand Final, the Sydney Swans do it easy with a 63 point win over the Hawks.

A young kid in the number 38 jumper by the name of Lance Franklin makes his debut but he didn’t score a goal in his first game. 

2006 – Western Bulldogs

The Doggies give Richmond a 115 point spanking in the opening round of the 2006 season giving them a Round 1 premiership – 10 years before that wonderful day in 2016! 

2007 – Brisbane

A reasonably close round to open the 2007 season but the Lions 25 point win over Hawthorn at the Gabba gives them the default Round 1 flag.

Essendon beats Adelaide by 31 points at Football Park but the for/against percentage results in the Lions taking top spot due to the Crows 10-14 (74) score compared to Hawthorn’s 6-8 (44)

2008 – Hawthorn

The Hawks 2008 premiership year starts in style as they belt Melbourne by 104 points at the MCG.

Lance Franklin kicks six to start his century. 

2009 – Carlton

Ben Cousins debuts for Richmond and does his Hamstring in a number of minutes and Tigers skipper Kane Johnson kicks the ball towards Carlton’s forward 50. 

In a horror night for the Tigers, the Blues thrashed them by 83 points leaving them on top after one Round. 

2010 – Hawthorn

It’s a three-way tie with Hawthorn, Carlton and Fremantle all beat their respective opponents by 56 points.

With the for/against percentage coming into play, The Hawks come out on top as they were able to hold their opponent Melbourne to a score of 8-13 (61) and remained on top by a narrow percentage of 191.8 compared to the Blues 190.3 

2011 – Essendon

Yet again the Collywobbles percentage kicks in – despite beating the Power by 75 points in their season opener, Essendon’s 55 point win over the Bulldogs leaves them on top of the ladder after Round 1.

The For / Against percentage has cost Collingwood two Round 1 premierships. 

2012 – Sydney

In the Swans recent two premierships, they’ve been on top of the ladder after Round 1.

The Swans played GWS in their historic first AFL match and got the job done easy beating them to the tune of 63 points.

2013 – Port Adelaide

The Power traveled to the MCG and destroy Melbourne under new coach Mark Neild by 79 points.

It was also Ken Hinkley’s first match as Power coach. 

2014 – Fremantle

The Dockers play Collingwood in the season opener at Docklands and thrash them by 70 points resulting in Freo sitting on top with a hypothetical Round 1 premiership! 

2015 – Adelaide

The Crows demolish North Melbourne in front of a packed Adelaide Oval.

Tex Walker kicks six and Eddie Betts boots four.

It was the first Crows game coached by the late Phil Walsh. 

2016 – Western Bulldogs

A great result for Doggies fans as 2016 still gives them the premiership – the hypothetical round 1 premiership that is! 

A big 65 point win over Freo, with The Package Jake Stringer kicking five, gave the Doggies a 65 point win and left them top of the ladder after one game played. 

2017 – Adelaide

The Crows got their hearts broken in the real 2017 Grand Final against Richmond but under the Round 1 call-off hypothetical premiership, their 56 point win over GWS at Adelaide Oval with Rory Laird’s 40 disposals gives the Crows their third Round 1 premiership! 

2018 – GWS Giants

The big, big sound came two years early when the GWS Giants thrashed the Western Bulldogs by 82 points Canberra.

The Giants finished round 1 with a whopping 260.8 percentage.

2019 – GWS Giants

Back to back premierships for the Giants with a 72 point thumping of Essendon.

Stephen Coniglio, Stephen Coniglio and Lachie Whitfiled had 91 disposals between them.

2020 – Port Adelaide 

Port’s 47 point win over the Gold Coast left them on top of the ladder after the first round.

The Power have been able to enjoy a 10-week stay on top of the AFL ladder, which normally brings about Premiership discussions but we’ll have to see how it plays out between now and October. 

There’s also a trend for the teams that have been on top after Round 1 during a leap year.

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