In 1897 no grand final was played, but instead a round-robin finals system.
The VFL had several proposed finals systems leading up to the 1897 finals series. The system which was ultimately used was not decided until 17 August 1897, three days after the finals were scheduled to have begun under another system; the change was possible only because the first week of finals, scheduled for 14 August 1897, had been postponed due to inclement weather.
Ultimately, the clubs agreed to a system comprising a round-robin amongst the top four, with the provision for a play-off match for the premiership depending on the results of that round-robin. The finals system was as follows:
• The top four teams to play off against each other in a round-robin series played over the following three weekends. The match-ups in the first week would be drawn by lot; the match-ups in the second week would be determined by pairing the winners and the losers from the first week against each other; and the remaining pairings would then contest the third week.
• If one club finished as the outright winner of the round-robin series on win-loss record (i.e. without using percentage as a tie-breaker), that club would automatically become the premiers.
• If two teams had finished with the same win-loss record, those two teams would contest a Final on the following Saturday to decide the premiership.
• If three (or all four) teams had finished with the same win-loss record, the top two teams as determined by using percentage as a tie-breaker would contest a Final on the following Saturday to decide the premiership.
The takings for the first week of the finals were donated to charity; the remaining takings were divided amongst the league.
A point of contention was the venue for the finals matches; the venues were originally to be drawn by lot, but in early August, the league decided to fix the venues in advance, and in doing so did not schedule a final at Geelong’s home ground of Corio Oval, which offered much lower gate takings than the four venues in Melbourne where the matches were scheduled (the MCG, Brunswick Street Oval, the Lake Oval and the East Melbourne Cricket Ground).  This decision was later reversed after Geelong (who had won the minor premiership) lodged an official complaint with the league, and when the finals system was determined on August 17th, Geelong was scheduled to host its match in the first week.
|Bill O'Brien Elder|