In late 1896, Essendon led a breakaway group of seven clubs that defected from the VFA to establish their own competition - the Victorian Football League.

In the VFL’s first season, the Bombers emerged as premiers under a new system where the top four teams played a round robin competition at season’s end.

Essendon won all three ‘finals’ games to become the competition’s inaugural premier.

Essendon 5.5 (35) def Geelong 3.11 (29)
Attendance: 5,000 at Corio Oval

Essendon 9.16 (70) def Collingwood 4.6 (30)
Attendance: 8,000 at the MCG

Essendon 1.8 (14) def Melbourne 0.8 (8)
Attendance: 3,800 at Lake Oval


J. Anderson, S. Barry, C. Campbell, A. Cleghorn, G. Cochrane, T. Collins, E. Croft, D. Ferguson, C. Forbes, H. Gavin, J. Groves, G. Hastings, G. Kearney, T. Kinnear, G. Martin, N. Officer, P. O'Loughlin, G. Stuckey, G. Vautin, N. Waugh, H. Wright

Captain: George Stuckey

Leading goalkicker: Norman Waugh (23)