The first Grand Final
The end of the 1896 VFA season saw Collingwood and South Melbourne perched at the top of the ladder on identical wins and gaols. The teams could not be seperated. Two flags could not be issued so a decider had to be played.
The game was played at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of 12,000 spectators. The game started out as close encounter with the Magpies edging in front by 6 points at half time. However the fans would get decidedly nervous as The Bloods took back control and the lead in the third as Captain Bill Strickland had instructed his charges to 'take it easy' during the quarter and save their energy for the last. The plan worked and the Pies stormed home to secure their first premiership in just five seasons of competition.
The celebrations were riotous at the Town Hall and Victoria Park that night and the mood continued on for weeks around the whole suburb. Collingwood had established itself as the best and yet the best was yet to come.
The Club's onfield success generated huge off-field support and the club was targeted by a break away group of five other teams to form a new Victorian Football League for the 1897 season. A meating was held on the eve of the 1896 Grand Final at Buxton's Art Gallery in the City and the decision was made then and there to break away from the disorganised VFA. Without Collingwood the VFL would have stalled before it even started.