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Has an AFL team ever forfeited a game?

A look at the history of footy forfeits amid reports West Coast has had informal talks about pulling out of a WAFL game.

116, 122 and 171: Those are just some of the massive losses the West Coast have copped in the AFL this year, with a growing injury list proving especially hard on the Eagles.

Their reserves side in the WAFL hasn't done much better - losses of 108, 111, 129, 169 and even 184 leaving the stand-alone side's future in doubt. They were previously aligned with the East Perth Royals until 2018.

Earlier this year it's believed they were in informal talks about forfeiting a game as they struggled to find players.

But what about a forfeit in the AFL - and has it ever happened before?

Short answer: No.

Never in the V/AFL has a team forfeited a game in the home-and-away season.

According to the Laws of the Game, if it did happen, "the percentage of the Team who did not forfeit the Match shall be adjusted by crediting and debiting that Team with the average number of points for the Home and Away Matches that were scored for and against the Team who did forfeit the Match."

While Adelaide and Geelong did not play each other in Round 14 2015 after the death of Crows coach Phil Walsh, that was officially a cancelled game - not a forfeit by the Crows.

In the first round of the 1990 Foster's Cup - the pre-season competition - the Brisbane Bears withdrew from their game against North Melbourne due to financial problems and a player's stake. As the game did go ahead - West Coast having to play twice - this may not count as a forfeit, just a withdrawal.

In more recent years, the Essendon-St Kilda NAB Cup game in Wangaratta was cancelled after two planes chartered by the Bombers had to be diverted back to Melbourne because of weather conditions in the area. Again, while in a way Essendon forfeited, the game was cancelled. Points were first split, then eventually given to the Saints.

Forfeits are slightly more common in the reserve leagues - VFL (previously VFA), SANFL and WAFL.

In 1987, three clubs were suspended from the VFA at different stages in the year.

Moorabbin forfeited its Round 3 and 4 games amid an inability to field a team, and as a result the rest of its games were treated as forfeitures. It ultimately led to the club's demise after just 4 years.

That same year, Geelong West forfeited Rounds 7, 8 and 9. While they resumed playing in Round 10, the Roosters only went onto win a single game leading to it being relegated.

Caulfield also suffered towards the end of the year, leading to a forfeit in its final game of the year against Sunshine.

And going all the way back to 1904, North Melbourne were awarded the VFA premiership after Richmond refused to take the field unless the umpire was replaced. Under the rule at the time, Richmond had been allowed to 'challenge' after a previous finals loss as they were the minor premiers.

It remains the only time in history that a VFA, VFL or AFL premiership was won by default after the opposition side refused to play.

In early 2023, footy teams and forfeits made the news again.

The Tiwi Bombers forfeited one of its games in the Men's Premier League in the Northern Territory, copping a $10,000 fine.

There were also talks about Collingwood having to pull out from its qualifying final against Brisbane in the 2022 AFLW season after they fell below the minimum number of players needed to field a side. The game was delayed a week but ended up going ahead, where they lost by 70 points.

So while we've never seen it in the AFL yet - we've certainly come close.

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