With the 2018 season done and dusted, what better time than now to look back on both the top 20 memorable and ‘top’ 20 not-so-memorable games this year?
“Simple: the game that my team won over our rivals!”
But on a league-wide level? Here are our 20 favourites (in no particular order).
Round 2 – Adelaide 118, Richmond 82
A gutsy performance by an already struggling Crows team which hid their long-term issues and hid the Tigers’ ascendency for a few more rounds as well.
Round 2 – Hawthorn 118, Geelong 117
The first game with Geelong’s “Holy Trinity” together on the field produced a Kennett Curse thriller, won by a Jarryd Roughead minor in the last minute for the Hawks.
Round 3 – Port Adelaide 97, Brisbane 92
Rather than ebbs and flows, this match had huge waves stretching over the course of a quarter or more at a time – the Lions putting five goals together in the second quarter to lead by eleven at the half; Port scoring seven straight in the third quarter to put the game “out of reach”; and Brisbane scoring the last four goals (and almost a fifth) to close within reach before running out of oomph.
It announced the presence of the young Lions club as a potential force to be reckoned with down the road.
Round 6 – West Coast 89, Fremantle 81
The game itself was good enough, but the tension built up over the week leading up to the first Western Derby in the new stadium (including the controversy over the name of the match MVP medal) ramped the pressure up another few notches.
Round 7 – North Melbourne 68, Sydney 66
Mason Wood’s four-goal performance led an upset of the heavily-favoured Swans in a game so tense that neither team led by as many as three goals at any time.
Round 8 – Port Adelaide 95, Adelaide 90
Steven Motlop’s inclusion in the storied tapestry of the Showdown was sealed with his game-winning goal, in a moment of time when both teams were seemingly finals-bound.
Round 10 – Melbourne 146, Adelaide 55
A great game from only one side up in Alice Springs, but remarkable as the capstone placed on the arrival of premiership-level Melbourne, following similar routs in Round 8-9.
Round 11 – Hawthorn 64, Port Adelaide 61
A glorious back-and-forth in Tasmania. Port won the first quarter, Hawthorn the second, and the rest of the game was a close tense matchup ended by the veteran Roughead knocking it through to save the Hawks’ stronghold’s reputation.
Round 14 – North Melbourne 77, Western Bulldogs 75
Notable for the last-minute goal by Jack Ziebell, with a ground assist from Ben Brown. One of the plays of the year.
Round 17 – Sydney 104, North Melbourne 98
Memorable for the game winner by backman Aliir Aliir and his game-long battle with Majak Daw, for the multiple lead changes in the fourth quarter, for Ben Brown’s four – Jack Ziebell’s five – and Buddy’s 900th goal.
Round 18 – Geelong 100, Melbourne 98
Zach Tuohy had never kicked a game-winner in his life before that mid-July evening. Even better than that Round 1 game the teams played where Max Gawn missed a tough but gettable set-shot late.
Round 19 – Richmond 105, Collingwood 77
Touted as a preview of finals, the first three quarters were an amazing, back-and-forth affair that left the teams within a goal. Alas, the fourth was won by five straight Richmond goals.
Also notable for Jack Higgins’ insane around-the-post goal of the year. In retrospect, the game had little to do with the preliminary finals rematch, which was a coming out party for Mason Cox that Collingwood utterly dominated, knocking the prohibitive favourite out of the tournament.
Round 20’s Friday and Saturday games
Five of the six games were decided by less than a goal, all featuring fourth quarter comebacks and either a game-winning goal or a let-down miss. It was arguably the most exciting 30 hours of footy in history.
Sunday, by contrast, had three games with a total margin of victory reaching 259 points!
Round 22 – Melbourne 108, West Coast 91
The knock against the Demons this season was that in spite of all their wins, they hadn’t conquered a top-eight team all year. And with ten minutes to go, Mark LeCras knocked one through to put the Eagles on top with momentum to spare.
But two goals from Jake Melksham and one from Dean Kent brought the Demons into the finals and gave them justification that they deserved to be there. Two finals wins backed that justification up, before a surprise destruction by those same Eagles in that same Optus Stadium.
Round 23 – Richmond 98, Bulldogs 95
A high quality of play from both teams, as the Doggies almost beat the Tigers at their own game. Only a difficult set shot miss prevented an upset of the minor premiers entering the finals.
Grand final – West Coast 79, Collingwood 74
It had everything an impartial observer would want to see: each team dominated for a portion of the game, and the fourth quarter was close and had multiple lead changes, including the final one when Dom Sheed knocked through the last major of the season to take the last lead of the year.
Which games were the… well… less memorable, perhaps?
Here are twenty forgettable possibilities.
Round 1 – Gold Coast 55, North Melbourne 39
A rain-soaked field in Cairns disguised as a swimming pool was the site of Stewart Dew’s first win as a head coach, in a game that really should have been postponed or moved.
Cairns in late March? Whose idea was that?
Round 3 – Fremantle 96, Gold Coast 68
The game itself is non-descript, but the Gold Coast situation this year is crystallized in this game, a Suns “home game” in Fremantle’s own stadium.
Rather than arrange with stadiums in Queensland (they played one game at the Gabba anyway, playing a few more wouldn’t have hurt anyone), the Suns’ desperation was demonstrated by their selling this home game to Fremantle, not to mention the game in China or the game in Cairns in March.
It’s not like it was the MCG which was out of service: Metricon’s average attendance was barely into five figures. Until the 33,000 Fremantle fans were counted as a Suns home attendance, the two largest attendances in Suns history were both at the Gabba. At least those would have been more likely to be Gold Coast fans.
Round 4 – Richmond 110, Brisbane 17
Two goals for the Lions, with none in the first two-and-a-half quarters. The score was 78-4 when Dayne Zorko finally scored their first goal.
Round 4 – North Melbourne 116, Carlton 30
Proving their superiority, Carlton scored twice as many goals as Brisbane did that day.
Round 5 – St Kilda 73, GWS Giants 73
A tie isn’t really like half a win. It’s also not like kissing your sister, unless your sister is really gruesome looking.
Round 7 – Geelong 93, GWS Giants 32
Part of the first-half implosion of the injury-ravaged Giants. But even at their worst, 4.8 seems improbable.
Round 8 – Carlton 91, Essendon 78
Fifty per cent of the Blues’ win total for 2018. Also the turning point for a 2-6 Bombers squad that apparently needed that kind of electric shock to get in gear.
But don’t tell me it was too late in coming. Sydney lost to Carlton to go 0-6 last year, and still made it to sixth place and into finals last season!
Round 9 – Adelaide 63, Western Bulldogs 26
2.14 in the rain. What’s not to like?
Round 11 – Richmond 114, Essendon 43
Dreamtime at the ‘G became a nightmare. I suppose the Dons were still recovering at this point…
Round 12 – GWS 134, Gold Coast 26
Even as more and more players were being sidelined with injuries, they were starting to win outrageously again. The Suns scored seven points in the entire second half, a symptom of Gold Coast’s ever-increasing fragility in 2018.
Round 13 – Hawthorn 88, Adelaide 32
With the Crows only down four points at halftime, they then took the third quarter off while the Hawks scored 7.2 and ran away with the game.
Round 13 – St Kilda 80, Gold Coast 78
While the game itself was exciting – the Saints came back in the fourth quarter by holding the Suns scoreless while they kicked the five goals they needed to win – it was two bad teams trying to out-bad each other, and the Suns out-badded the Saints.
Round 15 – Brisbane 119, Fremantle 64
See above. The Lions broke a eight-year drought in the west with the win.
Round 16 – Brisbane 120, Carlton 55
Sigh. Two bad teams, and this time it wasn’t even a close game.
Round 17 – Fremantle 59, Port Adelaide 50
Possibly the worst game of the year; the less said about it the better.
Round 18 – Gold Coast 88, Sydney 64
After leading by 31 after the first quarter, the Swans presented perhaps the lamest three quarters I’ve ever seen in the AFL. And I’m including…
Round 20 – GWS Giants 151, Carlton 46
…the way Carlton presented against GWS. They were so bad that the Giants were down four players and started playing 17 and even 16-on-18 in the last quarter, and still outscored the Blues 7.3 to 1.0 in the fourth quarter.
Round 22 – Geelong 158, Fremantle 25
The Cats scored the last 23 goals of the game. To make sure that you don’t blame my editor, I’ll write it again: Geelong scored the last 23 goals of the game.
They also had the first three in Round 23 against Gold Coast, so they had 26 goals in a row.
Round 22 – Western Bulldogs 66, Carlton 49
On the same day as Melbourne conquered West Coast in Optus in a dramatic victory, the Dogs and Blues showed what happens when you put much weaker teams in the same situation.
You get the Dogs pulling away in the fourth quarter, as the Demons did, only in a vastly inferior quality of game.
Elimination final – GWS 79, Sydney 30
Alas, Sydney lost to Hawthorn in a nail-biter in Round 23, knocking them out of the double chance and into the elimination finals; apparently, still depressed over the loss, they didn’t bother showing up to play the Giants.