When a new AFL season fixture is released there’s often a two-part process for every footy fan.
And then, when reflecting upon the season that was, we realise most of those games did nothing for us, nor did they impact the season like we thought they would have done.
So I’ve gone through the year and picked out some of the 2019 season-defining games that shaped the sport on the field and off the field and discussion throughout the season.
I tried to keep it to ten but went slightly over. Read on and you’ll understand why.
When the Giants reached new heights – Geelong vs Greater Western Sydney, Round 4
This was a real ‘statement’ victory for the Giants, even though it came in the first month of the season. Co-captain Callan Ward went down with an ACL injury very early on in the piece. Up against an undefeated Geelong outfit at GMHBA, it was already going to be a tough ask. The Giants were 22 points down early in the third quarter but managed to work their way back in front to win the game by four points. It was a great victory on the day, but the importance of it grew as weeks went by. This was Geelong’s only loss in the opening half of the season and only loss at home for the year – a giant effort by GWS.
No headline of stars? No worries – Port Adelaide vs Richmond, Round 4
No Dustin Martin, no Jack Riewoldt, no Trent Cotchin, no Alex Rance, no wins for Richmond outside of Melbourne since 2017? No worries. This afternoon at Adelaide Oval was a big statement win for the eventual premiers. Not many people gave them a chance given a number of key players missing and their horrific recent form on the road, but they did it. Led by Tom Lynch and Dylan Grimes, the Tigers steadied after quarter-time and recorded their first victory on the road in over a season in superb fashion.
A very Good Friday – West Coast vs Port Adelaide, Round 5
Incredibly, the Good Friday night game between the Eagles and Port was the first marquee game between two non-Victorian teams. This doesn’t include fixtures like the showdown or derby or when fixtures like Anzac Day fall on a weekend; I mean this game between two non-Victorian sides was scheduled in a marquee slot on purpose. And it will be done again in 2020. It’s very, very good for our national competition. Brisbane hosting Collingwood the night before was also a good move and will also be there in 2020.
Goalpost gate – Sydney vs Essendon, Round 8
I have seen many distraction tactics by opposition players in my lifetime, but I’d never have thought Dane Rampe climbing up a point post would be one of them. It was just so bizarre. Rampe climbed up the post as Essendon’s David Myers had a shot on goal after the siren. The kick fell short and Sydney took the victory, but many were left wondering if Rampe should’ve been penalised instead of simply warned by the umpire. It sparked a weeklong debate and Rampe was fined. I don’t remember much of the discussion, to be honest. I just can’t get the footage out of my mind.
From cubs to Lions – Brisbane vs Adelaide, Round 9
Most of the AFL community sensed 2019 would be a year of improvement for the Brisbane Lions, but few picked a surge into the top two by season’s end. They had a good start to the year, but the one-point victory against Adelaide was the first time both the Lions and the outer AFL community realised they had arrived in a big way. Both sides were 5-3 going into the game, but the Crows had won four on the trot and were sitting third on the ladder. After this game, Brisbane went on to win ten of their next 13 games. Adelaide? Just five.
The last hoorah –
North Melbourne vs Western Bulldogs, Round 10;
Carlton vs Essendon, Round 11;
Geelong vs St Kilda, Round 17;
Fremantle vs Essendon, Round 22; and
Adelaide vs Western Bulldogs, Round 23
So I’ve gone with fives games here, but they all have the same theme: they were the last games coached by the departing coaches of 2019. Only Brad Scott managed a win in his last outing as coach, but that game was probably the strangest of them all as news of his departure was leaked the day before the game and two days before his eventual resignation.
The last loss – Adelaide vs Richmond, Round 13
It’s incredible to think that after Round 13 Richmond was sitting eighth on the ladder with a percentage of 92. A Thursday night loss to Adelaide was Richmond’s third on the trot and they weren’t looking like the frightening Tigers outfit we’ve become accustomed to. That pre-bye loss would be their last of the season. Fifteen weeks later they won the premiership.
Twenty-one goals to zip – Essendon vs Western Bulldogs, Round 21
It was quite unbelievable what happened at Marvel Stadium that night. Essendon kicked the first goal of the evening and then watched in horror as the Dogs piled on 21 unanswered goals. It resulted in a 104-point loss and a massive seven per cent lost. The Bombers, who were sitting seventh at the time, fell to eighth by season’s end and had to face West Coast in Perth in an elimination final. The Dogs went on to win their next two games and leapfrogged the Bombers, but it only ended in an elimination final hiding at the hands of GWS.
Victory once and for all – West Coast Eagles vs Collingwood, Round 17
This Collingwood victory was big on a number of levels. Firstly, West Coast in Perth is one of the hardest road trips in football no matter who you are and where you sit on the ladder. Secondly, Collingwood had lost their previous four matches to the Eagles, including last year’s grand final. Third, it was a thriller. It was a high-scoring and entertaining opening quarter before West Coast pulled away slightly. In the final quarter Collingwood kept the Eagles to a solitary behind while scoring 2.6 and claiming victory. They would end up making the top four and earning a double chance while West Coast finished fifth.
Speaking of that ladder positioning…
The end of West Coast’s back-to-back dream – West Coast Eagles vs Hawthorn, Round 23
At the start of Round 23 West Coast sat third on the ladder and just needed a win at home against Hawthorn (sitting ninth) to secure a double chance and real crack at a second consecutive premiership. In 120 minutes of football fans watched on as a top-four spot slipped away from the Eagles. On Friday night Collingwood topped Essendon and on Sunday Richmond defeated the Lions to secure third and fourth spot on the ladder respectively, forcing West Coast out of the top four. While winning four finals on the trot wasn’t impossible, it wasn’t to be for the Eagles, who lost the semi-final at the MCG against Geelong.
The grand final – Richmond vs GWS
This is the ultimate prize, what teams play for year in and year out, so it would’ve been a crime to not put this in. The premiership was going to be significant for both sides. It could’ve been the Giants’ first premiership since inception, while the Tigers were aiming for their second flag in three years. Sadly the game was a fizzer and will likely only be replayed by Richmond supporters this off-season. But it was a huge statement from the Tigers, who went from a club in disarray at the start of the decade to two-time premiers by the end. Only the Hawks with three flags in ten years did it better. An incredible achievement for a club that appears to have more in the tank.
Greater Western Sydney vs Essendon, Round 15; Melbourne vs Gold Coast, Round 8; Essendon vs Collingwood, Round 6; and Greater Western Sydney vs Hawthorn, Round 21.
Those were my 2019 season defining games. What are yours?
Next week I’ll give you my guide to the games that’ll get you through the off-season.