Collingwood veteran Dayne Beams has taken an indefinite break from the AFL to concentrate on his mental health.
If you’re like me and allow football to run your life, you will know that the worst time of year is the off-season.
You go from having footy news thrown in your face from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, to finding cricket news on the back page of every newspaper.
For me, most of the off-season consists of flicking between watching old North games and Kath and Kim.
So I’m taking a different approach this season and pulling together a list of the best games and performances to help get you, fellow football fans, through the offseason.
If you think there are some crucial games missing from this list, chances are you’re right.
Before you read on, check in with my games that defined the 2019 season here. No games from that list will be repeated here, and vice versa.
Now that we’re clear on that, let’s get into it.
In no particular order…
Richmond vs West Coast – Round 22
OK, this one is in order because this was the best game of the season. It had a finals-like energy, high-quality football and was a genuinely exciting contest.
In 120 minutes of football, West Coast and Richmond showed why they were the two teams to beat come September. West Coast jumped out of the blocks early with seven goals in the opening quarter, but the Tiges clawed their way back into the game and in front at the final siren.
If there’s one game that fans should watch over the summer, this is it.
Brisbane vs Geelong – Round 22
Finals came early in round 22, with the top four teams playing each other on the same weekend. They were both heart stoppers.
It was a reasonably tight contest at the Gabba, but the Cats were in control for most of the game and at the 16-minute mark of the final quarter, found themselves 17 points in front.
But Brisbane, led by excitement machine Charlie Cameron stormed home with the final three goals of the game and walked away one-point winners.
Brisbane cemented themselves as the Kings of the competition at that point in the season. The win was their ninth on the trot and it meant everything to them. Just watch the post-game celebration.
Collingwood vs GWS – Preliminary Final
At times it’s hard to know if a game is good because of its quality, narrative or emotion. This one had a bit of everything and will be the game to remember from season 2019.
The odds were stacked high against the Giants, who faced Collingwood at the MCG for a Preliminary Final to remember.
Without stars Toby Greene, Stephen Coniglio and Lachie Whitfield, veteran Brett Deledio, co-captain Callan Ward and a half-fit Phil Davis, the Giants survived a final quarter fightback from the Pies to march into their first Grand Final.
Coleman medallist Jeremy Cameron, Zac Williams, Nick Haynes and Tim Taranto led the charge for the Giants, while 90 seconds of Shane Mumford magic in the final quarter sealed the victory.
Shane Mumford has a chuckle about his clutch fake in the dying minutes of the preliminary final.
— AFL.com.au (@AFLcomau) September 24, 2019
(The first half of) Brisbane vs Richmond – Qualifying Final
What an entertaining half of footy that featured two very skilful sides pushing each other to the limits. For every attack, there was a response. Every question? An answer.
Despite the fact that Brisbane didn’t kick a goal in the second quarter, there was still plenty of feeling in it.
But after the main break, it was a one-team (or should I say, one-man) show. The second half was just about Dustin Martin. I’m not opposed to that viewing, but the intensity was taken out of the game at half time.
Brisbane vs GWS – Semi Final
Another big game involving Brisbane. Not surprising, as they were one of the biggest storylines of the season.
This was a tight, yet seesawing final that was full of fight. Literally – once again the Giants brought their unsociable game style with the Gabba its latest victim.
As you would expect, Toby Greene was right in the thick of it. There were ten lead changes and GWS’ Brett Daniels emerged as the hero, kicking the winning goal and putting the Giants into the Preliminary Final.
Hawthorn vs Geelong – Easter Monday, Round 5
This was just a good game of football. Simple, really. These two sides have produced their fair share of heart stoppers over the years – this wasn’t exactly one of them but it was a great game.
After an even first quarter, Geelong started to pull away… but Hawthorn just wouldn’t go away. They teased the start of a comeback and although it didn’t come, it did add to the entertainment factor.
It was also great to see Gary Rohan up and about.
Freo vs Lions, Freo vs Collingwood – Rounds 10, 11
At the start of Round 10, Collingwood sat second on the ladder, Brisbane sat fourth and Freo sat ninth. Freo won both games by a combined margin of five points and Michael Walters was the man for the moment… twice.
His behind after the game against Brisbane sealed a thrilling victory and goal at the MCG against Collingwood a week later was even better.
Essendon vs GWS – Round 15
This one ended in controversy following yet another score review stuff up but it was very entertaining game featuring comebacks by both teams at different stages.
GWS overcame a two-goal deficit early in the second quarter to lead by a point at half time and Essendon overcame a 19-point deficit in the final quarter to claim the victory.
We’ll never know how the final two minutes of this game would’ve (and probably should’ve) played out had Shaun McKernan’s late goal been overturned, but it did come to a thrilling finish. Cale Hooker was the hero.
And for some of the best individual performances…
Nat Fyfe vs Hawthorn – Round 17
Fyfe won his second Brownlow this year because of performances like this. On a miserable day in Tassie, Fyfe single handily brought Freo into the game and kept them in it for a period of time.
He had 24 touches, six marks, three goals, eight tackles and five clearances in a colossal display. He walked away with three Brownlow votes and reminded us why he is one of the game’s best players.
Patrick Cripps vs Brisbane – Round 12
Emotions were running high at Marvel Stadium in round 12, as David Teague was preparing for his first game as Carlton’s caretaker coach… but even he was overshadowed by Carlton co-captain Patrick Cripps.
He could’ve walked away with all six Brownlow votes after this performance. 38 touches, seven marks, four goals, two tackles and eight clearances for Cripps, as he inspired his side to come from six goals down in the second quarter to claim victory.
Ben Brown vs Port Adelaide – Round 22
This was the only time in 2019 an individual scored 10 or more goals and I can assure you, it was even more enjoyable watching it in person.
Nothing and no one in teal, black and white was stopping Brown, who kicked 10.1 for the evening. He single-handedly outscored Port Adelaide and dashed their hopes of a finals appearance.
The game itself left much to be desired, but Brown’s performance was just superb.
Jeremy Cameron vs Gold Coast – Round 23
A nine-goal haul from Jez in the final round of the season secured his first Coleman medal. He returned from injury and turned it on against the Suns in a nice warm-up leading into the finals.
Ben Brown, who was in the lead at the start of the round, had played before this game bean and Jez knew exactly what he needed to do… and he got it done.
He had 14 shots on goal for nine majors, 12 marks, 19 touches and a tackle to round out his award-winning performance.
Essendon vs North Melbourne (Round 17), ANZAC Day (Round 6), West Coast vs Melbourne (Round 9), Hawthorn vs West Coast (Round 15), Fremantle vs Carlton (Round 15)… and your team’s best wins of the season. Duh. On that note, I’m going to watch North vs Collingwood (Round 15) for the tenth time.