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2020 AFL season: Round 2 flashbacks

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Roar Guru
24th March, 2020
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With the AFL season currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead of providing a weekly preview to the round of games, I will instead provide a flashback to a memorable game between the two sides which would’ve met this weekend.

Last Sunday AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announced the season would be suspended until at least 31 May, with that decision to be reviewed at the end of April as the deadly COVID-19 disease continues to spread around the world.

Should the AFL be prepared to take the risk and reboot the season by then, it will do so by running Round 2 matches at least nine weeks later than originally scheduled.

Still, it is the league’s plan to attempt to complete all 153 regular season matches, plus nine finals matches, by the end of the calendar year, even if the grand final has to be held on Boxing Day at Marvel Stadium (the MCG would be unavailable due to the Boxing Day Test).

For the time being, sit back and enjoy some of the flashbacks of past matches between the would-be Round 2 opponents.

2018 AFL preliminary final: Collingwood 15.7 (97) defeated Richmond 8.10 (58)
In one of the more recent preliminary final upsets in AFL history, Collingwood ambushed defending premiers Richmond to reach its first grand final since 2011.

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The Tigers entered season 2018 as one of the teams to beat after thrashing the Adelaide Crows by 48 points in the previous year’s grand final and looked to consolidate after finishing the regular season as minor premiers.

Collingwood, meantime, had missed the finals in the previous four seasons, but a vote of confidence saw Nathan Buckley retain the coaching job when many thought he would be dismissed at the end of the 2017 season.

After a slow start to the season, many doubted the decision to reappoint Buckley as coach was the correct one, but as the season wore on and the Pies climbed up the ladder it proved to be the right call.

They eventually finished third at the end of the home-and-away season, and after falling to the West Coast Eagles in the qualifying final, they edged out the GWS Giants by ten points in the semi-final to book a showdown against the Tigers.

What ensued was a Collingwood performance for the ages as they dismantled a Richmond side fielding reigning Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin, newly minted Coleman Medallist Jack Riewoldt and a five-time All Australian fullback Alex Rance.

To better understand the magnitude of the Pies victory, the Tigers had also won 22 consecutive matches at the MCG (a VFL/AFL record), hadn’t lost since 14 July and hadn’t lost in Victoria since mid-2017 when they lost to the Sydney Swans by nine points at the MCG.

Collingwood’s victory saw the coming of age of Mason Cox, who took a club-record eight contested marks and kicked three goals, each of them after a mark, while Jordan de Goey kicked four goals.

The following week the Pies would fall short in their quest to win a record-equalling 16th premiership, losing to the West Coast Eagles by five points.

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1996 AFL preliminary final: Sydney Swans 10.10 (70) defeated Essendon 10.9 (69)
In arguably the biggest game to be played in Sydney since the Sydney Swans relocated from South Melbourne in 1982, they took on Essendon in a preliminary final that would go down for the ages.

To many AFL fans, this match will be best known for the matchwinning behind Tony Lockett kicked after the final siren to launch the Swans into their first grand final since 1945.

Lost in Lockett’s matchwinning moment was a scary moment for Essendon fans, with second-year forward Matthew Lloyd rupturing his spleen during the second quarter. He spent a fortnight in a Sydney hospital.

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The Bombers had led by 19 points at quarter-time, but the Swans eventually worked their way back into the match, leading by 12 points at half-time before having their lead cut to a solitary point at the final change of ends.

With two minutes remaining the Bombers held a six-point lead, but a goal to Swan Daryn Cresswell levelled the scores with 90 seconds remaining.

Just when it seemed the match would head to extra time, up stepped Lockett, who took a mark inside the Swans forward 50 with 17 seconds left on the clock.

The final siren sounded as he lined up to take his shot at goal. All he had to do was to score to send the Swans through to the grand final. As Sandy Roberts said in commentary, it was “the most important kick in his career”.

Though his shot drifted to the left, it was enough to qualify the club for the big dance for the first time in over half a century, where they later lost to North Melbourne by 43 points.

It was the second final the Bombers lost by a solitary point that year, having gone down to the Brisbane Bears a fortnight earlier, and the first of two preliminary finals they would lose by that margin in four years, also going down to Carlton in a famous 1999 preliminary final upset.

Round 19, 2013: GWS Giants 19.10 (124) defeated Melbourne 12.15 (87)
Despite having not won a match in nearly 12 months, the GWS Giants entered their Round 19, 2013, contest against Melbourne as favourites, having taken Essendon and Collingwood right up to the fight in their previous two matches.

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Melbourne, meanwhile, had won only two matches for the year and were coming off a 122-point thrashing at the hands of North Melbourne in a home game played at Etihad Stadium.

The heavy losses they endured in the first half of that year resulted in the sacking of Mark Neeld, with Neil Craig taking his role in the interim until Paul Roos was appointed at the end of the season.

In front of a crowd of over 8000 at the Sydney Showgrounds, the GWS Giants extinguished any prospect of becoming the first team since Fitzroy in 1964 to endure a winless season, thrashing the Demons by 37 points, with second-year forward Jeremy Cameron booting four goals.

Melbourne had opened up a 13-point lead in the first quarter, but the Giants hit back with three goals to take a four-point lead into quarter-time.

That margin increased to 19 points at the long break before two quick goals saw the second-year expansion side take a 31-point lead midway through the third quarter.

But by three-quarter-time the Dees had pegged the margin back to 13 points and many Giants fans feared a repeat of what happened in Round 4, when, with their side leading by 19 points at three-quarter-time, they conceded 12 final-quarter goals to lose by 41 points.

There was to be no repeat, as the Giants extended the final winning margin to 37 points to register what would be their only victory of the 2013 season, ending a 21-match losing streak, still the longest in the club’s history.

With that, Melbourne joined Port Adelaide as one of two clubs to have lost to both Gold Coast and GWS, and the result was a case of deja vu, as they were also the only side to be beaten by the Sydney Swans in 1993.

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Round 5, 2019: Carlton 15.11 (101) defeated Western Bulldogs 7.15 (57)
The corresponding match between Carlton and the Western Bulldogs last year saw the Blues break a significant scoring and winning drought.

The Blues entered this Round 5 encounter at Marvel Stadium under some heavy scrutiny after a last-gasp loss on the Gold Coast the previous week, but after a week of soul searching they produced one of their most dominant performances for the year against the Bulldogs.

Seemingly spurred on by the criticism the players copped after their gut-wrenching loss to the Gold Coast Suns, they led from start to finish, with eventual Rising Star winner Sam Walsh kicking a goal right on the final siren to give his side a 44-point win.

Not only was it just their third win since the start of the 2018 season, but it also ended a 60-game streak in which the Blues failed to score over 100 points.

It also proved to be the last win Brendon Bolton would enjoy as Blues coach, as he was sacked six weeks later.

Round 3, 2003: Kangaroos 16.13 (109) drew with Brisbane Lions 16.13 (109)
One of the more memorable matches this millennium took place when North Melbourne, then known simply as the Kangaroos, and the Brisbane Lions met in a Saturday night blockbuster at the Telstra Dome in 2003.

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The Lions, then coached by Leigh Matthews and captained by Michael Voss, were coming off consecutive premierships, while the Kangaroos were on a decline, lasting only to the first week of the finals the previous year.

The clash at the Dome proved to be a close affair for the most part, with the Lions taking a three-point lead into quarter-time.

The sides could not be separated by more than ten points until early in the final quarter when, after trailing by six points at three-quarter-time, the Lions kicked three goals in succession, including two to Justin Leppitsch, to lead by 12 points at the seven-minute mark of the final quarter.

However, the Kangaroos would stay with the Lions through the final quarter, and when Digby Morrell kicked his fifth goal with about five minutes remaining, the Kangas were just a point in arrears.

Consecutive points saw them lead by a solitary point before Michael Voss launched a running shot at goal just as the final siren went.

His shot drifted to the right, and after some deliberation from the umpires, the goal umpire awarded Voss his point, resulting in the match being drawn 16.13 (109) apiece.

Round 16, 2015: Adelaide Crows 18.8 (116) defeated Port Adelaide 17.11 (113)
The last time the AFL was thrown into crisis was when Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh died at the hands of his son midway through the 2015 season.

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It was on 3 July 2015 that the AFL world woke up to the devastating news Walsh had been involved in a domestic incident, thus leaving the Crows in utter chaos.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan made the decision to cancel the Crows’ upcoming game against the Geelong Cats, which was to be played at the Adelaide Oval, as a mark of respect to the deceased Walsh and his family.

After returning to action with a loss to the West Coast Eagles in Perth, Adelaide’s first match at home since Walsh’s death was to be the Showdown against Port Adelaide at the Oval.

Normally the city of Adelaide would be divided in a week leading up to the Showdown, but for this one only both sets of club supporters united as they continued to honour and commemorate the life of Phil Walsh.

Being the home side for this particular Showdown, the Power agreed to open their doors to their West Lakes counterparts, inviting them to join in on the club’s march from the city to the Oval and seeing both teams run through a joint banner honouring Walsh pre-match.

The Showdown Medal would also be renamed the Phil Walsh Medal, though despite calls for a permanent tribute to the 55-year-old, it reverted back to its old name for future Showdowns.

The match itself proved to be a very close affair, with the Adelaide Crows hanging on to win by three points – the equal-closest result in a Showdown – with Scott Thompson winning the one-off Phil Walsh Medal, presented by Phil’s daughter, Quinn.

Out of respect, the Crows club song was not played post-match, and the players didn’t sing it in the change rooms.

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Round 10, 2011: Geelong Cats 21.13 (139) defeated Gold Coast Suns 10.13 (73)
After entering the competition in 2011, the Gold Coast Suns had to wait until Round 10 to play their first game at the newly rebuilt Carrara Stadium.

The old ground, which was used sparingly for AFL and NRL matches in the noughties, was demolished in 2009 and rebuilt in preparation for the club’s entry into the AFL in 2011. It would also be used as the main stadium for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Construction of the new stadium was completed in time for the Suns’ first match at the venue, which was to be against Gary Ablett Jr’s old club, the Geelong Cats, then captained by Cameron Ling.

A major highlight of this match was a second-quarter goal kicked by cross-coder Karmichael Hunt – his first in AFL football – which gave the Suns a ten-point lead.

However, Hunt also copped a one-match suspension from the judiciary for head-high contact on Cats ruckman Nathan Vardy, souring an otherwise disappointing night for the Suns as they lost by 11 goals to the eventual premiers.

Later in the season the Suns would suffer their worst ever AFL defeat, losing by 150 points to the Cats at Kardinia Park. It was supposed to mark the return of Ablett to the ground, but the reunion of sorts didn’t eventuate due to injury.

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Round 12, 2007: St Kilda 15.9 (99) defeated West Coast Eagles 11.10 (76)
Halfway through the 2007 AFL season St Kilda legend Robert Harvey took to the field for his 350th AFL game when the Saints took on defending premiers West Coast at Subiaco Oval.

The Saints were not the same team that everyone had feared going into the 2007 season, as they struggled to adapt to the defensive game plan implemented by first-year coach Ross Lyon, who was an assistant coach at the Sydney Swans in the previous three years.

Going into the game against the Eagles, the Saints had lost four straight matches, while the Eagles were in the upper echelon of the ladder but had suffered a one-point loss to Essendon at the Telstra Dome in its previous match.

St Kilda’s best football was yet to come, but they rose to the occasion for Harvey’s 350th game, upsetting the Eagles by 23 points in the west with the man himself being best on ground with 30 possessions.

Ultimately the Saints would finish ninth on the ladder with the AFL’s worst offence, some seven points less than the second-worst offence, the Adelaide Crows, who finished a place above the Saints on the ladder in eighth place.

2013 grand final: Hawthorn 11.11 (77) defeated Fremantle 8.14 (62)
Hawthorn fans currently enduring the worst of times right now should maybe take the time to revisit one of their most dominant premiership victories from the 2010s.

After the club was exposed as wanting by the Sydney Swans in the 2012 grand final, the Hawks set out on a mission to return to the premiership dais, dominating the regular season, winning 19 matches and losing only three – two to the Geelong Cats and one to Richmond.

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The Hawks finished on top of the ladder for the second consecutive year, and it was made notable in which Jarryd Roughead usurped Lance Franklin as the club’s leading goalkicker for the season.

In the first qualifying final – the grand final rematch against the Swans – the Hawks registered a 54-point victory to progress straight to a home preliminary final, where they had a large hoodoo hanging above their heads: an 11-game losing streak against the Geelong Cats.

Trailing by 20 points at the final change, the Hawks stared down the barrel of a 12 straight loss against their bitter rivals but kicked three goals in the final quarter to win by five points and end the so-called Jeff Kennett curse once and for all.

In the grand final they faced Fremantle, who were making their first appearance in the big dance since entering the competition in 1995. They had qualified after beating the Sydney Swans by 25 points in the preliminary final at Subiaco Oval.

Despite the hype and excitement surrounding the Dockers’ first grand final appearance, the Hawks started favourites and ultimately claimed their 11 AFL premiership with a 15-point victory.

Brian Lake, who was traded to the club from the Western Bulldogs the previous off-season, claimed the Norm Smith Medal for his shutdown role on the Dockers’ forward line led by captain Matthew Pavlich.

However, after the match he copped a three-game suspension from the judiciary for striking Michael Walters in the third quarter, delaying his start to the 2014 season.

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Those were just some of the more memorable matches between the two sides which would’ve met this weekend if not for the postponement of the 2020 AFL season while the league grapples through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.