In this weekend’s flashback of the would-be Round 4 match-ups, we revisit a top-of-the-table thriller from 1998, grand final victories by the Brisbane Lions, Richmond and Hawthorn, and a major upset from 1995.
While the current AFL season remains suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is talk that the season could possibly resume by early-June, in which case some teams would have to be based in hubs so as to avoid any unnecessary contact with the outside world.
In the meantime, let’s take a trip down memory lane as we look back at some classic matches between the two sides that would’ve met this weekend.
2003 AFL grand final: Brisbane Lions 20.14 (134) defeated Collingwood 12.12 (84)
It seems like a lifetime ago that the Brisbane Lions were the most dominant side in the AFL.
It was on September 27, 2003, when the Lions capped off their golden era of dominance by thrashing Collingwood by 50 points to win their third consecutive flag.
The lead-up to this match had many storylines, including the attempt by Leigh Matthews’ side to become the first three-peat premier since Melbourne in 1955-57, and a Collingwood forward being suspended during the week.
Whereas the previous year it was Jason Cloke was suspended for striking Tyson Edwards in the preliminary final, this time it was Anthony Rocca who was forced to miss after he was found guilty of striking a Port Adelaide player in his side’s preliminary final win over the Power.
The Pies had also only lost the previous year’s decider by nine points, but they would be no match for the all-class Lions side that would go down in the record books as one of the most successful non-Victorian teams in the AFL.
The Lions started strongly, kicking five goals to three in the opening quarter, and would put the game beyond doubt by kicking six majors in the second quarter to lead by 42 points at the long break.
Though the Pies would peg back the margin in the third quarter, kicking five goals to three, the northerners would complete their dominance in the final quarter, kicking six goals to lead by as much as 69 points before the Pies saved face with the final three goals.
Simon Black would claim the prestigious Norm Smith Medal as the best-on-ground, to go with his Brownlow Medal from the previous year, while Jason Akermanis kicked five goals.
In all, 16 players would become triple-premiership winning players, with Martin Pike becoming a four-time premiership player having also featured in the North Melbourne side that defeated Carlton to win the 1999 flag.
It continued a golden era not just for the Lions, but also sport in Brisbane, with the Broncos having won the NRL premiership in 2000.
The Lions would later qualify for the 2004 grand final, but would lose to Port Adelaide by 40 points, denying them the chance to equal Collingwood’s record of four consecutive flags between 1927-30, which remains unmatched as of 2020.
Round 22, 1998: North Melbourne 17.11 (113) defeated Western Bulldogs 16.12 (108)
The battle for the minor premiership in 1998 came all the way down to the final round of the regular season, when North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs fought out a titanic battle in front of over 68,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Both sides went into this Friday night blockbuster with a 15-7 record and identical percentages, with the Kangaroos sitting on top by way of a slightly better percentage – 118.1 to the Bulldogs’ 117.8.
What transpired was a winner-takes-all contest with neither side refusing to give an inch.
The Bulldogs started the stronger of the two sides, kicking four goals to two in the first quarter, and would later extend their lead to 22 points at halftime, by which point, a first minor premiership seemed like a possibility.
However, North Melbourne would show why they were one of the most dominant teams of the 90s, kicking five goals to three in the third quarter to take an eight-point lead into three-quarter-time.
A high-scoring final quarter then saw twelve goals kicked as the teams continued their fight to finish the regular season on top of the ladder.
Despite kicking only five of those goals, it proved to be enough for the Roos to win by five points and claim its first minor premiership since 1983 – and as of 2020, their most recent. This left the Bulldogs to settle for second place on the ladder.
The Kangaroos would later beat Essendon by 22 points in the qualifying final which became known as the “marshmallow game” after then-Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy labelled two Kangaroos executives as “soft” earlier that year.
Both the Roos and Bulldogs would have their 1998 premiership hopes dashed by the Adelaide Crows, which won its second flag at the former’s expense in the grand final.
Qualifying Final, 2007: Port Adelaide 9.14 (68) defeated West Coast Eagles 9.11 (65)
In what turned out to be the final games for Ben Cousins and Chris Judd in Eagles colours, the reigning premiers were edged out by Port Adelaide in this qualifying final thriller at AAMI Stadium in 2007.
While the Eagles finished third at the end of the regular season, they were not the same side that had dominated the 2005 and 2006 regular seasons, during which they traded flags with the Sydney Swans.
Despite being ravaged by injury, John Worsfold’s side would lead at the quarter, half and three-quarter-time breaks by six, five and seven points respectively.
It was in the third quarter that Cousins suffered a hamstring injury which would later rule him out for the rest of the season, ending a tumultuous year for the former captain who would later be deregistered by the AFL for bringing the game into disrepute.
Without Cousins, the Eagles would be overrun in the final quarter by the Power, which won by three points despite not having a player kick more than one major for the match.
The Power’s win progressed them to a home preliminary final, while the Eagles’ premiership defence (and, to some extent, golden era) would come to an end by way of an extra-time loss to Collingwood in the semi-final.
2017 grand final: Richmond 16.12 (108) defeated Adelaide Crows 8.12 (60)
Given the current state of events surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you couldn’t fault Richmond supporters for thinking their 2017 premiership seemed like a lifetime ago.
It was on September 30, 2017 when the Tigers ended a 37-year premiership drought by thrashing the Adelaide Crows by 48 points in the grand final.
Going into the new season, the club hadn’t won a flag since 1980 and had finished the previous season – which ended in an embarrassing 113-point loss to the Sydney Swans at the SCG – in 13th place on the ladder.
By contrast, the Crows had to defy adversity to reach the second week of the finals in 2016 – but like the Tigers, they also had their premiership hopes dashed by way of a semi-final loss to the Swans in Sydney.
Don Pyke’s side had dominated the minor premiership, never finishing any round below second place on the ladder and possessing the AFL’s best offence, regularly kicking scores of over 100 at will.
But the men from West Lakes couldn’t deliver when it mattered most, registering their lowest score for the year as they wilted under the pressure of the yellow and black machine led by captain Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin, Jack Riewoldt and co.
The Crows started impressively, leading by 11 points at quarter-time, but would only register another four majors thereafter as the heavily-supported Tigers went on a rampage for the remainder of the match, eventually capturing their 11th premiership.
The sight of CEO Brendon Gale and club legend Matthew Richardson breaking down in the stands as full-time loomed will also forever stay in the memories of the yellow and black faithful, many of whom weren’t even born when the club last saluted in 1980.
Martin would later end up being named the Norm Smith Medallist, capping off a dominant year for the midfielder who became the first player in league history to win a Brownlow Medal, Norm Smith Medal and premiership medallion in the same calendar year.
The Tigers would capture another flag not soon after, thrashing grand final novices the GWS Giants by 89 points last year to claim their 12th premiership.
Round 2, 2019: Gold Coast Suns 7.19 (61) defeated Fremantle 8.10 (58)
Despite fears that the Gold Coast Suns might not win a single game last year, Stuart Dew’s side managed to pull off a major surprise when they defeated Fremantle by three points at Metricon Stadium in Round 2.
The Suns had lost their season-opening match against St Kilda by just a solitary point at Marvel Stadium, while the Dockers had started the year with a bang, thrashing North Melbourne at home by 82 points.
But the men from the holiday strip would throw the script out the window, with Alex Sexton kicking four goals to take a surprise lead in the Coleman Medal and ex-Docker Sam Collins taking an intercept mark at the death to win the game for his new side.
In front of a crowd of just over 10,000, a tightly contested first half in which both teams kicked four goals apiece saw the home side take a slender three-point lead into halftime.
Stuart Dew’s side appeared to throw the game away when they kicked eight behinds to the Dockers’ three goals in the third quarter to trail by nine points at three-quarter-time.
But just as it seemed the Dockers would run away with the game, the Suns would keep them on a leash in the final quarter, kicking three goals to one to eventually register a three-point win – marking their first victory since Round 18 the previous year.
It was the first in a string of three consecutive wins the men from the holiday strip would enjoy, after which they would lose their final 18 games of the season to finish with their second wooden spoon.
Round 15, 2019: Essendon 12.5 (77) defeated GWS Giants 10.11 (71)
One of the games of the 2019 season came in Round 15 when Essendon came from 19 points down in the final quarter to edge out the GWS Giants in this Thursday night thriller at Marvel Stadium.
The Bombers went into their return home fixture looking to avenge the 72-point thrashing they copped at Giants Stadium in Round 1, a result which saw the club come under massive scrutiny from all corners of the media in the week that followed.
Tim Watson says he wasn't at all surprised by the Bombers getting belted. pic.twitter.com/ebLHgZ65GW
— 7AFL (@7AFL) March 25, 2019
There would be no repeat of that horror show from the Bombers, who kicked the first goal of the match through ex-Giant Dylan Shiel and led by 12 points at the first change of ends.
However, the Giants would hit back in the second quarter, with future captain Stephen Coniglio gathering 14 disposals and Jeremy Cameron kicking a goal to give the visitors a one-point lead at halftime.
And when Toby Greene goalled in the final quarter to give his side a 19-point lead, the Giants appeared all but home.
But the Bombers would not wilt, kicking five of the last six goals to win by six points, with Cale Hooker kicking the match-winning goal at the death.
However, the goal to Shaun McKernan that levelled the scores beforehand did not come without controversy, with the replay suggesting that it was touched off the boot by Giants defender Adam Kennedy.
Former Brisbane Lions forward Jonathan Brown labelled it “the biggest embarrassment in our game since Meat Loaf sang before the  grand final”.
The win reignited the Bombers’ finals hopes, but their recent September flops would come back to haunt them as they lost to the West Coast Eagles by 55 points in the elimination final.
Round 8, 1995: Sydney Swans 21.6 (132) defeated Carlton 8.12 (60)
After a hat-trick of wooden spoons between 1992-94, a major turning point in the Sydney Swans’ history came in 1995 when Paul Roos and Tony Lockett were recruited to the struggling club.
The arrival of the duo would had a significant and cultural impact on the club which would later translate into a prolonged period of on-field consistency, which continued well into the new millennium.
It was during 1995, a much-improved season for the club in which it won eight games, that the club produced its biggest victory of the year, thrashing eventual premiers Carlton by 72 points in front of a Friday night crowd of 23,744 fans.
There was a major incentive for the club to perform – not only were the Blues unbeaten going into that Round 8 contest, it was also Ron Barassi’s 500th VFL/AFL game as coach.
The Swans dominated from start to finish, with Tony Lockett kicking eight goals to earn the three Brownlow Medal votes. Also in the Swans line-up that evening was a 17-year-old named Anthony Rocca, who would later play the majority of his career at Collingwood.
On the flipside, it proved to be a dirty night for the Blues, who were missing captain Stephen Kernahan. However, they wouldn’t allow that loss (they also lost the following week to St Kilda) to deter them from eventually winning their 16th, and most recent, premiership.
Round 11, 2015: St Kilda 12.13 (85) defeated Melbourne 12.11 (83)
It wasn’t that long ago that St Kilda and Melbourne fought out a thriller at Marvel Stadium, the venue which would’ve hosted these two teams this Sunday.
After both sides finished at the bottom of the ladder, with the Saints taking out their 27th wooden spoon, both sides started to slowly climb out of the cellar in 2015, and just how far they had come was there to be seen when they faced off under the roof in the middle of the year.
The Saints went into this contest having won their past ten matches against the Dees, the most recent of which was a 17-point win in Round 1, 2014 at Docklands.
A tight first quarter saw the home side lead by one-point at quarter-time, before they stretched that lead to as high as 24 points in the second term.
However, the Dees, who were being coached by Paul Roos after he agreed to pause his media career to rebuild the struggling club, would fight back to reduce the halftime deficit to six points, thanks to two goals from eventual Rising Star winner Jesse Hogan.
The visitors extended their lead to two goals in the third quarter, but scores would be level going into three-quarter-time, after which the intensity continued.
A frantic final quarter saw Jeremy Howe put the Dees in front with less a minute remaining, only for Leigh Montagna to kick a goal at the death to give the Saints a two-point win, and their 11th consecutive victory over the Dees, who suffered their 21st straight loss at Docklands.
2008 grand final: Hawthorn 18.7 (115) defeated Geelong Cats 11.23 (89)
The year 2008 will forever be best known by Hawks fans as the moment their team completed a spectacular rise from cellar-dwellers to premiers.
Under fourth-year coach Alastair Clarkson, the Hawks spent the majority of the season in the top two, and as September dawned, their fans grew excited at the prospect of them winning the flag only four years after they had finished second-last.
After breezing past the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda, teams they had lost to in the regular season, in the qualifying and preliminary finals respectively, the grand final saw them up against reigning premiers the Geelong Cats, which had only lost one game during the season.
True to form, the Cats started favourites, but the Hawks would pull off a major upset to win its tenth premiership, and first since 1991, in front of a grand final crowd of 100,012 – the biggest since 1986.
Five goals to each side in a quarter dominated by the Hawks saw the Cats lead by a solitary point at quarter-time, but Mark Thompson’s men would all but throw the match away in the second quarter, scoring 1.9 (15) to the Hawks’ 3.1 (19).
The Cats’ second-quarter total was partly attributed not just to their inaccuracy, but also strong defensive pressure from the Hawks which would result in the rules regarding rushed behinds be changed the following year.
The major turning point, though, came right on the halftime siren when Cameron Mooney missed a close set shot at goal that could have put the Cats ahead by two points, but his miss instead saw them trail by three points.
Gary Ablett Jr would put his side back in front minutes into the second half, but the Hawks would assume control, kicking six majors for the quarter to enter the final change of ends 17 points to the good.
Alastair Clarkson’s side would keep their foot on the pedal in the final quarter, eventually going on to win its tenth premiership by 26 points and denying the Cats consecutive flags for the first time in nearly 60 years.
In the end, while Hawthorn were well-deserving premiers, the Cats were left to rue the one that got away, given it had dominated the minor premiership in which it only lost one match (by 86 points against Collingwood in Round 9).
This was the first grand final to be televised by Channel Seven since 2001, with the network having lost the AFL broadcasting rights in the intervention before regaining them in 2007 in a joint-deal with Channel Ten and Fox Sports.
The ensuing few years saw the Cats compile an eleven-match winning streak against the Hawks, which the brown and gold would end in the 2013 preliminary final, on their way to the first of a hat-trick of flags between 2013-15.