While many may commend Collingwood for their valiant loss to Port Adelaide, I just can’t.
This weekend, we revisit two recent semi-final clashes, an after-the-siren thriller between Richmond and the Sydney Swans, a drought breaking win by Essendon, the West Coast Eagles’ 2018 premiership triumph and a gripping preliminary final from 2004.
First, to the current state of affairs, and two months after the season was suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and a week after it was announced the season would resume on June 11, the AFL has released new fixture details for only Rounds 2-5, with subsequent rounds to be released as we go along.
The Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide will contest a showdown in South Australia in Round 2, as was going to be the case in the original fixture, before the two clubs relocate to the Gold Coast for at least three weeks.
As expected, Collingwood and Richmond will kick off the rebooted season, while the Hawks will head down the highway for its first match at Kardinia Park since 2006.
There’ll also be two matches played in Sydney in the same day in Round 2, with the GWS Giants playing North Melbourne at Giants Stadium before the Sydney Swans host Essendon across town at the SCG.
However, for the purpose of revisiting the vault we will stick to the originally released fixture, and will do so for the final time next week before we finally get some action underway.
2018 Semi-Final: Melbourne 16.8 (104) defeated Hawthorn 10.11 (71) at the MCG
Best on ground: Jack Viney (27 disposals)
Number one song on ARIA Charts: “Be Alright” by Dean Lewis
Going into the 2018 finals series, there were always going to be some questions asked as to whether Melbourne, after more than a decade in the doldrums, could handle the heat of September football.
Twelve months after missing out on September by the barest of margins, the Dees ensured history would not repeat when they defeated the West Coast Eagles in Perth in the penultimate round of the regular season to book its first finals berth since 2006.
They went on to finish fifth on the ladder, and in its elimination final against the Geelong Cats won by five goals to progress to the second week, where they would be matched up against Hawthorn, which lost to Richmond in its first qualifying final.
Showing no fear against a side that had beaten them by 67 points in Round 4, the Dees matched it with the Hawks in the first quarter, which finished tied at 3.1 (19) apiece.
From there, Simon Goodwin’s side took control of the contest, kicking the only three goals of the second quarter while the inaccurate Hawks could only muster six behinds from as many scoring shots.
Sam Weideman then kicked a goal to extend the Dees’ lead to 19 points in the opening minute of the third quarter, but Paul Puopolo would peg a goal back for the Hawks seven minutes later to reduce the Dees’ lead to 14 points.
The two sides then traded goals for over the next ten minutes and when Jack Gunston goalled for the Hawks, the margin was less than three straight kicks.
However, a run of three straight goals to three-quarter-time saw the Dees extend their lead to 32 points.
Three straight goals to the Hawks to start the final quarter saw the margin reduced to twelve points, as the Dees looked set to crumble under pressure.
But the red and blue would steady the ship, kicking four of the game’s final five goals – two of them to Jake Melksham – to win by 33 points (winning the final quarter by only a solitary point) and progress to its first preliminary final since 2000.
This sent the Hawks crashing out of September in straight sets for the second time in three years, after also dropping both its finals matches in 2016.
The penultimate stage ultimately proved a mountain too high to climb for the Dees, as they lost to eventual premiers the West Coast Eagles by eleven goals at Optus Stadium after failing to kick a single first half goal.
2014 Semi-Final: North Melbourne 14.14 (98) defeated Geelong Cats 13.14 (92) at the MCG
Best on ground: Nick dal Santo (35 disposals)
Number one song on ARIA Charts: “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift
After Brad and Chris Scott took over as the coaches of North Melbourne and the Geelong Cats in 2010 and 2011 respectively, it did not take the twin brothers long to face each other in an AFL final.
The Cats’ qualifying final loss to Hawthorn, coupled with North’s elimination final win over Essendon, set up the first finals clash between the two sides since the 1997 qualifying final.
This saw twin brothers face each other as coaches in an AFL final for the first time, and the match would turn out to be a beauty.
The Roos burst out of the blocks, kicking seven goals to lead by as much as 30 points before the Cats pegged back three goals to cut the margin to just twelve points at quarter-time.
Brad Scott’s side kept their foot on the pedal in the second quarter, kicking the only two goals to double their lead to 24 points at halftime.
An even third quarter saw six goals kicked, three by each team, but the halftime margin remained unchanged, with the Roos still leading by 24 points at the final change of ends.
At that point, the Cats stared down the barrel of becoming the third team (after Port Adelaide in 2001 and West Coast in 2007) to crash out of the finals in straight sets since the AFL adopted its current finals system in 2000.
Two goals to Jack Ziebell saw the Roos stretch their lead to 32 points halfway through the final quarter, but the Cats were not done with yet.
They would kick the next four goals – three to Tom Hawkins and one to Jimmy Bartel – saw the Cats cut the margin to just six points with less than two-and-a-half minutes to play.
The premiers of 2007, 2009 and 2011 would throw everything at the Roos in the final minutes, but ultimately the men from Arden Street would hang on to win by six points and send the Cats crashing out of September in straight sets for the first time since 1997.
Round 8, 2016: Richmond 14.17 (101) defeated Sydney Swans 15.10 (100) at the MCG
Brownlow Medal votes: 3. Ben Griffiths, 2. Dan Hannebery, 1. Dustin Martin
Number one song on ARIA Charts: “I Hate U, I Love U” by Gnash feat. Olivia O’Brien
More than four years down the track, this is a match that continues to be discussed in AFL circles.
When Richmond and the Sydney Swans met in a Saturday night match at the MCG in May 2016, both sides had opposite win-loss records – the Tigers had lost six straight after beating Carlton in Round 1, while the Swans had won six of their opening seven matches.
All appeared to go to script when the Swans kicked five goals to three in the opening quarter to lead by eleven points at the first change of ends.
Three minutes into the second quarter, Lance “Buddy” Franklin would kick his third goal to extend the Swans’ lead, but the Tigers would boot the next three goals of the game without reply to take a five-point lead into halftime.
After three consecutive behinds to start the third term, a goal to Sam Lloyd – his first of the evening – extended the Tigers’ lead to 13 points.
But that would be his side’s only goal of the quarter, as a run of five straight by the Swans saw the visitors take an 18-point lead into three-quarter-time.
The Tigers burst out of the blocks to start the final quarter, kicking five straight of their own to take a 12-point lead, which then became 13 when Jack Riewoldt missed at the eleven-minute mark of the final quarter.
However, the Swans would hit back with four goals in a row to take an 11-point lead going into the final five minutes of the game.
A goal to Ben Griffiths reduced the margin to five points, and it appeared the Swans would hang on when they ventured forward inside the final 30 seconds of the game.
But after Callum Sinclair dropped a mark inside their forward 50, which would’ve all but guaranteed the Swans victory, the Tigers would force it out of defence, with Jack Riewoldt pouncing on a favourable bounce to send the home side forward.
Griffiths then found Sam Lloyd inside 50, and as he lined up for goal, the final siren went, giving Lloyd the chance to win the match right on the death.
He was successful with his set shot at goal under pressure, giving the Tigers a one-point victory and ending a six-match losing streak.
The return match, in the final round, saw the Swans register a massive 113-point victory which saw them claim the minor premiership for the second time in three years.
Round 11, 2018: GWS Giants 14.13 (97) defeated Adelaide Crows 11.15 (81) at Adelaide Oval
Brownlow Medal votes: 3. Dylan Shiel 2. Bryce Gibbs 1. Ryan Griffen
Number one song on ARIA Charts: “Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer
When the GWS Giants arrived in the City of Churches to face the Adelaide Crows in round eleven of season 2018, not one AFL expert gave them a chance of toppling the Crows on their home turf.
After starting the season with four wins from their opening six matches, injuries to key players and poor form conspired against them as they lost four straight matches to drop out of the top eight.
Additionally, the Giants had lost their previous three matches against the Crows by an average of 38 points, and had previously only won once at the Oval (against Port Adelaide in Round 18, 2016).
But Leon Cameron’s men would use the trip to the South Australian capital as a launchpad for their mid-season revival.
After trailing by four points at quarter-time, the Giants would boot six goals to two in the second quarter to lead by 18 points at halftime, and they could smell victory behind hostile lines.
As was to be expected by a Crows side that had dominated all before them to reach the grand final the previous year, the home side booted two quick goals to cut the margin to less than a kick, before Jeremy Cameron steadied for the visitors with his first goal of the match.
At three-quarter-time, the Giants led by twelve points, but the job was not done yet, especially at the Adelaide Oval.
Goals to Josh Jenkins and Darcy Fogarty saw the Crows take the lead by the barest of margins, but would waste several opportunities in trying to extend it, with Richard Douglas and Rory Atkins both missing shots at goal.
Down the other end, the Giants would kick the game’s final three goals – two of them to Cameron – to escape with a 16-point win and breathe life into their stuttering season.
Dylan Shiel was best-on-ground with 29 disposals and one goal, while Bryce Gibbs was best for the home side.
Round 19, 2000: Western Bulldogs 11.9 (75) defeated Carlton 11.6 (72) at Optus Oval
Brownlow Medal votes: 3. Simon Garlick, 2. Scott Wynd, 1. Scott Camporeale
Number one song on ARIA Charts: “Freestyler” by Bomfunk MCs
It seems like a lifetime ago now since Carlton were a powerhouse team.
Going into the year 2000, the Blues were, to that point in time, the most successful club in AFL history, having won 16 flags – one more than Essendon, which had won 15 flags (but were on their way to a 16th that year) and two more than Collingwood, which had won 14 flags.
By the time they faced the Western Bulldogs at Optus Oval in Round 19, they had won their previous 13 matches, having not been beaten since Round 5 when it lost to Essendon at the MCG.
But they were dealt a huge blow when Adrian Hickmott and Craig Bradley were ruled out with injuries, allowing Adam Chatfield to make his AFL debut for what would be his only game.
Nonetheless, the Blues started hot favourites to extend their winning streak after having thrashed Collingwood by 111 points the previous week, in which they kicked 28 goals.
The Bulldogs, then coached by Terry Wallace, went into the match with a clear-cut plan – to flood the Blues’ forward line in the hope that they wouldn’t concede such a huge score, and to keep the match as tight as possible.
They succeeded on both fronts, with the margin no larger than two goals all match and no greater than a goal at each of the quarter, half and three-quarter-time breaks.
In the end, the men from Footscray prevailed in front of over 25,000 fans at Princes Park, with future CEO Simon Garlick kicking six goals and earning three Brownlow Medal votes for his performance. Scott Camporeale and Brett Ratten were the Blues’ best with 65 disposals between them.
But much to the annoyance of the Blues’ faithful, the Bulldogs won 26 of the game’s 35 free kicks, including 15 of 17 in the second half.
A fortnight after ending the Blues’ 13-match winning streak, the Western Bulldogs would put an end to Essendon’s 20-match winning streak – still the longest by any side in a single season this century – with an 11-point win in Round 21.
Round 14, 2003: Fremantle 10.15 (75) defeated Brisbane Lions 10.12 (72) at Subiaco Oval
Brownlow Medal votes: 3. Simon Black, 2. Troy Cook, 1. Aaron Sandilands
Number one song on ARIA Charts: “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence
It was halfway through the 2003 season when the Brisbane Lions, then at the peak of their powers and the two-time defending premiers, flew across the Nullarbor for a Round 14 match-up against the up-and-coming Fremantle at Subiaco Oval.
Going into this match, the Lions sat third on the ladder, behind Port Adelaide and the West Coast Eagles, while the Dockers were not far behind in sixth place on the ladder.
The first quarter proved to be a close affair, with the first goal not coming until the 14-minute mark when captain Michael Voss booted the Lions’ first. It finished two goals apiece, but with the visitors ahead by a solitary point.
The Lions then stretched their lead to seven points at halftime, and then to 18 at three-quarter-time, and they appeared to be heading for another regulation win.
However, Dockers would lift in the final quarter, kicking the first two goals of the final quarter to cut the margin to just three points at the 14 minute mark.
At 22 minutes, Jason Akermanis would kick a goal to give the Lions some breathing space, but the Dockers would not give in.
With just over four minutes remaining, Byron Schammer picked up a ball from a contest and slotted through a goal to again cut the margin to less than a kick.
A minute later, the Dockers would cut off an attempted entry forward by the Lions, and then advance the ball forward themselves with Paul Medhurst pouncing on a Paul Hasleby inside-50 entry to slot another goal, giving the Dockers the lead for the first time since the first quarter.
Eventually, the Purple Haze would hang on to win by three points, giving them what was, to that point, the most momentous win in their history, eclipsing two home victories over Essendon in 2002 and 2003.
The Dockers went on to finish fifth on the ladder, qualifying for their first finals series in what was their ninth season in the AFL. Unfortunately, their September foray would last only one week, losing to the Bombers by 44 points in an elimination final at Subiaco Oval.
Round 21, 2016: Essendon 11.9 (75) defeated Gold Coast Suns 9.15 (69) at Etihad Stadium
Brownlow Medal votes: 3. Zach Merrett, 2. David Zaharakis, 1. Touk Miller
Number one song on ARIA Charts: “Cold Water” by Major Lazer feat. Justin Bieber and MØ
After having not won a match for over four months, Essendon went into their Round 21 match against the Gold Coast Suns at Etihad Stadium confident and optimistic it could add to its Round 2 win over Melbourne.
However, they were to be without acting captain Brendon Goddard due to a groin injury, so the captaincy for the day was given to Zach Merrett, who had only debuted in Round 1 of the 2014 season.
Additionally, Jake Long – the son of two-time premiership Bomber Michael Long – was also named to make his debut, fittingly at the ground where his father kicked the venue’s first ever goal.
After the Suns kicked the first goal of the match, the Bombers’ first didn’t come until the 17-minute mark of the first quarter, when Orazio Fantasia successfully converted a set shot at goal.
Three goals to each side saw the Bombers lead by two points at quarter-time (though they had led by as much as 15 points before the Suns pegged back two late goals), before they kicked three goals to two in the second quarter to lead by seven points at halftime.
However, the Suns, who had won their Round 1 match-up by 61 points at Metricon Stadium, would kick three goals to one in the third quarter to claim the lead by seven points at three-quarter-time, and Bombers fans were dreading the prospect of their side suffering an 18th consecutive defeat.
But whatever coach John Worsfold said to the Bombers playing group at the last change seemed to have an effect, as they would kick the first four goals of the final quarter to take a 17-point lead at the 17-minute mark.
Tom Lynch would peg back a goal for the Suns at the death, but it would prove too late as the Bombers hung on for a six-point win – just their second of the 2016 season – and give them some hope of avoiding the wooden spoon.
Unfortunately, despite a 24-point win over Carlton in the final round, the Bombers would take out the dreaded kitchenware for the first time since 1933, though with the number one draft pick they received, they would use it to draft Andrew McGrath to the club.
2018 grand final: West Coast Eagles 11.13 (79) defeated Collingwood 11.8 (74) at the MCG
Norm Smith Medal: Luke Shuey
Number one song on ARIA Charts: “Be Alright” by Dean Lewis
Warning: If you are a Collingwood supporter, it’s best you stop reading now.
For everyone else, let’s take a look back at the West Coast Eagles’ stunning grand final victory over the Pies from not so long ago.
Neither the Eagles or Pies were considered to be among the premiership contenders when the 2018 season started, for varying reasons.
The Eagles had suffered from an exodus of star players, including ex-Brownlow Medallists Sam Mitchell and Luke Priddis, Drew Petrie and Sam Butler – the last remaining survivor from the club’s 2006 premiership side.
Respected AFL great Robert Walls also went as far as predicting that the club would win the wooden spoon, despite still boasting star quality players such as Josh Kennedy, Luke Shuey, Nic Naitanui and Andrew Gaff.
Meantime, the Pies had finished the previous season 13th on the ladder, missing finals for the fourth consecutive season. However, coach Nathan Buckley won a vote of confidence and had his contract extended by the club.
Both sides started the 2018 season slowly, with the Eagles dropping their first match against the Sydney Swans in the first AFL men’s premiership match to be played at the new Optus Stadium, and the Pies losing their first two against Hawthorn and GWS at the MCG.
Fast forward six months and they were to face off for the premiership in front of over 100,000 fans at the MCG. It was to be the Eagles’ second grand final in four years, and the Pies’ first since 2011.
A repeat of the humiliation the Eagles suffered against Hawthorn three years ago appeared on the cards when the Pies kicked the first five goals of the game, but Adam Simpson’s men would peg back two goals to trail by 17 points at quarter-time.
The westerners then kicked two goals to one in the second quarter to trail by twelve points at halftime, before a tense third quarter saw the scores level at the final change of ends for the season for just the second time ever (after 1937).
Goals to Brody Mihocek and Jordan de Goey saw the Pies skip out to a two-goal lead within the first two minutes of the final quarter, but while the Eagles would not give in, they would need a hero to step up if they were to capture their fourth flag and first since 2006.
Enter Dom Sheed.
With less than two minutes remaining, and with his side two points down, Sheed kicked the season’s final goal from a tight angle to put his side in front by four points.
A dropped mark on the line from Jack Darling increased the margin to five points, giving the Pies the faintest of chances of going from one end to the other to steal back the lead.
However, the Eagles would hold on to win a thriller by five points, and leave the Magpies heartbroken and shattered.
Midfielder Luke Shuey won the Norm Smith Medal as the best on ground as the Eagles ended a twelve-year premiership drought with their fourth flag, making them the most successful non-Victorian side in the AFL era (1990-present); they had been equal with the Brisbane Lions on three flags going into the match.
Making the Eagles’ win all the more remarkable was that they were without two key players – Nic Naitanui, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Pies at the MCG in Round 17, and Andrew Gaff, who copped a season-ending eight-match suspension for striking Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw in Round 20.
It also settled the decade-long argument as to who won the famous Judd-Kennedy trade of 2007, with Josh Kennedy (who arrived at the Eagles via the trade that saw Chris Judd move to Carlton) and the Eagles emerging the winner.
The Pies’ defeat was their fourth in a grand final since the turn of the century, seeing the revival of the dreaded ‘Colliwobbles’ term which appeared to have been buried in 1990. It also denied them the chance to join Essendon and Carlton on a record 16 premierships.
2004 preliminary final: Port Adelaide vs St Kilda at AAMI Stadium
Best on ground: Stephen Powell (31 disposals)
Number one song on ARIA Charts: “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5
NOTE: As part of the original fixture, St Kilda and Port Adelaide were to have met in this round, though the coronavirus pandemic later saw the match moved to Marvel Stadium in Melbourne and played in Round 12, before the whole fixture bar Round 1 was eventually binned.
Finally, we look back at one of the most dramatic preliminary finals of the century, when Port Adelaide and St Kilda faced off at AAMI Stadium in the penultimate weekend of the season in what was Saints legend Robert Harvey’s 300th AFL game.
The Power were desperate to shake off the chokers tag that had plagued them in previous finals series, while the Saints were playing in a preliminary final for the first time since they reached the grand final in 1997.
Port were well rested after earning a week off following their 55-point thrashing of the Geelong Cats in the qualifying final, and so entered their showdown against the Saints as favourites.
The Saints, then captained by Lenny Hayes, had to take the long way around; after copping an 80-point thrashing by the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba in their qualifying final, they bounced back to defeat the Sydney Swans by 51 points in the semi-final at the MCG.
The match proved to be close all evening, with the margin at the breaks no greater than a goal.
It was Grant Thomas’ side that started better, with Fraser Gehrig kicking his side’s first three goals, including his 100th goal of the season which sparked a pitch invasion halfway through the first quarter.
Though both sides kicked four goals each in the first quarter, the Saints led by five points at the first change, as Gehrig and Nick Riewoldt missed three shots at goal between them.
Gehrig kicked another two goals in the second quarter, before Riewoldt added his first to give the Saints a four-point lead. However, a goal to Josh Mahoney saw the Power take a four-point lead into halftime.
The Saints then kicked three goals to two in the third quarter, with Heath Black kicking a goal at the death to give the Saints a one-point lead at the final change.
Gavin Wanganeen booted his first goal for the match 40 seconds into the final quarter to give the Power back the lead, and the pendulum continued to swing back and forth as both sides fought desperately for a berth in the grand final.
Goals to Stuart Dew and Dean Brogan gave the Power an eleven-point lead, but then Riewoldt and Luke Ball would both goal for the Saints to level the scores at 13.10 (88) apiece.
A second goal to Wanganeen with over five minutes remaining would prove to be the final score of the match, and the Power would hang on to the death to win by six points and, after years of being ridiculed for its September flops, book a berth in its first grand final.
There, they would defeat the Brisbane Lions by 40 points to win its first AFL premiership, and in the process deny the Lions a fourth straight flag, ensuring that four-in-a-row record remained with the Collingwood class of 1927-30.
For the Saints, it was a heartbreaking end to a breakthrough 2004 season which had seen them win their first ten matches of the season to emerge as a team to watch during the noughties.