Missing AFL more than you miss your mates? Let’s recap some of the best AFL finals from the last 20 years

We have been blessed with some extraordinary AFL games over the past 20 years. Now with only repeats on the television, what better time to take a look back at some of the best AFL finals since 2000. (Image Source: SEN)

 By Alexandra Bull | @ally_bull19

On March 22, AFL Chief Executive Officer Gillon McLachlan announced in a press conference that the 2020 AFL season would be suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, fans have had the chance to watch replays on Channel Seven of some of the best AFL games ever played to get their weekly footy fix.

So, since this is a time for footy throwbacks, here’s a countdown of the top ten AFL finals from the past 20 years:

10: Hawthorn vs Port Adelaide Preliminary Final 2014

A game that many Port supporters like to forget, but one that Hawthorn supporters will forever remember. In a game where both teams had everything to lose, it was ultimately the experienced Hawks who got to play in and win, the 2014 AFL Grand Final. The game was never close, until Port made a final quarter surge. But they ultimately went down by three points, due to wasted opportunities inside their forward 50, but terrible kicking for goal, gifted Hawthorn their third grand final appearance in three years. It was probably a good thing, as Port do not tend to perform too well when it matters the most (see 2007 Grand Final score for reference).

9: Hawthorn vs Adelaide Crows Preliminary Final 2012

Hawthorn had finished on top of the ladder this year, with Crows finishing in second place. Both teams finished with the same number of wins and losses, so it was only fitting that they went up against each other one last time, which resulted in Hawthorn progressing to the Grand Final the following week. Hawthorn had many chances to open up the game, dominating the inside 50 count in the first half, but kicking 13.19, compared to Adelaide’s 14.8. However, an insane final quarter effort from Cyril Rioli and a game saving tackle by Ben Stratton, saw Hawthorn just hold on, winning by five points after holding off a final quarter surge from the Crows. 

8: Collingwood vs Greater Western Sydney Preliminary Final 2019

A more recent game saw the Giants in their third preliminary final in just four years and Collingwood looking for another shot at the cup they had missed out on the year before. With five unanswered goals in the third quarter from the Giants, it looked like it was all over for the Pies, who kicked just three points in the third term. Although, we know that is never the case. It seemed like Collingwood was on the surge, with a final quarter comeback and a very controversial goal (which the AFL admitted it got wrong). But for the first time in their history, the Giants won a preliminary final and went on to play in their first grand final after being in the league for only just eight years. 

7: Sydney Swans vs Hawthorn Grand Final 2012

Is that the grand final? It was for the Swans in 2012. With some of the AFL’s biggest names at the time playing for both teams, there was a lot at stake after the two matches between them in the year were split evenly. One year before Hawthorn’s infamous three-peat began, the Hawks lost by 10 points to Sydney, after a goal from the Swans’ Nick Malceski put them over the line in the final minutes of the last quarter.  The Swans went on to win their second flag in eight years. It was a back and forth game, with Hawthorn leading by 19 points at quarter time and Sydney leading by 16 points at halftime. The last two quarters were a close affair, with the Swans only leading by a point at three-quarter time, but it was ultimately the efforts by the likes of Ryan O’Keefe (who won the Norm Smith Medal) and Nick Malceski in the final quarter, that gave Sydney their fifth premiership.

6: Western Bulldogs vs Greater Western Sydney Preliminary Final 2016

The first preliminary final in the 2016 series was another classic final which deserves a place on this list. It was Greater Western Sydney’s first finals campaign after joining the league five years earlier. The Bulldogs had not been seen in a grand final since 1961, meaning there was a lot at stake for both teams. It was a case of the underdogs: finishing seventh on the ladder does not put you at great odds to make it to the grand final. But alas, the Bulldogs proved us all wrong, winning by a goal in a game where neither team led by nine points at any of the breaks. The Bulldogs would later go on to win the 2016 AFL Grand Final, defeating minor premiers Sydney and giving us some of the best commentaries ever by Brian Taylor, which you can listen to here.

5: Sydney Swans vs Geelong Cats Semi-Final 2005

We all saw it, but I reckon some of us still cannot believe it. It seemed all over for the Swans in the final quarter of the 2005 Semi-Final, which would eventually see them make the grand final of this year. A young Geelong Cats side held a very comfortable 23-point lead heading into the final quarter – and in a lot of cases, that would have been it for the other team, but Nick Davis had other ideas. Davis is remembered for his final quarter effort, which single-handedly won the game for the Swans, by kicking four goals in the last quarter, the final in the last five seconds of the game, gifting Sydney a three-point win, ending Geelong’s premiership chase and advancing Sydney into the preliminary final. If you have not seen the miracle four goals, you can watch them here. Trust me, you will not regret it.

4: Collingwood vs West Coast Eagles Grand Final 2018

Let me set the scene, it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and Collingwood have the lead. All we wanted to see was a non-Victorian team win the 2018 AFL Grand Final. But alas, Collingwood scored the first five goals of the game and everyone thought that was it: it was going to be like the 2007 Grand Final once more (God forbid). But the likes of Luke Shuey and Dom Sheed did not let that happen and suddenly it was even at three-quarter time. You know the rest, Sheed kicks the final goal of the game and just like that, West Coast win by four points, which earnt them a very deserving fourth place on this list.

3: Collingwood vs Saint Kilda Grand Final 2010 (the first one)

Who could forget the infamous 2010 Grand Final? Collingwood and St Kilda. The stage was set for an epic game and boy was it epic. Over 100,000 spectators packed out the MCG for the biggest day in the AFL calendar and it did not disappoint. A mostly close game, unlike some of the recent grand finals, it went down to the absolute wire and resulted in a draw. Most people had not seen anything like it: a draw on the biggest day of the year, nobody was prepared for that. Ultimately, Collingwood went on to win a week later by 56 points, but the original Grand Final of 2010 is in a very well-deserved spot at number three.

2: Port Power vs West Coast Eagles Elimination Final 2017

One of the greatest elimination finals of the modern era is Port Power vs West Coast Eagles in 2017. The game was closer than Josh Jenkin’s infamous showdown goal and for many of us, it resulted in heartbreak. But from an unbiased view, it was a spectacular game. It had only been done twice before: a draw in an elimination final, the crowd confused and the players exhausted. The decision was made to play extra time, with Port up by four points with just seconds to go. But the unthinkable happened when Luke Shuey kicked a goal after the siren due to a high tackle (or was it?) in extra time for the Eagles to win by two points, leaving 95 per cent of Adelaide Oval shattered that night. This game has earnt its spot at number two on the best finals games in the last twenty years.

1: Sydney Swans vs West Coast Eagles Grand Final 2005

Two words: Leo Barry. The 2005 AFL Grand Final between the Sydney Swans and the West Coast Eagles is the only choice for the top spot on this list. When the pre-match entertainment consists of Michael Bublé, you know you are in for a good game. Neither team led by more than ten points at any stage of the game, which is when you know you are on for a legend of a grand final. With Sydney up by four points in the dying seconds, it was seemingly all over for the Eagles. But a kick out of defence by Sydney, saw Eagles player Dean Cox, giving his team one last shot at premiership glory speared it back into their forward 50 and in entered the hero of the game, Leo Barry. The defender took the final mark of the game and Sydney won their first premiership in 72 years, which at the time, was the longest premiership drought of any AFL club.

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