Throughout the history of the AFL, there have been many great games played all around the nation, but none have been quite as important as a cut-throat final.
The finals are often what separates football sides from the good to the great and there have been many finals that have left fans hanging on the edge of their seat, anxiously awaiting what will happen next.
Which is why the Zero Hanger team have compiled a list of the 10 greatest AFL finals since 2000.
10. Port Adelaide vs West Coast – 2017 Elimination Final
Finals that run into extra time are very rare, and It’s even more rare for a game to be decided in extra time after the siren – this is how special this game is.
The eighth-placed Eagles weren’t given much of a chance heading into the 2017 Finals Series and especially against a strong Port Adelaide outfit, who had made a habit of beating sides below them in convincing fashion.
The Eagles started the better of the two sides, kicking four goals to one in the opening quarter and leading by as much as 31 points midway through the second term, before Port clawed back to make it a three-point margin at three quarter time.
The final quarter went back and forth – Port took the lead eight minutes in and extended it to a nine-point margin, before the Eagles forced their way back into the advantage just minutes later. Travis Boak had a couple of opportunities to win it, but both went wide of the mark, forcing extra time.
Port had six scoring shots in extra time to West Coast’s three and all three of the Eagles’ shots resulted in goals. None more important than Luke Shuey, who won a free kick and then went back to slot home the childhood dream of kicking the match-winning goal after the siren.
9. Sydney vs Geelong – 2005 Semi Final
We saw it, and nearly 16 years on, we still can’t believe it!! The 2005 semi between Sydney and Geelong will be remembered for being a dire affair, but we will always remember the magical fourth quarter from the Swans’ Nick Davis.
To three quarter time, Sydney had been controlled and outplayed by Geelong, having only kicked three goals in three quarters. To be fair, they did miss their opportunities, kicking 3.12 up to the final break.
It wasn’t looking any better after David Johnson kicked Geelong’s last goal of the match two minutes into the last quarter, sending the Cats 23 points up. Meaning that the Swans would need four goals at least to snatch victory.
8. Sydney vs Hawthorn – 2012 Grand Final
This was a great Grand Final to watch. The Swans finished a game behind the Hawks at the end of the home and away season, but were always considered the underdogs for this match for some reason.
The first quarter went according to the script, with the Hawks getting an early jump on the Swans, kicking four goals to one. Sydney then went and kept the Hawks goal less in the second term to not just will themselves back in the contest, but take a 16-point lead into half time.
Mitch Morton was huge in the second term, kicking two goals in the span of four minutes and of course, who could ever forget the run along the AFL Members’ wing between Cyril Rioli and Lewis Jetta?
After the Swans kicked the opening two goals of the second half to blow the lead up to 28 points, the Hawks then kicked seven of the next eight goals to lead by 11 points two minutes into the final term.
But then the Swans made one last push, kicking three goals to take the lead back heading into time on. The Hawks had their opportunities, but failed to take the lead back. Nick Malceski sealed things for the Swans with a snap on the left to kick the sealer.
7. St Kilda vs Collingwood – 2010 Grand Final
The only Grand Final draw in the modern era – how can you not put this one on the list? They were easily the two best teams in the 2010 AFL season, and these two put on some show on that one day in September, that eventually turned into the one day in October, which saw the Pies take out the replay.
But in this one, after Collingwood kicked four of the first five of the game, the Saints pulled the margin back to a goal before the Pies again pulled away to take a four-goal lead into half time. From there, the Saints controlled the play and brought themselves back into the contest through the brilliance of both Brendon Goddard and Lenny Hayes – the latter going on to win the Norm Smith Medal.
Goddard’s high-flying screamer and goal in the 19th minute put the Saints in front for the first time that day, before Travis Cloke returned serve with his second goal of the afternoon.
And then that bounce… That damned bounce. With the Pies up by a point, Lenny Hayes thrusted the ball inside 50, the ball bounced up for Stephen Milne and then in cruel fashion, bounced over the line for a behind, tying the scores up.
Neither side would break the deadlock in the final minute.
6. Geelong vs St Kilda – 2009 Grand Final
After playing out a thriller in their only home and away clash earlier that year, Geelong and St Kilda played out another belting contest, with the margin never exceeding over two goals all match. On a rain-sodden MCG, these two teams played with everything on the line, as you’d come to expect in a Grand Final.
The momentum swung back and forth like a pendulum. Geelong kicked three of the first four goals, before St Kilda kicked the next three, then it was the Cats who returned fire with the next four goals, only to have the Saints kick three goals in as many minutes to take the lead again – and that was just at half time!
The momentum continued to swing back and forth during the second half, before the Cats began to wrangle momentum back in their favour. The moment where Matthew Scarlett toe-poked it to Gary Ablett in the middle of the MCG heading into time-on in the fourth quarter is folklore stuff.
With the scores deadlocked at 67-each, Ablett receives the ball and pumps it long and deep inside 50, this entry resulted in a snap around the body goal by Paul Chapman, who would go on to win the Norm Smith Medal this year. It’s simply beautiful stuff.
5. Western Bulldogs vs Sydney – 2016 Grand Final
This was the one that many Bulldogs supporters would never think they’d live to see. The Dogs hadn’t won a Grand Final in over 60 years and their last appearance in a Grand Final was 55 years prior to 2016.
The Dogs came from seventh to topple the Sydney Swans, who finished the 2016 AFL season on top of the ladder to cap off what was a memorable run of Finals games – West Coast in Perth, Hawthorn at the MCG, Giants at Giants Stadium all preceded this and all came with their respective challenges.
But this one was a genuine, hard fought contest for for quarters. The Dogs held off the Swans in the opening term, after kicking seven goals in each of their previous two first quarters. The Dogs went 16 points ahead early in the second quarter before the Swans kicked five of the next six to take the lead back.
But as the game went on in the second half, you could sense that the Dogs had the measure, but were unable to put them away, kicking 2.6 in the premiership quarter, made even more nervous when Lance Franklin kicked the opening goal in the last quarter to make it a one-point game.
And then, the Dogs clicked in a number of memorable moments. Jake Stringer snapping a goal from out of nowhere, Shane Biggs’ repeated efforts, Liam Picken finishing off Biggs’ hard work, Picken soaring up to the skies to take a classic hanger, Jason Johannisen’s goal that was denied by the score review, and of course Tom Boyd from the centre square.
4. West Coast vs Sydney – 2006 Grand Final
It’s the sequel that’s just as good as the original. After playing out a thrilling Grand Final in 2005, both West Coast and Sydney were back at the MCG 12 months later to play out another exciting chapter in what was a blossoming rivalry between the two sides.
Less than a month prior, these two sides played out a thrilling one-point win in favour of the Swans, but for the first half, it was all the Eagles, who kicked the first three goals of the game and kicked five of the next seven to open up a 29-point lead and seemingly in control.
But the Swans weren’t going to be put down so easily. Nick Davis kicked a goal before half time to reduce the margin to 23 and then kicked another two to whittle it down by 11 points before three-quarter time – they were coming.
The Swans never took the lead, but they kicked four goals to West Coast’s two in the final term – three of those goals were goals reducing the margin to one point. This match kept everyone on the edge of their seat in that final term, hoping either West Coast held on or the Swans would pinch a second premiership in as many years.
3. Sydney vs West Coast – 2005 Grand Final
It’s the original that is arguably better than the sequel… Well on this list technically, but 2005 was chapter one of the two and it was just as thrilling as the ’06 variety. The Eagles had most of the play in the opening term, but were wayward in front of goal. But it was late in the term that the Swans kicking two late ones to hold a two-point lead at quarter time.
The lead would expand to 20 points by half time as the Swans controlled the game, keeping West Coast goal-less in the second term, whilst kicking three themselves. But much like their sequel, it was the trailing team that came back from the sheds and turned up the intensity in the third quarter, kicking three goals and keeping the Swans goal-less.
The Eagles would then go on to kick a further two goals in the final quarter to open up a 10-point lead six minutes in, in what has been a pretty low-scoring affair. But the Swans weren’t to be deterred, as goals to Barry Hall and Amon Buchanan had the Swans back in the lead 19 minutes into the final term.
It became an arm-wrestle for the remainder of the match, with neither side managing to add a goal to the scoreboard, but it did end up with one of the most iconic moments in the history of the game. With the Eagles down by four points and the ball in the hands of Dean Cox about 60 metres out from goal, he sends it long into West Coast’s attacking 50, with Leo Barry leaping from out of nowhere to take a classic pack mark, prompting commentator Stephen Quartermaine screaming out: “Leo Barry You Star!!”
16 years on, and that play, that call, everything about it is still as good as it was live.
2. Western Bulldogs vs GWS – 2016 Preliminary Final
God what a game this was – so much on the line for both clubs. For the Giants, it was their first chance to get into their maiden Grand Final and a shot at their first premiership. For the Bulldogs, it was their first chance to potentially qualify for a Grand Final seat and the Dogs’ history with Preliminary Finals had been well documented.
Also well documented was the Giants’ history with taking ex-Bulldogs, but this was the game that kick-started the Dogs-Giants rivalry – From the first bounce, both teams were at each other’s throats, like both teams had something to prove.
For the entire duration of the game, not one side could really break clear from the other. The Bulldogs kicked the opening two goals of the game, only for the Giants to kick two themselves. The Dogs kick four of the last six goals of the second quarter to open up a nine-point lead at half time, the Giants counter it with a three-goal flurry in the third term to lead by 11 points, only for it to be whittled back down to one point by three quarter time.
This game ebbed and flowed so much, and the thing that makes this extra special is the pro-Bulldog crowd at Giants Stadium, urging their team to push and not give in – and they didn’t. The Giants led by 14 points early in the last quarter, but the Dogs found the lead again midway through the last quarter with goals to Tory Dickson and Marcus Bontempelli. Zaine Cordy added another to make it a seven-point deficit.
The Giants pushed again, but only added a goal for their troubles, when it could’ve been two or three. With the scores level again in the 28th minute, it was the Dogs’ Jack Macrae who coolly slotted one home to give the Dogs the lead again.
There were a couple of hairy moments, but the Dogs were able to stave off one last Giant onslaught to win by a goal, with Jake Stringer running inside 50 hitting Tory Dickson up with a centering ball to seal the deal.
1. West Coast vs Collingwood – 2018 Grand Final
There was a reason this was number one in the Fox Footy 50/50 – put simply: this was a Grand Final that pretty much had everything you could’ve wanted with it.
It had a great comeback, hard hits, controversy and some all-round genuinely good pieces of footy in it.
Having been in a Grand Final three years earlier, and being belted by Hawthorn, there was many warning signs and red flags in the opening 22 minutes of the match with Collingwood absolutely running roughshod, kicking five goals.
Once West Coast kicked those two late goals however, the game slowly shifted back on their terms, only conceding one goal in the second term and two goals in the third, whilst kicking six goals themselves in the second and third quarters to tie the scores up at three-quarter time – which is amazing to think considering they were 29 points down late in the opening term!
The Pies sprang to life again in the last quarter, kicking three of the first four goals to open up an 11-point lead, before the Eagles responded again. Josh Kennedy kicked his third goal just 90 seconds after Mason Cox put Collingwood 11 points ahead.
And then the sliding doors moment: Dom Sheed takes a mark inside 50 adjacent to the boundary, but the thing we still talk about today – was Brayden Maynard blocked? Maynard was engaged in a contest with Willie Rioli, which can be argued he denied him from having a run at the contest.
That question didn’t matter to Dom Sheed who slotted it straight through the big sticks to give the Eagles back the lead with very little time left on the clock, completing what would be almost every child’s dream of kicking the winning goal in the Grand Final.