AFL football history is littered with incredible moments. But no matter how special or miraculous, nothing quite matches an iconic Grand Final memory.
In the lead up to this weekend’s 2021 AFL Grand Final, we’ve compiled an entirely subjective list of the top 10 best AFL Grand Final moments in history – from iconic clutch wins to heated storylines. As the game is now a national sport, we’ve kept the parameters of the list from the mid-1980s onwards.
If you haven’t seen or heard of these moments, a quick Google search will clench your nostalgic thirst. Or, just read below, and reminisce on events that your grandchildren will be talking about at the pub one day.
10. How’s that, Buddy?
For close to a decade, Luke Hodge and Lance Franklin were Hawthorn superstars. But when the latter left for Sydney at the end of 2013 – signing a mammoth nine-year, $10 million deal – the long-time teammates quickly became adversaries.
The story was perfectly set up ahead of the 2014 Grand Final when Hawthorn and Sydney clashed at the MCG. Buddy v Hodgey. After clashing throughout the game, the two came face to face late in the third quarter. Hodge, seeing an opportunity to surprise his two-time premiership teammate, decided to kiss Franklin on the cheek. The vision was replayed on the big screen, and 100,000 fans laughed. Even Buddy had a smile on his face on an otherwise dark day for the Swans.
9. The wrong bounce
Since 1897, St Kilda has won just one premiership. And even that was by just one point, back in 1966. Saints fans have endured their fair share of heartbreak across the years (see No. 2 below), but nothing compares to the 2010 draw against Collingwood.
With 90 seconds remaining, Lenny Hayes banged the ball forward. Gun goal sneak Stephen Milne lost his opponent and looked certain to run into an open goal, only for the fickle Sherrin to bounce at right angles through for a point. The scores were level and they stayed that way. The following week the Magpies won easily, leaving Milne and his teammates to rue arguably the most incredible ‘what if’ moment in Grand Final history.
8. Crawf’s Last Hurrah
“That’s what I’m talking about” has become Shane Crawford’s catchphrase, and rightly so. He shouted it on the dais into the microphone when he collected his premiership medal in 2008. The veteran had hardly trained that year, the 16th of his career. Grand Final Day ended up being his 305th and last match, and he left with a bang. A fairytale for an iconic Hawk.
7. Choke on THAT!
It is one of the most famous images of a coach in Grand Final history. In 2003, Port Adelaide’s major sponsor had claimed Mark Williams would never lead the club to a flag. So when the Power upset Brisbane in 2004, Williams boomed “Allan Scott, you were wrong” and hoisted his tie above his head to signify the end to the club’s “choking tag”.
6. A debut to savour
In 2019, Marlion Pickett became the first player to debut on Grand Final Day since 1952. Not only that, but in mid-May, he wasn’t even on Richmond’s list. At 27 years of age, his first AFL game was in front of 100,000 fans on the biggest day of them all, and he didn’t disappoint, finishing third in best afield honours and kicking a goal in the third quarter.
5. “Leo Barry, you star!”
Without Leo Barry, Sydney may not have ended its 72-year premiership drought in 2005. With seconds remaining, he took a strong contested mark. As he stood up, the siren went. The Swans won by four points and Stephen Quartermain’s commentary is etched into Grand Final folklore forever: “LEO BARRY, YOU STAR!”
4. A rib-tickler
A week out from the 2003 Grand Final, Brisbane champion Nigel Lappin copped a knee to the ribs. On the Monday, he could hardly get out of the car, let alone run. By Friday, he was having a fitness test, despite doctors having confirmed he had two broken ribs.
After the fitness test – administered by coach Leigh Matthews – he also had a punctured lung to add to his woes. Determined to play, he went via the hospital on the way to the MCG. The Lions won, Lappin starred, and his insane bravery made him a Brisbane legend forever.
3. Sheed’s incredible finish
If Leo Barry saved the premiership for Sydney in 2005, Dom Sheed won it for West Coast in 2018.
There were two minutes remaining when Eagles ball-winner Sheed took a mark deep against the boundary in front of thousands of screaming Magpie fans. His team trailed by two points, but the left-footer calmly went back and threaded the needle from an obscure angle and with the eyes of the nation upon him. If there was a photo next to the word ‘clutch’ in the dictionary, it would be of Sheed. This was truly special.
2. Plenty to Crow about
No player has enjoyed a more dominant quarter in Grand Final history than Darren Jarman for Adelaide in 1997. Leading by 10 points over St Kilda (sorry Saints fans) at three-quarter-time, Jarman put on a clinic, kicking five goals in 25 mesmerising minutes, leading the Crows to their first AFL flag and lifting when it mattered most.
1. Derm delivers
The 1989 Grand Final is widely considered the greatest of the lot. How Gary Ablett kicked nine goals in a losing team beggars belief. Though the defining moment of the match happened in the first few seconds when Hawthorn champion Dermott Brereton was cleaned up off the ball by Mark Yeates as payback for a hit earlier in the season.
The result? Two broken ribs and a ruptured kidney. But Brereton played on, booting three goals in a remarkable six-point win. In arguably the greatest game of all, the key forward was the key man against all odds.
Now, read up on everything you need to know about this weekend’s 2021 AFL Grand Final. Will Melbourne finally end their 57-year drought?