Posted: 29 September, 2011 by The Learned One

Triple M Footy Nominates The 10 Greatest AFL Grand Finals Of All Time

Find out what we rated No.1. Do you agree with our list? Leave your comments!

Tags: afl, grand final, Countdown, Triple M

(Vision: Channel Seven)

10. 1984 – Essendon 14.21 (105) def. Hawthorn 12.9 (81)

Essendon and Hawthorn contested the 1984 premiership decider just 12 months after meeting in the 1983 Grand Final. In that match, the Hawks set a then-record grand final winning margin of 83 points so to say Kevin Sheedy’s men had extra motivation heading into the highly-anticipated premiership rematch would be an understatement. However, things weren’t going well for the famous Baby Bombers who found themselves trailing by more than five goals at one stage. But Sheedy, in just his fourth year as senior coach, gave the footy world its first major glimpse of the ingenuity that he would stamp on Essendon teams for the next quarter of a century as he switched defenders Bill Duckworth, Paul Weston and Peter Bradbury forward and moved Terry Daniher to defence with devastating effects. The defensive trio kicked four goals between them and, after trailing by 23 points at three-quarter time, their team stormed home to boot nine of the last 11 goals and clinch a famous 24-point victory which saw the Bombers win their 13th premiership. Essendon went back-to-back in 1985 – again against the Hawks – with a lot more ease courtesy of a 78-point margin. The three consecutive grand finals that these two sides did battle in gave rise to one of the game’s greatest rivalries which is well and truly alive to this day.

(Vision: Channel Seven)

9. 1979 – Carlton 11.16 (82) def. Collingwood 11.11 (77)

Carlton-Collingwood encounters are big enough as they are, so when these two giants of the VFL/AFL lock horns in a grand final, it’s fair to say things reach fever pitch. 113,545 crazed fans converged on the MCG on that last Saturday in September in 1979 and were treated to a contest befitting the occasion. After leading by 21 points at three-quarter time and looking home, Carlton were seriously challenged by Collingwood who cut the margin to four points 18 minutes into the final term. Then one of the most famous incidents in football history took place. Carlton’s Wayne Harmes slid along the boundary line deep in the Blues attack to knock the ball back into play. Ken Sheldon accepted the ball in the goalsquare before kicking the match-winning goal. To this day it is hotly debated (mainly between Carlton and Collingwood fans) as to whether the ball stayed in play or not.

(Vision: Channel Ten)

8. 2005 – Sydney 8.10 (58) def. West Coast 7.12 (54)

The 2005 Grand Final would serve as one epic chapter in one of the most remarkable rivalries ever forged. Thirteen points separated these two sides over six encounters between 2005-2007 (including the 2006 Grand Final which West Coast won by a point). Sydney headed into this grand final with the longest premiership drought (72 years) in VFL/AFL history dangling over its head while West Coast was aiming to clinch its third flag in just 19 years of existence. It was played at a time when lockdown-style footy was dominating the AFL landscape and Paul Roos’ Swans were the industry leaders in this department. What the 2005 premiership decider lacked in goals, it more than made up for in nail-biting thrills and spills and no bigger thrill occurred than with just seconds remaining in the match. At the 32-minute mark of the final term, with the Eagles trailing by four points, ruckman Dean Cox kicked the ball deep into West Coast’s forward line to a six-man pack. Time seemed to stand still before Sydney defender Leo Barry drifted across the pack to take one of the most famous marks of all time to ensure the Swans their first flag since 1933 which was won when they were still in South Melbourne.

(Vision: Channel Seven)

7. 1971 – Hawthorn 12.10 (82) def. St Kilda 11.9 (75)

Regarded as one of the most brutal matches of all time, the 1971 Grand Final had it all. A gutsy comeback, an inspired positional change and some of the biggest hits ever seen on a footy field! But perhaps the intriguing subplot of Hawthorn’s star full-forward Peter Hudson attempting to break Bob Pratt’s goalkicking record of 150 provided the most drama. Needing only four goals to claim the record, Hudson could only manage three – undoubtedly due to a bone-jarring hit to the head delivered by St Kilda tough man Kevin ‘Cowboy’ Neale which left him severely concussed. As you can see from the above vision, Hudson had his chances to break the record but, clearly in a dazed state, fluffed some sitters that he would normally eat for breakfast. However, that didn’t stop the Hawks from overturning a 20-point three-quarter time deficit as they booted seven goals in the final quarter and clinched their second premiership. The turnaround was thanks largely to Bob Keddie who was shifted into the forward line by coach John Kennedy in the final term and booted four majors.

(Vision: Channel Ten)

6. 2009 – Geelong 12.8 (80) def. St Kilda 9.14 (68)

For years, experts had been comparing the promising young lists of Geelong and St Kilda and the 2009 Grand Final served as the ultimate battle to prove once and for all which club had the goods. This group of Cats already had a flag under their belts (2007) and were out for redemption after being on the wrong end of the biggest boilover in modern grand final history in 2008 when they lost to Hawthorn despite only losing one match in the home-and-away season. But Ross Lyon’s table-topping Saints would be an ominous force to overcome having started 2009 with 19 consecutive wins and only losing two matches for the year by a combined total of just seven points. St Kilda dominated play in the first half of the match and led the inside-50 count by a whopping 22 (37-15). However, bad goalkicking coupled with extraordinary efficiency by the Cats when they went forward meant the Saints only had a six-point lead at half-time. St Kilda led by seven points at the final change but Geelong fought back in the fourth quarter and scores were locked at 67-67 when, at the 23-minute mark, Matthew Scarlett etched his name into footy folklore when he famously toe-poked a ball in dispute in the centre of the ground to superstar Gary Ablett junior. Ablett then ran to within 65m of Geelong’s goal and booted the ball to a pack in the goalsquare. Travis Varcoe collected the crumbs, handballed the pill to Paul Chapman who snapped truly and the Cats never looked back to claim their second premiership in three years. For St Kilda, it would prove to be another near-miss on its quest to break its 43-year premiership drought.

(Vision: Channel Seven)
5. 1977 – Collingwood 10.16 (76) drew North Melbourne 9.22 (76)

It had been 19 years since Collingwood last tasted premiership success and after four grand final losses in that time, the Magpies were ready to bury the curse of the 'Colliwobbles'. Coach Tom Hafey did a magnificent job of transforming Collingwood from wooden spooners into ladder leaders in the space of 12 months and now had the 1975 premiers standing in their way of completing the ultimate footy fairytale story. And it looked as if the Magpies were on track after they booted five unanswered goals in the third quarter to head into the final change with a seemingly insurmountable 27-point lead. But amazingly the Kangaroos responded to boot the first five goals of the final term to lead by six points late in the match and Collingwood appeared destined to write another heartbreaking chapter in their finals history. Thirty-two minutes had elapsed in the final quarter when Billy Picken roosted the ball into the Magpies’ forward line where Ross ‘Twiggy’ Dunne took a strong pack mark 20m out from goal. With 40 seconds remaining, Dunne kicked the goal that levelled scores and they would remain locked when the final siren sounded to mark just the second drawn grand final in the 81-year history of the competition. The two teams would reconvene a week later to contest the replay in a much more high-scoring affair which North Melbourne won 21.25 (151) to 19.10 (124) to make it six unsuccessful grand final appearances for the Magpies since 1958.

(Vision: Channel Seven)

4. 1966 – St Kilda 10.14 (74) def. Collingwood 10.13 (73)

St Kilda and Collingwood lost the 1965 and 1964 Grand Finals respectively, so both sides headed into the 1966 premiership decider hell-bent on atoning for recent September sins. And the Saints had extra motivation as they attempted to finally deliver the club its first flag. To that point, St Kilda suffered the ignominy of a then-record premiership drought (69 years) hanging over its head. But little did the Saints know they would break that drought in such dramatic fashion. Little separated the two sides all day and with the scores locked on 10.13 (73) apiece late in the match, it looked as though a draw was on the cards. But at the 27-minute mark of the final term, St Kilda’s Barry Breen grabbed the ball from a stoppage in the forward pocket and scored the most famous behind in VFL/AFL history to deliver the Saints to the Promised Land for the very first time. It remains St Kilda’s only premiership.

(Vision: Channel Seven)

3. 2010 – St Kilda 10.8 (68) drew Collingwood 9.14 (68)

The 2010 Grand Final is arguably the best grand final of the modern era. After two preliminary final losses in the space of three seasons, Collingwood finally broke through to make its first premiership decider since 2003 while St Kilda didn’t have to wait long to have another crack at breaking its premiership drought (which had now stretched to 44 years) having unsuccessfully competed in the grand final 12 months earlier. The Magpies flew out of the blocks and held a commanding 24-point lead at half-time. But they didn’t make the most of their total second-quarter dominance and could only add three goals from 10 shots while the Saints were held to just one solitary goal for the term. St Kilda, led by instrumental Norm Smith Medallist Lenny Hayes and Brendon Goddard, made Collingwood pay for its wastefulness in the third quarter. The Magpies, who ultimately comprehensively won the inside-50 count 62-35, were held goalless in this quarter and saw their advantage whittled down to eight points by three-quarter time. The Saints kicked three of the first four goals of the final quarter to lead by six points at the 20-minute mark. A goal to Travis Cloke five minutes later gave Collingwood a one-point lead but at the 29-minute mark Hayes roosted the ball from 60m out towards Stephen Milne who couldn’t gather the ball and saw it race over the line for a behind to tie everything up at 68-68. There wouldn’t be another score to ensure the third drawn grand final in 114 years. A week later, the Magpies won the replay by 56 points and their first premiership since 1990.

(Vision: Channel Seven)

2. 1989 – Hawthorn 21.18 (144) def. Geelong 21.12 (138)

The 1989 Grand Final was more like a war than a football match. Geelong made its intentions clear from the first bounce when Mark Yeates, under instruction from coach Malcolm Blight, ran off the line and through Hawthorn’s star forward Dermott Brereton. Brereton suffered broken ribs and a bruised kidney from the incident but amazingly stayed on the ground and moments later kicked the Hawks’ second goal. But Brereton wasn’t the only casualty of the Cats’ ruthless physicality that day. John Platten suffered concussion, Robert DiPierdomenico suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung and Hawthorn reportedly had only 13 fit players by the time the final siren sounded. Despite the injuries, the Hawks – competing in their seventh consecutive grand final – controlled proceedings for the first three quarters and headed into the final term with a comfortable 36-point lead. Geelong came home with a wet sail in the final quarter to boot eight goals to three but it wasn’t enough as the Hawks claimed their fourth flag in seven years. Gary Ablett senior produced one of the greatest individual grand final performances with a record nine-goal haul which earned him the Norm Smith Medal. The grand final loss would be the first of four for Geelong in the space of seven years.

(Vision: Channel Seven)

1. 1970 – Carlton 17.9 (111) def. Collingwood 14.17 (101)

It’s hard to deny that this grand final was the greatest of all time. The game’s two greatest rivals went toe-to-toe in front of 121,696 fans (which remains a record to this day) for the ultimate prize. The Magpies looked to have their 14th premiership sewn up by half-time when they led by 44 points. The huge margin was built largely on the back of Peter McKenna’s five first-half goals. But Carlton coach Ron Barassi was about to make a huge impact on the match in more ways than one. Firstly he delivered the famous handball-at-all-costs message to his players and secondly he made the critical introduction of little-known rover Ted Hopkins in the second half as a substitute for Bert Thornley. The blonde-headed Hopkins would kick no less than four second-half goals and played a key role in the Blues’ incredible fight back. By the final change, Carlton trailed the Magpies by 17 points after an eight-goal-to-three third term and another five goals to one in the final quarter completed the most famous comeback in the history of the game. But if you thought this grand final already had it all, it also provided us with the ‘mark of the century’ as Alex Jesaulenko famously climbed over the back of Graeme Jenkin to take a huge grab on the wing. The mark prompted renowned commentator Mike Williamson to utter the iconic phrase – “Jesaulenko, you beauty!” This match also saw the term ‘Colliwobbles’ coined for the first time to describe Collingwood’s shaky performances in grand finals. Between 1960-1981, the Magpies featured in nine grand finals and didn’t win any of them!

Do you agree with our top 10? If not, what changes would you make?

Tags: afl, grand final, Countdown, Triple M

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