General Footy Writing: The top ten finals according to Stainless

One of the few joys of being a Richmond supporter is that you can regularly attend finals matches without emotional involvement.  The football purist takes over and you can sit back, relax with a quiet, reflective beer and enjoy the best of what the rest of the competition has to offer.

A ripper 2009 finals series approaches, with new-look, exciting teams in the mix and a genuine sense that the Premiership race is wide open.  As an attendee of 28 Grand Finals and over 100 VFL/AFL finals matches in all, I feel well qualified to whet the appetite by taking a trip down memory lane and recalling the best finals I’ve been to.

For objectivity, this top ten has been deliberately compiled from the (many) finals I’ve been to in which Richmond has not participated.  If I included Richmond finals I’ve seen, I would probably put the 1973 Preliminary Final ahead of some of these even though my personal recollections of that game are pretty fleeting (I was nine at the time).  For the sheer, visceral thrill factor, the 1995 Second Semi Final win over Essendon rates highly but it certainly wasn’t one of the greatest finals I’ve seen.

If there’s an obvious classic that isn’t in my list, I probably wasn’t there.  However, just to stir up a bit of debate, here are a few “honourable mentions” that I did attend but didn’t make my top ten:
1993 Qualifying Final, Carlton 15.10 (100) def. Essendon 14.14 (98), MCG
1994 Qualifying Final, Geelong 15.16 (106) def. Footscray 15.11 (101), MCG
1997 Preliminary Final, Adelaide 12.21 (93) def. W. Bulldogs 13.13 (91), MCG
And the Grand Finals of 1984, 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2008.

For interstate Almanackers, I apologise for the Victorian bias.  There have been some fantastic finals played at non-Victorian venues, but this is a list based purely on the best method of rating games: being there.

Interestingly, I can’t find a spot for a Waverley final in my top ten, even though some great finals were played there.  I missed the entire 1991 finals series (Waverley’s finest hour) and some of the other memorable ones like the 1987 Preliminary Final and the drawn 1990 Qualifying Final, which were clearly both classics.

So, in chronological order, here are my best ten finals, with a few personal perspectives on each thrown in.

1.    1979 Grand Final, Carlton 11.16 (82) def. Collingwood 11.11 (77), MCG

This was my first serious year as a football-goer so it was a special thrill to buy a (standing room) Grand Final ticket through my own resources rather than rely on a friend who was an MCC member to lend me a spare ladies ticket.  I stayed over at a mate’s place the night before the game and stayed up all night watching the Grand Final footy marathon.  In those days, the marathon was pretty simple.  Every last quarter of every Grand Final between 1966 and 1978 – most of them were good games.  We caught the train into the G at the crack of dawn to get a spot on the fence separating seating from standing.

In a classic “champion versus battler” Grand Final, played in sloppy, wintry conditions the likes of which would make our pampered stars of today blanch, the hot favourite Carlton produced one of their trademark “bursts” just before half time to come from five goals down to take the lead by the break.  An equally trademark gritty fightback by the dogged Magpies in the last quarter was thwarted, it seemed prematurely, by the siren at the 27 minute mark.  The famous Harmes tap to Sheldon?  From two decks up in the old Northern stand, I was sort of behind the line of it, but probably 120 metres away.  I couldn’t tell.  And giving him the inaugural Norm Smith medal instead of Johnston, Francis, or others? Yes, definitely.  Harmes gave the game its defining spirit and won the crowd over in a way that no-one else did on the day.  A young star in the making winning a medal that would quickly become as coveted as any honour in the game. It felt right.

After nearly 36 hours without sleep, my mate and I adjourned to the Camberwell institution, Sofia’s Pizza House, where we demolished a large one each before heading to our respective homes for 12 hours of oblivion.

2.    1983 Qualifying Final, Hawthorn 19.13 (127) def. Fitzroy 19.9 (123), MCG

Viewers of the replay of this will see me, wearing the black duffle coat that was so de rigeur back then, behind the goals, in the largely deserted concrete standing area in the old Western Stand, as Bernie Quinlan grabs the ball from a ruck contest and wobbles through his eighth goal of the game to put the Lions in front with just minutes left.  It was a great spot from which to watch Fitzroy’s brave but ultimately fruitless resurgence in the last quarter that was so cruelly snuffed out by two tough but fair umpiring decisions at the other end of the ground.  A Hawthorn goal from a free for a deliberate out of bounds midway through the term temporarily halted Fitzroy’s momentum, and then Gary Pert’s clumsy shove in the back of Richard Loveridge resulted in the goal that permanently wrested back the lead for the Hawks just as it seemed that the Lions had pinched a famous win.  Overall, it was a marvellous free-flowing contest between two of the most highly skilled teams of that era.

Fans of old Fitzroy must ponder what the future of their club might have been had they won this one.  A Premiership could have been theirs that year, given Hawthorn’s effortless march to the Flag after this lucky win.  As Premiers, the Lions would have had an overflowing bandwagon of supporters and – who knows – the financial strength that might have kept them as a strong and vibrant member of the VFL.  As it was, the last quarter heroics of Quinlan, Conlan, Sidebottom et al were not enough to prevent the Hawks from prevailing and beginning their finest era.  On such games do the destinies of footy clubs turn.

3.    1989 Grand Final, Hawthorn 21.18 (144) def. Geelong 21.12 (138), MCG

This one doesn’t require much thought to include in the list.  It’s been replayed so many times, everyone will be familiar with the reasons why.

Again, I was standing behind the goals (Punt Road end this time) and had already enjoyed a fabulous day’s footy before the big game had even started.  Trivia nuts and some long-suffering Geelong fans would recall that the Cats lost all three matches played that day, all by a single kick.  The Richmond Under 19s began their pain with a one point win in the Preliminary Final replay (having drawn the previous week).  Fitzroy Reserves then pinched a two-point win over the Cats, before the seniors succumbed by six points.

I can’t recall a more hectic, anarchic opening to a game of footy than the seconds in which Geelong simultaneously cleared from the centre to Ablett who proceeded to drill an effortless 52 metre goal, and crunched Dermott Brereton at the other end of the ground.  The pandemonium in the crowd was overwhelming. Bizarrely, although Mark Yeates’ assault on Dermie occurred right in front of me, I missed it completely, totally transfixed by the opening passage of play further up the ground.

The rest of the quarter was a debacle for the Cats as they fell for one of the many traps awaiting Grand Final novices – going the man rather than the ball.  After quarter time, as the game opened up and their natural talent came to the fore, Geelong steadily gained ground, only for the seasoned Hawks to repel them time and again.  Having seen a decade of largely one-sided Grand Finals, I was sure that for much of the day Geelong were about to crack under the relentless Hawthorn pressure, and in truth, most of the game was played with the Cats between 4 and 7 goals down.  But they had a special presence in their side that day and his extraordinary contributions kept them going when they would otherwise have surely chucked it in.  Plenty of other Geelong players, who would otherwise be relative unknowns, such as Flanagan, Hamilton and Bews, were seemingly inspired, displaying special efforts in the pressure-packed environment.

Only with about ten minutes to go, when Geelong briefly narrowed the gap to less than two goals, did it look as though the injury-riddled Hawthorn might run out of steam.  But for one final time they found a way to goal through an unsung hero of their own, Dean Anderson, and then managed to hang on through sheer bloody-minded will-power.  By the end, I was drained from just watching it.

4.    1993 Preliminary Final, Essendon 17.9 (111) def. Adelaide 14.16 (100), MCG

In yet another shocking season for Richmond, I got onto a bit of an Essendon bandwagon, attending a number of their games with a work mate who is a dyed-in-the-wool Bombers man and remains an enjoyable larrikin to boot, notwithstanding his now exalted standing as a partner in one of our well-known consulting firms.  We attended all four Essendon finals that year, but the Preliminary Final was the standout.

The Bombers of ’93 took my fancy back in Round 2 when I saw them play an absolute clinker of a draw against Carlton, a bunch of kids and a few wily veterans showing special skills and character in the face of stronger and more experienced opposition (schoolboy Fletcher against Kernahan, anyone?).  Although no-one much rated them at the time, such was the quality of that game that it didn’t surprise me much to see the Bombers and Blues heading the ladder by season’s end and then playing another cracker in the Qualifying Final, won by Carlton by just two points.

After brushing aside reigning Premiers, West Coast, the next week, Essendon were pitted against the Crows who had surprised Victorians with their skill and stamina during their first finals series, beating Hawthorn and running Carlton pretty close. At half-time, the South Australian interlopers were seven goals up and could have been ten.  An unpalatable Carlton-Adelaide Grand Final loomed.  But Essendon staged a stirring second half comeback, taking on the Crows with breathtaking speed and daring, their outrageously talented youngsters combining superbly with their veterans.  The abiding image is of the bullocking efforts of Tim Watson, following up his own tired kick, with the star of Essendon’s future, James Hird, an appreciative spectator alongside as Timmy’s match-winning goal sailed through.

5.    1994 Preliminary Final, Geelong 16.13 (109) def. North Melbourne 14.19 (103), MCG

From a purist’s perspective, this is the final I automatically think of first when asked about the best I’ve seen.  Admittedly, neither side was absolutely top-drawer that year (North in the ascendancy, Geelong in gradual decline), but there were plenty of champions on display that day, including Wayne Carey at his absolute best and some classic football from the stellar Geelong midfield brigade of Bairstow, Couch and Hocking. The game was played at a frenetic pace, full of ebbs and flows, and with an extraordinary denouement that was as thrilling and cruel as the end of a bullfight.

I encountered North fans on the train after the game, almost speechless with rage at the lopsided free-kick count, which I think was 32-14 Geelong’s way.  I hadn’t noticed that they’d got a particularly rough deal.  However, what I did notice was North’s profligacy in the first and last quarters when they had the Cats at their mercy.  In the end this was the difference.  Geelong busted the game open with a seven goal second quarter and looked to have the edge through the third, with only the efforts of Carey keeping North in the contest.

As Geelong tired in the final term, the fresher North, having had the previous week off, looked set to run over them. But the pressure of what was at stake clearly told on some of their younger players and gilt-edged chances went begging.  Instead of burying the Cats, they meekly drew level, whereupon Geelong launched a final end-to-end attack that finished with the ball in the arms of the hitherto subdued Gary Ablett as the siren blared.

Only an objective observer could have appreciated this simply for the great game it was.  The emotional extremes of the fans were a sight to behold.

6.    2002 Grand Final, Brisbane 10.15 (75) def. Collingwood 9.12 (66), MCG

Many parallels to the ’79 Grand Final here, with the wintry weather conspiring with the rank underdogs, Collingwood, to drag the hot favourite down to their level, but still not enough to produce the huge upset that a Magpie victory would have been.

In truth, it is harsh to imply that Collingwood only got close because Brisbane had a bad day.  They were brave and gutsy and it took an inspired last quarter from Michael Voss, a fortunate free kick to Alistair Lynch and a characteristically brilliant goal from Akermanis to finally quell the uprising.  Nathan Buckley was by far the best four quarter player and deserved to win the Norm Smith medal for his efforts.  But Voss was the matchwinner.

For me, the seething grot of standing room was replaced by a great seat on the wing in the AFL members with a perfect line of sight behind that Anthony Rocca kick for goal in the last quarter.  No, Magpie fans, it was definitely not a goal!  But yes, for once, big Anthony really did stand tall in what was certainly his most important game for the Pies.

7.    2005 Grand Final, Sydney 8.10 (58) def. West Coast 7.12 (54), MCG

This game could easily be dismissed as a scrappy, forgettable contest that only lives in the memory for the closeness of the scores and the significance of the result.  But I am a big fan of dour, low-scoring games where every goal assumes great significance and a two goal margin looks like a daunting gulf.

Such was the tight, locked-down nature of this game, that it made every quick break or attacking thrust doubly exciting.  Early in the last quarter, the Eagles looked to have put down Sydney’s unlikely resistance, which in the first half had them well ahead and Lewis Roberts-Thomson a bizarre early favourite for the Norm Smith Medal.  Barry Hall’s finest moment in football – a long set-shot goal under enormous pressure – followed by Buchanan’s scrambling rover’s goal, restored the lead for Sydney, but with still an age to play.

I’ve described previous games where the crowd is like a raging beast.  But the last ten minutes of this game were like the final gripping overs of a tight Test match, watched almost entirely in a tense hush by a crowd hanging on every action.  Only with the occasional bursts of open play – Kennelly’s bouncing dash down our wing, the ball flying over a pack in the West Coast forward line, seemingly goal-bound, and of course, Leo Barry’s final mark – was the quiet shattered by manic roars.

How genuine Swans fans lived through those final minutes, I don’t know.  I daresay some didn’t.  I caught up with one survivor a week and a half later.  She was a 60-something, life-long resident of Port Melbourne and life-long follower of “my Swannies”.  I was thrilled to learn that somehow she had got a ticket and had seen it all.  Ten days on and she was still hoarse!

8.    2006 Grand Final, West Coast 12.13 (85) def. Sydney 12.12 (84), MCG

It’s impossible to consider this game without comparing it to the 2005 Grand Final.  In the warm sunshine before the game, I realized I felt far more ambivalent about this game than I had 12 months before when Sydney was very much the Cinderella favourite.  Now that they had broken their Premiership drought, they were big and ugly enough to win Flags without needing any temporary sentimental support from me.  Indeed even at half-time with the Swans well down after a below-par performance, there was a strong sense that this team was by no means finished.

Such was the power of the Swans’ fightback and the flukey nature of the Eagles’ last quarter goals that allowed them to hang on, that I felt that the wrong team had won. The final siren was just an annoying intrusion to a finish that seemed almost pre-determined.  The Swans, attacking relentlessly, would surely find a way.  And then it was over. And they hadn’t.  Paradoxically, one could have said the same about West Coast in the last desperate minutes of 2005.

Of course, West Coast supporters were over the moon and Sydney fans gutted (though they must surely admit that the previous year’s win in similar circumstances made the pain easier to bear).  But the overwhelming mood at the conclusion of the match was one of appreciation for two great teams playing at the peak of their powers and adding another chapter to a great new rivalry.  In a sense, there were no losers on the day.

My final reflection concerns the great West Coast midfield.  It’s hard to believe that it’s less than three years since that game.  So much has changed since then for those players and for that club that the time that they played together seems like an ancient dynasty.  Through their separation, Cousins, Judd and Kerr have, in many and various ways, become even greater figures in the game than they were as a collective.  The notion of the three playing together in a winning Grand Final team seems even more mouth-watering now than it did then.  For all the accolades at the time, did the footy world really appreciate what a special combination they were?

9.    2007 Elimination Final, Hawthorn 15.15 (105) def. Adelaide 15.12 (102), Telstra Dome

True to the old line about the unpredictability of sport, this game seemed to have little to recommend it in the exalted context of finals but became a contest for the ages.  It started as two sides in the bottom half of the eight playing off at a half-full Telstra Dome without its night-time “roof on” atmosphere.  What little crowd animation there was become even more sudued as the “Crowbots” marched to a five goal lead over the inexperienced Hawks.  I was there with some increasingly glum Hawthorn supporters.  We had great middle tier seats but this just meant seeing a big defeat unfolding in superb detail.

But a final is a final and it is at moments like this when the significance of the occasion defines teams.  Many of them crack and I’ve seen plenty of finals sputter out like dud firecrackers because one team simply hasn’t got the self-belief that this is their stage.  Not so Hawthorn today.  I think this performance forged the sense of belief that carried them to the 2008 Premiership.

Of course, everyone will remember “Buddy” and his freakish match-winning (seventh) goal. Granted, his was a remarkable display and there can be no doubts about his appetite for the big occasion.  However, with a couple of exceptions like Croad and Crawford, this was a team of finals novices, up against a resilient, professional unit.  For such a young team to keep responding, even after the Crows’ last super goal from Jason Torney, was a very special effort.  The crowd found a very special roar in response, one I heard again on Grand Final day in 2008.

10.    2007 Preliminary Final, Geelong 13.14 (92) def. Collingwood 13.9 (87)

After a plethora of finals involving interstate teams, an all-Victorian Preliminary Final was a massive novelty and the crowd in attendance, 98,000, was marginally bigger than the following week’s Grand Final.  Melbourne’s sporting public choose their events well and this was a beauty.

Again Collingwood played the role of the gallant underdog that pushed the champion to the limit but couldn’t quite win the day, although had Nathan Buckley’s hamstring remained intact for the last few minutes, the result might have been different.  Geelong seemed strangely nervous, as though convinced that they were going to suffer Essendon’s fate in 1999 (and no, I didn’t go to that game – worse luck!).  Once again, it was an Ablett that rescued them, with Gary Junior playing a sublime game and delivering a marvelous and desperately needed goal at the end.

Reflecting on these matches played over nearly 30 years, oddly, I find it easier to recollect specific incidents or moments in the older games than the recent ones.  This may be a function of youthful memory, but I think it has to do with the uniformity of the modern game.  The quality and intensity is seen, not so much in great marks or long goals, but in volleys of quick ball movement under extreme pressure and relentless, gut-busting running.  Of course, the champion players still rise to the top, but the abiding recollection is of breathtaking, disciplined team effort. So it was that night in 2007.  Both Collingwood and Geelong gave their all.

About Sam Steele

50 years a Richmond supporter. Enjoying a bounteous time after 37 years of drought. Should've been a farmer!


  1. pauldaffey says


    What a great little finals warm-up.

    I’d be interested to know the order if you were to rate them from the best down.

    What’s No.1?

  2. Great stuff Sam. I’m glad you included the two Sydney-West Coast Grand Finals. I agree that lower scoring games can heighten drama because of the significance attached to each goal. In fact I said as much in the following letter which was published in the Age on the Tuesday after the 2005 GF:

    “TO THE critics of the Sydney Swans’ style of play, I say consider this: the 12 closest grand finals since the VFL’s inception in 1897 have yielded a highest score of 86 and an average score of 53 (median 55).

    As much as I enjoyed watching my team, the Western Bulldogs, and their exciting brand of free-flowing, high-scoring football during this year, the one thing I craved was a tight grand final – one that hinged on almost every action of every player. On Saturday, my wish was granted. And if the Sydney Swans’ brand of footy is what’s required to produce that sort of grand final, may it reign for many seasons to come.”

    The great thing about our game is that it continues to throw up both styles, the dour (2005-06) and the dashing (1989 and even last year’s GF had a combined total of 59 scoring shots).

  3. pauldaffey says


    Should we just run a weekly flashback on your letters to The Age?

    I still like, and even greatly admire, the one about hyphenated surnames.

  4. Thanks for the praise Daff. I am suitably chuffed!

    Maybe I’ll talk to my publisher. (“The Gigacz Letters” has a nice ring to it.)

    It’s true that I’ve vented my spleen about matters football many times in those pages. Sometimes, though I just like to point out the ridiculous, as I did in December 2007 when a snake went missing in Clifton Hill:

    “I WAS concerned to read of a snake at large in my neighbourhood yesterday. According to (10/12), “police said the three-metre python has brown and black skin and may appear disorientated”. Can someone please tell me the difference in appearance between a python that is disorientated and one that is not? I wouldn’t want to needlessly stop a snake that knew where it was going.”

  5. pauldaffey says


    A discombobulated python!

    Troy Simmonds might have more time to pursue his serpentine interests after this season.

  6. Incidentally, the snake was eventually found and returned to it’s owner. As far as I know it is now happily orientated and combobulated.

  7. To get back to Paul’s question about ranking, I deliberately didn’t rank them. As Gigs says, over a 30 year period, the game has changed immensely and different types of games have different sorts of appeal.

    I’m sure you could devise a method for ranking these games, but to me it also comes down to an indefinable “spine tingling” factor.

    I mentioned in my summary of the ’94 Prelim that this game always strikes me as the archetypal “great final”. I think it ticks all the boxes that you would consider in assessing what makes a classic match. And the last moments definitely cause the spine to tingle!

  8. Sam

    Of course the 2005 Grand Final is known in our household as the Paul Daffey Grand Final.

    At about the 26 minute mark of the final quarter when the tension was excruciating Daff’s big noggin appeared on the big screen in that 1950s-pick-a-single-person-out-in-the-crowd Newsreel approach.

    A couple for me: Bris v Ess c1997. bris by a point. Remembered by a few players I’ve spoken to as one of the best games they’ve played in.

    Bris v Rich prelim 2001 – the post-911 game. A really interesting atmosphere. Highly emotion-charged moment ie historical moment.


  9. Yes, the Brisbane v Essendon game was great – it was 1996. And of course two weeks later, the Dons suffered the same fate with Lockett’s post-siren point in Sydney.

    Prior to West Coast’s 1-point win in the 2006 Grand Final, the four previous finals to end in that margin were ALL losses to Essendon.

    1999 – Carl 16.8.104 d Ess 14.19.103 (Preliminary Final and the day Jeff Kennett was toppled.)
    1996 – Syd 10.10.70 d Ess 10.9.69 (Prelim again – Plugger)
    1996 – Bris 15.11.101 d Ess 15.10.100 (the game JTH mentions above)
    1986 – Fitz 8.10.58 d Ess 8.9.57 (Elimination Final – very wet day at Waverley – late goal to Micky Conlan gave the lions victory.)

    Sorry to bring that up Bomber fans.

  10. Peter Flynn says

    OK we’ve had to go to the game.
    1994 PF for mine.
    The Carey clinic (although to his great credit, Bloodnut played a reasonable game on him).
    It’s hard to believe anybody could play better than Carey that day.
    Great 2nd quarter fightback by Geelong to match North’s electrifying start. Carey the catalyst.
    Martyn keeping Gary under wraps for most of the day.
    In fact I reckon Ablett had 6 kicks max.
    The swanning Hinkley. Riccardi and coke. The cool Couch.
    The unbearable final moments. Barnes’ incredibly risky handpass in the backline to start the play that eventually led to the Ablett goal.
    Geelong were shot at 3/4 time. No wonder they didn’t come up the following week.
    I reckon Geelong’s only goal of the final quarter was after the siren.

  11. Peter Flynn says

    I went to that 1986 Elimination Final.
    Horrendous conditions and poor visibility (the umbrella factor).

  12. John

    Interesting ones.

    I remember the Brissy Essendon game. I think it was actually in 1996 when Brisbane were still the Bears. Wanaganeen’s close range snap hit the post with seconds to go.

    I’m sure that 9-11 happened the week of the 2001 semi finals. There was a minute’s silence before the Richmond Carlton match at the G (which we won) and there was a very subdued atmosphere considering the great rivalry between the sides.

    Two more lists to ponder – best interstate finals and games overshadowed by historical events (e.g. the opening week of the 97 finals was entirely re-scheduled to fit around the coverage of Princess Diana’s funeral – I recall North beat Geelong on a Sunday night, but you probably don’t want to go there!).

  13. Sam.

    Regarding the North-Geelong game, Geelong’s loss meant they faced up to Adelaide (in Adelaide – ridiculous for the side finishing second) the next week and my guess would be that John doesn’t want to go there either.

    And then Adelaide went on to play the Bulldogs – and I certainly do NOT want to go there!

  14. Er…yes.

    That Prelim Final narrowly missed the cut for my top 10 and I think I’d have to admit to some bias there. I was very much behind the Dogs on the day and it was shattering enough to witness that loss as a “day pass” supporter let alone being a rusted-on one.

  15. hi people, if anyone is interested there is live coverage of buddy’s appeal on the Herald sun website!

  16. Steve Healy says

    One final that will always stand out in my memory was the Qualifying final, 2000. Melbourne V Carlton. I vaguely remember it, but I love watching the highlights of it when I have time. Stk V Melb, 2006 was also a very good one, that I remember more clearly. No good finals last year- all very luckluster. Geelong V Collingwood in 07 is my favourite non-melbourne one I can remember.

    Danni, have you signed a contract with the Herald sun or something? It’s all you’ve been talking about lately!I like The Age better.

  17. Steve

    I was at that 2000 final and enjoyed it immensely. A fabulous comeback by the Dees and, if I remember rightly, they had to win it a second time in the last minutes as Carlton staged a lst-ditch effort to pinch the game.

    Cameron Bruce was the standout player as I recall – in his first year!

    I missed the 2006 final.

    I did see quite a few of Melbourne’s finals from the Northey years, but nothing will compare with the eruption from the MCC when they scored their first goal in the opening seconds of the 1987 Elimination Final – their first finals goal in 23 years!

  18. lol sorry Steve, i just thought id bring it up seeing that i thought it was important.
    if i had signed with the Age trust me Almanackers would be the first to know!
    i would mind it though (HINT HINT JON RALPH)
    Nah beside reading Sam Lane’s work i cant stand the age, im a Herald Sun girl :)

  19. Josh Barnstable says

    The Age is way too big to read. Did anyone watching the footy show just see the Ron Barassi ad TV?

  20. …hmpph i dont watch it.
    Too insluting on my part.

    ps: never leave studying for a test until the night before…its not going too well at the moment… :(


  21. Steve Healy says

    I don’t why people say The Age is too big. It’s the same size (or smaller) than the Herald Sun on Monday- Friday and Sunday. It’s only too big on Saturday. Sorry, but The Age is the way to go (in my opinion) but the Herald Sun is all right.

    It was a great game, Stainless. Brad Green kicked 4 and Bruce 2, who were both in their first year at the club.

  22. I can’t compete for sheer volume of finals but did get to a couple that stick in the mind:

    1970 Second Semi. Collingwood v Carlton. Pies won by 10 points thus setting themselves up for the famous Grand Final defeat a couple of weeks later.
    Also Syd Jackson reported for striking Lee Adamson(?) and got off on the “he made reference to my colour and race” defence. I remember it as a fantastic game but given it was my first time at the MCG any game would have seemed amazing with 112,000 others there.

    1993 Prelim. Ess v Adelaide. A magnificent win for a bomber supporter. Knew we were certainties for the flag after that as we had a stack out the week earlier when Carlton beat us by about 1 goal.

    1982 Grand Final. A pretty good game but mainly the Helen d’Amico factor. Also seem to remember Kenny Hunter being collected big time by Jimmy Jess and coming back on to play a key role. Maurice Rioli went OK that day too I seem to recall.

  23. pauldaffey says


    The first game that made a real impression on me was the game that you ruled you shouldn’t write about, the 1973 prelim.

    Royce Hart spent the first half on the bench. I still remember the buzz on the top deck of the Northern Stand when he took his place at centre-half forward for the third quarter. I was only seven at the time but the buzz made a huge impression on me.

    Sure enough, Royce kicked three. The roar grew bigger with each one. Richmond won by seven points. I have no other Royce Hart memories but I feel privileged to have that one.

    Another final sticks in my head for very different reasons, the 1992 first semi-final between Footscray and St Kilda. It was a bit of a nothing final; very little was expected. But I had two free tickets so my brother and I toddled out to Waverley Park.

    A skinny Chris Grant, playing on a half-forward flank and wearing No.29, put on a clinic. The Dogs won fairly comfortably but once again I felt privileged to see a dominant match by a forward.

    My brother and I enjoyed the simple pleasure of watching Grant in action. We still occasionally mention the match. I felt a small tie with Chris Grant for the rest of his long career.

  24. Budge

    I was apparently offered a ticket to the 1970 Grand Final but at aged six declined on the basis that I would find the crowd too noisy! The second semi was reportedly a great game but is overshadowed by the amazing Grand Final.

    Another example of this is the 1984 Second semi between Hawthorn and Essendon is regarded by those who were there as one of the great finals but is similarly overshadowed by a remarkable Grand Final. I missed the semi but the Grand Final was really only memorable for the famous last quarter.

    Painful memories you raise about 1982. Of course, being a Richmond final it’s not in my list but it is regarded pretty highly by objective judges. A pretty good rule of thumb is that Grand Finals are pretty special when the Norm Smith Medal is won by a member of the losing team. Rioli in ’82 was the first of an elite group of four in that category – the others being Ablett (1989), Buckley (2002) and Judd (2005).


    I’ve recently seen a replay of the last quarter of the ’73 Prelim and hadn’t realised that until Bartlett snaps a goal with seconds to play, there’s only one point in it. What a thriller. Certainly games like that have a particularly profound impact on young kids even when we can’t recall much detail.

    I was at the Dogs-Saints final at Waverley. Ordinary wind-affected game. Very disappointing effort by the Saints who had won the previous week I think. Grant did play very well. I was walking back from the station after the game and happened to be following an old Doggies supporter who walked through his front gate to be greeted by his wife. “Woof, woof”, she shouted to him. “WOOF, WOOF”, he responded ecstatically. The result obviously meant a lot to them!

  25. The 1983 GF where the Hawks taught Essendon a football lesson was pretty cool. It wasn’t close but that’s what I loved most about it. (I’ve just come from watching Essendon clean us up, well and truly, so allow me some room.)

    The 2001 Prelim between Hawks and Bombers was another heart-stopper.The Hawks won their first 8 games of the year, then lost 9 of the next 14 and barely scrapped into the finals. Two surprise wins (one in Adelaide against Port by 2 or 3 points)and what do you know, we’re playing for GF stakes. The Bombers got up by 7 or 8 points. Truth be told, I’m glad Croad shaved the post and we lost. I reckon we would have been thumped by Brisbane the next week. What we really needed was a clean out which started (albeit slowly) from 2002 onwards. Six years later we were ready to take it one game further!

  26. Rick

    One of the best and rarest feelings in footy is the joy of watching your team in a Grand Final knowing you’ve got it in the bag. I was bored to snores by the ’83 Grand Final but having seen a similar game in 1980, I understand how you must have felt.

    The 2001 Prelim was an interesting one. Essendon seemed to have it in the bag at half time but in a foretaste of the next week, they ran out of legs badly in the second half. I suspect you’re right about how the Grand FInal would have panned out if Hawthorn had made it through.

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