The Big Clash: Saints and Cats match should be a beauty if these precedents are a guide

By Damian Watson

In the light of the big clash between the two undefeated teams St Kilda and Geelong on Sunday, I’ve had a look at some of the biggest build-ups to home-and-away games.

As I am only 14 years old, I wasn’t around to feel the vibe of the big matches in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and most of the ’90s. So I am going to list some of the biggest build-ups over the last decade.

Round 22 1998: North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: Described as a “crackerjack” game in the Channel 7 commentary box. I watched the match on Footy Flashbacks the other day, a Friday Night game in Channel Seven’s prime with my favourite commentator Ian Robertson calling the match with Bruce McAvaney. It was a battle between the top two teams for the minor premiership in front of almost 70 000 fans at the ‘G. The Bulldogs kept their noses in front for most of the first three quarters, with Chris Grant in top form and the defence making sure Pagan’s paddock did not bear fruit. It was a see-sawing last quarter in which The King, Wayne Carey, kicked a couple of crucial goals and crumbers such as Brent Harvey and Shannon Grant found plenty of the ball. North Melbourne held on by less than a kick in a thrilling final minute to claim top spot. The Dogs would be disappointing in the finals series and North would succumb to Adelaide on Grand Final day.

Nth Melb 2.3 5.4 10.8 17.11  (113)
W Bulldogs 4.6 8.8 11.10 16.12 (108)


Round 17, 1999: North Melbourne v Essendon: A sensational, fast-paced game in front of 69 000 who witnessed a battle between the two classy full-forwards, Carey and Lloyd. The King was back on his throne and in full flight this day,which in my opinion was the best game he ever played as he bagged 10 goals while Lloyd kicked seven, including a famous one out of mid-air. Despite Carey’s efforts, Essendon won a high scoring game by 24 points. However, North had the last laugh, winning the flag while minor premiers Essendon were bundled out in that famous prelim final by the mighty Blues.

Essendon 7.2 14.7 18.10 24.14 (158)
Kangaroos 8.1 10.4 16.8 20.12 (132)


Round 20, 2000: Essendon v Carlton: Both teams were in red hot form coming into this game. The Bombers were undefeated while the Blues, the only team that looked like defeating the Bombers, had won 13 straight before being pipped by the Bulldogs the previous week. The game was basically sold out two weeks before it was played and 90,000 attended on the Friday night at the MCG. The game was fairly even until Kouta, who was in career-best form, injured himself and Essendon ran away to win by 26 points. The Kouta-less and Silvagni-less Blues would be beaten convincingly by the same opponent in the prelim final. The Bombers would go on to win their 16th premiership.

Carlton 2.3 6.5 9.7 12.11 (83)
Essendon 4.4 6.6 9.9 16.13 (109)


Round 9, 2001: Essendon v Hawthorn: I remember watching this game as a 6-year-old on a windy night while the roof was closed at a packed Etihad Stadium (or Colonial, as it was then) as the undefeated Hawks met their match in Essendon. The Bombers had lost only one game, to Carlton, and they towelled up Hawthorn from the first bounce. The Bombers won by 65 points, with Lloyd kicking eight, and the Hawks left the game with plenty of injuries and dented egos. The Bombers would lose the Grand Final while the Hawks would scrape into the Prelim Final and then lose that narrowly in a gallant effort against Essendon.

Essendon 7.4 11.9 15.10 18.14 (122)
Hawthorn 4.1 4.4 7.7 8.9 (57)


Round 8, 2002: Collingwood v Brisbane: The 2002 season was a horror season if you were a Carlton supporter, so willing Collingwood to lose was my main priority. I was shattered on this night as Collingwood scraped home over the Lions in a high quality game in front of a full house at Colonial Stadium. The game revolved around the two captains, Voss and Buckley. Voss was knocked out in the first few minutes, but he came back to be one of the best for his team. Buckley racked up a high number of touches and Collingwood fell over the line by three points. The two teams would meet in the biggest game of the year and to my delight Brisbane held on by 9 points.

Collingwood 5.1 8.9 14.12 17.12 (114)
Bris Lions 7.2 10.5 12.9 16.15 (111)


Round 22, 2002: Port Adelaide v Brisbane: There must have been a huge build-up in Adelaide as almost 50,000 South Australians packed AAMI Stadium in another battle for the minor premiership. Unfortunately it was on Foxtel at the time, but I have since seen the last quarter. Port Adelaide were almost five goals in front at three-quarter time but, with the Fab Four in dangerous form, the Brisbane Lions came storming back and hit the lead with a couple of minutes remaining. Roger James then entered the annals of Port Adelaide’s long history as his snap shot for goal was successful and gave the Power its first AFL minor premiership. Port Adelaide made a meal of their finals series when they were bundled out in the prelim final at the Gabba. The Lions of course went on to win their second flag in succession.

Port Adel 1.2 5.4 12.9 13.12 (90)
Bris Lions 1.2 7.2 8.5 13.6 (84)


Round 6, 2004: St Kilda v Brisbane: This game was titled as the Champion v Challenger confrontation as the undefeated St Kilda hosted reigning premier Brisbane at Etihad Stadium (which by now was Telstra Dome) in front of one of the  biggest crowds in the ground’s history, almost 53 000. It was a very tight and physical contest all night with plenty of brawls and hard hits. The result was decided in the final minute when Austinn Jones’ frantic kick went out of bounds, or so I thought. However, the goal umpire signaled it as one behind, leaving the Saints five points behind. This decision would spark debate as to whether we needed more goal umpires. The resultant kick-out fell off the hands of the pack and into Troy Schwarze’s arms and his 60m kick went straight through the middle. The Saints held on by a point in a game that changed the length of the goalposts and point posts. The Saints would win 10 straight before losing to eventual premiers Port Adelaide by a kick in the prelim final. The Brisbane Lions went down to the Power in The Grand Final, denying them a record-equalling fourth consecutive premiership.

St Kilda 2.6 6.8 9.12 13.14 (92)
Bris Lions 4.1 5.4 7.5 14.7 (91)


Round 17, 2008: Hawthorn v Geelong: A heavily anticpated clash between the Ablett-less cats and the emerging Hawks. More than 86,000 wandered in to the MCG and many disappointed fans, including myself, viewed the DELAYED Friday Nightntelecast on Channel 7. The Hawks threw everything at Geelong, with Buddy Franklin and captain Sam Mitchell on song, and by the beginning of the final term the Hawks hit the front and I was feeling that an upset would be on the cards. However, the then inexperienced Hawthorn side made plenty of late errors and Geelong won by 11 points. The Hawks, of course, would go on to turn the tables in the Grand Final.

Hawthorn 3.2 6.5 9.8 11.11 (77)
Geelong 6.3 8.10 9.12 12.16 (88)


Round 14, 2009: St Kilda v Geelong: For the first time in history two teams are underfeated after fourteen rounds and unless a draw occurs at Etihad Stadium this Sunday one of these team’s unbeaten run will be over. A sell-out is expected at Etihad Stadium and Channel 7 will finally be showing a Victorian game live. There’s certainly a big build-up. The question is: will we see a tight, clean and entertaining contest? Will it be worth the wait?  We shall find out this Sunday.

About Damian Watson

Hey,my name is Damian Watson and I am 14 years old. My ambition is to become an AFL broadcaster/journalist in the future. I am a keen blues supporter and I live in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I play and write for the Knox Falcons U/16's.


  1. Great piece of writing? What about all the Sydney v West Coast matches? I remember the St Kilda v Brisbane Lions match. Jones’ kick went out of bounds for sure but I still can’t believe that goal umpire signalled it a behind. Memorable night.

  2. Peter Schumacher says

    I agree with Josh Barnstable, I found your article interesting and well worth reading.

    As a Brisbane supporter I remember Darryl White charging down the outer wing in the very last moments of the St Kilda Brisbane game. I also remember Nick Riewoldt taking a magnificent pack mark not too soon after the opening bounce and I thought to myself that this was not going to be a walkover. One of the best matches I have seen.

    I think that the way you have written your article could be an example to many of us but in particular other fourteen year olds who might aspire to being writers.

  3. Damian Watson says

    Thanks for the comments,

    In regards towards your comment Josh,on Sydney v West Coast matches: I suppose there were huge build-ups towards those home and away games (especially in 2007 in the wake of the Ben Cousins saga). However I was focusing on the big home and away matches that saw both teams involved in the top 2,3 or 4 on the ladder as is the case this weekend.

    Those Sydney v West Coast home and away matches that had a huge bulid up in 06 and 07 show the teams in these ladder positions: R15 2006 Sydney 7th West Coast 2nd
    R1 2007 Beginning of the season
    R16 2007 Sydney 8th West Coast 5th

  4. That’s the way, Damian. You stick up for yourself.

    Failing to mention the Swans and Eagles games takes nothing away from the games that you’ve mentioned. They’re all beauties.

    Having said that, yes, there was an amazing period of Swans and Eagles clashes in which half a dozen games in a row were decided by a goal or less. They were the biggest things in footy at the time, making an impact even on the Victorian footy psyche.

    Josh or Damian, do either of you — or anyone — want to write about your memories of those Swans and Eagles games? With both teams struggling, they’re already sinking from memory after just a few short seasons.

  5. I’m 14 as well but I think the biggest lead up to a game ever (Depsite ladder positions) was Melbourne V Hawthorn R22 1996, because of the talk of merging between the two teams. It was also a really good game,in which, unfortunatley, the Demons lost by a point.
    The great thing about St.Kilda V Geelong is that no team had lost in the previous round before the game, which happened in the Hawthorn V Geelong game last year, when the Hawks lost to the saints. Which could mean that St.Kilda V Geelong is the biggest home and away game in history, it’s just a shame only 53,000 or so people will be there.

  6. Agree with you on that front Steve.

    Hard to imagine how the Melbourne Hawks would have eventuated. Great game though with Dunstall kicking his 100th and Langford making that famous gesture with his jumper at the end. Shame it wasn’t a draw!

  7. Josh Barnstable says

    The St Kilda v Geelong game today certaintly did not disappoint. Still can’t believe St Kilda are the real deal after all.

  8. Damian Watson says

    I can’t believe it either! I was expecting the Cats to get over the line.

    The Saints certainly did take control of the match.

    How about Michael Gardiner kicking the winning goal! Never could have picked it.

    However the Cats were always going to be tested without Steve Johnson.

  9. danielle says

    i tipped the Saints but i was so pissed that they won!
    i was cheering with every Geelong goal.
    In conclusion:”i hate St. Kilda!”

  10. Josh Barnstable says

    Just think, North Melbourne were 5 goals to nothing against the Saints. Wow…

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