The Sydney Swans 2005 AFL premiership ended a drought of 72 years for the club formerly known as South Melbourne, who then became Sydney after the controversial 1982 northern relocation of the beleaguered Swans.
But, what if the Swans never actually made it into the 2005 Grand Final?
As we remember, the Swans were indeed fortunate to get away with their home semi-final over Geelong thanks to the final quarter heroics of Nick Davis who booted four goals, including one with just seconds remaining to steal the match from the Cats’ grasp.
Remember, the Cats led by 22 points with less than 14 minutes to go in a low-scoring encounter, but lost the lead only after Davis sharked a Darren Jolly hitout deep in the forward pocket and snapped truly with his fourth goal of the quarter.
However, lets assume that Davis didn’t run hot in the final quarter and Geelong did in fact win the match, what would have happened in the 2005 premiership race?
For one, Geelong’s semi-final victory would have seen them travel back to Melbourne the following week to take on St.Kilda at the MCG, most likely under lights on a Friday night.
The Saints who finished in fourth place with 14 wins during the home and away season, secured their home preliminary final berth by virtue of their eight-point upset win at AAMI Stadium over minor premiers, the Adelaide Crows in the qualifying final.
During the ‘05 season, Geelong and St.Kilda met twice, with the Cats overcoming a three-goal half time deficit to defeat the Saints by 19 points in Round 7, while the Saints turned the tables in their more recent meeting, comfortably accounting for Geelong by 41 points in the Round 19 clash at Docklands.
On the other side of the hypothetical coin, the other grand finalist in the West Coast Eagles we know won their preliminary final over Adelaide, and in this scenario, the Eagles’ form-line wouldn’t change so they still would win their way into the 2005 premiership decider.
But the question is, who would they be playing?
Geelong’s two finals wins, especially having travelled to defeat Sydney would give them a world of confidence, but this could be countered by the Saints benefiting with their week off, and by perhaps holding the better win-loss record for the season to date.
Notably, the Cats and Saints had not met at the MCG since Round 15, 1995, and had only previously met in two finals matches. The first was way back in 1968, where Geelong comfortably accounted for St.Kilda in the 1st Semi Final by 44 points in front of a massive MCG crowd of 98,885.
While the more recent finals battle for these two clubs was in the 1991 Elimination Final at Waverley Park, where despite a holding a 19-point half time lead and a nine-goal haul from Tony Lockett, the Saints fell to the Cats in their first finals appearance since 1973 by seven points. Billy Brownless notably booted eight goals of his own for the winners.
In addition, Geelong held a 2-1 record at the MCG for season 2005, including their 55-point elimination final win over Melbourne, while the Saints had visited the ‘G on five occasions, winning all five games by an impressive average margin of 52 points.
On the balance of things, the Saints’ previous years finals campaign, where they narrowly fell to eventual premiers Port Adelaide in the preliminary final in Adelaide ranks slightly ahead compared to Geelong’s nine-point defeat by the Brisbane Lions in a controversial ‘away’ finals fixture at the MCG.
What we do know is that in later years, these two sides would play in two epic finals encounters, including the 2009 Grand Final won of course by the Cats after the Saints held the advantage at the final change, and the 2010 Qualifying Final where St.Kilda narrowly survived a Geelong fightback, and a disallowed Cameron Ling goal to deny the Cats.
Destiny seemed to be on Sydney’s side late in the 2005 Finals Series, and perhaps this and the famous ‘Bloods’ spirit as much as anything got them over the line against the Eagles in the Grand Final, although Leo Barry’s desperate mark deep in the final quarter certainly helped the Swans’ cause.
However, without the Sydney Swans in the contest would either of Geelong or St.Kilda have been able to defeat the Eagles when it counted?
I guess we’ll never actually know, but knowing how the Eagles went about their work on Grand Final day against the Swans, my suspicion is that West Coast, led by Ben Cousins and Chris Judd would have found enough to take home the premiership cup, ahead of two sides whose best days were still yet to come.
For what it’s worth, I’d nominate St.Kilda to narrowly beat Geelong in a hypothetical 2005 Preliminary Final, with West Coast then claiming the 2005 premiership with a three-goal triumph and Ben Cousins taking home the Norm Smith Medal.
Do you see it differently? Let us know how you think the remainder of the 2005 Finals Series would have panned out if Nick Davis’ heroics didn’t get the Swans over the line in that epic finish against Geelong.