The 35th Showdown also marked the final one to take place at AAMI Stadium and it featured the closest margin between the two bitter rivals in their 16 year history. It was an example of how football can leave you biting your nails and pulling your hair out. A simple dropped mark, misdirected kick or even unlucky bounce of the ball can be the difference between ultimate euphoria and crippling dejection. This list will look at some of the most frantic, heart stopping encounters of the past decade that took supporters on a roller coaster ride of emotions and exemplified the unpredictability of this great game.
St Kilda 9.6.60 defeat Western Bulldogs 7.11.53 (2009 Preliminary Final)
There was so much at stake, not only would the winner get through to the grand final but both teams were looking to break considerably long premiership droughts. Neither had been able to clinch a 2nd flag and 2009 loomed as their best chance. It was a low-scoring affair with both sides’ defences standing up to the immense pressure. It all came down to a captain’s goal from Nick Riewoldt at the death. With only 79 seconds left in the game his quick thinking to soccer the footy got the Saints over the line.
Hawthorn 16.10.106 defeat Carlton 15.12.102 (Round 6, 2009)
Hawthorn were the reigning premiers, Carlton were looking to make their first finals appearance in seven years and looked to Chris Judd as their great hope. A shootout ensued with Jarryd Roughead kicking 8 goals for Hawthorn and Brendan Fevola doing the same at the other end. The Hawks kicked away to a three goal lead late in the final quarter before Carlton chipped back the margin to just five points with a couple of minutes to go. Then in the dying seconds, Brendan Fevola took a mark only 20 metres on a slight angle. Unfortunately for Carlton fans the ball scraped the post at the very top and Hawthorn held on for a memorable four point win.
10. Port Adelaide 16.10.106 defeat Geelong 15.11.101, Round 21 2007.
The two premiership favourites locked horns in what would be a grand final preview of sorts at Kardinia Park in the penultimate round of the 2007 season. Geelong had not lost a game since going down to North Melbourne in Round 5 and had been through a transformation into the champion team we are now familiar with. Port Adelaide were looking to capitalise on a lack of genuine contenders and caused an upset thanks to a Domenic Cassisi goal in the final 30 seconds. Of course, history shows that Geelong exacted revenge in the most dominant fashion, defeating Port in the grand final by 119 points.
9. Fremantle 12.8.80 defeat St Kilda 11.9.75, Round 21 2005
Nic Natanui may have kicked a similar goal to sink North Melbourne this year, but Justin Longmuir beat him to it by about eight years. This nailbiter was won by Freo thanks to Longmuir’s big pack mark and goal which gave them a slight chance of making finals for the second time in their history. Eddie McGuire’s commentary added a extra layer on excitement to the moment and is no doubt a favourite moment for Dockers fans.
8. Carlton 18.17.125 defeat Essendon 17.20.122, Round 3 2007
Halfway through the second quarter it looked like Carlton were set for another embarrassing defeat in what was a dark period for the club. 43 points down and the Bombers beating them in every statistic possible, Carlton needed a spark. That spark was their mercurial full forward Brendan Fevola. In a half of football he managed a miraculous 8 goals and Carlton completed the greatest turnaround in their history, holding onto a three point win and bragging rights over the enemy.
7. Geelong 18.10.118 defeat Hawthorn 17.14.116, Round 19 2012.
After four years of disappointment, it looked like the Kennett Curse was broken. Eight losses in a row against bitter rivals Geelong had left Hawthorn psychologically spent but with 37 seconds remaining they led by four points, the play deep in their forward 50. Geelong, as only they can, went coast-to-coast with brilliant disposal and hit Tom Hawkins fifty metres out, twenty seconds to go. Hawkins calmly slotted the goal to leave Hawthorn heartbroken once again.
6. St Kilda 14.7.91 defeat Geelong 13.7.85, Round 14 2009
Both teams undefeated and at the height of their powers, the winner would be in first spot and hold all the momentum on the run home to finals, the stage was set. What followed was one of the best games in recent years, showcasing two teams with unbelievable skill and determination. St Kilda held a three goal buffer for the majority of the game before Geelong came storming home. A minute and a half remaining, scores level and the screams of “GARDINER!” from Dennis Commetti as the St Kilda ruckman took a wonderful pack mark, finishing off Geelong with a simple goal ten metres out.
5. Essendon 22.5.137 defeat West Coast 20.11.131, Round 3 2004.
Prior to this game, James Hird had come under intense media scrutiny due to his comments of the umpiring standards in the AFL. He came into the big clash against West Coast with an unknown future as the incident was to go to AFL Commission the following week. It was a tight contest with both teams looking to make an early statement and set the groundwork for a finals campaign. In the final minutes, the score was locked at 131 apiece. Hird crashed through the midfield, winning a vital clearance and launching the all in the forward line. A pack fought furiously for the ball until the Essendon champion once again clinched the ball and snapped truly from the pocket. In an iconic moment, Hird raced to the boundary and hugged a supporter, showing his jubilation for the win.
4. Essendon 13.15.93 defeat Collingwood 12.16.88, ANZAC DAY 2009.
Possibly the greatest ANZAC Day clash in history saw Essendon snatch victory from the Pies in an absolute thriller. In extremely wet conditions, Collingwood managed to get a two goal lead with five minutes to go but the Bombers wouldn’t stop fighting. They kicked two goals in a minute and the Magpie fans began to hold their breath. With 10 seconds to go, young rookie David Zaharakis kicked one of the most memorable match winning goals of all time and the crowd came unglued. An amazing finish that showed how the ANZAC spirit inspires the players to lift to that next level when the game is there to be won.
3. St Kilda 10.8.68 drew with Collingwood 9.14.68, 2010 Grand Final
In 2010, for only the third time in VFL/AFL history, there was a drawn grand final. Collingwood and St Kilda battled it out for two hours, never giving up, putting in almost superhuman performances(see: Brendon Goddard) but nothing could separate the teams. Fans of both teams went through every emotion known to man, the lead changed numerous times and the final few minutes were frantic to say the least. Stephen Milne had the chance to seal the game for St Kilda but the unpredictable bounce of the ball crushed the hope of a 2nd premiership for the Saints. A week later the replay was easily won by Collingwood but this drawn grand final was no doubt one of the closest games in recent times.
2. Sydney 7.14.56 defeat Geelong 7.11.53, 2005 Semi Final
The fourth quarter of this game contained a solo performance to rival Darren Jarman in the 1997 Grand Final and Gary Ablett in the 1989 Grand Final. Nick Davis single-handedly tore apart Geelong in this heart-stopping semi final. At three-quarter time the Cats looked like they were headed for a preliminary final showdown with St Kilda. They led 17 points but the conditions and game style made it seem like a six goal deficit. Enter Davis and a amazing four goal final quarter which will go down in history as the defining moment in what would become Sydney’s first premiership in 72 years.
1. Sydney 8.10.58 defeat West Coast 7.12.54, 2005 Grand Final
If you asked a group of footy fans what was the best grand final of the 21st century, depending on their fan affiliation they could offer up 2009, 2006 or even the 2010 replay if they’re a Collingwood tragic. The neutral observer however, would definitely highlight the 2005 thriller between Sydney and West Coast as one of the very best. These teams shared an incredible rivalry in the mid-2000s, with a number of games being decided by a single kick. This premiership encounter was no different. After a tight first quarter, Sydney grabbed the ascendancy, holding a 20 point lead at half time. West Coast fought back valiantly and there was only two points in it coming into the final quarter of the 2005 season. In front of 91,898 people, the Swans and Eagles exchanged the lead throughout the last stanza, with West Coast missing a few opportunities that they would regret. Then came the moment that will be played on highlight reels for the rest of football history. Dean Cox took a mark just outside his attacking 50 and let rip with a big kick into the forward pocket. A pack of what seemed like every player on the field accumulated under the ball but only one man got his hands to the ball. The famous quote from Stephen Quartermain boomed through the television. “LEO BARRY YOU STAR!” This game was the epitome of heart stopper, a true contest to the very end.