The Mongrel writers have combined their talents in this most holy of weeks for footy fans and documented each of their most cherished Grand Final memories. Regardless of the result, Saturday night’s epic blockbuster will no doubt add another glorious chapter to the storied history of this famous game.
TRENT ADAM SHIELDS
2013 Grand Final – A trademark burst slays the demons
In a low scoring dour contest, Hawthorn seeking redemption for an unexpected loss in 2012 had the ball trapped deep in their forward line leading by a far from comfortable 18 points with 14 minutes already gone in the last term. A boundary throw in ensued, Fremantle represented by giant Aaron Sandilands took his customary position behind David Hale aiming to thump the ball clear, Hale pushed back at the right time knocking Sandilands off balance and clearing space for Luke Breust to hit the ball at pace, Jordan Lewis blocked Breust’s direct opponent Lachie Neale and the snapped goal gave the Hawks a 24-point lead. The screams of relief throughout the crowd were palpable in that moment, this author almost blacking out from the exhalation.
2008 Grand Final – The greatest goal of all time
In the midst of one of the most powerful waves of momentum seen in football history was a scrappy, but incredible goal emblematic of the plucky Hawks desire to play completely selfless football to topple the unbackable favourite Cats. Late in the third term a loose ball was collected on the back flank by Lance Franklin of all people who handballed to an equally out of position Jarryd Roughead, streaking through the middle he launched the ball long to Mark Williams’ advantage in a one-on-one with Josh Hunt. Sliding to the ground to trap the ball he fed it out to Stewart Dew corralled by Harry Taylor and Matthew Scralett, eluding both tackles Dew returned it towards Williams who mustering a final effort dribbled it through past a flailing Darren Milburn, as the Hawks crowd burst into rapture.
1992 Grand Final – The magic of Matera
In 1987 football changed forever with the inclusion of the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears, thus fast tracking the national competition we know today. Six short years later the precocious team from the West stood at the top of the mountain having defeated a red-hot Geelong team to become the first non-Victorian premier in the newly minted AFL. The Cats actually controlled the first half holding a two-goal lead at the long break not necessarily indicative of their dominance. Enter the excitement machine Peter Matera who inspired his side to a 10.9 to 4.5 second half as he continually rained down goals from outside 50m in one of the most beautiful displays of pure football ever seen.
1986 Grand Final – The ecstasy of your first
This was the first Grand Final I attended as a nine-year-old, fortunately shielded from the horror of the previous two seasons. The Hawks had recovered from a Second Semi-Final loss and set the tempo early with star Gary Buckerana kicking goals from all angles. An unassailable 50-point three-quarter time lead encouraged the Hawks fans to join the chorus of ‘We’re a happy team at Hawthorn’ for the entire last term, only briefly pausing to cheer home Jason Dunstall’s sixth goal from a spectacular snap in time on.
2004 Grand Final – An unstoppable force
This is an underrated game played at a frenetic pace and with immense skill, especially in the first half. The Brisbane Lions attempting to achieve the unthinkable with four consecutive premierships held a 1-point half-time lead before the previously shaky Port inspired by an incredible contribution from their indigenous stars steamrolled the champions with 11 goals to four in the second half. Wanganeen, both Burgoynes, Pickett (Norm Smith Medalist) all prominent as an amazing outpouring of emotion drove them to glory.
1989 Grand Final – HE GOT UP!
I held a Grand Final party for the 1989 version. Proudly wearing my number 23 Hawks guernsey, we’d put away quite a few beers before the start of the game. The mood was rowdy, with 20 of my friends and about six or seven people I kind of knew piled into my lounge to watch the opening bounce. After Dermott Brereton’s demolition job on Essendon a couple of weeks before, I was hoping he’d do the same to start the big one.
And then he was down, suckin in the big ones… or at least attempting to. The replays showed the incident. Mark Yeates coming off the wing and cannoning into Derm, he started to get up, but went down again.
Time froze for me as he lay flat on his back. It was game over – it had to be. He couldn’t get a breath, wanted to vomit, but god damn it he refused to go off. Minutes later, he was backing up, taking a contested grab and kicking a goal. That was guts. That was the actions required in a Grand Final. That was Dermott Brereton.
1989 Grand Final – DIPPER V GAZ
You know how much I enjoyed this game when my two top all-time moments come from it, huh?
This one saw an insanely courageous Robert Dipierdomenico stand under a long ball at half forward, with Gary Ablett Senior running at full pace toward him. Dipper didn’t flinch, but maybe he should have.
Ablett crashed into his exposed back and ribs in a sickening clash. Dipper hit the deck hard and was awarded a free kick. He struggled to his feet, played out the game and then collapsed on the final siren. As the Hawks celebrated, Dipper was rushed to hospital with a punctured lung. Amazing hit from Senior. Amazing guts from Dipper.
1984 Grand Final – OUCH
My heart broke a little on Grand Final day, 1984, as the Bombers ran rampant over my Hawks.
Watching again now, the wave of red and black rolling forward, time and time again like an unstoppable force is magical to watch. Duckworth moved forward, Leon Baker playing the quarter of his life, and Kevin Sheedy throwing his team around like he was a mad scientist in the midst of creating a monster… all left an indelible mark on my young mind.
My Hawks would rally in a couple of years’ time, but that defeat was a killer.
A 23-point lead became a 24-point loss. Incredible work by the Bombers… those glorious bastards.
2002 Grand Final – YOU CANNOT KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN
In case you missed points one and two, there’s no mistaking that I adore acts of extreme courage in the biggest game of the year. And in the ’02 decider, Scott Burns decided to put Michael Voss’ toughness to the test.
Lining up the Brisbane captain, Burns collected him – a big hip and shoulder that sent Vossy to the deck. The amazing thing about this one was that Voss looked as though he was starting to get up even as he was on the way down. I know it’s not possible, but he just kind of bounced to his feet.
Staying involved, Voss ran forward, collected the footy and dished off a handball to Simon Black for a great bloody goal.
1980 Grand Final – KB SEES OFF MAGRO
I’m sure you’ve all seen the highlights. A lot of people reading this won’t remember KB, but even though I was a little tacker at the time, I remember his brilliance around goal, and in the 1980 Grand Final, the ease with which he gathered the spilt ball, faked one way and took off in the other, leaving the poor Collingwood defender looking like a beaten man, and slotting through his seventh goal was just incredible.
For everything else that happened that day, it was Bartlett’s running goal from the boundary that kids were emulating in the schoolyard.
Luckily, it didn’t prompt a rash of KB-inspired hairstyles the way Dusty did a couple of years back. That would have been tragic.
2002 Grand Final – Always get to the Front
I was only young, but my first memory of a Grand Final is the Akermanis goal to seal the ‘02 decider between the Lions and Pies. There are other memorable moments in that game, as demonstrated above, but this moment always sticks with me. It runs through my head whenever I’m crumbing a pack at the local level, that if you stick to the basics and do the little things right, like getting to the front of a marking contest, things can always fall your way.
2007 Grand Final – The Rundown
Every Geelong supporter knows the story. Ottens chasing out a dashing port defender (Pettigrew maybe? Or was it a Wilson?) from full back – Ed: It was Michael Pettigrew. The guy was supposedly fast but Ottens didn’t give up the chase, continuing to put pressure on him until he realised he was within striking distance. Then Bang! He got a hand on him and dragged him down. Robert Walls said something like “he’ll be stuffed for the next 10 minutes now” but every Cats supporter knew it was worth every second. We were on.
2010 Grand Final – The Mark
The Cats had been knocked out by a ruthless Collingwood the previous week so my allegiance was clear. But with eight minutes to go in the last quarter Goddard rose above all else and took the most towering mark I’ve seen in such a crunch moment (Leo Barry not included). He then steadied to put the Saints in front. What a player. He stood taller than everyone that day. The travesty being that he just didn’t have enough quality teammates to help get him over the line.
2011 Grand Final – Hawkins monsters the Pies
The 2011 Grand Final will take some beating for me. Close all day with constant lead changes and a storied rivalry up to that point. Big players standing up all over the place. Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Scarlett, Bartel, Ottens, oh and that other guy – the big T-Bone! Coming into that last quarter Hawkins would’ve been feeling good. He’d kicked three goals in the third quarter and had a fair bit of the footy, carrying the load as the main forward target after James Podsiadly went down early in the second quarter. But the first ten minutes of that last quarter he ripped the game away from the Pies, not on the scoreboard, but just through sheer dominance of his opponent. He ended up with a record 7 contested marks on the day. Had Hawkins had a bit more experience he likely finishes that game with 6+ goals and a Norm Smith medal. Here’s hoping he does it again.
2012 Grand Final – The Main Event
I always love this moment. There was so much build up. Jetta for the Swans had had an amazing year as the focal point of their “slingshot” style of play. No one seemed able to catch him once he got goal-side. Hawks fans had always believed Rioli was the quickest player due to the fact he was absolute lightning in his own right. I still remember some pretty heated arguments about who would win the footrace in the lead up to the game. I think there were calls that they just do it before the game and get it over with so we could just talk about the footy instead. But alas, early in the 2012 decider Lewis Jetta gathers the ball on halfback and Cyril Rioli gives chase, as Adam Goodes lays a big non-sheppard which only hints at the fact he wanted to see it too. Now, what also makes this moment so memorable is Dennis Commetti. Sensing the moment he knew was happening, he knew exactly what he had to do, and called it beautifully.
‘A casual left foot goal, to remember’- 2011
Two years on from a moment that will be discussed below, Geelong were out for revenge against the club who prematurely ended their 2010 season. It was, as Grand Finals ordinarily are a nervy start for supporters at the very least, with the Pies looking to go back to back for the first time since 1935-36 and the Cats looking to cement a truly dominant era. It’s hard to remember a better start to a Grand Final, with Brad Ottens’ handball out to Joel Selwood feeding Varcoe, who finished truly from 45 in the first 12 seconds. The second goal was decidedly more standard, with a nice set shot from the same distance but the third, oh, the third. That’s a goal that will go down in Geelong, and maybe even footy, folklore.
What maybe gets forgotten about that game is just how close it was. Geelong have a slender 15 point lead with 15 minutes to play in the last quarter, as Varcoe goes back with the flight of a Scarlett hacked kick out of defence spoiling Alan Toovey from taking a mark 40 out directly in front. As if that wasn’t enough, the ball comes out to the wing where a hobbled Stevie J fights over a ground ball against the artist formerly known as Harry O’Brien. Varcoe runs through, casually soccering the ball out to Christensen. The ball comes back to Johnson, who roosts it to Mitch Duncan. The ball spills off hands, Varcoe executes a perfect crumb and puts the game beyond doubt. What a moment, what a man, what a goal.
The ‘Toe Poke’ – 2009
It wouldn’t be Grand Final nostalgia without the toe poke. For a six-time All Australian and Hall of Famer, it may be hard to believe that he’d be remembered for one moment, but to some extent that is exactly the case for Matthew Scarlett (save, perhaps, for the one he put across Hayden Ballantyne’s jaw). This was a true heavyweight battle. Two sides who had been the best by some margin all year; the Saints, who won 19 in a row to start the year including an instant classic win over their Grand Final opponents, the Cats, who themselves were looking to put their heartbreak of the season prior behind them. Geelong raced to a two goal lead in a frenetic first half before the Saints hit back, with three goals in two minutes before the break giving them a one goal lead.
Tom Hawkins opened the last quarter with his second goal inside the first two minutes to bring the margin down to a point. What followed was twenty minutes of frantic, bodies-on-the-line footy with both sides wasting chances and a Joel Selwood behind with about five minutes on the clock left scores level. A couple of minutes of scrappy, intense footy followed before the ball found itself in Harry Taylor’s hands. Taylor, inboard to Enright, who bites off the kick on the 45 to Stevie J. The ball goes into the middle, floating into the hands of an open Gary Ablett. Zac Dawson comes through and very nearly writes himself into St Kilda’s folklore, before Scarlett bursts through and perfectly executes maybe the greatest kick in modern history. Ablett goes long to the square, Chappy goals, and all is right with the world.
‘Liam Picken nails it’- 2016
Liam Picken was, in many ways, a reflection of his football club as a whole heading into the September of 2016. The Dogs made three prelims in a row between 2008 and 2010, before the wheels well and truly shook themselves loose under Brendan McCartney. Under Luke Beveridge, they had their hearts broken in 2015 before winning 15 games in the 2016 season; ordinarily enough to make the top 4 and earn a double chance, instead Bevo’s boys had to journey west for a cut-throat Elimination Final they were given very little chance of winning.
It was, truly, one of the most magical Septembers for the Dogs, and Picken, the previously unassuming tagger, played as big a role as anyone. Two goals in the first week were followed by three against Hawthorn on their turf, and a solid performance in one of the great finals ever in their Prelim win set the stage. With a slender lead at the last break, it was going to take something special from someone to win the game. Picken already had one goal to his name in the second quarter, but his last was something to remember. It began with a pack crashing hanger on the 50 metre line, before booting the goal to cap off Shane Biggs’ (never forget) hard work and effectively ice the game. The Boyd goal is the moment people remember, but Picken’s efforts were critical to the Dogs’ first flag in 62 years, and rumour has it the Fraud Squad are still investigating how he didn’t walk away with a second medal around his neck.
‘Cometh the Champion’- 2012
A game somehow forgotten, lying as it does between the end of the Geelong era and the beginning of Hawthorn’s three-peat. As a Geelong supporter, perhaps most notable was Patrick Dangerfield’s win in his second consecutive Grand Final sprint; to this day, his most notable contribution on footy’s biggest day. But the game itself was so much more than that. Hawthorn opened up a 12-point lead 10 minutes into the last, but it never felt like the game was without one last twist. A Dan Hannebery goal from 50, and an opportunistic goal provided by Kieren Jack’s gut running levelled the scores.
Adam Goodes had ruptured the posterior ligament in his knee in the second quarter of the game, a quarter in which the Swans booted six goals to one point to overturn a poor start. Goodes, whose footy prowess is maybe overlooked now, played out the game, and when he crumbed the ball perfectly off the pack and snapped through his first and only goal of the game, the Swans had the ascendancy. Malceski’s snap in the last minute iced the game, but for sheer force of will, Goodes gets the nod.
‘Hodge has done it from nowhere’- 2015
This one pains me to write about. As a Geelong supporter, any plaudits to Luke Hodge should probably count double, but a bit like Head Mongrel’s man-crush on Joel Selwood, sometimes you just have to appreciate what it is we got to witness. Hodge is probably the best finals player of the modern era, a fact overlooked by the media’s appalling sense of recency bias. The year after his second Norm Smith Medal, Hodge’s most noteworthy act on Grand Final day came about, encapsulating in many ways what the three-peat was built on; determination, grit, and just the right amount of arrogance and flair.
Hawthorn lost the 2012 Grand Final after a similar opening term to the one they had in 2015; despite the 20 point lead, Hawthorn supporters surely weren’t quite ready to admit the game was home and hosed at the first break. The Eagles had their chances too, but were struggling to convert and so, in retrospect, this was probably *the* moment. I still have no idea how Hodge bent the ball through for his side’s sixth goal, but the point where Puopolo gets the ball out to him and he just stands there, almost knowing exactly what’s going to happen, is finals magic.
The 2016 Grand Final – Boyd, Biggs, Picken and Wood
Of course, it’s not me talking about Grand Final moments without bringing up the 2016 premiership. As a Bulldogs tragic for over 20 years now, there have been many instances where I thought I’d never live to see my team win a premiership, but this was a special day for the Dogs, considering that many had already written this mob off in the first week. But they overcame the Eagles in Perth, a Hawthorn side searching for a fourth flag in a row and then GWS in Sydney to get to the big one.
There are so many good memories that come out of this game, and I could go on and on about them, but for the sake of everyone else’s sanity, I won’t. But a lot of the moments I will briefly touch on come from the final term, when the game was in the balance. Tom Boyd’s goal from inside the centre square continues to be spoken about today – more so Brian Taylor’s iconic commentary on Triple M. Shane Biggs’ second, third, fourth and fifth efforts to ensure the Dogs held onto the ball were phenomenal. Those efforts eventually led to Liam Picken kicking one of his three very important goals and – just to piss off the Sydney fans that continue to cry that they were robbed of a premiership – the contest between Easton Wood and Dan Hannebery that hurt the latter. I digress that it should’ve warranted a free kick for contact below the knees, but it was also a critical contest to win in the last quarter and it helped set the tone for the rest of that term for the Dogs.
2012 Grand Final – The in-game sprint and the underdog story
I was only watching the highlights of this the other day and it made me realise how much I’ve underestimated this Grand Final. For some reason, I didn’t think too much of this game back when it happened, but when you even just watch the highlights today, there was so much that happened that make you say ‘Boy oh boy, wowee’ like a broken Brian Taylor record. Watching Cyril Rioli try and chase down Lewis Jetta along the AFL Members wing of the MCG is a bit like watching the two best track athletes go head-to-head at the Olympics, it was amazing to see and more impressive to see Cyril struggle to catch him.
What made this Grand Final was the fact that the Swans were the underdogs against a Hawthorn team that were on top of the AFL ladder for most of the year. We all know how much we love an underdog story, and the Swans had plenty of players that fitted the bill. Former Canadian Rugby player Myke Pyke stood tall when Shane Mumford went down with injury. Mitch Morton was at his third club and played a strong cameo, kicking two goals and Nick Malceski, having had serious knee troubles in the past, stepped up to kick the famous go-ahead game winner – “Is that the Grand Final?” Yes Dennis, yes that’s the Grand Final.
2005 Grand Final – Leo Barry YOU STAR!
This game basically kick-started what was an exciting rivalry between the two sides for the remainder of the decade. Whilst I’ve never been too fond of the low-scoring games, and 12-year old me certainly didn’t take too kindly to this game, this was a game of genuine attrition. The last play in the game – Leo Barry’s mark, goes down as one of the greatest moments in the history of the AFL. People still talk about it whenever someone takes a massive pack mark in either top level, local level or even on the couches at home. The iconic phrase coined by Stephen Quartermain “LEO BARRY YOU STAR” still gets referenced by football aficionados, that’s how iconic it is travelling.
To state the obvious, it was a game saving mark, but it’s a mark that helped ensure the Swans break a 72-year premiership drought. With the ball deep in attack for the Eagles and down by four points, the Swans could only clear it as far as West Coast ruckman Dean Cox, who was 60 metres out – the rest is history. We could be playing what-ifs here: what if the mark didn’t stick? There still would’ve been enough time for a West Coast forward to be at ground level and snap it off a step. Much to the relief of the Sydney faithful, that did not happen. Special mention to the sequel that was just as good as original the following year.
2010 Grand Final Replay – The Collingwood Librarian
I don’t like the fact that Heath Shaw can carry on like a dickhead on his own accord, he’s done it from time to time and at stages it has cost his team games of football. But what I do like about him is that when he puts his mind to it, he’s a very capable footballer, with his football ability and IQ shining as bright as any other in the league. Just a week after St. Kilda and Collingwood played out only the third – and final – draw in the history of the league, Shaw provided the play that would set the scene for the rest of the afternoon, which spelt good times ahead for the black and white faithful.
If Brendon Goddard’s mark was a game-altering moment in the draw, then Shaw’s smother on St. Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt the following week was just as iconic. Riewoldt was on the receiving end of a lovely pass from Adam Schneider in the goal square with seemingly no one around. Shaw had to bust his backside to sprint down and as if time stood still, he stretched himself beyond belief to get his hands to the footy before Riewoldt could put the boot on it. Dennis Cometti yelled on the TV that it was like a Librarian, because the Saints’ captain didn’t hear him. In fairness to him though, 100,000 fans were roaring like mad. It saved a certain goal and it set the tone for the rest of his team mates – the Pies went on to win by 56 points.
2018 Grand Final – Ice Cold Sheed
Since this game, I’ve argued that this was the best Grand Final we’ve seen this century, it beats a few good contenders – Cats/Saints in 2009, The Draw in 2010, The Eagles/Swans double in 2005-06 and yes, as much as it hurts me to say it, it was a better game than 2016 from a football standpoint – the Dogs supporter inside me will always say the opposite. As Mark LeCras likes to say after every Grand Final piss up: “Let me set the scene here…” The Eagles conceded the first five goals of the game to the Pies and held a 29-point lead early in the first term.
It was looking like another case of the 2015 Eagles’ team – heralded as a great team but shit themselves at the final hurdle. This 2018 team learned from what happened three years earlier and fought back – like the arm wrestling where the one nearly beaten slowly revolves back to the start. From three-quarter time it was back and forth footy, which culminated in the last minute of the game, Dom Sheed marked 40 metres out on the boundary. Forget the fact that Brayden Maynard was blocked by Willie Rioli for a second. Having a shot of this magnitude with the Grand Final on the line is the stuff every child dreamed of – it certainly was a dream of mine. Sheed slotted it smack bang through the middle to give the Eagles the lead and the win.