Can you feel it? There’s something in the air. The beer seems colder, the sky seems brighter, everyone seems to be just that little bit more chipper. It’s finals time, and no matter which code you are, there’s no better time to be a footy fan.
Everyone has their favourite moment from a final. There’s Leo Barry’s mark that single handedly ended the Swans 72 year premiership drought. It could be Mike Williamson screaming out ‘Jesaulenko, you beauty’ as Alex Jesaulenko soared above Graeme Jenkin. Or a personal favourite at Live At Your Local, the day the South Rabbitohs triumphed over the Roosters 33-32, pushing them into their very first grand final (there were tears).
But in our opinion, there’s nothing more memorable than a grand final. The ultimate test, the two very best teams of the year, going head to head for the ultimate glory. It was always going to be a tough test, but we’ve done our best to nail down the top ten AFL and NRL grand finals of the last twenty years. We’re talking the very best games you’ve seen, the goosebump moments, the spine tingling feelings, we’re talking about those magic finishes.
Let the countdown begin.
10. St Kilda vs Collingwood: The Draw, 2010
Shock, silence, disbelief. The siren went and the hopes of the St Kilda and Collingwood faithful were dashed. But… what a game. Only the third drawn grand final in AFL history, Collingwood kicked away in the first half commanding a 24 point lead. Not until the 29th minute of the final quarter, Lenny Hayes levelled the score, but it wasn’t to be as the final siren sounded marking a draw. The following week the two teams met again, this time with Collingwood taking the win by a considerable margin, but the draw will forever haunt Saints supporters, and the rest of us.
9.Panthers vs Roosters, 2003
In 2001, Penrith finished last. In 2002, they finished the season in 12th. October 5th, 2003, 12 years ago today, the Panthers won their second premiership of all time, in a feat no one saw coming. Although they remained consistent throughout the year, the Panthers were labelled pretenders, no one believing they’d be able to last the year, let alone take the win over the in-form Roosters. Leading into the game, the Roosters were the clear favourites, Penrith on the other hand had only one player that had ever played in a Grand Final before. They’d go on to defeat the Roosters, 18-6, leaving the doubters in their wake and a fairytale story complete.
8. West Tigers vs Cowboys, 2005
The coming together of two fairy tales, the West Tigers and the North Queensland Cowboys, who both came together for their first shot at the title. The match carried a handful of highlights, none more memorable than one of the most spectacular tries in NRL history, with Benji Marshall’s flick pass sending Pat Richards over the line. The Tigers proved too good, but regardless of the score, it’s a battle that will live in the hearts of NRL fans across the country.
7. Melbourne Storm vs Cronulla Sharks, 2016
When you think of the Melbourne Storm vs Cronulla, one word comes to mind. Grit. The lung-busting show we had in front of us between the Storm and the Sharks was nothing short of exceptional. With the Sharks inevitably taking the chocolates, the 14-12 scoreline saw the club claim it’s first-ever premiership. A 70th minute try from Andrew Fifita helped the Sharks to overcome the second half surge in front of a home crowd, and that officially brought the Sharks 49 year title drought to an end.
6. Sydney vs West Coast, 2005
A premiership drought breaking win for the Swans was everything you dream of, a big match on the big stage. There’s a reason it sits at number six on our countdown, and that reason is based on one man and one mark. Leo Barry and the infamous grab that saved the game for the Swans. A tight contest throughout, Swans would stretch their lead out to 20 points at half time, until the Eagles fought their way back into it into the fourth, all of a sudden, Eagles were up, and they were looking dangerous. Barry Hall put the Swans back in front and it was on, the Eagles had one chance to pump it back into their forward 50, and in a blur in front of a huge pack of players, Leo Barry soared across and took a spectacular grab with less than 10 seconds to go. The siren went, and the Swans were home by just four points.
5. West Coast vs Sydney, 2006
That’s right, we’ve gone back to back here. The two grand finals between these two teams had to fit into our list somewhere, because what an effort. At number five, we’ve got the 2006 rematch of the 2005 grand final, between Sydney and West Coast. The heartbreak of the close loss the year prior weighed heavy in the hearts of West Coast players and fans alike, and they got their shot at redemption. The Eagles had a 25 point lead going into half time, but then the Swans came hard. Chris Judd was pivotal, just a year after becoming only the 4th player to win a Norm Smith medal in a losing side, he shone again, leading his Eagles right up to the very last second. The Eagles held on in a thriller, much like the year before, but with just one point separating the two this time.
4. Rabbitohs vs Bulldogs, 2014
43 years in the making. That’s the main takeaway you need from this one. A long time between drinks for the South Rabbitohs, and they sensationally won their 21st premiership in 2014, that sent Sydney wild. Fans had endured alot, and the club had struggled prior to Russell Crowe’s involvement, but here we are, and this grand final win just felt different. Rabbitohs lock, Sam Burgess, etched his name into history in taking out the Clive Churchill Medal after an enormous effort, playing through the entire match with multiple fractures in his cheek-bone and eye-socket. As the siren sounded, people cried in the stands, players fell to the ground, and it felt like the whole of Australia was celebrating, it was hard not to get behind the underdogs.
3. Geelong vs St Kilda, 2009
Some grand finals are absolute blowouts, some grand finals are absolute nailbiters. But this one, it seemed encapsulated everything you love about AFL. In 2009, Ross Lyon’s Saints managed to knock off Geelong in a modern epic for the ages, often referred to as the ‘battle of the unbeaten’. It was the first time in VFL/AFL history, that two sides had met after starting their respective seasons undefeated for 13 rounds. The build up to the big match was huge, and the Saints jumped out of the blocks, piling on five early goals to take a big lead going into the first quarter. As expected, the Cats returned, slowly closing the gap between the two until they drew level late in the final term. With a minute left on the clock, the ball was bombed into the Saints forward 50m, enter Michael Gardiner. The big man launched himself to take a huge mark, and finished with the goal, sending the St Kilda faithful absolutely crazy.
2. Cowboys vs Broncos, 2015
A golden point thriller, and a match that will go down in history. It doesn’t sit at our number two for any old reason, the maiden premiership for the Cowboys was well deserved after one of the best NRL matches we’ve ever seen. The Cowboys trailed 16-12 for most of the second half, before winger Kyle Feldt scored in the corner in the final seconds to take the game into golden point extra-time. Broncos half-back Ben Hunt dropped the ball from the extra time kick off to give the Cowboys their chance. Enter Jonathan Thurston, swamped by the Broncos defence he couldn’t be stopped, from 20 metres out Thurston kicked the winning field goal in the 83rd minute of the game sending North Queensland into an absolute frenzy. Thurston accepted the Clive Churchill Medal shaking in disbelief, while fans around Australia watched. This grand final will go down in history, as one of the greatest of all time.
- West Coast vs Collingwood, 2018
We’ve reached number one (finally), and there was one match that nobody could go past. The 2018 grand final, between the West Coast Eagles and the Collingwood Magpies. This match goes down as one of the best of all time, based on the fight shown by the Eagles, who found themselves down by as much as 29 points in the first quarter, due to an onslaught of goals from the Pies. A lesser team would’ve folded, many wrote them off there and then. But somehow, the Eagles scrapped away and managed to find the goals they needed, giving the rest of the team the hope they needed, going into the main break, just 12 points down. The third term saw the Eagles at their best, and pies hearts start to sink, as they came out a different team to what they did in the first, as the siren sounded, the scores were level.
The last quarter was one for the ages, Collingwood slotted two early and seemed to pull away, with the Pies clenching an 11 point lead. But again, the eagles clambered back, snapping goals when they could and amping up the pressure. Enter Dom Sheed, who kicked an absolute belter from the boundary line 40 metres out, giving the Eagles a four point lead. With one minute to play, both teams scrambled, but the Eagles took the win as the West Coast of Australia (and any non-pies supporters) celebrated. It’s a game you won’t forget too quickly, and the perfect way to wrap our countdown.