The AFL 2017 season has been one of the tightest and most competitive seasons in recent memory. With three rounds to go, the top two, top four, finals and the wooden spoon are as far from being settled as they were five months ago. From an extensive and bewildering list, here are the top ten games from a truly spectacular home-and-away season:
- Essendon 11.16 (82) vs. Brisbane Lions 13.12 (90)
Not the prettiest game of football, but one of the biggest upsets. On a sunny Sunday afternoon at Etihad Stadium – which unusually had its roof open in early July, the young Lions caused one of the biggest upsets of the season. With emerging star Eric Hipwood kicking four goals, the Lions – who until that point had won two games for the season – stormed back from 27 points down early in the final quarter to steal the game from the highly fancied Bombers. With Essendon facing a real fight to make the finals over the final month of the season, it’s a loss that may end up seriously hurting Bombers fans.
- Richmond 10.10 (70) vs. Fremantle 10.12 (72)
The game that still sends a shudder down any Tigers fan’s spine. Down by five goals at three-quarter time, Richmond lifted in the last, led by Shaun Grigg’s 31 disposals and Jack Riewoldt’s three goals. The Tigers thought they’d stolen the game when they kicked themselves four points in front with just under 20 seconds to go, but a poor defensive set-up allowed former Fremantle captain David Mundy to mark a centre clearance almost uncontested, just 20 metres out. The midfielder duly slotted after the siren, sparking feelings of desolation and disbelief among Tiger faithful. After a week-long fury from supporters, history repeated itself for Richmond, going down to GWS in similar fashion just six days later.
- Melbourne 15.14 (104) vs. Collingwood 15.10 (100)
In a season of jaw-dropping finishes, this one flies under the radar. In front of over 70,000 at the MCG, these two old rivals played out a heart-stopper. The image of Jack Watts celebrating the sealing goal with barely a minute left is one that will stay with Demons’ fans forever, but in truth, it was Collingwood who made all the running in this game. Led by big guns Treloar, Sidebottom, Adams and the emerging Darcy Moore, a seven-goal second quarter had the Pies in control at half time. In what was a breakout half for the Demons, it took an almighty third quarter, coupled with nerves of steel in final stanza, to get them over the line. Christian Petracca’s three goals was the difference, underlining his enormous talent inside the arc.
- Adelaide 12.10 (82) vs. Hawthorn 14.12 (96)
2017 wasn’t the greatest season for Hawthorn, so when they travelled to the City of Churches for their clash with top-of-the-table Adelaide, they weren’t given much of a hope by the experts. At half time, everything was going as most had foreseen, with the Crows in control. However, as has so often been the case, Alistair Clarkson and his young side where reading from a different script. Led by Tom Mitchell with 38 disposals, former Crow Ricky Henderson with 2 goals, and the leadership of renowned champions Hodge and Burgoyne, the Hawks tore the Crows apart in the second half, walking away 12-point winners. The footage and sound of Luke Hodge essentially coaching the young Hawks on-field further etched his status of one of the greatest leaders of the modern era.
- Sydney 11.9 (75) vs. Hawthorn 12.9 (81)
A Friday night blockbuster that lived up to the hype, Hawthorn came into this game second from bottom, while Sydney had begun to repair the damage of their disastrous 0-6 start with three straight wins. However, on a greasy night at the SCG, it was the Hawks who, in a near exact repeat of 2016’s classic encounter, triumphed by a single kick. Just like Cyril Rioli last year, this time it was Hawthorn captain Jarryd Roughead who slotted a set shot with under a minute remaining to hand the Hawks the four points and keep the doubters at bay for another week at least. One of the most ice-cool kicks from a true champion.
- West Coast 14.12 (96) vs. Melbourne 15.9 (99)
For all its inconsistency, Melbourne has produced some truly gargantuan performances with their backs against the wall. Defeating Adelaide in Adelaide was incredible, but this game tops the lot. Led by co-captain Jack Viney’s 38 disposals, including 26 contested, and defender-cum-forward Tom McDonald’s five goals, Melbourne stole the game, having been nearly three goals down with less than three minutes remaining. It was a win many Demons’ fans rank as their best in the last twenty years.
- Port Adelaide 9.9 (63) vs. St. Kilda 8.13 (61)
Make no mistake: this was not a high quality game. However, it gets into this list because of its finish – one of the greatest ever seen. With 59 seconds to go, Port Adelaide were down and out: 10 points down and at the wrong end of the field. However, in unprecedented scenes, the Power scored not one, but two goals to win the game. Paddy Ryder’s over-the-shoulder tap for Robbie Gray to slot through the winning goal on the run, on the siren was perhaps the highlight of an excellent season, while for the more cynical, the sight of the stadium emptying itself of Port faithful just seconds before such drama is etched into the mind forever. What an awe-inspiring finish.
- Sydney 11.20 (86) vs. Essendon 12.13 (85)
If ever there was a textbook for playing AFL, this game would be in there for two reasons. One: to exemplify the importance of leadership and collective willpower, shown in this game by Sydney. Two: to help prospective players understand how not to close out a game, and the disease of mental fragility infecting a team. Another incredible finish from the famous Round 14, this one had a bit of everything. Essendon kicked seven in a row in the third and fourth quarters to move 24 points clear with just over four minutes remaining, before Sydney, despite superstar Lance Franklin kicking six – yes, six – behinds, managed to turn the ship around, winning by one point. And how, as well, with Brendan Goddard inexplicably playing on from a kickout with 18 seconds to play, and having his kick smothered, forcing a thrown-in. A quick kick forward put the ball to the top of the square, and, with the very last gasp of a pulsating encounter, Gary Rohan marked and goaled to win it for the Swans. This marked the point in the season where Sydney believed it was in with an outside flag chance, yet again.
- GWS 11.9 (75) vs. Western Bulldogs 9.19 (73)
“Who would’ve thought the sequel would be just as good as the original!?” Famous words offered up by Anthony Hudson after the 2006 Grand Final, but also very appropriate here. The first encounter between these two sides since the 2016 Preliminary Final – a game many believe was the greatest they’d ever seen – lived up to its billing. On a cold Friday night in Canberra, the Dogs should really have been out of sight. But GWS, led by Jeremy Cameron (4.1), the soon-to-be-suspended Toby Greene (3.1) and the ice-cool Jon Patton (3.2), who slotted a set shot from the right-hand side boundary line, on the arc, with barely a minute left to put the Giants in front, GWS managed to come away with the win by the skin of its teeth, something the club would make a habit of in 2017. In doing so, the AFL’s newest club exorcised the demons surrounding the club following last year’s agonising defeat. It may be the catalyst for them to go bigger in 2017.
1.Collingwood 15.13 (103) vs. Adelaide 16.7 (103)
After not having a draw for what seems like an eternity, clubs were generous enough to give us three in one month in 2017. This game however, was, by a mile and a half, the pick of the bunch. It is the game that had everything, good football, bad football, scoring, defensive grunt, engrossing one-on-ones, contrasting systems, and of course, a grandstand finish. When emerging gun Mitch McGovern marked with literally – I mean literally – a third of a second remaining, the resultant goal gave Adelaide an incredible result: a share of the points after being 50 points down in the third quarter. That they got anything from this game is even more remarkable when you consider that Collingwood had kicked three in a row midway through the last quarter to draw ahead again, with the Crows having already eaten up the deficit. Collingwood’s second half should not take away from how well the played in the first half. Taylor Adams and the much-maligned Daniel Wells (both 34 disposals and 3 goals) destroyed the Crows out of the middle with an ease that will have worried Adelaide coach Don Pyke, just six weeks out from finals. But in the end, like all champion teams, the Crows found a way to get something from the game. McGovern kicked four, Matt Crouch had 36 disposals and Collingwood had yet again shown promise, but ultimately failed to deliver.