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The top five AFL grand finals of the modern era

WITH Hawthorn and West Coast set to strut their stuff on the AFL’s biggest stage at the Melbourne Cricket ground on Saturday, we’ve taken a look back at some of the greatest grand finals of all time.

These are the games that make Australian Rules one of nation’s favourite sport and add to the AFL/VFL legend.

1989 – Hawthorn Hawks 21.18 (144) def. Geelong Cats 21.12 (138)

This is not just the best grand final of all time. Some say it’s the best match of all time, period.

More of an all out battle than a game of Aussie Rules, no one will ever forget Geelong hard man Mark Yeates coming off the square and destroying Dermot Brereton.

Well, he wished he destroyed him. The image of Brereton shaking off the high impact hit and throwing up as he made his way to the forward line, sporting a set of broken ribs and a bruised kidney, is one of the game’s most iconic.

Coach Malcolm Blight’s plan to iron out the Hawthorn champ didn’t quite work out. He set about dismantling them with three goals in the first half.

But there were stories every where.

The Cats were ruthless on the man, reportedly leaving the Hawks with only 13 fit men by the end of it. Midfield genius John Platten was hit that hard he can’t remember anything about the day and Hawks’ champ Robert Dipierdomenico nearly died after suffering a punctured lung in a hit from the legendary Gary Ablett.

Speaking of Ablett, he booted a grand final record nine goals and almost dragged his boys over the line, after facing a 36 point three quarter time deficit. They kicked eight goals to three.

But it wasn’t to be and the wounded Hawks got home by a single goal in a thriller that will never be forgotten.

Superstar Hawks full forward Jason Dunstall booted four goals, as did Dean Anderson, while gun wing man Darren Pritchard was the best Hawk on the park.

Ablett was awarded the Norm Smith Medal in a losing effort. His record still stands today.

2010 – St Kilda Saints 10.8 (68) drew with Collingwood Magpies 9.14 (68)

This game is a reference point for any thriller.

Continuing the trend of low scoring deciders, this pressure cooker featured the game’s biggest club and a team on the cusp of greatness that never was.

The Pies managed to make a grand final, after they’d been bundled out of the prelim in two of the past three years and they were determined not to let it slide, enjoying a four goal lead at quarter time.

Errant kicking hurt them in the second term, but they still kicked three goals to one to extend the lead.

But the talented Saints were not done with.

They held the Pies goal less in the third term and with Norm Smith Medallist Lenny Hayes and Brendon Goddard firing, mounted a comeback.

Eight points down at three quarter time, the Saints kicked three of the first four goals and looked like they would run over the top of the Pies.

Travis Cloke’s goal at the 29 minute mark gave the Pies a one point lead, but a Lenny Hayes bouncing behind levelled the scores at 68 and that’s how it would stay.

Cloke was the Pies only multiple goal scorer with two, while the Saints got two each from Nick Reiwoldt, Stevie Milne and Goddard. Heath Shaw was the Pies’ best.

There would be no fairy tale for the Saints, who were smashed by 56 points in the replay the very next week, giving the Maggies their first flag since 1990.

2005 – Sydney Swans 8.10 (58) def. West Coast Eagles 7.12 (54)

“LEO Barry you star!”

The great call from commentator Stephen Quartermain made the dogged Sydney back man a legend after he rose above the pack as time dwindled.

It was as iconic a mark as that of Alex Jesaulenko years earlier and preserved a one point lead that would ultimately be the Swans final winning margin.

In search of its first flag in 72 years, the dour match was a game of hard, contested footy, perfect for the purists who like it tight in the clinches.

There weren’t many goals kicked, but there was plenty of rough and tumble.

And, when Barry rose to mark the ball booted into the Eagles’ forward line by ruckman Dean Cox at the 32 minute mark, the game was sealed.

Big bustling Barry Hall was the only multiple goal kicker for the Swans, with two, while unheralded backman Adam Hunter bobbed up with two for the Eagles.

Superstar Chris Judd won the Norm Smith Medal, while Lewis Roberts-Thomson was the Swans’ best.

It was the Swans first flag since 1933, when they were based in South Melbourne, and also featured an iconic catch phrase from coach Paul Roos: “Here it is.”

The match was part of a three year rivalry between the two sides that saw just 13 points separate them over six matches, including the 2006 grand final, which is next on our list.

2006 – West Coast Eagles 12.13 (85) def. Sydney Swans 12.12 (84)

It was the interstate rematch that captured the imagination of the Victorian football public.

Another packed house watched the two sides from last year’s thriller go at it again for premiership glory.

And what a match it was. While it lacked the iconic Barry mark moment, it made up for it with some of the toughest footy ever seen on the MCG.

The Swans looked home when they jumped out to a five goal lead in the opening term, but the dogged Eagles wrenched it back.

Tackle, after tackle, after stoppage was played out as neither side could gain the ascendancy after the Swans early burst.

The final quarter was as tense as it’s ever been as both sides went goal for goal, until the final siren blew, with the Eagles scraping through by a solitary point, reversing last year’s result.

Silky Eagles running machine Andrew Embley was the Norm Smith Medallist with two goals, while West Coast was led in front of goal by the Q Stick Quentin Lynch, who booted three.

The losing Swans got three goals each from Michael O’Loughlin and Nick Davis, while the unheralded Nick Fosdike was adjudged best on ground.

2009 – Geelong Cats 12.8 (80) def. St Kilda Saints 9.14 (68)

The mid to late 2000s were blessed with a number of supreme grand finals.

This one was no exception.

The poor old Saints just can’t take a trick, this being the first of two grand finals in a row that they would be on the losing end of.

The Cats were back in it after losing to the Hawks in 2008 and they were never going to let this one slip.

It was a battle field, with 214 tackles laid between the two teams, which is the second highest total every registered in an AFL game.

The Saints didn’t kick straight and it killed them in the end.

It looked like they just might pull it off, leading at every change and going in with a seven point buffer in the final term.

But the Cats refused to give in and after 21 minutes of goal less footy, the scores were left tied.

Enter the Saints’ toe poke from hell.

A spoiled kick to Geelong great Gary Ablett Jr fell at the feet of legendary defender Matthew Scarlett, who toe poked the ball ahead. Ablett ran onto it, booting the ball deep into the Cats forward line and, after a quick string of handballs, Paul Chapman kicked truly to give the Cats a lead they would not surrender.

The highlight went global, making ESPN’s top plays in America.

Warrior Goddard, who would be among the side’s best against Collingwood the next year, broke his nose and collarbone, but kept playing in one of the most courageous acts ever witnessed on a football field.

Paul Chapman had a blinder with three goals and 26 touches for the Cats, netting himself the Norm Smith Medal, while Jason Gram was the Saints’ best. Adam Schneider was the only multiple goal kicker for St Kilda, with two, while Cam Mooney, Tom Hawkins and Max Rooke all emulated that figure.

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