Saturday night’s A-League Grand Final in Newcastle has the Jets looking to complete a remarkable 12 month turnaround. At the end of last season, the Jets were nailed to the bottom of the table and were seen as long odds to contend for honours this season. However an early season demolition of rivals Central Coast before putting four past their Grand Final opponents a month later showed they were the real deal.
Completing a comeback going from one of the worst teams in the league to title contenders sounds like something from a Disney movie with a far-fetched premise but if the Jets do complete the fairy tale Saturday night, they will become only the second team in Australian sporting history to achieve this feat.
Western Suburbs Magpies –1934 NSWRL Premiers
It was 84 years ago when the only Australian side went from wooden spooners one season to Premiers the next. In 1933 they were wooden spooners after winning just four games before turning it around the next year. Some say that wooden spoon could even be excused given many of their players were on the Kangaroos tour of Great Britain at that time. A year later they were celebrating a Grand Final win after finishing equal top of the ladder with Eastern Suburbs.
A handful of teams have come off a nightmare season, finishing almost on the bottom of the table only to be in the mix in the final game of the following season.
Brisbane Roar – 2010 Premiership/Championship Double
As it stands, the A-League’s biggest 12 month turnaround has been done by the Brisbane Roar. Their 2009/2010 campaign saw coach Frank Farina sacked and replaced with Ange Postecoglou who finished the season second last on the ladder and many were calling for Postecoglou’s head. After an offseason recruiting drive there were 12 new faces in the team, a new style of play and a group that would go on to win the double in the most dramatic of circumstances.
St Louis Rams 1999 Super Bowl Champions
In 1998 the Rams finished with just four wins on the season, one of three teams with that record, one game better than Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, who all won three games. A year later it was a different story, with backup quarterback Kurt Warner taking over thanks to a preseason injury to new signing Trent Green. Warner directed an offence that rolled up and down the field, all the way to a win in Super Bowl 34.
New England Patriots – 2001 Super Bowl Champions
Two years after the Rams completed the turnaround, they were the final opponent for the Patriots as they rebounded from a 5-11 record in 2000, to an 11-5 season and Super Bowl run in 2001. With a host of new players and some guy named Tom Brady ascending to the starting job, the Patriots shocked the world with a win over the Rams who were favoured by two touchdowns. This season was also the last documented time that the Patriots were considered “likeable” by neutral NFL fans.
Even if the Jets do fall short on Saturday they can join an illustrious club of sides to go from bottom of the barrel to title contenders.
Collingwood – 1977 Grand Finalists
A disastrous 1976 campaign saw Collingwood win just six matches and finish last in the 12 team VFL competition. That misery would not carry over into 1977 though with a massive improvement to claim the minor premiership, four points clear of Hawthorn. Their Round 22 win over Melbourne sealed the top spot going into the finals. They came so close to winning the grand final, drawing with North Melbourne 76-76 before losing the replay 151-124 a week later.
Coastal Sharks – 2001 Super 12 Finalists
Only one side has been able to turn around a Super Rugby wooden spoon into a Grand Final appearance, the Sharks finished last in 2000 with just one win and one draw from that season. One year later they won eight of their eleven games to finish second on the table behind the ACT Brumbies on points differential. A semi final win over the Cats (now Lions) booked them a trip to Canberra for the Super 12 final, where they fell to the Brumbies 36-6.
Sydney Roosters – 2010 Grand Finalists
2009 was a forgettable year for the Roosters, claiming the club’s first wooden spoon in 43 years and winning just one of their final seven games. Their 2010 regular season form was much more encouraging however a late season losing streak saw them end the regular season in sixth spot. A golden point win in the Qualifying Final set them on a run that would eventually end with a Grand Final loss to St George. The Roosters up and down run continued a few years later when they went from 13th place in 2012 to Premiers in 2013.
After all of those 12 month turnarounds, we thought it best to close out this list with a worst to first run that takes place in the space of five weeks.
Fitzroy – 1916 Wooden Spoon and Premiers
With only four teams competing in the 1916 VFL season due to World War One, Fitzroy were crowned as wooden spoon winners and Premiers in the space of five weeks. Two wins, nine losses and a draw from their twelve regular season matches had them ten points behind third placed Richmond. All four teams made the finals where Fitzroy beat Collingwood 63-57 in the semi-final, before beating Carlton twice in the Preliminary Final and then Grand Final. Though if you want to wind up a Richmond supporter, tell them they were the wooden spoon winners that season since they lost to Fitzroy.