Salty September – Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda AFL Premierships Part 1


Coulda. Shoulda. Woulda.

It’s these words that haunt every fan from every club come finals time.

While it’s good to celebrate the great moments of glory in September, it’s the bitter ones that still linger in people’s minds.

That’s why here at the Ladbrokes Blog, we’re dubbing this Salty September.

Recapping all the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s of every AFL clubs fate in the history of this great game.

Part one starts this week with Adelaide to Fremantle.



Gone all the way back in 1993. The Crows were ahead by 42 points at half-time of the preliminary final against Essendon but dropped off in the second half, which saw the Bombers come back to win by 11 points and go on to win the flag that season. Legend has it that in the Crows rooms at half-time of that game, Mark Bickley let one rip which distracted his teammates in fits of laughter (and disgust) and got their minds off the task at hand.


Gone deep into the 2009 finals series had it not been for a suspect free-kick awarded to Collingwood’s Jack Anthony in the semi-final of that season. The Crows went on to lose the game by 5 points and some fans required therapy after the free kick paid to Collingwood in the crucial stages of the match happened RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM.

The Crows also should have made it in 2006 and 2012, but their luck in Preliminary Finals let them down.



Tex Walker has ‘dem salty feels. 

Won last year’s Grand Final had it not been for the Victorian bias with the MCG Grand Final contract. The Crows finished top of the AFL ladder, dominated in their home finals before facing Richmond as the “away” team at the MCG on Grand Final Day. Richmond was also gifted a free home final against Geelong in week one, which they would have lost had it been played at Kardinia Park. It was clearly the AFL looking after the big Victorian clubs and not “fairness” (even though they knew the Grand Final was always at the G). Had there not been the free-hit to Richmond, Adelaide would have won the 2017 Grand Final, Crow Camp would never have happened and they would be making a charge towards back-to-back flags as opposed to a season riddled with injury, off-field drama and completely missing the finals.



Equalled Collingwood’s all-time record of four premierships on the trot had the Lions not been forced to play a “home” preliminary final at the MCG against Geelong back in 2004. An AFL contract with the Melbourne Cricket Club at the time required there to be one final every week at the MCG no matter who was playing, so the Lions were given the short straw and made to play the Cats in Melbourne. The Lions did go on to win that preliminary final against the Cats by 9 points, but the unnecessary travel to Melbourne cost them the following week as Port stormed home to win their first (and only) premiership by 40 points denying the Lions the chance to equal Collingwood’s record.


Played that bloody home Preliminary Final in 04 at the Gabba. The Lions would have had that amazing home ground advantage they had at the Gabba in the glory days and not had the extra burden of travel.


Had a better pathway into the 1999 AFL Grand Final had it not been for the old McIntyre final eight system. The Lions had finished 3rd that season, played 6th place Carlton in a Qualifying Final and beat them by 73 points at the Gabba.

However, the old finals system allowed the Blues to have the double chance; with seventh-place Port Adelaide and eighth-place Sydney being knocked out in week one. Carlton was also gifted a “home” final as West Coast, who finished higher than they were required to play it at the MCG under a contractual agreement. This resulted in Carlton progressing to that famous Prelim where they beat Essendon by a point. The Lions went on to beat the Bulldogs by 53 points in the semi-final at the Gabba and be flogged by North by 53 points in the prelim at the G, while the team that finished lower than them and they belted in week one made the Grand Final. Thank goodness football has gotten rid of that dud system.



The Blues could have won the premiership in 1973 had they not faced a vengeful and violent Richmond when the likes of Neil Balme and his feral Tiger chronies led a brutal assault on Via Waite, John Nichols, Geoff Southby and Kevin Hall leaving them with concussions. Had Richmond not been a pack of ruthless thugs, the Blues would be on 17 premierships.

Won the 1976 flag had they not gone down by a point in the preliminary final to North Melbourne at VFL Park. In what was considered one of the tightest and closely fought matches of that season, The Blues couldn’t kick straight in the last quarter, allowing North’s Malcolm Blight and Darryl Sutton (who kicked 5 goals that day) to book their place in the 1976 Grand Final against the Hawks denying the Blues.

Gone deep into 1994 and challenged West Coast for the flag. In the first season of the final eight, the Blues suffered a shock loss to Melbourne but would face Geelong at Waverley Park in a semi-final. Going into the game some significant outs were announced for the Cats including Paul Couch, Mark Bairstow, Gary Hocking and Micheal Mansfield. It was expected that the Blues would win, and win easy, but it wasn’t to be. The Cats replacement players, including Aaron Lord and Paul Brown, did a number on the Blues and they would be knocked out of the 1994 finals in straight sets.  Had it not been for the Blues underestimating Geelong that day, we could have seen back-to-back from 94/95.

Gone deeper into the 2011 finals after a heartbreaking four-point loss to West Coast in the semi-final at Subiaco. In the 33rd minute of the last quarter, Andrew Walker marked, kicked and put the Blues within three points after being 21 points down early on in the last quarter. Andrew Walker was also denied a free kick when he was clearly held up by two West Coast players in the goal square which he would have scored, put the Blues in front and into a preliminary final against Geelong.


Won 1909 VFL Grand Final against South Melbourne. Reports suggest that in the final quarter the Blues had several chances to win the game with the likes of “Malle” Johnson and Charlie Hammond getting the ball to Harvey Kelly, who kicked the goal to put the Blues two points behind.

In a similar fashion to how the Swans won the flag in 2005, Carlton was able to get the clearance from the centre, kicked the ball towards the goals but it was South’s William Thomas who took a match-saving mark allowing them to win their first premiership by two points. It’s also the oldest surviving footage of a game of Australian Rules Football on film.


Beaten Essendon in the 1993 Grand Final had it not been for a Carlton supporter receiving Essendon’s notes on their game plan via fax and not informing the club in time.

Speaking to the “Greatest Season That Was – 1993” Podcast Carlton’s then coach David Parkin informed that Essendon’s assistant coaches at the time watched the Blues take on the Crows in the ’93 semi-final and took notes about Carlton’s structure out of centre clearances. The assistant coach in question was one Neale Daniher, whose notes were to be faxed back to Essendon but accidentally got faxed to the office of one of Essendon’s sponsors but the person receiving it happened to be a Carlton supporter. It was clear during the 1993 Grand Final that the Baby Bombers had figured the Blues out. The poor Carlton fan who had the notes left it too late to inform the Blues that the Bombers were on to them and after the 93 GF, the distraught fan went to Princes Park to see David Parkin and inform them that he had the Bombers cheat-sheet.

PIGS ARSE Long kicked that goal. SOS clearly touched it. 

Carlton fans should also remind North Melbourne supporters that had it not been for them beating Essendon in that famous 1999 Preliminary Final by a point, the Roos would not have won the Premiership that year as the Dons would have easily accounted for them in the big dance. You’re welcome Roos fans!



No club fits into the coulda, shoulda, woulda category of premiership prospects quite like Collingwood so for the Magpies, we’re just going to play the hits – the Colliwobbles if you will.

The Pies coulda won Grand Finals during the era of the infamous Colliwobbles. Featuring in the Grand Finals of 1960, 1964, 1966, 1970, 1977 (including the draw), 1979, 1980 and 1981 no premiership was a cakewalk rather an exercise in heartbreak.  Three of these Grand Finals were decided by under a kick.

Collingwood also could have had a premiership dynasty after finally breaking the Colliwobbles back in 1990. The Pies probably made the most of the celebrations of breaking the drought and had one of the all-time great premiership hangovers and finished 7th at the end of 1991 – the first year of the final six. It would take Collingwood another 20 years to win a flag.

More recently, the Magpies could have extended Geelong’s then 44-year premiership drought for just a little bit longer back in 2007. The Pies got agonisingly close to the all-conquering Cats in the Preliminary Final of that season. Collingwood was only five points down at three-quarter time, at one stage it looked like the Cats were home and then a goal from a Paul Medhurst free put the Pies within a goal and with the ball in their forward 50 when the siren went, had time not been against them the Magpies could have found themselves in the 2007 Grand Final.


Paid out of bounds to Wayne Harmes. In the closing stages of the 1979 Grand Final, Harmes slid along the MCG Boundary Line, knocked the ball back in play which allowed Carlton’s Ken Sheldon to kick the goal putting the Blues in front. Carlton won the 1979 Grand Final by five points with then Blues president George Harris famously declaring “What’s better than beating Collingwood by 10 goals? Beating them by five points.” The ball was clearly out.

In the 2002 Grand Final, Anthony Rocca kicked what he and everyone associated with Collingwood thought was a certain goal that would have put the Pies closer to the ultimate glory over the Lions but it wasn’t to be. Should there have been the score review system back in 2002 it, would have been a goal to Rocca and given the Pies all the momentum.

Collingwood should have also won the 1980 Escort Cup Night Series had the umpire heard the siren at VFL Park allowing North’s Kerry Good to kick the winning score which saw North win by three points. Back in 2006, after the Fremantle-St.Kilda Launceston “Sirengate” debacle  Collingwood president Eddie McGuire called for the Magpies to be awarded the 1980 Escort Cup but was laughed off by North Melbourne.

Eddie McGuire after witnessing a missed opportunity for the Pies. 


Won the 1964 Grand Final had Ian Graham kicked a goal from the boundary and missed resulting in Melbourne winning by four points.

Denied St.Kilda their only flag in 1966 had Saints defender Bob Murray not taken the mark in Collingwood’s forward line which got them the flag and denied Collingwood the opportunity to win the game.

Won 1970 had it not been for Ted Hopkins and Ron Barassi instructing his Carlton players to go the handball at half-time. The Magpies had a comfortable 44 point lead at half-time and looked home. Then came the third quarter. Carlton kicked seven goals in the first 13 minutes which erased the Magpies lead. There was also the change Barassi made to put Ted Hopkins on the ground, which allowed him to kick the goal and give the Blues a famous victory.

Won the 1977 Grand Final if there had been extra time rather than a replay, there also wouldn’t have been a draw in the first place had Fabulous Phil Carmen not been suspended in the semi-final

Won the 1980 Grand Final had Tommy Haffey been able to convince Kevin Bartlett to come over to Collingwood. During the 1979 season, KB was unhappy with the way things were going at Tigerland and more importantly, where he was positioned which gave his one-time Richmond coach Tom Haffey, then coach of the Magpies the chance to make an offer to KB to play for the Magpies. He was torn. Essendon also made a big offer to Bartlett. However, Haffey actually talked Bartlett out of going to Windy Hill and staying at Richmond along the lines that it was better for everyone that he remain a Tiger. It sure was. Bartlett kicked seven goals in a Norm Smith Medal-winning performance which destroyed Collingwood in 1980. What might have been had Haffey gotten KB in black and white?




Won the 1948 Grand Final. In what was the first drawn Grand Final in VFL/AFL history, Essendon was 12 points up against Melbourne with only two minutes remaining. The Demons proceeded to score two goals in the last two minutes of the match with the scores being level. In the dying moments of the match, the one and only Norm Smith took a mark 45 meters out from goal and played on. Essendon’s defence got the better of the Demons, which resulted in both teams having to come back the next week with the Demons going on to win the flag. With the scoreline in the Grand Final being Essendon 7-27 (69) to Melbourne 10-9 (69), had the Bombers been able to kick straight that day, they would currently be sitting on 17 premierships.

Won 1968 grand final. Essendon went down to the Blues by only three points despite kicking one more goal than them. The Bombers came within a point of the Blues at the 20-minute mark of the last quarter when bespectacled Bomber forward Geoff Blethyn kicked a goal but despite the Dons holding the Blues goalless in the last quarter, it wasn’t enough to get them home

Had a three-peat between 1984- 86. Coming off back-to-back premiership wins over Hawthorn, the Bombers fancied themselves in the 1986 Elimination Final against Fitzroy at VFL Park. In what was a tightly fought out contest, it was in the dying stages of the Match where Mick Conlon of Fitzroy, who had an ordinary game, was able to kick the winning score that put the Royboys up by a point just before the siren. It was a famous victory for the Roys and heartbreaking for the Dons. They would just have to settle for back-to-back.

Been fully fit in 1990. Due to the draw between West Coast and Collingwood, Essendon were forced into a very long bye period and they had to play a practice match against Fitzroy. The extra break killed all of the Bombers momentum going into that finals series. Who kicked five goals in the 1990 Grand Final? Essendon.

Made the 1996 Grand Final had Tony Lockett not kicked a point after the siren. Had he missed, the ’96 Prelim would have gone to extra time allowing the Bombers to get themselves a date with North Melbourne in the Grand Final. It wasn’t to be. The Bombers finals campaign of 1996 saw them suffer two one-point losses at the hands of the Brisbane Bears and the Swans with a big win over West Coast in between.


Had a premiership dynasty between 1999 – 2001. At least gone back-to-back. Let’s face it, while the Bombers had probably the greatest individual team season of all time in 2000 some may regard them as underachievers for not getting more than one flag.

Been allowed to play in the 2013 finals series. The 34 players and ‘Hirdy’ were WRONGLY implemented in this AFL/ASDA conspiracy to bring the club down and were then wrongfully denied their rightful place in the 2013 finals series. The Bombers couldn’t do WHATEVER IT TAKES.

#StandByHird #BackOurBoys #WhateverItTakes


Won the 1999 Grand Final against North Melbourne had they beaten Carlton in the Prelim the week before. They didn’t. Had Mark Mercuri kicked a goal in the dying minutes or Dean Wallis shrugged a tackle from Carlton’s Fraiser Brown the Bombers would have found themselves playing the Kangaroos in ’99 and they would have won easily.


Won their first flag in 2013 had it not been for a poor first half. Had they kept the momentum up for the entire game, we could have heard the sounds of “Freo Way To Go” around the MCG after the final siren on Grand Final Day.

Made a deeper run in 2015. At the start of the year, Freo were the dominant force in the competition and finished first on the ladder.

Gone all the way in 2015 had it not been for a late form slump. Did they rest enough players in their Round 23 clash against Port Adelaide? Thanks to Freo, we now have the pre-finals bye.



NEXT WEEK: Fitzroy, Geelong, Gold Coast, GWS, Hawthorn and Melbourne’s Coulda, Shoulda and Woulda Premierships. 

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