Salty September: Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda AFL Premierships – Part 3

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The challenge rule, unfair finals systems, clubs sacking coaches for the wrong reasons, players being hit by a truck during Grand Final week and ridiculous fixturing. Everyone was robbed and it’s all unfair.

It’s all here in our final instalment of the coulda, shoulda, woulda premierships of the AFL and it finishes off as bitter as it started.

PORT ADELAIDE

COULDA –

Beaten Hawthorn in 2014 Preliminary Final had it not been for Port’s dreadful kicking at goal. Port kicked 13. 16 (94) to Hawthorn’s 15. 7 (97) and, as the old saying goes, bad kicking is bad football.

SHOULDA –

Won a flag between 2001 and 2003. The Power had a threepeat of Minor Premierships from 2002 – 04 but was only able to win one premiership (2004). Port made a reputation of choking in Qualifying Finals, with some famous losses to Collingwood in 2002 and Sydney in 2003. The Power also finished third in 2001 and went out of the finals in straight sets. This led to the boss of Port Adelaide’s major sponsor – Alan Scott of Scott’s Transport – declaring that Port would never win a flag under coach Mark Williams at the start of the 2004 season. Port went on to finally win the flag in 2004 to which Choco infamously declared during the premiership presentation “Alan Scott, YOU WERE WRONG.”

WOULDA –

Been able to stop Brisbane’s three-peat had they not choked in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Alan Scott seemed to be right at the time.

RICHMOND

COULDA –

Made the finals in the years – 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2008. These were the days of “Ninthmond”. Richmond made a habit of it for a long time and the Tigers finishing 9th was the easiest punchline for footy fans up until September 30th last year when Richmond broke their 37-year premiership drought resulting in footy comedians having crisis talks about what to make fun of. Fortunately, the AFL has given them plenty this year with the likes of  AFLX and rule changes.

Played Essendon in the 2013 Elimination Final instead of Carlton. We all know that due to the supplements scandal, the Bombers got booted out of the finals as part of their AFL punishment so the Blues finished 9th, made the finals and beat Richmond – a team that had a history of finishing 9th. Although, it’s good to know that Carlton has gone on to bigger and better things since that day.

SHOULDA –

Elected to kick with the wind in the 2014 Elimination Final against Port Adelaide. What on earth was Trent Cotchin thinking?

Renewed John Northey’s contract at the end of the 1995 season. They had their best season since 1982, won the semi against Essendon and made the Preliminary Final only to get thrashed by the Cats. The Tigers were back in town. The players loved him. Had they stayed with Swooper, Northey the Tiges would have been on the verge of something special but it wasn’t to be.  Because the Tigers board wouldn’t extend Northey’s contract, he went to the Brisbane Bears the following year. Richmond hired Robert Walls as their new coach and finished 9th in 1996.

Not sacked Tony Jewell after 1981. In the days of “Ruthless Richmond”, the club had all their coaches on one-year contracts and if you didn’t go deep into September you were out the door. The Tigers finished 7th in 1981, sacked their premiership coach in favour of Francis Bourke, which divided the players. Although the Tigers made the Grand Final in 1982 (which they lost), it then led to a trading war with Collingwood, which many believe the club wasn’t able to recover from for the good part of 30+ years.

WOULDA –

Won the 1982 grand final had it not been for female streaker Helen Damico running on to the ground and distracting the team.

Made the finals in 2005 had Nathan Brown not broken his leg.

Progressed in 2015 had North Melbourne not rested all their good players the week prior. The Tigers played North in round 23 of that season and rested all their good players as they were to play Richmond the next week in a final. It’s thanks to North (with an assist from Ross Lyon) that we now have the pre-finals bye.

Won the Grand Finals against Collingwood in 1929 had it not been for the challenge rule. That’s right Collingwood’s famous streak of Four consecutive premierships is questionable given that at the time the VFL finals system allowed the team that finished top of the ladder the chance to challenge for a re-match if they were to lose a game during the finals series. This allowed Collingwood to win the 1929 premiership despite being beaten fair and square by Richmond in the semi-final. What a rort.

ST.KILDA

COULDA –

Gone deep into the finals series of 1991, but the final six system saw the Saints get screwed over. In 1991, the Saints finished 4th and played 3rd placed Geelong in an Elimination Final, lost and therefore be eliminated in week one. The final six system changed again in 1992 when the Saints finished sixth but played third-placed Collingwood and won in a system that seems more reasonable.

Gone all the way in 2004  had it not been for bad luck in the Preliminary Final against Port Adelaide. The Saints had the opportunity to draw level with Port late in the match when Brent Guerra raced towards a loose ball in the goalsquare only for Power defender Shaun Burgoyne to dive full length to stop the ball like a goalkeeper in Soccer. Port would win the match by a goal. The Saints were one of the dominant teams of 2004, winning their first 10 matches which was released as a DVD box set called “The Streak”.

SHOULDA –

Not celebrated so hard after winning the 1996 Ansett Cup against Carlton. When the Saints won the pre-season flag of that year, the fans invaded the area at Waverley Park declaring their “30-year premiership drought was over.” Saints captain Stewart Lowe declared “This is our year”, the Saints finished 10th in the 1996 home and away season with 10 wins.

Done something about Darren Jarman and Shane Ellen in the 1997 Grand Final. This needs no more explaining.

WOULDA –

Won the 2010 Grand Final had there been extra time. The Saints had all the momentum going into the last quarter, not to mention the cruel bounce of the ball from Milne that led to the scores being equal. It would be the last drawn Grand Final with the AFL recently declaring that the Grand Final replay would be no longer at the start of 2016.

Won the 2009 grand final had there been a goal review system. Tom Hawkins clearly hit the post and would have been given a behind had there been the proper process in place. Preventing Matthew Scarlett from doing the infamous toe-poke is also a factor in denying the Saints the 2009 premiership.

SYDNEY/SOUTH MELBOURNE

COULDA –

Been a super-team in the mid-late 80’s had Doctor Geoffrey Edlestein’s plan worked. Along with the pink-helicopters, the Swans spent up big and went on a recruiting spree getting the likes of Greg Williams from Geelong and Melbourne’s Gerard Healy and made Tommy Haffey the coach. Along with the Wiz Warwick Capper at full-flight, the Swans challenged in 1986 and 87 but the collapse of Edelstein’s empire and Capper packing his bags to the Brisbane Bears saw the Swans go into downfall. What could have been?

SHOULDA –

Gone back-to-back in 2006 had  Nic Fosdike kick into Sydney’s forward 50 in the dying stages of the match not being beaten by the siren.

Won in 2016. Way too much sentiment towards the Western Bulldogs. They also finished higher.

Have a flag with Buddy by now. The Swans signed Lance Frankin on one of the biggest deals in AFL history and are still yet to win a premiership, which is always a talking point when the Swans exit the finals.

WOULDA –

Won the 1935 Grand Final against Collingwood had legendary South Melbourne full-forward Bob Pratt not been hit by a truck. On the Thursday afternoon before the Grand Final, Pratt was hit by a truck carrying five tonnes of bricks after stepping off a tram resulting in Pratt injuring his ankle. Many suspected it was deliberate, but the driver involved turned out to be a South Melbourne supporter and offered Pratt a packet of cigarettes as an apology. With the Swans dynamite full-forward out of the side, Collingwood went on to win the Grand Final by 35 points.

WEST COAST EAGLES

COULDA –

Gone on to win a flag back in 1990 had it not been for Peter Sumich missing a vital goal in the qualifying final against Collingwood, which resulted in the match being replayed the following week. The Eagles were also made to travel from Perth six weeks on the trot (including the last two games of the home and away season), which ultimately took its toll when going down to Essendon by 63 points in the Preliminary Final of that year.

SHOULDA –

Been able to host home finals against Melbourne in 1988, Essendon in 1996 and Carlton in 1999. The Eagles finished higher on the ladder than their opponents in those respective seasons but AFL contractual obligations required the Eagles to play those games in Melbourne. The Eagles didn’t win any of those finals and no doubt it would have been a different story had it been played at Subiaco.

Won the flag in 1991. The Eagles went down to Hawthorn in the only Grand Final ever played at Waverley Park (most famous for Angry Anderson’s bat mobile) but were the dominant side all year finishing three games clear on top of the ladder after the home and away season. An end of season form slump saw them get beaten by last placed Fitzroy in Round 24 of that season and they then went down to Hawthorn in the Qualifying Final in what was the first final played outside Victoria. The Eagles went on to beat Melbourne and Geelong in their other finals before going down to the Hawks in the Grand Final by 53 points.

WOULDA –

Won in 2005 had Leo Barry dropped that mark, Dean Cox gets it, kicks the sealer – West Coast would have been the 2005 AFL Premiers.

Won in 2015 if they actually bothered to turn up. Hawthorn owned them that day.

WESTERN BULLDOGS/FOOTSCRAY

COULDA

Had a crack at a flag in the late 2000s. The Dogs played in three consecutive preliminary finals from 2008, 09 and 2010 and got oh-so-close against St.Kilda when they went down by seven points in a thriller. The Dogs could have had a crack at the Cats in the Granny and broke their drought then, they would have to wait another seven years until that magical day in 2016.

Had a crack back in 1992. The Bulldogs finished the season in second place (the Cats finished first), the final six system wasn’t ideal and resulted in Footscray having two cracks at the Cats and losing both of those games with a semi-final win over the Saints in between.

Got close to making the 1985 Grand Final. The Hawks were able to scrape home against the ‘Scray by 10 points in a thriller.

SHOULDA

Made the 1997 Grand Final. They were 28 points up in the third quarter and IT WAS A GOAL. The AFL clearly wanted to punish the Dogs for their rough style of play that season, firstly with Ian Collins going out of his way to suspend Chris Grant to deny him the Brownlow, players like Danny Southern being rubbed out and then paying Tony Libertore a point WHEN IT WAS A GOAL.

WOULDA

Won the 1997 Grand Final. LIBBA KICKED A GOAL. There’s no denying it. The Dogs would have thumped St.Kilda that day. Even with the shine of the 2016 flag, it WAS STILL A GOAL.

 

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