All-Time Great Sporting Season Turnarounds


In the space of a year, the Brisbane Lions have gone from 15th on the AFL Ladder with 5 wins, 17 losses to finishing equal first (second on percentage) and are about to host the Tigers in front of a sold-out Gabba in two weeks’ time- the clubs first final in a decade.

There’s no doubting that the Lions turnaround is one of the all-time great turnarounds in sport and if your team isn’t featuring in the finals, everyone will be jumping on the bandwagon.

Sport loves a good turnaround/underdog defying the odds and with that in mind our blog has compiled a list of just some of the all-time great sporting turnarounds.

BRISBANE LIONS – AFL 2019 & 1999

Unless you’re a one-eyed Lions nuffie, no one would have predicted the Brisbane turnaround in season 2019.

The once mighty Lions, who dominated the AFL competition in the early 2000s, have had a shocking decade since they recruited Brendan Fevola and changed their jumper to the Paddle Pop Lion.

The glory days had long gone from the Gabba, the club struggled to retain players and club legends Michael Voss and Justin Leppitsch tried and failed as coach.

The Lions worked to get their back end and on-field plan right. In his first two seasons as coach, Chris Fagan got the Lions at 18th place in 2017, 15th place in 2018 but they played the kids, stood the course and now have finished 2nd on the ladder and are very much in with a chance to win their first flag since 2003.

However, this not the Lions greatest turnaround as such.
In Leigh Matthews’ first season at Brisbane, he took the Lions from 16th in 1998 to a Preliminary Final in 1999 going down to eventual premier North Melbourne.

The rest is history for Lethal Leigh and the Brisbane Lions


Finishing 13th in the 2012 NRL Season, not many expected much of the Sydney Roosters going into season 2013.

But while people forgot about them, they turned it around and won the minor premiership and went on to win the Grand Final defeating Manly 26-18.


Rags to riches shouldn’t happen in European Football, but it did when it came to the Foxes English Premier League triumph in 2015-16.

In the season previous, Leicester City spent 19 weeks in the relegation zone but managed to win seven out of its last nine to rise to 17th on the table to avoid being relegated.

The following season they went on to win the Premier League at 5000-1 odds.
If only you backed them at the start of the season, hindsight betting is a wonderful thing.


While it wasn’t a turnaround in a season, South Sydney winning the 2014 NRL premiership was truly amazing.

Had the NRL bosses got their way in 1999, Souths would not be playing in the competition at all when they were booted out in a bid to reduce the number of Sydney based teams.

Souths fought it out in the courts and were reinstated in 2002.
The fact the bunnies were booted out of the league and then came back to win the premiership is the ultimate turnaround for any club.

For AFL fans, this would be like Fitzroy being reinstated and then going on to win a premiership.


After winning their first wooden spoon in the clubs history in 1976, the Pies took action and signed the legendary Tommy Haffey from Richmond as their coach.

The next season the Pies found their mojo back and won 19 games, 5 losses and 1 infamous draw that happened to be the Grand Final.

They didn’t win the flag but at the time it was considered the greatest turnaround in League history.

The Colliwobbles were still in full-flight as they went down to North in the Grand Final replay the following week.


Before the 49ers became a Superbowl regular, the franchise struggled with a three year run spanning 10 wins.
Then came 1981 when the legendary Joe Montana led the Niners to their first Lombardi Trophy and the rest is history.


Still considered the biggest win-loss turnaround in NFL history. In season 1998, the Rams had their worst season in the Franchise’s history finishing with a 4-12 win/loss record.
The next season the Rams went from a 4-12 season to 13-3. Making it one of the great worst to first stories in sport with a victory in the Superbowl the following year.

BOSTON RED SOX 2004 and 2013

Back in 2004, the Sox ended one of the all-time greatest curses in sport. Losing the first three games of the World Series and then winning game 4, and all the rest against the Cardinals.
Everyone knows this story!
Then in 2013, managed to win another World Series after two woeful years in 2011 and 2012.


After being subjected to a Hawthorn threepeat, the AFL public was keen for some underdogs to get up (provided it wasn’t against your team).
Enter the Western Bulldogs in 2016 while, their season turnaround wasn’t as great – it would be the clubs second premiership in its history after 63 years and the fact the Bulldogs could have merged with Fitzroy, 27 years beforehand it’s quite the turnaround.

The following year saw Richmond end their 37 year premiership drought.
The club had had a horrible period prior and finished 13th in 2016 with people calling for the coach to be sacked and the “focus on football” group challenging the board.

They stood the course and won the flag. Quite the turnaround.

What other all-time great sporting turnarounds that spring to mind? Comment on our Facebook page.

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