The Longest Active Finals Droughts in Sport


With the participating teams in the AFL and NRL Finals series now confirmed, the heartbreak continues for some sides left out for another season.

Every team sets out to try and win the title every year but for some, for whatever reason it just doesn’t go as planned.

For some unfortunate sides, those seasons stack up one after another and before you know it, there’s a long suffering fan base just desperate for a finals appearance, let alone a title.

We’ve gone through the archives to compile some of the longest post season droughts in sport right now.

NRL: Wests Tigers (2011)

Nine years might seem like an eternity for Wests fans but compared to some of the other teams on this list, it could be a lot worse.

Their last NRL finals appearance came in 2011 when they finished in fourth place, defeated the Dragons in the Qualifying Final before losing to the Warriors.

In the last five seasons they have finished in ninth place three times (2016, 2017, 2019) and could very well wind up in that spot again depending on other results this weekend.

One of these days they will surely break down the door and return to the top eight right?

AFL: Gold Coast Suns (Never Appeared)

Founded in 2011, the AFL’s second youngest club is still waiting for its maiden top eight berth.

By the looks of things, they are still a way off competing for one, with their best finish of 12th coming in 2014.

Of course they still have a long way to go before having the longest drought in VFL/AFL history, Hawthorn went 32 years between finals games from 1925 to 1956.

Perhaps young phenom Matt Rowell will guide the Suns to their first ever finals appearance when he returns from injury next season.

A-League: Central Coast Mariners (2014)

There was a time when the Central Coast Mariners were a force to be reckoned with in the A-League.

Having won the Grand Final in 2013, the side finished in third place the following season and a subsequent exodus of players and staff have seen the club languishing at the foot of the A-League table in four of the last five seasons.

Six seasons without a finals appearance might not sound that bad but when 60% of participating teams qualify for the bulk of that time, it says a lot about the struggles of the Central Coast.

Oh and there was that time they gave Usain Bolt a trial as well.

MLS: Orlando City (Never Appeared)

Sticking with football, over in the MLS Orlando City SC are still waiting for their first MLS Cup appearance after beginning play in 2015.

It looks like things might be on the up for them this season though, making the finals of the MLS is Back preseason tournament in August and sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference at the time of writing.

With ex Manchester United winger Nani the marquee signing for the club, perhaps he’s turning things around.

MLB: Seattle Mariners (2001)

In 2001 the Seattle Mariners enjoyed a season for the ages, with a miraculous regular season record of 116-46, which was unsurprisingly good enough for the best record in the major leagues.

2002 was a bit less successful with just 93 wins for the Mariners, meaning they finished ten games out of the division lead and six games out of a Wild Card spot.

That began baseball’s longest active postseason drought with the Mariners missing the playoffs for the last 18 seasons.

Chances are they will be out of the mix again in 2020 sitting four games out of a Wild Card spot with a week to play at the time of writing.

They still have a few seasons to go to match the longest ever postseason drought which lasted 30 seasons for the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals franchise between 1981 and 2012.

NBA: Sacramento Kings (2006)

It has been 14 years since the Sacramento Kings were involved in the NBA Playoffs, which ended with a 4-2 series loss to the San Antonio Spurs, although it did have a few highlights for them.

They are now closing in on the LA Clippers mark for the longest NBA drought, which lasted 15 seasons from 1977 to 1991.

NFL: Cleveland Browns (2002)

If you are a fan of the Cleveland Browns (or know someone associated with the team), you know they have become synonymous with the definition of “suffering” with the team struggling for success since their 1999 rebirth.

What was once one of the NFL’s most successful franchise in their previous iteration, they made the playoffs once this millennium in 2002.

For the past 17 seasons the Browns have had a lot of last place finishes in their division including an 0-16 effort in 2017.

Cleveland’s last playoff win came in 1994 with Bill Belichick as the head coach (against the New England Patriots no less)

They are now approaching all time bad territory, with Washington and the Cardinals both suffering through 25 years away from the playoffs.

Not only was the drought lengthy for the Cardinals franchise, spanned two cities from 1948 when the team was playing in Chicago before moving to St Louis for the 1960 season before they finally made the playoffs in 1974.

They were in with a chance late last season… sort of anyway.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres (2011)

Buffalo sports fans have a tortured history which is probably why Bills fans are more known for jumping through tables instead of supporting their team.

The hockey side is in the middle of a rough patch, going nine seasons without participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and missing out on the extended field this year.

Should they miss out next season (whenever that is), they will join the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers for the longest ever playoff drought at 10 seasons.

The Oilers lost the 2006 Stanley Cup Final and did not return to the playoffs until 2017, while the Panthers 10 season run spanned 11 years from 2000 to 2012 due to the 2004/2005 season being cancelled.

At least the Sabres have won the draft lottery this decade?

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