AFL Grand Final Hard Luck Stories


There is nothing like the lead up to the AFL Grand Final with the anticipation and excitement hitting fever pitch throughout the week.

Any player with a niggling injury will be scrutinized continuously right up until the bounce and team selection will be spotlighted like never before with media personalities coming out of the woodwork to have their say.

Hard decisions will need to be made and yet no matter who eventually lines up on that last day in September, there will always be someone that misses out.

We’ve put together a list of the worst AFL Grand Final Hard Luck Stories in recent memory.

Nathan Jones (Melbourne 2021)

The Melbourne Demons will look to break the longest premiership drought in AFL Football when they contest the Grand Final this coming weekend.

But their 302 game stalwart Nathan Jones will not get a premiership medal should his beloved Demons get the job done.

He’s played the second most games for the oldest club in the competition behind David Neitz.

The 33-year-old has played seven games during the 2021 season and has been very close to selection during the Demons finals campaign but after accepting his fate of being left out of the team he decided to go back to Melbourne to see the birth of his twins and enjoy the game from home.

Truly heart breaking stuff.

Bob Murphy (Western Bulldogs 2016)

The story is similar to Jones in that Bob Murphy was a much beloved and respected servant of his football club who had dedicated his professional life to his football club.

He went through Preliminary Final heart break in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and played a total of 312 games for the Western Bulldogs spanning 18 seasons.

He became the skipper in 2015 and was named the AFLPA captain of the year that same year but in Round 3 of 2016 he went down with a season ending knee injury.

The most loved player in the game ultimately missed out on his side’s drought breaking premiership later that year and the hearts of the collective football world were broken.

Derek Kickett (Essendon 1993)

Derek Kickett is related to Buddy Franklin (nephew), Byron Pickett (nephew) and Nicky Winmar (cousin) and played 164 AFL games during his career.

In 1993, when the Baby Bombers did the unthinkable and won the AFL Premiership, Derrick Pickett played every game of the season up until the Grand Final where Kevin Sheedy dropped him for the game.

Despite Kickett being a pivotal part of the Bomber’s success that year, including kicking eight goals in round 20, Sheedy sighted his endurance as a glaring weakness against Carlton.

Sheedy went with Dean Wallis who had 10 disposals and a goal.

Kickett immediately walked out on Essendon and did not watch the Grand Final or celebrate with teammates.

His last game was with Sydney in 1996, losing the Grand Final to North Melbourne.

Leon Davis (Collingwood 2010)

An All Australian in 2009 and 2011, Neon Leon played every game of the 2010 season until missing the Preliminary Final due to injury.

He gathered just six touches in the drawn Grand Final against St Kilda and was dropped for the replay.

Davis had a poor record in Grand Finals up until that point.

He did not touch the ball in 2002 and had just 10 disposals and a goal the following year in the Pies losses to the Brisbane Lions.

Mick Malthouse went with Tyson Goldsack for the 2010 replay who had four marks and four kicks.

This story ends well however.

Leon Davis became the first non-player to receive a Premiership medal under new AFL rules.

Jason McCartney (North Melbourne 1999)

Jason McCartney was at Adelaide in 1997 when the Crows won their inaugural premiership but missed the Grand Final team.

He then moved to North Melbourne in 1998 where he played in their losing Grand Final to his old club.

Then in the 1999 Preliminary Final against Brisbane, when North Melbourne had an insurmountable lead in the final quarter, he struck Clark Keating with an errant forearm in the face.

He was suspended for two matches and missed the Grand Final that North won against Carlton.

Mark Blake (Geelong 2007)

Mark Blake played 22 games during the 2007 AFL season but he had just four disposals and 12 hit outs in the Cats Preliminary Final against Collingwood.

He was replaced in the side by former Geelong captain Steven King and watched from the stands as the Cats won their first flag since 1963.

The disappointment drove Blake to form a formidable ruck partnership with Brad Ottens in the following years and he secured a premiership medal in 2009 when the Cats beat the Saints.

He was dropped after a round 15 loss to Brisbane in 2009 however and didn’t return until round 20.

Talking about Steven King (who went to St Kilda after 2007) after his success in the 2009 Grand Final Blake said “I copped a few text messages after last year’s grand final from his brother, so it was good to stick it up his arse.”

He retired at just 26 years of age and 99 AFL games in 2011.

Simon Prestigiacomo (Collingwood 2010)

Collingwood defender Simon Prestigiacomo was a man of very few words and was an important but unassuming part of Collingwood’s backline for more than a decade.

He played 200 AFL games for the black and white and had arguably his best season in 2009 when named in the 40 man All Australian squad.

A part of the Pies losing Grand Final teams in 2002 and 2003 against the Brisbane Lions, he played 13 games during 2010 battling an injury late in the year.

By all reports the full back was well enough to be in consideration for the drawn Grand Final but voluntarily ruled himself out a day out from the big game with a sore groin.

Nathan Brown came into the side and kept Nick Reiwoldt to just two goals in the drawn Grand Final and goalless in the replay.

Chris Scott (Brisbane 2003)

He’d already won back to back flags with the Brisbane Lions but It is hard no to feel a little for Chris Scott prior to the 2003 AFL Grand Final.

Nigel Lappin was nursing broken ribs but coach Leigh Matthews was adamant in giving his star midfielder every opportunity to play in the Grand Final in 2003.

Chris Scott, who was the first emergency, was all kitted up and ready to replace Lappin should he not get up.

He did and Scott missed out on the three peat.

Nigel Lappin played the Grand Final with broken ribs and a punctured lung but managed to gather 19 disposals (13 kicks), 15 of them uncontested.