Around the States: VFL flashback games

Oliver Hanrahan's goal in the 2018 elimination final is one of the greatest VFL finals moments of all time. (Picture: boxhillhawks.com.au)

With the cancellation of all VFL and VFLW matches over the weekend, we’re taking a look back in history instead.

Take a trip through memory lane as The Inner Sanctum revisits some of the best matches between every VFL side that was supposed to play last weekend.

Read our VFLW flashback piece here.

Frankston vs Richmond

After the restructuring of the AFL reserves competition at the end of the 1999 season, these two sides were only in the same VFL competition for one season.

The Tigers pulled their standalone side out of the competition after 2000, forming an affiliation with Coburg before making their standalone return in 2014.

When the Dolphins and the Tigers met in 2000, the match was a draw, both sides finishing on 85 points.

Meeting again after a 14-year gap, the round four 2014 clash also ended in a draw, both sides locked on 99 apiece when the final siren sounded.

Richmond held leads of over 40 points in both matches, Frankston goalless at half time in the clash in 2000 before storming home with 12 goals to the Tigers three.

These two games could not be any scarily familiar, the Dolphins once again dominating in the second half and kicking 11 goals to four.

Multiple players kicked bags of three in the 2014 draw, including Tyrone Vickery, Liam McBean and Ryan Bathie (who’d just moved to the club from Geelong) for the Tigers, as did Michael Lourey for the Dolphins. Lourey most recently played for West Perth in the WAFL last year, kicking 13 goals in 11 games.

Ruckman Russ Gabriel was considered one of the best on ground after a strong second half performance, leading the Frankston charge.

Also playing just his fourth game was an 18-year-old now Bulldog Ben Cavarra, well on his way to winning the Dolphins best and fairest in his first year.

Brisbane vs GWS Giants

Brisbane and GWS met twice in the 2017 NEAFL season for a combined margin of six points.

This was in spite of the fact that the Giants finished dead last, only winning two games, while the Lions were eventual premiers.

The first of the two clashes saw the Giants take the quarter time lead, before the Lions wrestled it back by the main break and never let it go.

GWS never gave up though, and nearly broke through for a victory before going down in a heart-breaking one point loss.

Oscar McInerney was still searching for a debut, but was undoubtedly one of the best on ground on the day, dominant in the ruck and kicking a goal.

A week after his 19th birthday, Zach Sproule kicked himself a pair of goals for the Giants while Rhys Pollock netted a bag of five.

A young Zach Sproule playing in the NEAFL. (Picture: gwsgiants.com.au)

The second match was somehow even more heart-breaking, the Giants giving up a 14 point three quarter time lead, falling at the final hurdle.

Sproule kicked another three goals, finishing on 28 for the season, while familiar names for Giants fans including Lachie Tiziani (three goals) and Kieren Briggs (two) also impacted the scoreboard.

The Big O was vital once again, this time up forward, kicking three goals while Matt Eagles put on a defensive masterclass.

North Melbourne vs Coburg

North Melbourne and Coburg have only been in the same competition since 2018, but put on a high scoring, nail-biting affair at Coburg City Oval in Round 16, 2019.

The Roos had only won three games coming into this match, and the Lions only two. What could have been a low-scoring, miserable slog ended up in both sides cracking 100 points in a thriller.

The first term was a complete Lions onslaught, the home side kicking nine goals to the Roos’ one, and leading by 52 points at the quarter time break.

North would then return fire, kicking eight goals of its own in the second quarter and bringing the margin to a single goal at half time.

The second half was a back and forth tussle, and even though Coburg held a 17 point margin at three quarter time, North wasn’t giving up.

With just five seconds left on the clock, 19-year-old mid/forward Lewin Davis crumbed an air ball off a pack of players and put North Melbourne up by three points, clinching the game and giving his side their fourth win of a challenging season.

Davis entered the VFL from the Bendigo Pioneers, playing a few games for Essendon as a 17-year-old before making his way to North Melbourne. Davis now plays for Eaglehawk in the Bendigo Football-Netball League.

Some of the strong performers for Coburg included Mitchell Podhajski (four goals, 19 disposals, five marks) and Lochlan Dickson (30 disposals, six marks, one goal).

For North Melbourne, a young Luke Davies-Uniacke (25 disposals, four tackles, one goal) earned a senior recall for the following weeks game against Sydney after he was dropped two weeks prior.

Werribee vs Sandringham

The Tigers and the Zebras met twice in the 1992, doing battle as two of the top teams in the competition.

Sandringham claimed first blood, the side featuring North Melbourne’s eight-gamer Andrew Krakouer, the younger brother of Jim and Phil and uncle of Collingwood’s Andrew. The 31 point win set the stage for Werribee’s revenge.

A finals spot was on the line for Werribee, Box Hill and Port Melbourne threatening to knock it out of contention, while Sandringham had already solidified its position on top of the table.

The desperate Tigers would pull off a historic win to lock themselves in the finals, getting over the line by just four points after trailing by three points at three quarter time and 17 points at half time.

Werribee would go on to lose the elimination final to Box Hill, while Sandringham rebounded strongly, defeating Prahran in the semi final and Williamstown in the grand final in convincing 28 and 44 point victories to earn its fourth VFA flag.

The 1992 finals were the spark Werribee needed, going on to win its first and only VFA/VFL flag in the 1993 season.

Gold Coast Suns vs Aspley

Round 21, 2016.

The Gold Coast Suns NEAFL side hasn’t made finals for four years, and after a disappointing year for the AFL side, they needed to regain their pride.

Southport was threatening to take the Suns’ spot. A win was all that mattered.

Aspley sit comfortably in the top six, having already qualified for finals. However, win, and a top two finish for the season is on the cards.

The Suns started well, taking a three point lead at quarter time which they extended to a 19 point lead at half time. The dream was alive.

Entering the premiership quarter, the game came to life.

The Suns fired off seven goals while the Hornets responded with six of their own. What had been looking like a slow and steady Gold Coast victory became a shoot-out.

Charging home, Aspley kicked the first goal of the last before youngster Nick Kempe steadied the ship for Gold Coast.

After a grind of a quarter, the Hornets cut the marking all the way back to just four points, but the Suns held on.

A finals spot was theirs.

Zak Saad kicked four, while former Hawk Mitch Hallahan collected an outrageous 35 disposals while kicking four of his own.

What made this even more impressive was the circumstances in which the Suns got to this point, using a total of 79 players across the season. 20 of these players only played a single game.

Southport vs Northern Bullants

The round seven clash between the Sharks and the Bullants was supposed to be the first ever between the two sides, being in the same competition for the first time this year.

Both teams could have potentially met in the short-lived Foxtel Cup, which ran between 2011 and 2014.

The Cup featured the best state league teams of each year going head to head in a knock-out format.

The Bullants qualified in 2011, dominating Greater Western Sydney in their first match before being eliminated by WA’s Claremont. Southport qualified in 2013, defeating Tasmanian side Burnie before also being knocked out by Claremont.

Box Hill vs Port Melbourne

The Box Hill Hawks’ run to the 2018 Grand Final is one written in VFL history, and it all began in the elimination final against Port Melbourne.

After a hotly contested first quarter at North Port Oval, the Hawks pulled away in the second. Brendan Whitecross, Jackson Ross and Dylan Moore combined for three goals straight after early wasted opportunities inside 50, the Hawks now out to a five goal lead at half time.

The third quarter Borough assault was relentless, Damian Mascitti piling on two of his four goals for the game to keep his side in the balance, just a goal down at the final change.

While the Hawks started the final quarter strongly, a five-minute scoring blitz from the Borough, including Jordan Lisle drawing scores level and Mascitti putting them in front with two minutes to play, spelled doom and gloom.

Enter.

Oliver.

Hanrahan.

15 seconds on the clock and the Hawks take possession in their defensive 50.

Dallas Willsmore clears it long into the Box Hill forward line, the ball spills off Tim O’Brien’s hands and it’s a free for all at ground level.

A quick soccer off the ground ends up bouncing in Hanrahan’s favour, and he slots it from 15 metres out to level scores right on the siren.

Box Hill would go onto win in extra final, and winning the semi final over Geelong and the preliminary over Williamstown (by a point) before finishing off Casey in one of the most remarkable VFL finals runs ever.

Collingwood vs Geelong

Collingwood and Geelong met four times in the 1980 VFL reserves season, trading fierce and fiery battles back and forth on the road to the grand final.

Their first meeting came in round nine at Victoria Park, both sides having lost just one game each coming into the game. Collingwood would emerge victorious at home, claiming a 22-point victory to sit atop the ladder.

The second meeting was just three games out from finals, both sides jostling to rise up the top five. The home crowd at Kardinia Park was kind to the Cats as they cruised to 72 point victory.

Meeting again in the qualifying final, Collingwood got the job done by 19 points at Lakeside Oval, setting up a curtain-raiser preliminary final to echo the 1980 VFL prelim, also contested between the two sides.

While the seniors match was a thriller, Geelong once again demolished Collingwood at VFL Park, this time to the tune of 83 points. They would go on to win the grand final against South Melbourne, the first of the 80/81/82 three-peat.

This propelled Geelong to the top of the reserves premiership tally ahead of Melbourne, with 13 flags after the 1982 win over St Kilda.

Sydney vs Carlton

The 1996 reserves semi final between Sydney and Carlton was a strong finale to a series of cracking back-and-forth games between the two sides.

Round eight 1995 saw Carlton get over the line by nine points in a high scoring shoot-out, before Sydney extracted its revenge in round 21 with a 69 point thrashing.

Carlton would once again strike first blood in 1996, before Sydney had the last laugh in the semi final, pipping the Blues at Princes Park by 42 points.

Blues forward Brent Heaver would kick two goals in his last ever appearance in navy blue before being traded to Port Adelaide to play in its inaugural AFL team.

The Swans would go on to lose the preliminary final to their bugbear North Melbourne, who also defeated them in the elimination final the following year.

Footscray vs Casey

These two sides squared off in the 2016 VFL Grand Final, as the Dogs mirrored their AFL counterparts and charged full steam to a flag.

They met earlier in the season, Footscray getting over the line by one point after keeping the Scorpions goalless in the final team and coming back from a 30 point margin.

Bailey Dale (four goals) and Tim Smith (three goals) starred up forward, while Alex Neal-Bullen was named best on the ground for Casey.

With the Dogs missing a lot of AFL depth players through injury coming into the VFL finals, Casey put on a 70-point demolition show at Casey Fields, pulling away after half-time as Angus Scott (four goals) and Sam Weideman (three goals) piled on goals.

The grand final rematch proved why the third quarter is truly the premiership quarter, the Bulldogs kicking eight goals straight on their way to winning both the VFL and AFL flags in the same year.

Lin Jong, playing through the pain of a broken collarbone sustained two weeks prior, gathered a remarkable 29 disposals, nine marks and six inside 50s. His performance was judged best afield, and he was awarded the Norm Goss Medal.

Still in his first year of AFL football, Clayton Oliver was best on ground for Casey with 31 disposals, seven clearances and six tackles.

Williamstown vs Essendon

Essendon had already blown a chance to advance to the 2019 preliminary final in the first week of the finals series, losing by just two points to eventual premiers Richmond.

Williamstown, meanwhile, were well-rested and ready to dismantle any opposition put before them. Nick Ebinger and Joel Ottavi had been looking dangerous up forward, while midfielder Mitch Hibberd was in career best form and had a point to prove after being delisted by North Melbourne.

The Gulls took advantage of the Bombers early inaccuracy in front of goal, kicking five goals straight through Ottavi, Ebinger, Jake Greiser and Will Wheeler.

Williamstown’s run was eventually broken by Jordan Houhalan halfway into the second term, the two sides trading goals until the main break. Brayden Ham helped to swing the momentum back into the Bombers’ favour with two crucial goals of his own.

Essendon was left to rue it’s slow start, as the Williamstown class and experience proved too strong. The Gulls took a 31 point lead into three quarter time, running out eventual 24 point winners.

Ottavi and Ebinger kicked seven between them, while Billy Myers added an extra four.

It was an emotional end to the season for the VFL Bombers, as the defeated side chaired off the four retirees in Mark Baguley, Matthew Dea, David Myers and Heath Hocking.


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About Alex Catalano 129 Articles
Alex is a studying journalist from Melbourne with an obsession for all things Aussie rules. From the elite level to the local leagues, you can find him either attending, writing or speaking about the sport seven days a week. Alex also writes about football, basketball and esports. You can hear him on the Sanctum's own AFL podcast, The Checkside.

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