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A team to stake your life on


WHICH team will stand up best to the intense physical and psychological pressure that goes with an AFL grand final? And which individuals will find that little bit extra required. Which champion will move into an even higher gear, or which lesser light will play the game of his life?

They're questions that will be answered tomorrow, and have been answered annually on this weekend, in a game that consistently makes, breaks or enshrines reputations for performance on the biggest of stages.

If you had to pick a grand final team of the post-1989 AFL era to play for your life, who'd make the cut and who'd miss out? I've had a crack, the result in some cases obvious, in a few more out of left field, but the bottom line is that any opposition side would have a hell of a time finding any weak spots.

Let's start with some automatic choices. Like Andrew McLeod, winner of two consecutive Norm Smith Medals in 1997-98, with a 31-disposal midfield effort against St Kilda, backed up by 30 more in the upset of North Melbourne the following year, pivotal to both Adelaide flags. And his teammate, Darren Jarman. Quiet for Hawthorn in the 1991 grand final, he sure made up for it with his second club - six goals, five of them in the match-winning final-quarter burst in 1997, five more, a couple of them again clutch efforts, in '98.

Two more walk-up starts have to be Brisbane pair Michael Voss and Nigel Lappin. Lions' skipper Voss was named one of Brisbane's best three in each of its hat-trick of flag wins from 2001-03, and might well have won the 2002 Norm Smith Medal with an absolutely commanding final 15 minutes had not the votes already been collected, that anomaly forcing a change in the voting procedure. Wingman Lappin similarly was in Brisbane's three winning grand finals with prolific ball-winning and run, then again in the 2004 play-off the Lions finally lost.

There's a few more Eagles besides Dean Kemp, who won the 1994 best-on-ground and had also been in the best in 1992; and spearhead Peter Sumich, who kicked five goals in the grand final West Coast lost in 1991, six in their ice-breaking flag success the following year, and a couple in the 1994 win.

Perhaps the biggest eyebrow-raiser in this side is yet another Sandgroper, too. Remember Tony Evans? The West Coast rover finished an eight-season and at times injury-afflicted career with only 108 games, but two of the very best just happened to be winning grand finals.

In 1992, it was Evans' ball-winning and a couple of critical goals just on half-time that got his side back into the contest against Geelong. He'd finish with three goals, as he did again two years later, along with a stack more possessions in a far easier win over the Cats.

You could argue similarly with Shane Ellen, an Adelaide spare-parts man who played the game of his life in 1997, finishing with five goals for the Crows.

Starting up forward, Ellen booted two early. Moved to half-back, he would surge forward to kick another three as Adelaide ran all over a tiring St Kilda. To that point, he'd managed just two in his entire career.

There's plenty of Geelong representation, of course, Norm Smith winners Paul Chapman and Steve Johnson, along with full-back Matthew Scarlett, he of the famous 2009 toe-poke to Gary Ablett, and three more solid grand final performances besides.

Ruck honours go to ''Mr September'', Brisbane's big man Clark Keating, a part of all three Brisbane flags, and a supreme centre-square presence in the last two, when in either season he played just a dozen games, easily the best in both cases being the last. There's some big names not in this 22. Chris Judd was a Norm Smith winner in one grand final, and solid in the other, but ultimately was just shaded. Ditto Nathan Buckley, while James Hird only scrapes onto the bench in spite of a poor 2001 grand final. He was saved by a solid effort as a ''Baby Bomber'' in 1993 and a dominant, Norm Smith-winning performance in 2000 with 29 disposals and two goals.

Of course, they'd all be in a best-qualified grand final team. But this is a best-performed 22 of grand final greats. And Hawthorn and Sydney would love any of them, given what they did on the biggest of stages.


  • Wayne carey at CHF? Yes a champion of his generation, and one of the best ever to play the game. But played well below his best in both 1996 and 1999, and to be honest was embarrassingly woeful in 1998. Wasn't even close to getting a Norm Smith in 96. I would have thought that Kernahan with 7 goals in 93 and I think about 5 goals in 95 was more appropriate. Jonathan Brown didn't do much in the Lions 3 flags, but still did more than Carey.

    Date and time
    September 28, 2012, 10:58AM
    • I agree Moods. Also note Rohan's bias. Both Collingwood and Hawthorn have won 2 AFL flags and no players from either team have been included. Just so happens that Rohan supports Essendon whose three biggest rivals are Collingwood, Hawthorn and Carlton (he couldn't really ignore Kernahan after 1993/1995 but I'm sure he was reluctant). These teams are always flawed by bias just look at the AFL's team of the century. Collingwood at the time had played in the most finals and grand finals and they couldn't fit in one player? Collingwood's Jock McHale won 8 flags from 17 grand finals in 38 years and he wasn't coach of the century?

      Date and time
      September 28, 2012, 11:51AM
    • Moods, check your records. Carey was unanimous as either second or third best on ground in the 1996 GF, turned the 1999 GF with a huge third quarter and (inaccuracy aside) was hardly shabby in 1998, either. Greg, are you serious? Yes, of course, it was all an elaborate conspiracy to exclude Collingwood and Hawthorn players. I actually selected the team from a grassy knoll, too!

      Rohan Connolly
      Date and time
      September 28, 2012, 2:26PM
  • So I guess jimmy bartel hasn't played in any grand finals...

    Date and time
    September 28, 2012, 11:20AM
    • Rohan, normally a big fan of your work. But if we are just judging by the performance in a GF wouldnt we go for every Normsmith winner? Also every grandfinal is different so producing a team over 2 decades of performances with the change of tactics doesnt do these players justice.. I mean find me a coach who would willing walk out for a GF without Gary Ablett snr (or one that would take sumich over Gary ablett).. No Judd? No Buckley? Im glad this isnt another article about Travis Cloke and signing with Collingwood and definitely worth the read :)

      Not Sold
      Date and time
      September 28, 2012, 11:24AM
      • G Ablett did Sweet Fanny Adams in the era under review

        Date and time
        September 28, 2012, 3:06PM
    • How did you come up with this team? How can you not have Tony Shaw in it when he virtually willed Collingwood to a flag in 1990? No Lenny Hayes after his 2010 drawn GF almost won the Saints the flag? Either of these players would have been more valuable that Tony Evans (who?). Why so may Brisbane players? Yes they won three flags but there weren't many challengers in that era.

      Date and time
      September 28, 2012, 11:42AM
      • Luke Hodge's game in 08 was better than Hart's 2 combined, n the same position. No Collingwood players, despite them appearing in 6 grand finals in the allotted time period? And surely Hird played 1 good game out of 3, with '01 cancelling 00?

        Paul Dear
        Date and time
        September 28, 2012, 12:52PM
        • Simon Black would have to be 1st rover in this side Rohan. Blacks 2003 grandfinal was the best individual effort in an AFL/VFL grand final ever. Over 40 touches, all qualiy at that. Black for whatever reason, never gets the praise he should by most. I'm not biased as i'm a Tiger, but Wayne Carey and Simon Black are the two best players i've seen in 44 years,although Little Gazza is not far from joining them

          willowgrove sth
          Date and time
          September 28, 2012, 1:09PM
          • Moods you foolm Carey was fantastic in the 96 granny and had he kicked straight in 98, he would have won the flag for North. If ya gonna comment Moods, know what your'e talking about mate..

            willowgrove sth
            Date and time
            September 28, 2012, 1:14PM

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            AFL 2015

            Round 1
            Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
            CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
            Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
            MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
            SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
            BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
            WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
            Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
            STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
            ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
            FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
            Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
            HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 2
            Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
            WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
            Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
            RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
            GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
            COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
            GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
            PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
            Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
            GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
            ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
            NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 3
            Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
            COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
            Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
            CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
            ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
            SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
            NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
            BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
            Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
            HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
            GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
            WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 4
            Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
            RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
            Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
            STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
            ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
            GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
            PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
            FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
            Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
            BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
            GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
            WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 5
            Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
            CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
            Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
            RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
            SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
            GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
            NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
            WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
            Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
            MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
            STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
            ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 6
            Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
            COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
            Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
            NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
            WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
            GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
            GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
            MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
            FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
            Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
            CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
            PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 7
            Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
            ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
            Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
            ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
            HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
            CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
            SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
            WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
            Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
            WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
            RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
            BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 8
            Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
            GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
            Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
            STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
            GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
            GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
            HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
            FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
            Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
            ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
            MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
            PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 9
            Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
            SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
            Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
            HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
            MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
            WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
            RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
            ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
            Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
            BRI vs STK 13:10G
            COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
            WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
            View All Fixtures
            Round 10
            Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
            FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
            Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
            CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
            GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
            ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
            PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
            Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
            GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
            NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
            STK vs HAW 16:40ES
            Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
            MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
            View All Fixtures
            Round 11
            Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
            PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
            Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
            GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
            WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
            NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
            Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
            COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
            STK vs MEL 16:40ES
            View All Fixtures
            Round 12
            Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
            ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
            Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
            RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
            Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
            CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
            GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
            WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
            Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
            GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
            View All Fixtures
            Round 13
            Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
            FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
            Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
            SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
            Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
            HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
            BRI vs ADE 16:35G
            STK vs WBU 19:20ES
            Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
            CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
            View All Fixtures
            Round 14
            Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
            SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
            Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
            COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
            Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
            RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
            GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
            WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
            MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
            Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
            ESS vs STK 13:10ES
            ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
            FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
            View All Fixtures
            Round 15
            Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
            PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
            Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
            RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
            Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
            ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
            WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
            NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
            WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
            Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
            GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
            HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
            BRI vs SYD 16:40G
            View All Fixtures
            Round 16
            Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
            NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
            Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
            GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
            GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
            COL vs WCE 16:35ES
            SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
            FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
            Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
            MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
            PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
            STK vs RIC 16:40ES
            View All Fixtures
            Round 17
            Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
            CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
            Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
            GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
            ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
            RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
            ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
            BRI vs NTH 19:20G
            Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
            WBU vs COL 13:10ES
            MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
            WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
            View All Fixtures
            Round 18
            Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
            HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
            Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
            GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
            COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
            SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
            CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
            GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
            Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
            PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
            ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
            FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
            View All Fixtures
            Round 19
            Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
            ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
            Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
            COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
            WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
            BRI vs GCF 16:35G
            GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
            WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
            Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
            MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
            GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
            STK vs FRE 16:40ES
            View All Fixtures
            Round 20
            Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
            SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
            Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
            ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
            NTH vs STK 14:10BA
            PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
            GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
            BRI vs CAR 19:20G
            Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
            RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
            WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
            FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
            View All Fixtures
            Round 21
            Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
            HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
            Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
            COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
            GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
            GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
            STK vs GEE 19:20ES
            ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
            Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
            NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
            CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
            WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
            View All Fixtures
            Round 22
            Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
            GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
            Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
            GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
            HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
            NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
            ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
            GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
            Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
            ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
            STK vs SYD 15:20ES
            FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
            View All Fixtures
            Round 23
            Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
            COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
            RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
            HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
            GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
            SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
            MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
            BRI vs WBU 00:00G
            PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
            WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
            View All Fixtures
            AFL 2015
            Overall standings
            Team P W L D % Pts
            Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
            West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
            Sydney Swans 8 6 2 0 127.36 24
            GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
            Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
            Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
            Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
            Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
            View all
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