Any game of football can turn or be decided on a single moment, a goal, a mark, a smother, a tackle. And when that moment comes in a grand final, it ensures a lasting place in history for the player involved.
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Grand finals are tight and tough affairs between two generally evenly-matched teams. It's in that pressure cooker environment that an act of individual brilliance can shape the entire narrative of the match.
The modern grand final era has been chock-full of moments to be replayed over and over again in this biggest week on the football calendar.
And here, after much deliberation, is what I consider the 10 greatest moments of grand final history.
1. Alex Jesaulenko (Carlton v Collingwood, 1970)
"McKay, to the wing position on the Members' Stand side … Ohh, Jesaulenko, you beauty!" It's quite possibly the single most famous moment, and certainly piece of commentary, in football history. It's the second quarter of the 1970 grand final between Carlton and Collingwood, and Magpie ruckman Graeme "Jerker" Jenkin is preparing to mark. Suddenly, he is thrown off balance as high-flying Carlton star Alex Jesaulenko perches on his left shoulder with his right knee to take one of the game's greatest marks. Carlton trailed the Pies badly when "Jezza" took his grab. Their eventual win is also the game's most famous comeback.
You beauty: Alex Jesaulenko takes his famous grab. Photo: Dennis Bull
2. Barry Breen (St Kilda v Collingwood, 1966)
"This is madness! They're all on the ball," exclaimed Channel Seven commentator Alan "Butch" Gale as, with Collingwood and St Kilda tied 27-and-a-half minutes into the final quarter of the 1966 grand final, umpire Jeff Crouch called for a ball-up 30 metres from the Saints' goal. It was Collingwood's Ted Potter who got hands to the spoils first, but his handball fell into the arms of 18-year-old Saint Barry Breen, playing his 25th game. Breen's hurried kick bounced awkwardly through for a behind, enough to earn St Kilda their first premiership, and Breen a lasting place in history having booted the game's most famous mongrel punt.
St Kilda's Barry Breen kicking the famous point in 1966. Photo: Dean Sewell
3. Leo Barry (Sydney v West Coast, 2005)
In a dour, low-scoring affair, the Swans were on the verge of their first premiership for 72 years in the dying moments of the 2005 grand final. With more than 32-and-a-half minutes played, Sydney's Leo Barry had the ball in the back-pocket and kicked to the member's side wing. But West Coast had one shot left in the locker. Ruckman Dean Cox marked and pumped the ball into the teeth of goal, 25 metres out. Up to eight players converged simultaneously on the high ball. Enter Barry once more, drifting in from the side of the pack amid the chaos to take what is probably now the most famous game-saving mark in football history.
You star: Leo Barry takes a game-saving mark. Photo: Getty Images
4. Leon Baker (Essendon v Hawthorn, 1984)
Leon Baker had already kicked three goals as Essendon, trailing Hawthorn all day, made a last-quarter charge at a premiership. With the Bombers just five points down at the eight-minute mark, Baker charged on to a high, bouncing kick from Darren Williams. As his opponent Gary Ayres stumbled and fell, Baker reached out and took possession, blind-turned around Hawk full-back David O'Halloran and slammed through a goal from 25 metres out. Baker had four goals, Essendon had hit the front for the first time, and the Bombers would go on to win their first flag for 19 years.
5. Phil Manassa (Collingwood v North Melbourne, 1977 replay)
Collingwood trailed by 25 points in the last term of the 1977 grand final replay against North Melbourne, when Phil Manassa swooped on a loose ball on the half-back line. He set off on the longest of grand final runs, flying past his first opponent and taking a bounce, then a second as he sped by two more. He took a third just before feigning a handball and balking around a fourth defender, bounced for a fourth time, then 45 metres out and still at full tilt, unleashed a drop punt which split the middle. Collingwood still lost the game, but Manassa had kicked arguably the goal of the century.
Phil Manassa in action in the 1977 grand final replay.
6. Wayne Harmes (Carlton v Collingwood, 1979)
Was it in or out? Wayne Harmes' tap from the boundary line (or beyond it if you're a Magpie fan) well into time-on of the last quarter of the 1979 grand final between Carlton and Collingwood remains grand final history's most spirited debate. What can't be disputed is Harmes' effort in chasing his own skewiff kick from the half-forward line which appeared to be heading out of bounds before his full length dive and knock of the ball into the goalsquare, where grateful teammate Ken Sheldon was left with the simplest of tap-ins. The Blues' 10-point lead was enough to absorb a late response from the Pies, heartbroken again in the big one.
In or out? Wayne Harmes tapped the ball to Ken Sheldon in the 1979 grand final.
7. Nick Malceski (Sydney v Hawthorn, 2012)
Just 50 seconds of the 2012 grand final remained when, with the Swans leading by only four points against Hawthorn. A ball-up took place in Sydney's forward pocket, running defender Nick Malceski having crept down the ground from half-back. It was Dan Hannebery who, responding to Malceski's call, flicked him the shortest of handballs. The bearded backman threw the ball quickly on to his left boot and snapped over his right shoulder. It floated, up and up, seeming to hang in the air forever, but eventually, landing just over the goal line. And with just 34 seconds left to play, Sydney were premiers.
Nick Malceski and the Swans celebrate the sealer. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
8. Ross "Twiggy" Dunne (Collingwood v North Melbourne 1977)
Collingwood appeared to have squandered another premiership chance when they blew a 27-point three-quarter time lead to trail North Melbourne by six points deep into time-on in the 1977 grand final. With the siren set to sound, Magpie Billy Picken roosted the ball to the top of the goalsquare. Teammate Peter Moore and North Melbourne opponents Brent Crosswell and Frank Gumbleton all flew. But at the front of the pack, buried in the crush, Collingwood's veteran Ross "Twiggy" Dunne had taken the grab. Cool as a cucumber, he converted. And seconds after the restart, we had league football's second grand final draw.
Ross Dunne takes a mark before levelling scores in 1977.
9. Heath Shaw (Collingwood v St Kilda, 2010 replay)
Collingwood held a 14-point lead and had kept St Kilda scoreless late in the first quarter of the 2010 grand final replay. But finally, the Saints were about to get on the board, as Adam Schneider chipped a pass to an unattended Nick Riewoldt in the goalsquare. The St Kilda skipper, sensing no danger, turned and prepared to tap home the simplest of goals. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, flew Magpie defender Heath Shaw. As Riewoldt went to slam the ball high into the second tier of the Southern Stand, Shaw dived across his boot to execute the smother of the century. And that might have been game, set and match to the Pies right there.
Heath Shaw smothers Nick Riewoldt's kick in the 2010 grand final. Photo: Mal Fairclough
10. Ray Gabelich (Collingwood v Melbourne, 1964)
Collingwood skipper Ray Gabelich had already provided a highlight in the last quarter of the 1964 grand final against Melbourne when he plucked the ball from a throw-in and snapped a brilliant goal. But with 21 minutes gone, he surpassed it. Somehow unmarked 60 metres from goal, the 17-stone ruckman began a lumbering dash, taking several bounces and each time nearly losing the ball. Finally, exhausted, he slammed it through to put the Pies in front. Sadly for Collingwood, it still wasn't enough, Melbourne back-pocket Neil Crompton drifting downfield to snap truly and win the Demons another flag.
Ray Gabelich leads the Collingwood team onto the ground in the 1964 grand final.