With the 2017 AFL Finals Series beginning this weekend, we have looked back into the vault and ranked the top 10 Qualifying Finals since the turn of the century.
1. 2016, MCG – Geelong 12.13 (85) d. Hawthorn 12.11 (83)
We don't have to go back too far to remember the best qualifying final of the 21st century. The Hawks were gunning for a record equalling fourth-straight flag when they kicked off their finals campaign against arch-rival Geelong.
The game see-sawed all night until the ball landed in the hands of Hawk Isaac Smith with the Cats hanging on to a three point lead. The siren sounded, leaving Smith with a shot from 40m on a slight angle.
He made good contact, but the ball drifted to the right and Geelong hung on.
2. 2005, Football Park – St Kilda 10.5 (65) d. Adelaide 8.9 (57)
Missing a host of key players and facing a trip to the cauldron that was Football Park to face minor premiers Adelaide, not many gave St Kilda a chance.
But thanks in part to a virtuoso performance from a 34-year-old Robert Harvey – who racked up 31 possessions and kicked three vital goals – the gritty Saints prevailed by eight points in a classic.
3. 2006, Subiaco – Sydney 13.7 (85) d. West Coast 12.12 (84)
It seems almost unfair to separate all the Sydney and West Coast classics in the mid-2000s, but their 2006 meeting at Subiaco one of the most memorable.
The lasting image of Michael O’Loughlin running into an open goal to win the game and screaming in the face of disgruntled Eagle fans will live in football museums forever. Barry Hall’s five-goal haul and Chris Judd’s masterful 34 disposals were the standout performances.
4. 2005, Subiaco – West Coast 10.9 (69) d. Sydney 10.5 (65)
There was no stopping the Eagles’ superstar midfielders on this night, as Chris Judd’s 30 disposals and Ben Cousins’ 29 were the linchpins to a famous West Coast victory.
Ashley Sampi’s late major secured the win, as a late comeback from West Coast underpinned the win. Sydney led by 14-points heading into the final term, but couldn’t withstand the late Eagles charge.
5. 2000, MCG – Melbourne 15.6 (96) d. Carlton 12.15 (87)
21 points down at three-quarter-time against a powerful Carlton outfit, Melbourne staged a remarkable fourth term fightback spearheaded by a pair of first-year players in Brad Green and Cameron Bruce.
Green booted three goals in the final quarter, while Bruce added another as the Demons came from the clouds to record a famous win and catipult them into the preliminary final.
6. 2002, Football Park – Collingwood 16.12 (108) d. Port Adelaide 14.11 (95)
If there is one play that can define a football match, Ben Johnson’s heroic tackle on Peter Burgoyne in the goal square is the one for Collingwood’s victory over Port Adelaide in 2002.
With the Power surging, Burgoyne marked at the top of the goal square. All he had to do was go back and nail a certain major to pull Port within seven-points with 12 minutes to go. Instead, Burgoyne decided to play on, Johnson hanging onto him for dear life, which forced the miss and the Shane Wakelin clearance. Paul Licuria’s 40-disposal master class allowed the Magpies to overcome the absent Nathan Buckley.
7. 2013, Kardinia Park – Fremantle 12.15 (87) d. Geelong 9.18 (72)
It’s football’s most daunting task, Geelong in Geelong, but Fremantle were able to conquer it on the biggest stage.
It was always going to be a strange day when Zac Dawson was reported before the first bounce, but that was about where the bad news ended for the Dockers. Matthew Pavlich’s late defensive spoil and Stephen Hill’s running goal down the wing to kick the game-sealing major will go down as two of Freo’s finest memories.
8. 2003, Football Park – Sydney 15.10 (100) d. Port Adelaide 13.10 (88)
This one will go down as one of the greatest triumphs in Swans history.
After jumping the Power on their home deck, leading by 40-points at half time, Sydney had to withstand a dramatic second half comeback from the Eagles.
In the end, six goals from Barry Hall helped the Swans over the line.
9. 2010, MCG – St Kilda 12.11 (83) d. Geelong 11.13 (79)
In a rematch of the epic 2009 Grand Final, Geelong entered the game as warm favorites despite having been comfortably beaten in the previous match-up earlier in the year.
St Kilda made all the running thanks to the efforts of Nick Dal Santo (29 possessions), Nick Riewoldt and Stephen Milne (both three goals), but it was a controversial disallowed Cameron Ling goal that would have put the Cats in front that the game will be remembered for.
10. 2007, Football Park – Port Adelaide 9.14 (68) d. West Coast 9.11 (65)
In a low-scoring slog, Port Adelaide had to come from behind at each break to eventually reel in West Coast in front of 37,000 screaming fans at Football Park.
Peter Burgoyne was the star on the night for the Power with 29 possessions, but the story was Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams, who rushed off straight after the game finished as his wife had gone into labour during the match.