The opening weekend of the 2017 AFL Finals series is in the book, leaving us to look ahead to this weekend's action. We have gone back into the vault and ranked the top 10 Semi Finals since the turn of the century.
1. 2002, MCG – Adelaide 20.10 (130) d. Melbourne 17.16 (118)
In terms of pure football – and not to mention a touch of controversy – this was nearly as good as it gets in a final.
Adelaide had been forced to play the game at the MCG – instead of Football Park – due to contractual obligations, despite finishing the home and away season third on the ladder, while Melbourne had finished sixth.
The Crows started like they had a chip on their shoulder, booting eight goals to one in the first quarter to open up a 40 point lead at the first change.
From there the Demons mounted their fightback booting 15 goals to six in the next two quarters – including a few gems from the boundary – to take a 23 point lead into three-quarter-time.
It looked certain that Neale Daniher's men would progress to tackle Collingwood, but there was one more twist.
The Crows midfield regained the ascendancy in the final term, peppering the goals to boot six goals to one and record a famous victory.
2. 2005, SCG – Sydney 7.14 (56) d. Geelong 7.11 (53)
Nick Davis! Nick Davis! I see it, but I don’t believe it!
This was the unlikeliest of victories as Sydney claimed a preliminary final berth with a breath-taking last-gasp win over Geelong.
Trailing by 17 points at the last change the Swans fell 23 points behind early in the last term when Geelong’s David Johnson kicked the opening goal.
At four goals down with only three on the board in the opening three quarters, the game looked gone for the home side, whose crowd had never been allowed to get into the game. But Davis sparked the crowd to life as his teammates lifted.
With six seconds left on the clock Davis took a perfectly placed tap from ruckman Jason Ball 15 metres from goal, and with three Cats lunging desperately after him, got his left boot to the ball and floated the match-winner through.
3. 2007, Subiaco – Collingwood 13.15 (93) d. West Coast 10.14 (74)
In what is sure to go down as one of the Magpies’ finest finals wins, the side overcame a four-goal third-term deficit to haul in the tiring West Coast in extra-time.
With scores level at full time, the Pies found an extra gear in extra time to seal a memorable victory on the back of brilliant performances from Shane O’Bree, Alan Didak, Dane Swan, Travis Cloke, Martin Clarke and Tyson Goldsack.
While the Eagles stuck bravely to the task, being a man down proved costly as the matched dragged on. It was particularly costly in extra time when Magpie runners had something in the tank.
Cox was superb but simply ran out of gas while Priddis, in the absence of Chris Judd, Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr, stood tall.
4. 2001, Football Park – Hawthorn 10.12 (72) d. Port Adelaide 10.9 (69)
Hawthorn scored one of its great finals victories courtesy of a five-goal to two final term that overpowered a stunned Port Adelaide, who exited finals in straight sets after ending the home and away season in third position.
Two goals to John Barker, inclduing a brilliant set shot from hard-up on the boundary, and another to Daniel Harford surged the Hawks to victory in front of 30,613 fans at AAMI Stadium.
Port got the early jump before being reeled in by the Hawks who led by one point at half time.
Mark Graham starred with 24 disposals for the Hawks while Jonathan Hay kept Power star Warren Tredrea goalless in what proved a decisive match-up victory for the visitors.
5. 2009, MCG – Collingwood 12.11 (83) d. Adelaide 11.12 (78)
Down and seemingly out after trailing by 32 points during the second term, Collingwood somehow played its way past Adelaide and into a preliminary final against Geelong.
The Pies kicked 11 of the game’s last 16 goals, including a run of six unanswered in the third quarter.
The last goal – with 20 seconds on the clock – came off the boot of Jack Anthony, who had spent the entire first half chasing the tails of free-running Adelaide defenders but got back on a fair footing after half time when Collingwood abandoned its loose man in defence and reverted to a one-on-one game plan.
For the Crows it was devastation and yet another losing tale in coach Neil Craig’s finals woes.
6. 2011, Subiaco – West Coast 15.11 (101) d. Carlton 15.8 (98)
West Coast added another chapter to its fairytale last-to-top-four season with a nail-biting win over Carlton.
In one of the games of the year, the Eagles overcame a tardy start to wrest the lead off the Blues midway through the second term and then spent the entire second half keeping a dogged Carlton at bay.
When Mark LeCras goaled to put West Coast 21 points up midway through the final term, the result looked settled, but the Blues refused to surrender, kicking three quick goals to send the game to the wire.
Carlton had its chance to steal the game with three inside-50 entries in the final 90 seconds but it wasn’t to be as the Eagles defended grimly.
7. 2014, MCG – North Melbourne 14.14 (98) d. Geelong 13.14 (92)
North Melbourne had to withstand a withering Geelong fight back to send the Cats packing from September in straight sets.
A seven-goal to five opening term saw the ball move freely from end to end with Drew Petrie and Tom Hawkins looming large at either end.
Havign built up a 24 point lead entering the final term, the Roos looked set for a comfortable progression to a preliminary final, but the proud Cats made a late charge and it was only when Todd Goldstein took a mark inside defensive 50 with seconds remaining that North fans could celebrate.
8. 2010, MCG – Western Bulldogs 11.11 (77) d. Sydney 10.12 (72)
At the time, the Western Bulldogs’ five-point semi-final win over Sydney was one the success-starved club’s greatest triumphs.
Seemingly destined for an embarrassing straight-sets finals exit when the Swans jumped out to a five-goal lead midway through the second term, the Dogs conjured a come-from-behind victory with a six-goal second half.
Having been beaten in the possessions count in the opening three quarters, the Dogs lifted to another level in the final term, gathering 33 more disposals to control the tempo and keep the Swans at arm’s length.
While the fairytale continued for Dogs skipper Brad Johnson, it came to a shattering end for Sydney counterpart Brett Kirk.
9. 2000, MCG – Kangaroos 16.14 (110) d. Hawthorn 15.10 (100)
North Melbourne appeared to be cruising to victory at half time when it led by 34 points but had to withstand a spirited last-quarter Hawthorn fightback that in the end fell short.
The victory put the Roos into the club's seventh consecutive preliminary final.
The final margin perhaps flattered the Hawks who never got clsoer than nine points after conceding the first five goals of the game in what proved the difference.
Peter Bell, Adam Simpson and Brent Harvey dominated while Shannon Grant booted four goals. Much of the pre-game hype cenhtred on the fitness of Roos'skipper Wayne Carey who'd battled a shoulder injury in the lead up.
10. 2001, MCG – Richmond 10.7 (67) d. Carlton 7.14 (56)
Richmond kicked just one goal in the final quarter but it was enough to score a fighting victory in a dour affair played in perfect MCG conditions.
In a match highlighted by the battle between Stephen Silvagni and Matthew Richardson (one goal) it proved a defensive arm wrestle as both side's struggled to convert inside-50s to goals.
The Blues drew to within a goal late in the third term but that was as close as the side got as the Tigers' Rory Hilton kicked the opening goal of the final quarter that proved enough in the low-scoring affair.
Until last weekend the win was the only Richmond finals victory this century.