As the resident bleeding heart leftie in the Neds content team, my faith in democracy has waned in recent years but after seeing the final list of FOX Footy’s 50 best games of the past 50 years countdown as voted by the fans, I’m now completely on board with Kent Brockman’s views on the whole process.
With footy on hold, FOX decided to open the polls and let its audience choose just what were the top 50 games played over the past 50 years and the results were staggering, shocking and had all the credibility of a North Korean election.
The 50 for 50 countdown, which began on Thursday night lost any shriek of credibility with the game that finished at number 50 – the 1994 Preliminary Final between North Melbourne and Geelong.
You know – one of the most iconic finals of the 1990s? Gary Ablett Snr kicking a goal after the siren to win the game for Geelong? A match that has been considered by respected football journalists and experts as one of, if not the greatest games ever played.
If that game was at number 50, then the next 49 matches must be absolute classics but it got worse.
For instance, the famous “Line in the Sand Game” from Round 11 2004 between Essendon and Hawthorn actually made it to the list at number 46.
This game was only remembered for the fight after half-time, which was probably the last great brew-ha-ha in a football match but the contest itself was a dud between two very average teams and resulted in Essendon belting Hawthorn by 74 points.
FOX Footy could have simply done the audience a favour and just shown the fight and not the game, but according to the democratic process this average game with average players and average teams is in the 50 best games Australian Rules Football has had to offer in the past half-century.
While the countdown did show plenty of excellent games from years gone by, there were still plenty of high ranking duds.
Anyone who knows me is acutely aware that I happen to be one of the most senior members of the Richmond die-hard, tragic, annoying, nuffie fan club.
It’s a title I wear with pride, however, even I think the 1980 Grand Final should not be in the list of the top 50 games from the past 50 years but it came in at number 38.
I love that game as much as any Richmond supporter, the Tigers murdering Collingwood to the tune of 81 points with Kevin Bartlett kicking seven goals, it was the few VHS tapes that gave me hope up until 2017 but we all know it’s not a great contest or match in the grand scheme of things.
Only one State of Origin game made the cut, and it was nowhere near the best one played when state footy actually meant something – South Australia’s 12 point win over Victoria in 1993 coming in at number 40.
There were far superior Origin matches that didn’t get a look in such as the 1984 encounter between Vic and SA or the 1986 WA v VIC clash, which Dennis Cometti regards as the best game he’s ever seen.
We’ve all been that person who listens to the Hottest 100 every year and proclaims that whatever song Triple J plays “shoulda been higher” and that was the exact feeling I got for most of FOX Footy’s attempt at a “democratic” countdown over the weekend.
While it was pleasing to see the “Miracle on Grass” make the cut, I’m not sure if it’s in the top 20 games of the past 50 years and the mighty Brisbane Lions (proudly sponsored by Neds) played in some epic battles such as the 2002 Grand Final (which made the list at number 17) and a fair few home and away games between Port Adelaide during that era are forgotten, even though it was some of the best footy you’ll ever see.
Can we also be comfortable in thinking that “the Miracle on Grass” is a far better game than the 1970 Grand Final, Essendon’s seven-goal comeback in the 1993 preliminary final against Adelaide or the ANZAC Day draw between Collingwood v Essendon in 1995? Of course not.
Then there is the issue of the final 10 matches of the countdown.
It proves that the viewing public has the memory of a goldfish.
Five out of the ten games comes from the past decade.
Many regard the 1980s and 1990’s the best era for Australian Rules Football but both decades managed to get only one game each.
The 1989 Grand Final between Hawthorn and Geelong is a match several fans view as one of the greatest ever played.
Many books, documentaries and stories have come out about this one game of football yet it finished in third place.
It just so happened to be played at 3pm yesterday, the same time that would have seen the Cats and Hawks fight it out at the MCG had normal programming been in place, hence thinking the results were collected in the same way Vladimir Putin does when up for re-election in Russia.
FOX thought it would be fun to do a re-call and brought in Dwane Russell, Dermott Brereton, Jason Dunstall and Eddie McGuire to give a 2020 perspective on it.
While it was fun to watch, the third placing of 1989 was about as harder hit to anyone who cares about the history of the game as Mark Yeates on Dermott in the opening minutes of the game, except this time we are all Dermie having a Chris Mew and we spend the rest of the game on the bench rather than playing on.
The final 10 had some worthy matches in it such as the epic battle between St Kilda and Geelong in Round 14, 2009 (10th), the 2005/6 Grand Finals between West Coast and Sydney (7th and 5th) and the 1999 Preliminary Final when the famously Blues beat the Bombers by a point (8th).
There are some simply glaring omissions from the top 10 that makes this countdown lose any respect or credibility – the 1970 Grand Final (25th), the Essendon comeback against North Melbourne in Round 16, 2001 (18th) and the Hawthorn v Geelong game in Round 6, 1989 at Princes Park which didn’t even make the top 50 list despite it also being regarded as one of the greatest home and away matches ever played.
In the past four years we’ve had talks in the media and within club level about the state of the game, yet three of the best games ever played just happen to be from 2016-2019?
The Bulldogs finals series of 2016 may just be one of the best football stories in the past 50 years and the games sure were memorable but is the preliminary final against GWS and the Grand Final against the Swans really worthy of their top five placings compared to what missed out?
As for the game voted in at number one, the 2018 Grand Final between Collingwood and West Coast there’s no disputing it was a great game.
We did see the Magpies choke in another Grand Final after being five goals up, and the final stages were nail-biting and of course, Dom Sheed’s winning goal.
But is it the best we’ve ever seen?
The 2018 Grand Final needs the benefit of time, hindsight and the majority of the players involved to be retired to get that level and it’s far too soon to tell if it really is the greatest game ever played in the modern era.
Overall, what the results of FOX Footy’s 50/50 countdown is proved that the people who voted are like Mark Williams giving a shout out to Port Adelaide sponsor Alan Scott after the 2004 Grand Final – THEY WERE WRONG.
FOX FOOTY’s 50 BEST GAMES IN THE PAST 50 YEARS FULL LIST:
1. 2018, Grand Final: Collingwood v West Coast
2. 2016, Preliminary Final: GWS Giants v Western Bulldogs
3. 1989, Grand Final: Hawthorn v Geelong
4. 2016, Grand Final: Western Bulldogs v Sydney
5. 2005, Grand Final: Sydney v West Coast Eagles
6. 2010, Grand Final: Collingwood v St Kilda
7. 2006, Grand Final: Sydney v West Coast Eagles
8. 1999, Preliminary Final: Essendon v Carlton
9. 2013, Preliminary Final: Geelong v Hawthorn
10. 2009, Round 14: St Kilda v Geelong
11. 2012, Grand Final: Hawthorn v Sydney
12. 2009, Grand Final: Geelong v St Kilda
13. 2009, Round 5: Essendon v Collingwood
14. 2008, Grand Final: Hawthorn v Geelong
15. 2017, Elimination Final: Port Adelaide v West Coast Eagles
16. 2005, Semi Final: Sydney v Geelong
17. 2002, Grand Final: Brisbane Lions v Collingwood
18. 2001, Round 16: North Melbourne v Essendon
19. 2013, Round 13: Brisbane Lions v Geelong
20. 1993, Preliminary Final: Essendon v Adelaide Crows
21. 2011, Preliminary Final: Collingwood v Hawthorn
22. 2013, Elimination Final: Richmond v Carlton
23. 2014, Preliminary Final: Hawthorn v Port Adelaide
24. 1984, Grand Final: Essendon v Hawthorn
25. 1970, Grand Final: Carlton v Collingwood
26. 2000, Round 21, Western Bulldogs v Essendon
27. 1995, Round 4: Collingwood v Essendon
28. 1987, Preliminary Final: Western Bulldogs v Adelaide
29. 2004, Round 3: Essendon v West Coast Eagles
30. 2013, Qualifying Final: Geelong v Fremantle
31. 2019, Preliminary Final: Collingwood v GWS Giants
32. 2007, Elimination Final: Hawthorn v Adelaide
33. 2004, Preliminary Final: Port Adelaide v St Kilda
34. 2012, Round 5: Collingwood v Essendon
35. 1990, Qualifying Final: Collingwood v West Coast Eagles
36. 2015, Round 16 Adelaide v Port Adelaide
37. 1993, Round 6: Essendon v Hawthorn
38. 1980 Grand Final: Richmond v Collingwood
39. 2016, Qualifying Final: Hawthorn v Geelong
40. 1993, State of Origin: South Australia v Victoria
41. 2000, Round 21: Fremantle v West Coast
42. 1979, Grand Final: Carlton v Collingwood
43. 2013, Round 19: Port Adelaide v Adelaide
44. 1998, Round 22: North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs
45. 1977, Grand Final: North Melbourne v Collingwood
46. 2004, Round 11: Essendon v Hawthorn
47. 1986, Elimination Final: Fitzroy v Essendon
48. 1996, Preliminary Final: Sydney v Essendon
49. 1994, Round 7: Sydney v St Kilda
50. 1994, Preliminary Final: Geelong v North Melbourne