One punter’s pain is another’s pleasure. To promote the launch of the New Bookie Bag’s Game Saver product, David Schout has sifted through the AFL archives to find his top 10 classic comebacks and crazy capitulations of the modern era. You can bet punters on the wrong side of these wish they had a Game Saver up their sleeve.
2001 Round 16: Essendon 27.9 (171) def North Melbourne 25.9 (159)
When fans think of AFL comebacks, it won’t take long until this one is thrown up. And for good reason. Recovering from 69 points down, Essendon recorder the biggest ever comeback in AFL/VFL history in Round 16, 2001. Down 91-22 less than 10 minutes in to the second term, the Bombers booted nine straight in an electrifying 20 minutes of footy. The two sides went pound-for-pound in the third term but North still held a 14-point lead at the final change. But an eight goals to three last quarter saw the Dons home in the seventh-highest scoring game ever. Matthew Lloyd kicked nine goals (from just 10 kicks), but it was Jason Johnson (31 disposals, four goals) that would nab the three Brownlow Medal votes.
2004 Round 19: North Melbourne 17.16 (118) def Sydney 18.4 (112)
Thankfully for Roos fans they were on the other side of the ledger in 2004 when they recorded the fifth-highest three-quarter time comeback of all time (40 points). At that stage of the game, Barry Hall had booted five and Michael O’Loughlin four for the Swans, and the home side looked set for a comfortable win. Enter Sav Rocca, who booted three final term majors (to finish with five) and Daniel Harris, whose 21-disposal, seven-tackle effort would earn him three Brownlow Medal votes.
2006 Round 10: Geelong 15.8 (98) def by West Coast 16.5 (101)
The Eagles’ best ever home-and-away season win? You’d be hard pressed to find better. Down by 39 at half-time, winger Andrew Embley has since said they were just looking to ensure they didn’t get done by ‘100 points’. The margin ballooned further to 54 points in the third term until an incredible final quarter by midfield machines Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr would see them home in a thriller. Adam Hunter, who had smashed his face in the dugout after a marking contest earlier in the day, bravely fought on and kicked the winning goal.
2007 Round 3: Carlton 18.17 (125) def Essendon 17.20 (122)
In Carlton’s 156-year history, they’ve never comeback from as big a deficit as this day. The Bombers shot out of the blocks, and established a 48-point deficit midway through the second term. But the Blues weren’t done – or at least one man wasn’t. Enter the Fevolution. Brendon Fevola didn’t kick his first until late in the second term but would finish the day with eight majors, single-handedly dragging his side over the line. Playing against one of the AFL’s best modern day defenders in Dustin Fletcher, Fevola was ruthless from the set-shot in a Saturday afternoon special at the MCG.
2008 Round 7: Melbourne 17.17 (119) def Fremantle 15.23 (113)
By Round 7 in 2008, the Dees were yet to record a win and, 50 points down at half-time, the familiar margin might have seen some fans call it a day early. But in coming back, Melbourne not only pulled off the greatest comeback in their 150-year history, but the second-highest comeback from a half-time deficit ever.
While the Dees made good headway in the third term, they still went into the final break 26 points down. But the heroes that day were Russell Robertson and Austin Wonaeamirri, who each booted three last quarter goals to seal a famous win.
2011 Round 5: Port Adelaide 15.11 (101) def by Gold Coast 15.14 (104)
Some AFL fans predicted competition new boys the Gold Coast Suns would go winless in their inaugural season. But it would take just five games for them to claim their first ever victory, against the Power. Trailing by 43 points late in the third quarter, Guy McKenna’s side staged a stunning comeback, and went on to win by less than a kick. Port Adelaide’s Justin Westoff had the chance after the siren to snatch the win, but missed. Prior to the first bounce, the Suns were $10.58 in head-to-head markets – further underlining the stunning nature of the win.
2013 Round 13: Brisbane 15.13 (103) def Geelong 14.14 (98)
One of the best underdog wins ever, the ‘Miracle on Grass’ as it’s now known is one of modern footy’s best ever tales. Halfway through the 2013 AFL season Geelong were flying at 10-1, while the Lions were struggling at 3-8. Michael Voss’s side were $5.66 outsiders at home and, 52 points down late in the third term, things were going as expected. But a rollicking final term – culminating in an after-the-siren goal from 200th gamer Ash McGrath – would see the Lions home by five points. Click here for our ‘Best Bookie Beats’ feature on this famous game.
2013 Round 19: Adelaide 15.13 (103) def by Port Adelaide 17.5 (107)
Adelaide have played Port Adelaide 47 times in the AFL era, and the Crows only just edge overall wins with 24 to 23. But none have been as entertaining as Showdown XXXV (or 35 for those not au fait with Roman numerals…). The two traded early blows before the Power booted the last four goals of the second term to take a 21-point half-time lead. The momentum completely swung however when the Crows slammed on seven goals to two in the premiership quarter. Adelaide maintained the buffer and with less than six minutes to go, had a more-than-handy 20-point lead. But four quick goals – including the luckiest off-break ever seen from Angus Monfries – would see them home. While it wasn’t the biggest comeback ever, it was one of the most exciting.
2015 Round 6: Western Bulldogs 13.9 (87) def by St Kilda 14.10 (94)
Just over five years ago, the Saints recorded the fifth-biggest comeback in AFL/VFL history in a back-from-the-dead performance against the Bulldogs. Down by 55 points early in the third term, a stunning sequence of events saw them boot seven in a row to cut the lead to just 12 at the final break. However two Dogs’ majors restored the lead to 24 points early in the last. Enter Jack Billings, whose three final term goals would light up the St Kilda faithful. They finally hit the lead in the 115th minute and, not long after that, the siren rang out as fans belted out ‘oh when the Saints!’ louder than they had for some time. Coaches are naturally unwilling to accept a game is gone – even when it palpably is – but even Alan Richardson admitted post-game that he “didn’t see it coming”. Bookies were paying $10 pre-game for the Bulldogs/Saints result in the half-time/full-time market.
2016 Round 21: Geelong 10.22 (82) def Richmond 12.6 (78)
The Cats were sluggish for most of this day, stumbling to three-quarter-time with a miserable return of 4.13 and a deficit of 35 points. But something clicked after the final break. Not only did Chris Scott’s side completely dominate the final term, they would have the first 15 scoring shots of the quarter (including six unanswered goals) to grab a 10-point lead. Richmond finally got on the board late with a Ty Vickery major but they couldn’t go on to snatch a late win.
Incredibly, such was their inaccuracy, the Cats would win despite kicking two less goals than the Tigers. Further, Dustin Martin (36 disposals) and Alex Rance would take home fix of the six Brownlow votes on offer, something almost unheard of for a losing side.