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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

The 2010 Grand Final is only the third drawn Grand Final in League history. Ironically, Collingwood was involved in that one as well. In a good omen for St Kilda, Collingwood lost the replay to their opponent North Melbourne who won just their second Premiership since entering the competition in 1925. Prior to 1977, one must go back to 1948 for the first tied Grand Final. That game was between Essendon and Melbourne, with Melbourne taking the honors in the replay.

Since their famous loss in the 1966 Grand Final, Collingwood had remained a powerful club for the better part of the next decade, missing the finals just twice in 1968 and 1976. However, Grand Finals remained elusive with their only other appearance coming in 1970. That Grand Final has gone down in footy history as an epic. Not because it was close, but because it inflicted more heartbreak for the Magpies. When they led Carlton by 44 points at half time, it seemed the game was virtually over with the Pies to become Premiers for the first time since 1958. It was not to be, as Carlton stunned the Pies with the  greatest Grand Final comeback in history. They reduced Collingwood's lead to just 17 points at the final break and eventually won by 10 points. Carlton's 19th man (there was no interchange bench at the time) Ted Hopkins, now CEO of the AFL's official stats company Champion Data, came on after half time in place of the ineffective Bert Thornley and became an instant hero with four goals in the second half.

The 1976 season was a disaster for Collingwood. The club was rocked by internal warfare with senior coach Murray Weideman at odds with club president Ern Clarke. There were factions among the players with jealousies over player payments and on-field disharmony. After Wayne Richardson, who played in the 1966 Grand Final, and his brother Max were dropped to the reserves, Wayne blasted the club publicly and was suspended for four games. Max refused to play in the reserves. Clarke resigned his position mid-season and was replaced by airline executive John Hickey. But the damage had already been done and the team limped through the season to finish last with just six wins. Weideman was replaced by former Richmond Premiership coach Tom Hafey in 1977. Under Hafey, a non-drinker and strict disciplinarian, the Pies improved immensely in 1977, losing just four games to finish first.

North Melbourne was a different story altogether. Unlike Collingwood, one of the foundation clubs which helped form the VFL in 1897, North was not admitted until 1925. The first 20 years saw them struggle and remain close to or at the bottom of the standings. Their first Finals' appearance did not come until 1945. After that, September action was sparse with just five appearances until their first Premiership in 1975. In another twist, it was the coaching of Ron Barassi (who coached Carlton in 1970) which took the Kangaroos from perennial strugglers to the top. Barassi took over as coach in 1973 after the club finished dead last the previous year. They just missed the Finals in his first year at the helm, a tied game during the season possibly costing them a spot in September. They reached their first Grand Final in 1974 but lost to another 1970's powerhouse in Richmond (then coached by Tom Hafey). They finally achieved the ultimate glory in 1975 when they defeated Hawthorn in the Grand Final. While Collingwood were tearing themselves apart in 1976, North marched into another Grand Final but lost to Hawthorn.

Like Collingwood, the Saints were one of the foundation clubs in 1897. Unlike Collingwood, the Saints had little success with just seven finals appearances until their first Grand Final in 1965. Like North Melbourne, they were perennial strugglers who were either last or close to the bottom for most of their League history. St Kilda had an up and down decade after 1966. They made the finals in 1968 and 1970-1973 but never progressed beyond two preliminary finals in 1970 and 1972, losing both to Carlton who went on to win the Grand Finals in both years. In 1977, the Saints finished in last place and would not see Finals action again until 1992. The next four years would see the Saints in the bottom half of the eight. In 1997, they rose to the top for another Grand Final appearance but went down to the Adelaide Crows. They failed again in the 1998 series and then had to wait until after the turn of the century. It took until 2004 for their next chance and they have been there in September all but once since then. Of course, there was the narrow loss to the Geelong Cats in 2009.

Source: Every Game Ever Played 1897-1997, 100 Years of Australian Football,
AFL Season Guide

Article last changed on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - 10:57 PM EDT


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