Rivalries in the Australian Football League

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Rivalries in the Australian Football League exist between many teams, most of which typically draw large crowds and interest regardless of both teams' positions on the ladder. The AFL encourages the building of such rivalries, as a method of increasing publicity for the league, to the point of designating one round each year as Rivalry Round where many of these match-ups are held on the one weekend.[1] Whilst some rivalries, such as between teams from adjacent areas, are still strong, the designation of an entire round of fixtures as Rivalry Round is often criticised due to some arbitrary match-ups, or ignoring stronger, more recent rivalries.[2]

With a 22 game season and 18 teams (16 teams from 1995 until 2010 with the introduction of the Gold Coast Football Club and the Greater Western Sydney Giants in 2011 and 2012 respectively), the AFL fixtures are not equal with each team playing seven other teams twice and eight teams once. Choosing to play certain games twice, such as the local derbies and blockbusters (games between the Big 4 Victorian clubs of Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon and Richmond, are known as blockbuster games), results in a skewed fixture which is rarely evened out over time.

Victorian rivalries[edit]

Locations of AFL teams in Melbourne prior to 1965

Carlton v Collingwood[edit]

Argued by some to be the greatest and longest standing rivalry in the competition.[1] Two clubs in close proximity, fuelled by the rivalry between white (Carlton) and blue collar (Collingwood) suburbs; the rivalry is intensified because the teams have met in six memorable grand finals (Carlton winning five, Collingwood one), including Carlton's 44-point comeback in 1970, and the famous Harmes-Sheldon goal in 1979. Games between these two clubs regularly attract large crowds regardless of whether they are in finals contention or not.

Essendon v Carlton[edit]

As is the case with two successful sides in any competition, fans of each club love to defeat the other.[1] The two clubs share the record for the most premierships with 16. In recent times, Carlton famously upset the heavily favoured Essendon side by 1 point in the 1999 Preliminary Final. Essendon also led Carlton by 48 points deep into the second quarter of their Round 3 2007 match at the MCG, only to be overrun by Carlton in what would go down as their greatest ever come from behind victory; however, Essendon went on to defeat Carlton over the next 6 encounters, with Carlton finally breaking Essendon's winning streak with an emphatic 76 point win in Round 19, 2010.

Melbourne v Collingwood[edit]

A traditional white collar (Melbourne) v blue collar (Collingwood) rivalry, additionally fuelled by a narrow loss to Collingwood which stopped Melbourne from winning a fourth flag in a row in 1958. Half of Melbourne's twelve premierships came against Collingwood and the teams have met in seven grand finals, the most of any pairing. Since 2001, Melbourne has hosted Collingwood in an annual match at the MCG on the Queen's Birthday public holiday Monday in June.

Richmond v Collingwood[edit]

Arising from the fact that the two areas neighbour each other, Richmond and Collingwood were both highly successful in the late 1920s to the early 1930s; the clubs played against each other in five grand finals between 1919 and 1929 (Collingwood won in 1919, 1927, 1928 and 1929, while Richmond won in 1920). In the 1980 Grand Final, Richmond handed Collingwood an 81-point defeat, a record at the time.

Both clubs continue to draw large crowds to their meetings in each season, and the two were the subject of a 'recruiting war' throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with David Cloke, Geoff Raines, Brian Taylor, Wally Lovett, Phillip Walsh, Steven Roach, Gerald Betts, Neil Peart, Peter McCormack, Kevin Morris, Craig Stewart, Ross Brewer, Michael Lockman, Rod Oborne, Allan Edwards, John Annear, Noel Lovell and Bob Heard all exchanging clubs, as well as coach Tom Hafey (moving to Collingwood in 1977 following four flags at Punt Road).

Melees have been fought between the teams in two recent matches – Round 20, 2009, and Round 2, 2012 – with almost all players from both teams involved in the altercations.

Hawthorn v Essendon[edit]

Games between the Hawks and the Bombers have proved spectacular, due to wild brawls

The clubs contested the Grand Final in three consecutive seasons between 1983 and 1985, and the rough nature of these games and other between the clubs made them strong rivals during the 1980s. In the 1990's and right up until 2004 the rivalry became more quiet and uneventful with the exception of the 2001 preliminary final, which was the first time they met in a finals game since the 80's. More recently, the clubs have played two matches which saw bench-clearing brawls: the "Line in the Sand Match" in 2004, which resulted in four players being suspended and $70,700 in fines; and the final round of 2009, a match which would decide eighth place between the two teams, in which four players were suspended for a total of seven matches and $27,000 in fines being handed out. The latter brawl was famously sparked by Matthew Lloyd who applied a very hard bump, knocking out Brad Sewell, in what would be Lloyd's last game.

Richmond v Carlton[edit]

A rivalry based on geographical proximity and large supporter bases, the rivalry intensified as both clubs contested several grand finals between 1969 and 1982,[1] including the 1972 Grand Final where Richmond equalled the highest score ever in a grand final, only to be bettered by Carlton in the same match. The following year Richmond won the 1973 Grand Final in an even more physically bitter contest than in recent encounters between the two sides; Carlton got their revenge in 1982 by defeating Richmond in their last grand final appearance (as of 2013). In 2013, Carlton beat Richmond by 20 points in an elimination final, which was Richmond's first final since 2001, and third final since 1982.

Since 2008, the first game of each season played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground has been played between Carlton and Richmond on a Thursday night early in the season. A record crowd of 94,690 attended the 2013 Elimination Final between these two traditional rivals. It was the largest crowd for the 2013 season excluding the grand final, and the largest week one finals crowd since 1972.[3] Carlton has also received more finals losses (16) to Richmond than any other team. Richmond has also inflicted a total of four grand final losses on Carlton (1921, 1932, 1969 and 1973). Carlton has only beaten Richmond in two grand finals (1972 and 1982).[4]

Essendon v Collingwood[edit]

See also: Anzac Day clash

Since 1995, the rivalry has been defined by the Anzac Day clash, a match generally draws a crowd in excess of 90,000. The inaugural Anzac Day Clash in 1995 was famously drawn, the 2009 match was won by Essendon in the final minute with a goal from youngster David Zaharakis, and the 2012 match was won by Collingwood by one point after Jarryd Blair's game-winning goal was reviewed by video replay before being awarded.[5]

Essendon v Richmond[edit]

A rivalry born out of the fact that the two clubs are both part of the "Big 4" clubs in Melbourne as the highly supported teams. Since 2005, Essendon and Richmond have contested the annual Dreamtime at the 'G match, a celebration of Aboriginal players and their contribution to the league, typically held near the midway point of the season.

North Melbourne v Hawthorn[edit]

Both teams entered the VFL in the 1925 expansion, and were generally unsuccessful through the first few decades, but the two teams were both very strong through the 1970s, sparking a rivalry between the clubs. The clubs played three Grand Finals against each other in four years, with North Melbourne winning their first ever premiership in 1975 by 55 points, Hawthorn winning in 1976 by five goals, and Hawthorn winning in 1978 by three goals.

Hawthorn v Geelong[edit]

The rivalry between Hawthorn and Geelong is defined by two Grand Finals: those of 1989 and 2008. In the 1989 Grand Final, Geelong played the man, resulting in major injuries for several Hawks players, Mark Yeates knocking out Dermott Brereton at the opening bounce; Hawthorn controlled the game, leading by approximately 40 points for most of the match; in the last quarter, Geelong almost managed to come from behind to win, but fell short by six points. In 2008 Grand Final, Geelong was the heavily backed favourite and had lost only one match for the season, but Hawthorn upset Geelong by 26 points; Geelong won its next eleven matches against Hawthorn over the following five years, under a curse, which was dubbed the "Kennett curse" which was attributed to disrespectful comments made by Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett following the 2008 Grand Final. It was later revealed that after the 2008 grand final, Paul Chapman initiated a pact between other Geelong players to never lose to Hawthorn again. The curse was broken in a preliminary final in 2013, after Paul Chapman played his final match for Geelong the previous week.[6]

Essendon v North Melbourne[edit]

Essendon and North Melbourne were both strong in the latter part of the 1990s and early 2000s, and built a rivalry during that time. The defining moment of this rivalry came in Round 16 of 2001, when Essendon came from 69 points down in the second quarter to win by 12 points. Essendon and North Melbourne have played in one Grand Final, in 1950, which Essendon won by 38 points.

Collingwood v Geelong[edit]

Geelong won their first flag in 1925 over Collingwood, in 1930 Collingwood defeated Geelong in the grand final making it four flags in-a-row for the Pies. Geelong would later deny Collingwood three successive premierships in 1937, winning a famous grand final by 32 points.

The two sides played against each other in 6 finals between 1951 and 1955, including the 1952 Grand Final when Geelong easily beat Collingwood by 46 points. In 1953, Collingwood ended Geelong's record 23-game winning streak in the home and away season, and later defeated them by 12 points in the grand final, denying the Cats a third successive premiership.

Since 2007, the clubs have again both been at the top of the ladder and have met regularly in finals. Geelong won a memorable preliminary final by five points on their way to their first flag in 44 years. In 2008, Collingwood inflicted Geelong's only home-and-away loss, by a massive 86 points, but the teams did not meet in the finals. They would meet in preliminary finals in 2009 and 2010, each winning one en route to a premiership. They finally met in a Grand Final in 2011, which Geelong won by 38 points; Geelong inflicted Collingwood's only three losses for the 2011 season.[7]

Local derbies[edit]

There are four 'local derbies' in the AFL, with each of the clubs competing against their cross-town rivals at least twice every year.

West Coast v Fremantle[edit]

Main article: Western Derby

The two Western Australian-based teams contest the Western Derby. The West Coast Eagles won the first nine derbies, stretching from the inaugural derby in May 1995 until July 1999, but the Fremantle Dockers managed a seven match consecutive winning streak in derby matches, commencing in August 2007 and ending in May 2011. Of the 42 derbies played, West Coast holds a 22–20 advantage. The best performed player in each Western Derby is awarded the Ross Glendinning Medal.

Adelaide v Port Adelaide[edit]

Main article: Showdown (AFL)

The two Adelaide-based teams, the Adelaide Crows and the Port Adelaide Power, contest the Showdown. The first showdown occurred in April 1997, following the introduction of Port Adelaide into the league that year. Of the 42 Showdowns that have been contested, the head-to-head win count is tied at 21-21. The best performed player in each showdown is awarded the Showdown Medal.

Brisbane Lions v Gold Coast[edit]

Main article: QClash

The QClash is a derby between the only two Queensland clubs. The Gold Coast Suns won the first QClash, held in 2011, by eight points, but the Brisbane Lions has dominated the rivalry, leading the head-to-head tally 7-5. The best performed player in each QClash is awarded the Marcus Ashcroft Medal.

Sydney v Greater Western Sydney[edit]

Main article: Sydney Derby (AFL)

The Sydney Derby is the newest local derby in the AFL, following the introduction of Greater Western Sydney in the 2012 AFL season. The best performed player in each derby is awarded the Brett Kirk Medal. The Sydney Swans have dominated most of the rivalry, holding an 8-3 advantage over the Giants and winning six of the eleven games by at least 30 points, however, the tide has turned in recent times, with the Giants winning the last two meetings including a historic qualifying final in 2016.[8]

Recent rivalries[edit]

West Coast v Sydney[edit]

A rivalry between Sydney and West Coast developed during the first decade of the 2000s, due to an unusually high number of close games, many in finals. The teams met each other six times between September 2005 and March 2007, including both Grand Finals and two Qualifying Finals; the final margins of these games were: 4, 4, 2, 1, 1 and 1, with Sydney winning the 2005 Grand Final, and West Coast winning the 2006 Grand Final. The sum of margins of 13 points across six consecutive meetings is by far the narrowest in VFL/AFL history, with 28 points (South Melbourne vs Melbourne, 28 points, 1898–1900) the nearest challenger.

Brisbane Lions v Collingwood[edit]

Angst between supporters of Collingwood and Brisbane had been caused by plenty of history between the two clubs, despite the Brisbane Lions having a relatively short existence as a merged club. Pre-merger Fitzroy was a neighbouring suburb to Collingwood, with the boundary being based on Smith Street,[9] along with the fact that Fitzroy and Collingwood topped the VFL/AFL premiership tally during the early existence of what was then the VFL competition. The Brisbane Bears also had a bit of beef with the Magpies as the Bears' number one draft pick Nathan Buckley famously defected to Collingwood after one season on the Bears list, citing that he wanted to win premierships and play finals footy.[10] The Bears also lost their final regular season match in their final season (1996) to the Magpies, costing the Bears the minor premiership that season.[11] However the rivalry between the Lions and the Magpies was properly ignited post-merger, it began in late 1999 when Collingwood played their last ever VFL/AFL game at their spiritual home ground, Victoria Park with the Lions emerging 42 point victors that day and consigning the Magpies to their second wooden spoon in their VFL/AFL history that day.[12] The rivalry between the two clubs went to the next level as the clubs played off in two consecutive Grand Finals in 2002 and 2003, with the Lions emerging victors on both occasions.[13][14] These grand final results further fueled the hatred that Collingwood supporters have towards the Brisbane Lions to this day, despite the Lions having a poor decade on the field after their golden era.

Western Bulldogs v Greater Western Sydney Giants[edit]

This Rivalry stems from the recent 2016 preliminary final between the Bulldogs and the Giants, in which the Bulldogs won by a goal and went on to win the Grand Final. The Giants who were favorites to win the Grand Final were shocked as the Bulldogs had finished the home and away season at 7th on the ladder, and no team had ever won a Grand Final after finishing 7th. The Giants and Bulldogs are both from working class areas, and this adds further fuel to the flames.

Overall head to head[edit]

All clubs head to head win percentages. Games only include premiership matches in the VFL/AFL. Correct to the end of the 2015 AFL season.[15]

Ade Bri Car Col Ess Fre GC Gee GWS Haw Mel NM PA Ric StK Syd WB WCE
Ade 51.72 52.94 64.10 52.94 44.12 0.00 54.05 16.67 51.35 35.29 47.37 53.85 36.36 39.74 38.89 53.66 54.76
Bri 48.28 48.28 37.04 51.92 54.17 40.00 51.72 50.00 53.57 40.00 51.56 46.67 66.00 42.86 64.06 45.45 64.29
Car 47.06 51.72 49.40 48.76 58.62 20.00 45.83 60.00 37.42 43.27 36.18 55.36 41.40 24.19 41.44 37.32 48.78
Col 35.90 62.96 50.60 44.40 42.31 40.00 42.76 0.00 40.00 35.71 32.48 46.15 42.61 26.85 37.00 29.47 51.09
Ess 47.06 48.08 51.24 55.60 37.93 20.00 45.77 20.00 39.24 38.86 36.93 57.69 46.19 32.38 39.58 39.49 44.90
Fre 55.88 45.83 41.38 57.69 62.07 0.00 64.71 0.00 75.00 38.24 61.54 54.84 53.13 54.84 53.23 53.85 52.38
GC 100.00 60.00 80.00 60.00 80.00 100.00 83.33 42.86 100.00 57.14 50.00 83.33 40.00 39.57 100.00 71.43 92.86
Gee 45.95 48.28 54.17 57.24 54.23 35.29 16.67 0.00 45.89 40.09 39.94 32.76 45.77 39.57 44.70 36.13 51.04
GWS 83.33 50.00 40.00 100.00 80.00 100.00 57.14 100.00 75.00 50.00 100.00 80.00 100.00 60.00 87.50 80.00 100.00
Haw 48.65 46.43 62.58 60.00 60.76 25.00 0.00 54.11 25.00 46.84 44.71 58.06 55.56 47.37 43.75 48.41 54.35
Mel 64.71 60.00 56.73 64.29 61.14 61.76 42.86 59.91 50.00 53.16 46.82 62.07 55.91 43.03 54.41 46.89 68.09
NM 52.63 48.44 63.82 67.52 63.07 38.46 50.00 60.06 0.00 55.29 53.18 30.00 53.85 50.33 53.18 50.00 54.35
PA 46.15 53.33 44.64 53.85 42.31 45.16 16.67 67.24 20.00 41.94 37.93 70.00 40.38 38.46 73.08 48.00 37.04
Ric 63.64 34.00 58.60 57.39 53.81 46.88 60.00 54.23 0.00 44.44 44.09 46.15 59.62 39.17 44.76 47.68 60.00
StK 60.26 57.14 75.81 73.15 67.62 45.16 37.50 60.42 40.00 52.63 56.97 49.67 61.54 60.83 62.97 47.76 60.23
Syd 61.11 35.94 58.56 63.00 60.42 46.77 0.00 55.30 12.50 56.25 45.59 46.82 26.92 55.24 37.03 50.65 43.48
WB 46.34 54.55 62.68 70.53 60.51 46.15 28.57 63.87 20.00 51.59 53.11 50.00 52.00 52.32 52.24 49.35 65.63
WCE 45.24 35.71 51.22 48.91 55.10 47.62 7.14 48.96 0.00 45.65 31.91 45.65 62.96 40.00 39.77 56.52 34.38