As the Docklands, Colonial, Telstra Dome, Etihad and now Marvel Stadium, this ground has played a host to many memorable AFL moments over the years. On the 20th Anniversary of this arena, here are the greatest moments witnessed at the Docklands. Disclaimer: This article will not feature the AFLX.
Jason McCartney’s Last Game
Not a dry eye in the house. The Bali Bombings served as a sad day in our history, but they also provided a reminder of the strength of brotherhood and heroism. North Melbourne’s Jason McCartney tragically was burned in the bombings, trying to rescue lives on the fateful night.
He spent months on the sidelines, with his career up in the air and had to battle his way through to the VFL, before finally getting his chance late in 2003, against the Tigers. Following an impactful 4th Quarter, where he kicked a goal to give his side an eight-point lead, North ran out winners, and he promptly announced his immediate retirement after the match. He was then chaired off by his teammates to a standing ovation from the crowd, and the adulation of the nation.
His goal was complete, having been able to return to footy following this horrific tragedy. McCartney’s miraculous comeback serves a reminder of willpower and what we are capable of when we put our minds to the task. Some things are just bigger than footy and it takes a special moment and a special player to unite supporters across all teams.
Lance Franklin’s 100 Goal Season
Not since the days of Lockett and Dunstall in the 90s were 100 goals in a year the norm. Following this era of key forwards, bolstered by the likes of the aforementioned legends, and a certain Gary Ablett Sr, the game hadn’t quite seen forwards like them, with the ability to kick bags upon bags. Enter Buddy Franklin.
In just his third year of AFL Footy, Buddy was already announcing himself as the star forward of his generation, as his young and hungry Hawthorn side geared up against Carlton, who featured their own talismanic forward in Brendan Fevola. Scripts could not have been written any better, as Buddy Franklin was on 98 goals for the year entering the game, while Fev himself was on 92, as we were on the verge of witnessing two superstars make history.
It didn’t take long for Buddy to hit the mark, inching in a beautiful set shot towards the end of the first quarter, and pandemonium hit the stadium. As per tradition, the crowd stormed the field and surrounded Buddy, in scenes not seen in Melbourne for a long time. Franklin had to be ushered off the field, and didn’t return for some time, until the furore died down.
The match however proved its infamy later on, as Fevola wanted his turn at history. Following a seven-goal burst, he was on the verge of hitting 100, but, despite being up by more than 70 points, Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson flooded the backline to prevent Fev from getting his hundred. Following a controversial call against Fev in the last second, it was not to be, as he ended the season on 99 as Buddy finished on 102.
St. Kilda vs. Geelong: Round 14 2009
In what many have called the greatest home & away season match of all time, the Etihad played host to a classic between the year’s two best teams in the competition. Still the record attendance for an AFL match at the ground, with 54,444 fans turning up to watch the shootout, it featured all you could want from a game of footy.
Bolstered by some of the game’s biggest stars, featuring the likes of Gary Ablett Jr, Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel, Nick Riewoldt, Justin Koschitzke and Lenny Hayes, among others, fans were treated to a spectacle of football. Geelong had spent the whole game chasing leads from St Kilda, before clawing themselves back to tie the scores at 85 a piece with 5 minutes remaining.
It was the Saints’ Michael Gardiner that proved the hero on the night, finishing with 4 goals including a very late winner, after climbing the pack to take a brilliant specky over everyone involved. The record crowd roared all match, creating an atmosphere not seen since at the Docklands, in a match that reminded us what makes footy so great to watch.
Gary Moorcroft’s Mark of the Century
Few players are remembered for a singular, iconic moment in their careers, one that is etched in the memories of those who bore witness to it, and those whom have seen it since.
Gary Moorcroft gave us what many have dubbed the ‘Mark of the Century’ in 2001, mid-season during a match between the dominant Essendon side of the early 2000s and the Western Bulldogs. After a harried entry inside 50, Scotty Lucas sent up a scuffed snap on his opposite foot that looked highly favourable for the Doggies to mop up, but this was before Moorcroft had his say.
In the blink of an eye, Moorcroft used his man as a human trampoline, before springing all the way back at full-extension, clutching the ball in his hands right in front of goal, cementing himself in AFL folklore. The shot of the mark became legendary, and is what many turn to when we think of a spectacular mark. What many would have given to have been at the Docklands on that day.
Mark LeCras’ 12 Goal explosion vs. Essendon
Every so often, athletes are just on. It cannot be explained or analysed, but an athlete always has at least one day where everything they touch turns to gold, and they can do no wrong. Mark LeCras certainly would have felt this way back in 2010, as the West Coast Eagles made the trip to Melbourne to face Essendon.
What followed was nothing short of a one man wrecking crew, as LeCras had his way with the Essendon defenders, claiming mark after mark and kicking goal after goal. He eventually ran off with 12 goals, still a record at the Docklands, and the Bombers defenders would’ve been blessed to have seen the back of him.
It may be the best performance seen at the Docklands, it is definitely a day that has lived on in the history of this stadium.
James Hird’s winner against the Eagles
We all remember this one, be it as those of us who saw the match, or even those of us who saw it famously recreated in those classic Toyota adds. In the immortal commentary, “James Hird, you are a genius!”, we see the summary of how special this goal was.
After a tough week for an Essendon side that had seen its best days gone by, against a surging, young West Coast side, it was Hird who showed the young guns how it’s done. After a back and forth game, where no team was willing to give an inch, Hird went huge in the final quarter with 6 clearances, including the clearance that set up the stoppage for him to score the winner, and what a goal it was.
Following a scramble, the ball was handballed to Hird, who while running away from goal on his right boot, managed to execute an inch-perfect snap that spun its way through to the goal. He ran to the crowd to hug the supporters, having just won the game for the Bombers in the dying seconds, it is a moment that lives on in the hearts and minds of not only Essendon supporters, but fans of footy.
Steele Sidebottom’s 10 Goal Blitz in the TAC Cup Final
Not strictly AFL related, but nothing is more exciting than the future, and Steele Sidebottom back in 2008 as a skinny 17-year old gave us a glimpse of what was to come in his exceptional AFL career that followed.
The TAC Cup is the game’s premier under-18s competition, where future stars can show their skills to onlookers, and did Sidebottom ever do that. Steele went bananas in the 81-point win, boasting 29 touches and 10 goals, as he simply had his way as his Murray Bushrangers demolished the Dandenong Stingrays, in what may still be the greatest outing in TAC Cup history.
First Televised Women’s Match
Over the last three seasons, the AFLW has seen a steady growth, as the women’s edition of the sport has gained more popularity and prestige as the seasons go by. It was a pivotal moment in Round 20 of the 2015 season, where the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons Womens Teams played at the Docklands in the first nationally televised women’s match.
An average of 175,000 Melburnians tuned in on TV, with a national average of 301,000 viewers. A peak of 501,000 was reached, and it was made clear that fans wanted women’s footy on their screens, with the AFL striving to make it happen. It was the success of this match that eventually paved the way for the creation of the AFLW, a pioneering moment for women’s footy.
St Kilda vs Richmond 2015: Maddie’s Match
In times like this, it is wonderful to see the footballing world come together in support of a great cause, something bigger than ourselves that we are lucky to be a part of. When Maddie Riewoldt tragically passed away due to bone marrow cancer, the footballing world mourned for Jack and Nick, as it was a tragic moment in their lives.
What made this a truly special moment, was the way their respective clubs, St Kilda and Richmond, came together to begin the annual ‘Maddie’s Match’ between them, with the colour purple being the theme. The match helps raise funds towards the charity group Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision, which is aimed at research towards bone marrow cancer.
Every year the AFL comes together in support of these two clubs and what they’re doing for this terrible disease, and each year we are reminded that there are things better than footy, this inaugural match taught us what can happen when we are all united together to reach a common goal.
Brett Burton’s Mark of the Year: Round 22 2009
Athletes have the unique ability to make us think that man can fly. It is screamers such as the one plucked from midair by Brett Burton that attest to this dream and this wish.
In what was a blowout by the Adelaide Crows, at the expense of Carlton, Burton took one for the ages. As the ball was sent inside 50, Burton saw Kurt Tippet and Matthew Kreuzer in his way, mistaking them for human trampolines. Without hesitation, he flew right over them, taking a hanger before riding down the contact on his way to the ground.
Next to Moorcroft this was one of the greatest marks ever taken at the Docklands, something that lives on in memory.
Bulldogs vs Essendon: Round 21 2000
Perfection is something all strive for and is something Essendon became on the cusp of achieving in 2000. Perhaps the greatest side in history, the Bombers in 2000 lost one game all year on their path to the Premiership, but what a game that loss was.
With their finals hopes on the brink, the Bulldogs matched up against the legendary side and stuck with them blow for blow. Following a Dustin Fletcher error in the dying minute, Chris Grant scored a sensational snap from the pocket to put the Doggies up by 5 points with a minute remaining.
Essendon drove forward with all they had, but the Bulldogs sent every man back in what became known as the ‘Super-Flood’, as they refused to beaten. The siren sounded, as Essendon fell one game short of perfection. It the grand scheme of things it mattered not, but this classic will always be remembered as the game that stood in the way of Essendon and the perfect year.
Wayne Carey vs. Anthony Stevens: Round 6 2003
Sport is the world’s greatest drama, and no match proved this more so than when the Kangaroos took on the Adelaide Crows in 2003, in what has been a memorable match for all the wrong reasons. If you ask any fan of either club who won, they may struggle to remember, because this match is remembered for one reason only: Wayne Carey and his affair with Anthony Stevens’ wife.
In what broke up the legendary North Melbourne side of Dennis Pagan, Carey left the Roos on the eve of the 2002 season following the affair, leaving the club in tatters. He eventually returned to footy in 2003, signing up with the Adelaide Crows. It didn’t take long for him to make his anticipated first match-up against the side he captained to two flags, and it was a spectacle.
Glenn Archer and Anthony Stevens, as well as every other North player, made it their mission to go after Carey, culminating in a scuffle between Archer and Duck, as no feelings were left hidden. While everyone has since gotten over it, at the time it was arguably the biggest scandal in AFL history, with the country tuning in to see the fallout as Carey lined up against his former teammates.
Paul Licuria and Mick Malthouse abusing Stephen Milne: Round 3 2010
As Leigh Matthews put it post-game, “It’s a very rare occasion to see coaches talk to opposition players,” but that’s exactly what happened in 2010, as Mick Malthouse and Paul Licuria got into a verbal spat with the Saints forward.
Following the match, words were exchanged from both parties, with Malthouse reportedly calling Milne a very derogatory term, referring to a controversy that plagued Milne’s career, while Licuria supposedly told Milne to “Finish this off in the carpark.”
It was not a good look for the AFL, and is something that you never see in any sport. Adding to all the drama was that these were the two best teams that year, both meeting in a memorable drawn Grand Final, capping off what was a tumultuous year for either club that contained a lot of emotion.
Kevin Sheedy’s ‘Throat Slit’ at Mitchell White: Round 15 2000
Going on from the theme of Coaches vs. Players, Kevin Sheedy planted himself in folklore with this memorable moment. Although no footage of it exists, we do have photos, as Sheedy made a throat slitting gesture aimed at Mitchell White of the West Coast Eagles.
Just before half-time, White had brought down Bomber Mark Johnson behind play. Once the siren went, Sheedy stormed the field, yelling at White before making the gesture, sparking an all-in brawl. The legendary coach was eventually fined $7500 by the AFL for his troubles, but the moment forever lives in infamy.
Geelong vs. Richmond: Round 6 2007
The beginning of a dynasty. Geelong had disappointedly missed the finals in 2006 and endured an average start to 2007, but this fateful day against Richmond sealed their future as one of the greatest teams in the modern era.
Up against a Richmond side that had been struggling for some time now, Geelong had a day out, kicking goal after goal after goal, as the Tiger simply had no answer for them. In what can only be described as an absolute thrashing, Geelong eventually ran out to win 222-65, a 157-point margin, the greatest ever at the Docklands.
Nathan Ablett, Andrew Mackie, Tom Hawkins and Paul Chapman each kicked 4, while Gary Ablett, Cameron Ling and Travis Varcoe all pitched in with 3 goals each, in what was one of the most dominant team displays of all time. This win kickstarted Geelong’s dominance, using this as a springboard to their 3 Flags from 2007-2011.