Plenty can change in 20 years. The Crows were kings of the AFL after winning back to back Premierships, and becoming the first club outside of Victoria to do so. 1998 was also the first, and one of only two times to date, that a team has won the Grand Final from outside the top four positions on the ladder under the final eight system. Since 1998, eleven other clubs have won at least one flag, but a new one won’t be added to the list this week, as West Coast and Collingwood do battle in what will be either club’s second Premiership of the century.
The 1998 Grand Final will always be looked upon as a classic by Crows fans, and others alike, who witnessed a barnstorming third quarter from a rampaging Adelaide team determined to defend their hard won crown against all odds. The Kangaroos were the team to beat all year, finishing as Minor Premiers and carried an 11 match winning streak into the Grand Final. The Crows’ road the big dance was slightly different, being hammered by Melbourne in the first week of the finals, before easily beating both Sydney and the Western Bulldogs away from home to reach the last day in September.
As the match approached the Kangaroos were heavy favourites. The North Melbourne team of the late 1990’s was one that many feared, names like Carey, Archer, Pickett, King, Simpson, Grant, Bell, Abraham with many more stars littered through their side. The Crows however were less favoured, and although they had a strong side, star forward Tony Modra was not selected and multiple lesser known players were selected in important roles.
In the first half it was clear why North were favourites. They held a narrow lead at quarter time before kicking away to a 4.3 (27) to 6.15 (51) lead. The wastefulness of the Kangaroos would prove to be fatal, as Darren Jarman yet again became the man who saved his side, kicking five goals ahead of Nigel Smart’s three to bring the Crows home.
After demolishing North in the third quarter to lead the contest by two points going in to the final term, the Crows then kicked a whopping six goals four behinds to North’s seven points to run away with the match 15.15 (105) to a very unprofessional 8.22 (70). Both teams had 30 shots on goal, and although the Crows weren’t perfect in front of the sticks, North were terrible.
Andrew McLeod would win a second consecutive Norm Smith Medal after once again starring throughout the match. The 1998 Premiership side contained multiple players who were young and inexperienced, before becoming all-time greats, perhaps thanks to the influence of this miraculous Premiership. Mark Ricciuto, Andrew McLeod, Ben Hart, Simon Goodwin and Tyson Edwards would all go on to play for many more years and each became stars in their own right.
Crows fans will always debate whether Ricciuto or McLeod is the all-time best. Although looking back at the team it was star-studded, it was a champion team, not just a team of individual champions. More and more names spring to mind from both 97 and 98, Nigel Smart, Shaun Rehn, Darren Jarman and of course skipper Mark Bickley all also had outstanding careers that inspired many South Australians, young and old.
1998 was a true David and Goliath battle. It had everything, two teams of star players, passionate fans across the country, deep meaning for both sides and an incredible comeback. Crows fans will never forget 1998, but they will be hoping that perhaps they can add 2019 to the list of the best years of their lives.
1998 GRAND FINAL
NORTH MELBOURNE 4.4 6.15 8.15 8.22 (70)
ADELAIDE 3.2 4.3 9.11 15.15 (105)
North Melbourne: Carey, Bell, Blakey, Abraham, Roberts, Allison, Pike, Simpson.
Adelaide: Jarman 5, Smart 3, Vardy 2, Johnson, Riccuito, James, Pittman, Thiessen.
North Melbourne: Martyn, Archer, Bell, Simpson, A. Stevens.
Adelaide: McLeod, Johnson, Rehn, Cave, Hart, Bickley, Jarman, Smart, Thiessen.
North Melbourne: Harvey (Cut above eye).
Adelaide: Smart (Pinched nerve in neck), Vardy (bruised heel).
Umpires: Coates, Kennedy, Goldspink.
Official crowd: 94,431 at the MCG