With the Grand Final played and won, the long dark no football months of summer lie in wait for us. In an effort to bring some light to this miserable time, The Pinch Hitters intend to take a look back at the season that was and celebrate the great moments of season 2018. Today we shine a spotlight on the results that nobody saw coming with the Top Five Biggest Upsets of 2018.
5. First Preliminary Final: Collingwood v Richmond.
What little chance the football world gave Collingwood was evident in the ‘Experts Tips’ in Melbourne’s two major papers which saw just six of 42 predict an upset win for Nathan Buckley’s men. With Richmond unbeaten in their last 22 starts at the MCG and victorious in six of their last seven against Collingwood, a victory for the Minor Premiers was considered a foregone conclusion. In front of 94,959 fans, the Magpies reminded everyone that there is no such thing as a foregone conclusion in the AFL.
Outplaying Richmond at their own game, Collingwood ambushed their opponents in a withering first half display. Led by outstanding performances from Brodie Grundy, Steele Sidebottom and Jordan De Goey, Collingwood went to the half-time break all but in the Grand Final with a 10 goal to two lead. Despite having winners all over the ground, the night might be best remembered for the performance of American Forward Mason Cox.
Just four years removed from learning the sport existed, Cox produced a sensational exhibition of contested marking to outpoint the competition’s premier defender. His efforts at the start of the second quarter set the MCG alight. In response to him kicking the first three goals of the term, the large crowd broke out into a spontaneous USA, USA chant.
Their performance in the epic Grand Final that followed a week later suggests their underdog status might have been overstated but the shock felt at the time makes this a worthy fifth place in 2018’s biggest upsets.
FIRST PRELIMINARY FINAL
RICHMOND 1.3 2.8 6.10 8.10 (58)
COLLINGWOOD 5.2 10.4 12.7 15.7 (97)
Richmond: Riewoldt 5, Higgins 2, Houli
Collingwood: De Goey 4, Cox 3, Crisp 2, Mihocek 2, Varcoe, Treloar, Grundy, Stephenson
Richmond: Riewoldt, Cotchin, Houli, Higgins
Collingwood: Sidebottom, Cox, Grundy, Adams, Crisp, De Goey, Greenwood
Collingwood: Howe (ankle)
Umpires: Rosebury, Stevic, Ryan
Official crowd: 94,959 at the MCG
4. Round 14: Essendon v West Coast.
Only three sides beat West Coast at Optus Stadium this year, with the Bombers’ Round 14 victory the most dominant. A 50-1 scoreline midway through the second quarter showed the gulf in intensity, as the Bombers caught the Eagles flat-footed and ran them off the park.
It was a Thursday night procession with the Eagles having no answer for Zach Merrett (30 possessions) or Devon Smith (20 possessions, three goals). The Bombers ball use was as crisp as it would be all season and their decision making going forward gave their forwards a big advantage over their opponents. Jake Stringer too full toll of the opportunity, with the enigmatic forward kicking three goals for the night. West Coast were much improved in the second half but by that time the damage had already been done.
WEST COAST 0.1 1.6 2.12 6.16 (52)
ESSENDON 6.2 8.4 9.7 12.8 (80)
West Coast: Cripps 2, Naitanui, Rioli, LeCras, Shuey
Essendon: Stringer 3, Smith 3, Bellchambers, Brown, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Baguley, Guelfi, Langford
West Coast: Hurn, Gaff, Yeo, Redden, Naitanui
Essendon: Saad, Smith, Heppell, Hooker, Merrett, Hurley, Goddard
West Coast: Nil
Essendon: Redman (ankle)
Umpires: Margetts, Dalgleish, Williamson, Fleer
Official crowd: 51,409 at Optus Stadium
3. Round 15: St Kilda v Melbourne.
With just four wins to show for their efforts in 2018, it wasn’t exactly a highlight packed season for the Saints. Which made their Round 15 victory over Preliminary Finalist Melbourne one of the biggest surprises of the season.
After their come from the clouds victory against the Suns a week earlier, the Saints backed up with a top shelf performance against a quality opponent. On the back of strong efforts from the likes of Jack Billings, Jake Carlisle, Jack Steele and four goals from Jade Gresham the Saints gave an all too brief glimpse of what was possible from this group in a long season for both the club and its supporters.
Playing on at all costs, they built a deserved 22-point lead by the last change before a late Melbourne flurry made the final moments a little too close for comfort. Standing tall in the face of the Demons surge, the Saints held on for a two-point victory to complete a deserved upset victory.
MELBOURNE 4.2 9.3 11.6 18.9 (117)
ST KILDA 4.3 11.6 14.10 18.11 (119)
Melbourne: Fritsch 4, Harmes 3, Hogan 3, Brayshaw 2, Petracca, Tyson, T.McDonald, Neal-Bullen, Melksham, Lewis
St Kilda: Gresham 4, Membrey 4, McCartin 2, Savage, Steele, Clark, Newnes, Armitage, Billings, Battle, Steven
Melbourne: Gawn, Brayshaw, Harmes, Viney
St Kilda: Carlisle, Billings, Gresham, Sinclair, Steele, Steven, Armitage
St Kilda: Brown (hamstring)
Umpires: Deboy, Gavine, Pannell
Official crowd: 38,910 at the MCG
2. Round 17: Brisbane v Hawthorn.
Is winning against a team that you have already beaten by 56-points early in the year really an upset? In our mind, when it involves a bottom four team beating Hawthorn in Launceston it is not just an upset but the second most surprising result of the season.
Having lost just once at their home away from home in their last 26 starts, the Hawks would have been pretty comfortable with proceedings when the led by 11-points at half time. If they had been told then that they would win the inside 50’s, Tom Mitchell would have 43-possessions and Jaeger O’Meara would kick four goals, they would have been pretty confident of another Launceston victory. It would not be the case.
Held to just one point in the last quarter, the Hawks were helpless in the face of the young Lions onslaught. With the likes of McCluggage, Witherden and Berry starring and Rayner and Hipwood kicking goals, Brisbane would kick 10 goals to three in the second half to complete a pair of victories over the Hawks in 2018.
HAWTHORN 2.5 6.7 9.10 9.11 (65)
BRISBANE 2.1 5.2 11.6 15.8 (98)
Hawthorn: O’Meara 4, Gunston 2, Whitecross, Mitchell, Duryea
Brisbane: Rayner 3, Hipwood 3, Robinson 2, McStay 2, Christensen, Zorko, Rayner, Taylor, Berry
Hawthorn: O’Meara, Mitchell, Sicily, Shiels
Brisbane: D.Beams, Rayner, Rich, Robinson, Berry, Walker
Brisbane Lions: Nil
Umpires: Fisher, Hay, Ryan
Crowd: 12,557 at University of Tasmania Stadium
Round 18: Gold Coast v Sydney.
With it being perhaps the biggest upset of the decade, the Suns Round 18 victory over Sydney was the club’s best win by a long, long, way. Despite entering the match on the back of a 11-game losing streak, it was a confident and assured performance that saw them put a major dent in the Swans top four aspirations.
When the teams broke at quarter time with the Swans leading by five goals, there was no indication of the surprise the Suns were about to spring. Yet on the back of a four goal performance from Aaron Young, and standout performances from Lachie Weller and Will Brodie, Gold Coast would kick 11 of the next 13 goals of the match to record a 24-point victory.
SYDNEY 6.4 6.7 6.10 8.16 (64)
GOLD COAST 1.5 7.7 9.12 12.16 (88)
Sydney: Papley 3, Parker 2, Jones, Florent, Hayward
Gold Coast: Young 4, Sexton 3, Weller 2, Miller, Heron, Holman
Sydney: Kennedy, Parker, Aliir, Florent, Rampe, Cunningham
Gold Coast: Young, Weller, Thompson, Sexton, Witts, Miller
Gold Coast: Nil
Umpires: Fisher, Meredith, Mollison
Official attendance: 32,565 at the SCG