IT started with a cult-like pre-season camp and ended with one of the greatest grand finals. AFL season 2018 certainly packed a punch. Here’s a recap.
WEST COAST’S FLAG LEAVES EGG ON FACE
You’ve got to love pre-season predictions. AFL legend Robert Walls boldly predicted West Coast would collect the wooden spoon. The Eagles bucked the odds to claim their first flag since 2006. Not even Nic Naitanui’s season-ending knee injury or Andrew Gaff’s eight-week suspension could halt the juggernaut from the west.
ADELAIDE’S PRE-SEASON FAIL
Pre-seasons are meant to be tough. But Adelaide’s pre-season turned crazy when they embarked on a bizarre camp that left a number of Crows players bewildered and mentally distressed. Coach Don Pyke later labelled the Collective Mind camp a “fail”, with the Crows finishing 2018 in 12th spot – just a year after reaching the grand final.
FREMANTLE’S QUESTIONABLE PAYOUT
Ross Lyon was lucky to keep his job after it emerged a former employee had allegedly been sexually harassed by the Fremantle coach. The ex-employee was reportedly paid more than $100,000 to settle the matter, raising serious ethical questions about hush money in the AFL landscape.
GAFF PUNCH LEADS TO DOCKER SOUP
Andrew Gaff’s reputation took a major hit after his off-the-ball punch on Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw. Brayshaw’s jaw was broken by the ferocious hit, leaving the young Docker on a liquid diet for the next month. Gaff was suspended for eight weeks, meaning he missed West Coast’s premiership win.
BUDDING BLUES SHRIVEL UP
Carlton coach Brendon Bolton wanted to see more ‘green shoots’ this season. Instead, the Blues endured the equal worst season in their 122-year history, winning just two games and finishing with a percentage of just 59.3. Will Bolton win enough games to survive next year?
BOOFHEAD BARRY SACKED FROM TRIPLE M
Barry Hall was fired from his commentator role mid-match after making a crude joke about a woman’s private area on air. Hall later apologised, but no other media outlet has employed him since.
COLLINGWOOD’S DRUG BUST
Sam Murray’s future was thrown into disarray in August when he tested positive to an illicit substance which is banned on match day. He could be banned for up to four years if found guilty. Josh Thomas and Lachie Keeffe were also banned after failing drug tests while playing at Collingwood in 2015, but coach Nathan Buckley denied his team had a drug problem.
THE GOLD COAST DRAIN
It’s bad enough to lose one captain, but the Suns hit a new low in 2018 when they lost two. Tom Lynch was fed up of the losing lifestyle at the Suns and made the switch to Richmond via free agency, while Steven May was traded to Melbourne. The Suns managed just four wins in 2018.
PROLIFIC BROWNLOW WINNER
Hawthorn’s Tom Mitchell was considered a shoo-in to win this year’s Brownlow, and the final count went to script. Mitchell (28 votes) finished four ahead of Collingwood’s Steele Sidebottom in a season in which he averaged 35.33 possessions per game.
DEMONS DROUGHT IS OVER
Melbourne’s 12-year finals drought came to an end when they beat West Coast by 17 points in Perth in Round 22. But their hopes of a fairytale flag were brought to a crashing halt at the same venue just five weeks later when they suffered a 66-point preliminary final thumping at the hands of the eventual flag winners.
ALEX JOHNSON’S FAIRYTALE TURNS INTO NIGHTMARE
Sydney’s Alex Johnson made an emotional return to AFL ranks when he played in Sydney’s Round 20 win over Collingwood. He had endured five knee reconstructions and 2136 days in the wilderness since his last AFL match. But the fairytale turned into a nightmare a week later when he tore his ACL for a sixth time, with the Swans delisting him at the end of the season.
FLYIN’ RYAN COMES CRASHING DOWN
West Coast forward Liam Ryan was taken to hospital after crashing his car into a tree during an early-morning incident in July. Ryan copped a two-game internal suspension over the incident and later was stripped of his driving licence after pleading guilty to being over the limit.
PERTH’S NEW DAWN
The opening of the 60,000-seat Perth Stadium lived up to expectations, with fans flooding through the gates to see their beloved teams in action. West Coast regularly attracted crowds in excess of 50,000, with the fortress playing a key role in their premiership tilt.
THE EPIC GRAND FINAL
Collingwood was on track for flag glory after racing out to a 31-2 lead. But in what will go down as one of the greatest-ever grand finals, West Coast launched a remarkable fightback on enemy territory. Dom Sheed’s set shot from the tightest of angles in the dying minutes sealed a five-point win, leaving Magpies players devastated. Eagles defender Jeremy McGovern’s ability to play with torn obliques and broken ribs is the stuff of legend. His intercept mark late in the game helped set up the match-winning goal.
© AAP 2018