Australian Rules Football has thrown up countless wonderful moments over the course of its distinguished history. Choosing five of the most memorable from the hundreds of fearless marks and pin-point goal kicks is an idea which is bound to cause a fair amount of controversy but then, would we really want it any other way? Here is our countdown of five of the most iconic and memorable moments in footy history.
David Zaharakis’s ANZAC Day winning kick, 2009
Kicking the goal to win an ANZAC game for Essendon against the Pies isn’t a bad way to open your AFL goal account. But the circumstances in which David Zaharakis’s first Essendon goal sealed the ANZAC day contest in 2009 puts the kick up there with the best moments in football history. With Collingwood one point up Tarkyn Lockyer restarted the game with the clock ticking down. Bombers’ midfielder Jason Winderlich collected the loose ball from the kick, span it in-field to fellow midfielder Hocking who handed it on to Nathan Lovett-Murray to deliver a beautifully weighted pass into the arms of Zaharakis positioned just inside of the 50m line. Zaharakis advanced a few paces before unleashing the deadly game winning kick moments before being totally wiped out by Pies’ Brent Macaffer.
Geelong’s Grand Final Win, 2007
One of the oldest teams in football history, the Geelong Cats began the 2007 AFL season in decidedly average fashion, losing three of their first five rounds. Bereft of a title for 44 hard years and stuck in a rut of mediocrity, this early season slump became the unlikely catalyst for one of the most momentous AFL seasons to date. After another home defeat, small forward Paul Chapman delivered a public indictment of the club and denounced the lack of team spirit in the Cats dressing room.
To avert crisis the team’s entire playing and coaching staff held a meeting to discuss their failings. Whatever was said had the desired effect. Starting with a 157 point demolition of Richmond, Geelong went on a 15-game winning streak which took them all the way to the Grand Final. In an almost ridiculously one sided game, in which they totted up 24 goals and 19 behinds, Geelong recorded a record victory margin of 119 points to thump Port Adelaide and finally break their drought.
Nicky Winmar stands up to racism, 1993
Why do we love footy? Well, among endless other reasons, it’s because of the gladiatorial spirit and indomitable heart that many of the game’s best players show when they take to the field. Arguably no single moment sums up this spirit better than when Nicky Winmar stood up to sections of a jeering Victoria Park crowd by lifting his guernsey and pointing to his brown aboriginal skin. The gesture showed staunch opposition to the racially motivated torrents that had been coming his way since kick-off. The image of the defiant Western Australian became an icon synonymous with the aboriginal people’s struggle for equality both inside and outside sport.
Leo Barry’s mark ends the Sydney Swans’ 72 years of hurt, 2005
The longest streak without a title in footy history remains the 72 year barren spell endured by the Sydney Swans. However, thanks largely to Swans hero Leo Barry, the drought finally came to an end in the AFL Grand Final of 2005.
With the clock ticking down in dramatic fashion and the scores precariously balanced at 58-54 the Eagles had, as commentator Stephen Quartermain described, “one last roll of the dice”. After collecting a mark behind the 50m line, Eagles’ Dean Cox punted a long ball up field to within touching distance of the Swans’ goal. As the ball descended Barry charged into a thickly saturated pack jumping side-on to clutch the ball out of the air for a vital mark seconds before the final siren sounded. Cue outpourings of man love on the pitch and the birth of a modern footy legend.
Jesaulenko’s mark of the century, VFL Grand Final, 1970
One of the great spectacles in Australian sport is the Australian Football Grand Final. However, the 1970 VFL Grand Final contested by bitter rivals Carlton and Collingwood was a special one by all accounts. 121,696 fans (a record attendance) were crammed into the MCG to watch the wound of the rivalry be re-opened as Carlton just edged out neighbours Collingwood to take the game and the Premiership Cup.
The game has been heralded as the birth of modern football but no single moment summed up the enormity of the occasion more than Alex Jesaulenko’s incredible soaring mark in the 2nd quarter. The mark led to the inception of the mark of the year competition and became the bar by which all acrobatic takes would be measured in years to come. The mark and the famous roar of “Jesaulenko you beauty” by commentator Mike Williamson in response to the towering leap will be forever engrained in the consciousness of Australian sports fans.