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Rounds Of Our Lives: The greatest moments from Round 22

Hawthorn defender Chris Langford waves his jumper to the MCG crowd ahead of the decision on the “Melbourne Hawks” in 1996. Picture: CHANNEL 7

Rounds Of Our Lives: The greatest moments from Round 22

Luke Michael    

If you need a break from the constant speculation and analysis accompanying the 2018 AFL season, take a step back and enjoy some of the greatest moments from round 22 in years gone by.

This round has seen some incredible sights, from four Daniher brothers playing in the same side for Essendon, to Shaun Smith’s “Mark of the Century” over Garry Lyon at the Gabba.

Because, like fans streaming on to the field after a Jason Dunstall “ton”, or the MCG scoreboard catching fire, so are the Rounds of our Lives.

HAWTHORN 15.12 (102) d MELBOURNE 15.11 (101) (MCG, Round 22 1996)
Hawthorn won a thriller against Melbourne at the MCG, in the famous “merger match” of 1996.

With a merger vote between the two clubs just weeks away, Melbourne and Hawthorn fans feared their clash in the final round of the home-and-away season would be the last time they saw their teams play as separate entities.

To add further drama, Hawthorn needed to beat the Demons to have a shot at playing finals, with the Hawks sitting half a game outside the top eight.

Some 63,000 fans packed the MCG, with many carrying “NO MERGER” banners to show their opposition to the proposed “Melbourne Hawks”.

The match itself was a classic, with legendary forwards Jason Dunstall (10 goals) and David Neitz (six) putting on a clinic at both ends of the ground.

Dunstall’s ninth goal midway through the last quarter saw him reach his 100th goal for the season, leading fans to complete their customary pilgrimage on to the ground.

The Demons were 14 points down with six minutes left, but refused to wilt. Neitz kicked two quick goals in succession to reduce the lead to one point with under four minutes remaining.

The final few minutes were frantic on the field, while in the stands, frenzied supporters cheered knowing it may be the final chance they could.

Hawthorn finally was able to shut the game down and maintain its one-point lead as the final siren went, securing victory and a place in the finals. Hawks’ players were jubilant, and in an act of defiance to the looming merger, Chris Langford walked off the ground proudly holding his Hawthorn jumper over his head.

A couple of weeks later, Melbourne members narrowly voted to undertake the merger, but Hawthorn members rejected the deal and buried the “Melbourne Hawks” for good.

It is impossible to tell what effect the thrilling “merger match” had on Hawthorn’s members’ decision, but it is fair to say on reflection that the now powerhouse club made the right choice.

MELBOURNE 12.11 (83) d FOOTSCRAY 10.8 (68) (Western Oval, Round 22 1987)
Melbourne broke a 23-year finals drought and allowed captain Robbie Flower to finally taste September action in his final season, thanks to a round 22 victory over Footscray in 1987. In a thrilling last round of the season, Melbourne needed to beat the Dogs and rely on Hawthorn beating Geelong to make finals. Despite trailing at every quarter break, the Demons overpowered the Dogs in the final term to win by 15 points, as Flower starred with three goals. Luckily for Melbourne, the Hawks similarly overcame an 18-point three-quarter time deficit to overpower Geelong, allowing Melbourne to storm into finals and Flower to finish his career in the midst of September action.

ESSENDON 19.14 (128) d ST KILDA 13.15 (93) (Moorabbin Oval, Round 22 1990)
It’s a pretty impressive family achievement for two brothers to play in the same VFL/AFL match, which makes round 22, 1990 – which featured four Daniher brothers playing for Essendon – one of the most amazing moments in league history. With the Bombers on top of the ladder, coach Kevin Sheedy rested Tim Watson and Paul Salmon to put Chris and Neale Daniher in the team, who arguably weren’t in their best side. Chris and Neale were joined by Anthony and Terry to form the Daniher quartet, who helped the Bombers record a 35-point victory over St Kilda. The brothers didn’t disappoint: Neale kicked three goals, Anthony had 27 touches, Chris had 24 touches, and Terry had 15 touches and kicked a goal.

BRISBANE 16.14 (110) d MELBOURNE 13.11 (89) (Gabba, Round 22 1995)
Melbourne forward Shaun Smith reached for the skies to take what was later dubbed the “Mark of the Century”, in a 1995 clash with the Bears. The famous mark took place after a David Neitz shot on goal from outside 50 fell just short, allowing Smith to take a tremendous leap on to the back of teammate Garry Lyon in the goal square. Smith leapt off Lyon’s back to take the chest mark while seemingly standing in mid-air. It was one of the highest leaps ever seen on the footy field, but unfortunately was not enough to inspire a Melbourne victory, with the Bears eventually victorious by 21 points.

RICHMOND 13.12 (90) d CARLTON 11.13 (79) (MCG, Round 22 1999)
In one of the more bizarre moments in league history, the scoreboard of the MCG caught fire before a round 22 Carlton-Richmond clash in 1999. An electrical fault was apparently the cause of the blaze, which delayed the match by almost half an hour. With the fire extinguished and the game up and running, it was Richmond which was seemingly on fire, doubling the Blues’ score at three-quarter time to lead 72 to 36. Carlton would stage a final term comeback, but its efforts proved futile as the Tigers held on to win by 11 points, in Jeff Gieschen’s final game as Richmond coach.

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