As the final days of September come and go, it’s nearly impossible not to reminisce about past grand finals, regardless of whether they ended in triumph or failure.
In 1996, North Melbourne took on Sydney in the biggest game of the year, and with the two sides finishing first and second on the ladder that season, it was a clash between the competition’s powerhouses.
The Round 11 fixture between the two sides finished with a 79-point victory to the Swans. That result, coupled with Sydney finishing first, saw it enter the clash as favourites.
The Swans started quickly and gained the ascendancy in the first quarter, with Tony Lockett leading them to an 18-point margin at the first break, and after Jason Mooney kicked the first goal of the second term, Sydney were poised to put the Kangaroos down.
It was Glenn Freeborn who stood up for North though. Three quick fire goals, plus majors from Darren Crocker and Brett Allison saw North turn the tables and enter the main break with a slender two-point lead.
Whether it be the contested ball of Anthony Rock, the bullocking aggression of Glenn Archer, the physical stopping power of Mick Martyn, or the pure class of Wayne Carey, Sydney had played their hand, and had no answer for this star-studded Kangaroos side.
With the game in the balance, the third term commenced; the premiership quarter. A packed MCG watched on with bated breath, and it was the North which leapt out of the gates.
A four goal to one third term saw the Roos enter the final break with a comfortable 25-point lead. They had won the premiership quarter.
Craig Sholl kicked two goals for the term, with Brett Allison and Crocker chipping in with the other two. Sydney looked tired and defeated, while the Kangaroos’ midfield looked ready to find another gear.
Anthonys Rock and Stevens forged the path for North, winning every midfield contest, every 50/50 battle, throwing themselves at the football with reckless abandon as they looked to kill the game off.
And kill the game off they did, early fourth term goals to Stevens and Mark Roberts saw the lead extend to nearly 40 points. The two sides traded goals for the rest of the clash, but the Swans were defeated.
Bruce McAvaney, fanfare trumpets, Slim Dusty singing Waltzing Matilda.— North Melbourne (@NMFCOfficial) September 28, 2021
The lead-up to the 1996 centenary grand final had it all.
Click below for full match highlights ??
The final cherry on top was Ian Fairley being thrown forward. The club hero had the chance to cap his long and storied career in style.
A brilliant servant through some of the club’s most difficult times in the 1980s and 90s, Fairley had moved into the back line later in his career despite being a major goal threat in his earlier days.
Marking inside 50, he made no mistake as his final kick in senior football sailed through for a major, as he finished his playing days with a grand final goal.
Denis Pagan had built on the foundations laid by Wayne Schimmelbusch and company to lead the side to premiership glory.
The disappointment and struggles of the 1980’s were forgotten, the heartbreak of preliminary finals losses in 1994 and 1995 was gone, and this side was written into North Melbourne folklore the second Carey held the gold premiership cup aloft.
North Melbourne: 19.17.131
Darren Crocker 3
Glenn Freeborn 3
Brett Allison 2
Mark Roberts 2
Craig Sholl 2
Anthony Stevens 2
Peter Bell 1
Wayne Carey 1
Ian Fairley 1
Anthony Rock 1
Adam Simpson 1