North Melbourne made history in more ways than one on Saturday night, winning its first final interstate and along the way becoming the first club to make a Preliminary Final from eighth place.
In beating the Swans at ANZ Stadium, the victory was the Roos’ first successful interstate finals venture from five attempts.
While the game became truly national in the late 80s, it wasn’t until 2007 that the club went outside Victoria in September. It was a memorable game for all the wrong reasons – finishing with a 77-point loss to the Power at Football Park.
The following year, North lost by 35 points against Sydney at ANZ Stadium and four years later was thrashed by West Coast to the tune of 96 points at Domain Stadium.
Just last year, the Swans were dominant in a 71-point Preliminary Final victory.
From four interstate finals before Saturday night, the Roos’ average losing margin was 70 points … it’s little wonder the players enjoyed their 26-point win so much.
North finals outside of Victoria
Preliminary final, 2007 v Port Adelaide – 77-point loss
Elimination final, 2008 v Sydney – 35-point loss
Elimination final, 2012 v West Coast – 96-point loss
Preliminary final, 2014 – 71-point loss
Semi final, 2015 v Sydney – 26-point win
The AFL’s top eight system was only introduced in 1994, but it says a lot for North’s current form that it was the first side in 21 years to come from the bottom of the pile to make a Preliminary Final.
Taking things further, should the Roos get past West Coast this week, they’d become the lowest-ranked side since the top eight system was introduced to make a Grand Final.
Back in 1998, Adelaide finished fifth, before being smashed in its first final by 48 points. In those days, the two bottom-ranked losing teams were eliminated, meaning the Crows had another chance.
Remarkably, they recovered to win their next three games and defeat the minor premiers, North, in the Grand Final.
The previous year Malcolm Blight’s team came from fourth to seal its first ever premiership.
But perhaps the most remarkable effort from a side dates back to 1916.
As one of just four teams in the league during World War 1, Fitzroy finished the home and away season in fourth place with just two wins from 12 games.
The ‘wooden spooners’ then proceeded to win three finals in a row to seal the premiership from the bottom of the ladder.
16 years earlier, in 1900, Melbourne finished sixth in an eight team competition, only to go and win the premiership against then ‘minor premier’ Fitzroy.