Great teams make for great Grand Finals, but there are some stand-out players who contribute to the game so much that they become almost legendary in stature. Here are some of the AFL Grand Final top players that we’ve seen over the years.
Without a doubt, Dustin “Dusty” Martin has to be on this list. He has had an extraordinary career with the Richmond Tigers since his debut 2010 season. So far, Martin has been part of three Grand Final premierships, where he won the Norm Smith and Gary Ayres medals each time, in addition to taking the coveted Brownlow medal in 2017 with a record 36 votes. AFL legend Leigh Matthews has said that Dusty’s 2017 season was the greatest ever for any individual AFL/VFL player.
Michael Long’s 1993 grand final outing is stuff of legends. This midfielder was key to helping Essendon gain and maintain a healthy lead over Carlton in this exciting Grand Final. One of the many highlights of the game was when Long went on an epic run from midfield to inside 50 to smash in yet another goal. Long rightly received the Norm Smith medal for his efforts in that classic Grand Final.
Widely considered to be the greatest player to have ever played for the Crows, Mcleod’s career has certainly made that claim a more than viable contender. He played 340 games with Adelaide, he has amassed such honors as receiving the Norm Smith medal twice in the 1997 and 1998 Premierships, the Leigh Matthews Trophy in 2001, and was selected as an All-Australian member 5 times, including the captaincy in 2007. Mcleod controversially lost the Brownlow Medal to Jason Akermanis in 2001 despite being the favourite to win.
Gary Ablett Sr. is regarded as one of the best to ever play the game, and with good reason. In what is known as one of the greatest Grand Finals of all time, Ablett kicked an impressive 9 goals against Hawthorn, which is a tied record with VFL legend Gordon Coventry. He rightly won the Norm Smith medal for the 1989 final, despite being on the losing side that year.
This 4-time premiership player, 3-time premiership captain and 2-time Norm Smith Medalist has had quite a career. Hodge debuted with Hawthorn in 2002 and played with the team until 2017. He is regarded as one of the most respected players both on and off the field and earned himself the nickname “The General” as captain, which is also the title of his autobiography.
One of the all-time greats, Tuck had a very prolific career, playing an impressive 426 games over the course of 19 years, a record which was only recently broken in 2016 by Brent Harvey. He holds several records including the most VFL/AFL finals games with 39 appearances, most VFL/AFL Grand Finals appearances at 11, and most VFL/AFL premiership wins with 7. Under Tuck’s tenure as captain, the Hawks won 4 of those Grand Finals, including the 1989 premiership, often referred to as the greatest AFL/VFL Grand Final of all time.
The finals have a way of bringing out the greats and it is truly where legends are made. Though these players are some of the most respected and revered in AFL history, the season is already showing some significant new talent which could provide the legends of the future.