8 Greatest Rivalries in the AFL – The Showdown and More

By Ben Morris in Sports
| July 6, 2022 11:46 am PDT
AFL logo, Biggest Rivalries, generic Aussie stadium

Believe it or not, Australian rules football has been around since the 1800s. The Victorian Football League (VFL) was established 125 years ago, with the Australian Football League (AFL) forming in 1990.

As a result of the sport’s rich history, there is no shortage of AFL rivalries. Some date back more than a century, while others were shaped within the past decade. Either way, the greatest AFL rivalries are all fiercely contested.

Watching these local derbies is always fun, but betting on the action takes the excitement to a whole new level. Thanks to the best Aussie rules betting sites, wagering on the biggest rivalries in the AFL has never been easier.

But what are the biggest AFL rivalries, I hear you ask? Well, here is my take on the league’s top eight derbies.

Hawthorn vs. Geelong – Greatest Modern-Day AFL Rivalry

HAWTHORN AND GEELONG

Due to the Hawthorn’s recent decline as a power team, this rivalry might not be what it once was. Still, it remains one of the biggest rivalries in the AFL.

Although Hawthorn and Geelong had faced each other in the 1963 Grand Final, their rivalry began for real two decades later. In Round 12 of the 1985 season, Hawthorn star Leigh Matthews intentionally struck Geelong’s Neville Bruns – breaking his jaw in the process!

A mass brawl ensued, with players from both sides throwing punches. But things would get even uglier four years later.

The Hawks met the Cats in the 1989 Grand Final and produced one of the most violent clashes in the league’s history. Geelong’s Mark Yeates flattened Hawthorn’s Dermott Brereton seconds after the first whistle, with several other Hawks sustaining major injuries.

The two foes met once again in the 2008 Grand Final. All the top Australian sports betting sites favored the Cats to prevail, but the Hawks upset the odds with a 26-point victory.

Following comments made by Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett after the 2008 Grand Final, Geelong won the next 11 meetings between the clubs. As a result, the “Kennett Curse” was born.

Nowadays, Hawthorn and Geelong clash annually on Easter Monday at the MCG. The entire nation comes to a standstill to witness one of the top AFL rivalries.

Adelaide vs. Port Adelaide – The Showdown

There are only two teams from South Australia in the AFL – the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide Power. Naturally, they have forged one of the fiercest AFL rivalries.

Given that Port Adelaide only entered the league in 1997, “The Showdown” doesn’t boast the rich history of the long-established Victorian rivalries. But when the two South Australian sides do battle, all hell breaks loose.

Of course, the MCG is the league’s premier venue. But there is nothing like 53,000 fans going berserk at the Adelaide Oval.

At the time of writing, the head-to-head record is notably tight. Port Adelaide has claimed 26 Showdown victories over the years, while the Crows have registered 25 wins. That tells you everything you need to know about the competitiveness of the rivalry.

The Power holds the record for the longest winning streak in this fixture, having secured seven straight victories between 2000 and 2004. During that period, Port clinched three consecutive minor premierships.

Can the Crows overtake their bitter rivals in the coming years?

Carlton vs. Collingwood – The AFL’s Longest-Standing Rivalry

CARLTON AND COLLINGWOOD

Hawthorn and Geelong may have the greatest modern-day rivalry, while the two Adelaide clubs have created a big conflict over the past couple of decades. However, the rivalry between Carlton and Collingwood is a totally different beast altogether.

Believe it or not, the Blues and the Magpies first met all the way back in 1892! Since then, they have produced countless memorable matches.

The Melbourne foes have clashed in no fewer than six Grand Finals over the years. Unfortunately, the Magpies have only managed to beat Carlton once in the showpiece.

GRAND FINALS BETWEEN CARLTON AND COLLINGWOOD
  • 1910: Carlton (47) vs. Collingwood (61)
  • 1915: Carlton (78) vs. Collingwood (78)
  • 1938: Carlton (100) vs. Collingwood (85)
  • 1970: Carlton (111) vs. Collingwood (101)
  • 1979: Carlton (82) vs. Collingwood (77)
  • 1981: Carlton (92) vs. Collingwood (72)

The most famous Grand Final meeting between Carlton and Collingwood came in 1970. The Blues found themselves 73-29 down at halftime, but a second-half resurgence saw them mount a 44-point comeback to clinch the flag.

Collingwood last won a premiership in 2010, while Carlton’s last triumph came back in 1995. Consequently, the Victorian enemies haven’t had much to shout about in recent years.

But since this is one of the league’s longest-standing battles, it has to be viewed among the biggest AFL rivalries.

West Coast vs. Fremantle – The Western Derby

Like The Showdown, The Western Derby has only been on the AFL schedule since the mid-1990s. Still, the clash between the league’s Perth-based clubs is seen as one of the greatest AFL rivalries.

So, who are the two protagonists? West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Football Club, of course!

The first Western Derby occurred in 1995, but the rivalry didn’t fully spark until 2000. In Round 21 of the 2000 season, West Coast and Fremantle produced “The Demolition Derby,” with both sides out of finals contention.

The Dockers won the match by a single point. However, despite the tight winning margin, the match will always be remembered for multiple mass brawls and subsequent suspensions.

Dale Kickett was suspended for nine matches for striking Phillip Read and Andrew Embley. Michael Gardiner and Brad Dodd also received suspensions for striking, while eight players were fined for their actions.

Almost two decades after the infamous Demolition Derby, West Coast’s Andrew Gaff intentionally struck Andrew Brayshaw in 2018. The first-year Docker sustained a broken jaw, resulting in an eight-match ban for Gaff.

Don’t worry – plenty of top-class footy has also been played in The Western Derby. Chris Judd is arguably the fixture’s greatest-ever player, having scooped three Glendinning-Allan Medals between 2005 and 2006.

Thanks to a host of standout displays in The Western Derby, Judd is widely regarded as one of the best AFL players of all time.

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Carlton vs. Essendon – Most Successful Clubs in AFL History

The Blues make their second appearance on my list of the biggest AFL rivalries here. Granted, their rivalry with Collingwood is the longest-standing feud in the league. But their rivalry with Essendon is equally as fierce.

I mean, it’s only natural for the league’s most successful clubs to share a mutual hatred for one another, right?

Carlton and Essendon have won more VFL/AFL premierships than anyone else, claiming 16 flags apiece over the years. Collingwood, Hawthorn, Melbourne, and Richmond are the only other clubs to have reached double figures.

MOST VFL/AFL PREMIERSHIPS
Club Premierships
Carlton 16
Essendon 16
Collingwood 15
Hawthorn 13
Melbourne 13
Richmond 13

The Blues have met the Bombers in six Grand Finals, with both sides securing the silverware three times. Carlton won the first clash all the way back in 1908 before Essendon won the previous showpiece meeting in 1993.

In 2022, the Bombers celebrated their 150th anniversary with a match against Carlton at the MCG. However, the Blues spoiled their rivals’ party – winning by 26 points.

Neither club has won a premiership for over two decades now. Even so, the ongoing dispute between the league’s most successful teams remains one of the biggest rivalries in the AFL.

Richmond vs. Essendon – Dreamtime at the ‘G

Carlton is not the only club that shares a rivalry with Essendon. You only need to take a short trip across the city of Melbourne to find Essendon’s other bitter foes – Richmond.

Alongside Collingwood and Carlton, Richmond and Essendon comprise the “Big 4” Victorian clubs. Since Richmond and Essendon were both founded more than 130 years ago, they have been rivals throughout the league’s history.

However, the introduction of “Dreamtime at the ‘G” has taken one of the top AFL rivalries to a whole new level.

Every season, Richmond and Essendon meet on the Saturday night of the Indigenous Round. Also known as the Sir Doug Nicholls Round, the special weekend celebrates Aboriginal players and their contribution to the league.
DREAMTIME AT THE ‘G

Of course, the Indigenous Round is an affectionate and cordial occasion. But there is nothing affectionate or cordial about the rivalry between Richmond and Essendon.

At the time of writing, the foes have contested 18 fierce Dreamtime clashes. The Bombers won six of the first ten meetings, but the Tigers sealed eight straight victories between 2015 and 2022.

This clash invariably attracts 80,000 spectators, making it one of the standout matches on the AFL calendar. For that reason, it has to be viewed among the greatest rivalries in the AFL.

Sydney vs. GWS – The Battle of the Bridge

As far as Sydneysiders are concerned, the Battle of the Bridge is the biggest rivalry in the AFL.

Naturally, footy fans from outside New South Wales won’t agree with supporters of the Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney. But in Harbour City, this is the only match that matters.

Following the Giants’ introduction into the league in 2012, the Sydney Derby is the AFL’s newest local derby. But what it lacks in history, it more than makes up for with high drama, close results, and all the other factors that make a great rivalry.

In 2016, the Sydney clubs met in the finals series for the very first time. Not only did the Giants beat the Swans by 36 points, but they also secured their maiden finals victory in front of 60,222 fans at ANZ Stadium.

GWS sealed another memorable finals triumph over the Swans two years later, registering a 49-point win in the 2018 second elimination final.

Although the Giants recorded five Sydney Derby victories in seven attempts between 2018 and 2021, the Swans have the upper hand regarding the overall head-to-head record. Needless to say, GWS will be eager to change that in the coming years.

Brisbane vs. Gold Coast – The QClash

Lastly, the QClash between the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns wraps up my list of the biggest rivalries in the AFL.

For many years, Brisbane was the only Queensland-based team in the AFL. But when Gold Coast entered the league in 2011, the number of Queensland clubs doubled. If you haven’t already guessed, the “Q” in QClash comes from the name of the state.

Regardless of this rivalry’s brief history, there is no love lost between Brisbane and Gold Coast.

Between 2011 and 2015, the Lions claimed six QClash victories – asserting their dominance over the Suns. In 2016, Gold Coast defender Steven May took it upon himself to gain revenge on Brisbane.

May bumped Brisbane’s Stefan Martin at the Gabba, knocking the ruckman unconscious. Martin remained motionless for several minutes after the incident, leading to a five-match suspension for May.

Two years later, post-match footage showed Brisbane vice-captain Dayne Zorko aiming expletives at Gold Coast’s Touk Miller before refusing to shake his hand. Zorko and Miller have since collided on numerous occasions.

The Lions have dominated the QClash in recent years, snatching eight straight wins between 2018 and 2022. Can the Suns rise once again?

Closing Thoughts on the Biggest AFL Rivalries

There are many more rivalries in the AFL. Melbourne and Collingwood’s rivalry is known for being fierce, while the long-standing feud between Essendon and North Melbourne is another Victorian rivalry worth mentioning.

Let’s not forget about the interstate rivalries, too. Essendon and West Coast have never seen eye to eye. Elsewhere, Brisbane and Port Adelaide have hated each other for years following the merging of Fitzroy.

Of course, rivalries are not exclusive to Aussie rules. Follow the links below to learn more about other sporting rivalries from around the world.

If you enjoy betting on the AFL, be sure to check out our Aussie Rules picks page. Our team of experts publishes regular AFL betting tips to help you win money.

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