RICHMOND crushed Greater Western Sydney in the Grand Final to make it two flags in three years, while Adelaide and Erin Phillips reminded everyone of their AFLW greatness with a second premiership.
But from the opening weeks of 2019 until the year's dying days, there was controversy, brilliant highs and shattering lows. AFL.com.au continues the countdown of the year's top 50 football storylines with 30-21 below.
30. Saints get over the Hill to bring in five-pack of recruits
The Telstra AFL Trade Period disappointed in many ways, in that there was a significant lag period – sans the blockbuster Tim Kelly deal being done – then not a heap of trades ultimately completed. One club that didn't muck around was St Kilda, which brought in five players, headlined by Fremantle star Bradley Hill. Others to march into Moorabbin were Dougal Howard, Paddy Ryder, Zak Jones and Dan Butler, while the Saints also scooped up Geelong ruckman Ryan Abbott as a delisted free agent. There were a lot of doubters about their ability to get all those trades done but they silenced that crew. It will be a new-look St Kilda in 2020, especially with Josh Bruce, Jack Steven and Blake Acres finding new clubs and Paddy McCartin sitting out next season. What impact this much change will have on the Saints remains to be seen, particularly with cohesion becoming a buzz word in sport circles, but they won't die wondering.
29. List boss no more: Silvagni's messy exit from Carlton
Talk of Stephen Silvagni departing Carlton was rife all year but neither 'SOS' nor the Blues acknowledged it publicly. At least until last week, when a Carlton statement confirmed the club great's contract would not be renewed, in large part because of a conflict of interest. That's despite the widely held belief the list is now in better shape. Two of Silvagni's sons – Jack and Ben – play for the Blues, of course, and he excused himself from list management and match committee discussions involving them. What that statement and Carlton's online members' forum this week did not address was the relationship between Silvagni and chief executive Cain Liddle. It's believed they didn't see eye to eye on a number of things, including the wooing of then-free agent Brandon Ellis, who ended up at Gold Coast. Silvagni apparently also wasn't as keen as others to bring back Eddie Betts for a farewell season. Whatever the case, the champion full-back won't be there next year.
28. Security goes "too far" in response to fan behaviour
Who would have tipped 'Behavioural Awareness Officers' to be a thing this year? As concern over crowd behaviour increased, different measures were taken, including officers in green vests trudging down the aisles at AFL games. It didn't go down well with fans, who suggested security was becoming too heavy-handed with its approach. AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan fronted the media at the height of the storm, saying his view was the officers "should go". McLachlan added that it was "devastating" to think supporters felt the AFL was trying to limit their enjoyment at the football. Those comments came days after Marvel Stadium CEO Michael Green conceded they had "gone too far" with patrolling the aisles. Among the crowd incidents that drew attention were wild brawls after Richmond's round one win over Carlton, and the Pies' round eight victory over the Blues. Security also kicked one fan out of the round 12 clash between Carlton and Brisbane, after allegedly hearing him call umpire Matthew Nicholls a "bald-headed flog".
27. 'Phill Inn' Magpie becomes the butt of jokes
This was the strangest and funniest story of the year – and one broken by AFL.com.au, after initial denials from Collingwood. Magpies midfielder Brayden Sier's decision to play in a Division Three domestic basketball game while still out with a calf injury was newsworthy enough. Then came the kicker: Sier played under the hilarious pseudonym 'Phill Inn', which quickly became the stuff of social media legend. Channel Seven carried on the joke by using that moniker, instead of his actual name, for a regulation Collingwood injury list during one game this season. The 22-year-old copped a $5000 ban for his 20 minutes of hoops madness and is required to complete weekly community work until the end of the year. After being an important player in the Pies' 2018 Grand Final run, Sier appeared just six times at senior level a year later.
26. Is this a Fantasia? Bomber linked with SA homecoming
Another footballer who struggled to stay out of the headlines in 2019. First there was the debate about how to pronounce Orazio Fantasia's surname properly, then he was the victim in Pinch-gate, which cost Hawthorn skipper Ben Stratton a week (plus an extra game for stomping on Shaun McKernan). Most notable of all was Fantasia's want to end his playing career in South Australia, a story broken by AFL.com.au. There were denials all over the place at the time, but by Telstra AFL Trade Period time, Port Adelaide was confident it was going to lure the goalsneak home from Essendon. Fantasia cut ties with his manager Anthony McConville ahead of that, creating more speculation, before replacing him with Adelaide-based agent Michael Doughty. The 24-year-old ended up staying put for now – after some Dyson Heppell intervention – but the suspicion is it's only a matter of time until he does depart.
25. Brilliant debut year proves Tiger has a Stack of talent
Sydney Stack had already arrived by the time he cannoned into Jack Viney's right shoulder with a brutal – but completely fair – bump from the opposite direction on Anzac Day eve. It was Stack's fourth senior game but he was already a Tiger favourite, rising from the undrafted kid who was considered more trouble than he was worth to most other clubs. Richmond took a shot on him with the new pre-season supplemental selection period rules in a move that is already paying rich dividends. Stack was a NAB AFL Rising Star nominee in round 11 and finished third in the award overall from his 17 games. If his excellent, hard-hitting play wasn't enough to keep him in the headlines, then his on-field interaction with Eddie Betts certainly did. After a typically ridiculous Betts goal went through, the then-Crow pointed in Stack's direction and they had a quick embrace. The exchange polarised opinion but Indigenous Player Alliance chairman and ex-AFL footballer Des Headland put it all in perspective for AFL.com.au.
24. The Ollie Chronicles: waterskiing, captaincy and Carlton
What an interesting year it was for Port Adelaide midfield gun Ollie Wines, who kicked it off by suffering a shoulder injury in what became a controversial waterskiing accident. That triggered a hailstorm of opinion on AFL footballers' extra-curricular activities – but he ultimately missed only two games. In between that injury and returning, Wines joined Tom Jonas in becoming the first co-captains in club history, which didn't go down well with the fanbase. Fast-forward not even 10 months, and Port has back-flipped on the concept, with Jonas to be the standalone captain. This news capped a difficult period for Wines, who played only 12 games in 2019, after a fractured fibula sidelined him mid-season. Strangely, he spent a fortnight in the SANFL once he recovered. More was to come in the NAB AFL Trade Period, when Wines' name was linked with a move to Carlton. The Power poured cold water on that talk but everyone will watch this space next year.
23. Ablett turns back the clock
Where do you start with Gary Ablett's season? He was a Champion Data darling as a forward – ranking elite in multiple categories – averaging 20-plus touches and kicking 34 goals from 24 matches. That was enough for him to make the extended Virgin Australia AFL All-Australian squad but he fell short of being named in the final 22 for what would have been a record ninth time. Along the way, the dual Brownlow medallist was involved in three incidents in a month, and was eventually suspended for the first time in his 345-game career. Ablett was offered one match for the first of them on Dylan Shiel but appealed it down to a $2000 fine. He wasn't cited for the second involving Sam Wright, but he was rubbed out for one match for a strike on Gold Coast's Anthony Miles. At age 35, Ablett took his time committing to another season – and the announcement he would play on came with the disclaimer that 2020 would mark the end of his masterful career.
22. Ex-Demon Hogan's forgettable first season in purple
Jesse Hogan's first season with Fremantle was a tumultuous one, after crossing from Melbourne. He was held out of round one to enable him to focus on managing his "clinical anxiety". That followed Hogan missing a training session after making "poor choices around alcohol consumption" the night before. Confusion reigned from there, with coach Ross Lyon saying suggestions Hogan was suspended were "not completely accurate". Freo also corrected his mental health term to an "anxiety disorder" after criticism from medical professionals. Hogan played by round two but his season ended in round 14, when he re-injured his troublesome right foot. The Dockers cleared him of another navicular setback at the time but weeks later they revealed they had misdiagnosed it and booked him in for surgery. Then came Hogan's car crash in late November. The man the Demons effectively traded Hogan for, Steven May, also endured a difficult season on and off the field.
21. Fyfe joins the greats with second Brownlow Medal win
Fremantle champion Nat Fyfe ensured he would be remembered as an all-time great when he became just the 15th footballer to win at least two Brownlow Medals. Fyfe averaged more than 29 disposals this year, and ranked third in the AFL for both clearances and contested possessions. His performance was all the more impressive given the Dockers won only nine games in 2019, compared to their 17 in Fyfe's maiden Brownlow triumph four years ago. Fyfe called the season his "best year so far", although he described his new playing approach as "less box office" as he gets older. A third Virgin Australia AFL All Australian berth came with an added accolade: Fyfe was also named captain, in further recognition of his campaign. He remains Fremantle's key cog as it aims to re-ascend the ladder next year for the start of the Justin Longmuir era.