A SERIES of controversial strikes that culminate in a strange Tribunal case feature in the next instalment of AFL.com.au's 50 things we'll remember from 2020.
Miracle goals, death threats, and the AFLW's latest trendsetters are also on the 40-31 list, while a new team forms in the AFL's Transition Hub.
2020'S BIGGEST STORIES COUNTDOWN Check out Nathan Schmook's 50-41 here
40. Veteran Hawk in hoops as premiership trio depart
The sight of triple premiership hero Isaac Smith in navy hoops to start pre-season training would have unsettled the stomachs of the most hardened Hawthorn fans. But life moves fast and Smith is chasing one last flag after giving everything he had to the Hawks for 10 seasons and 210 games. It's been an off-season of transition for the Hawks, who also said goodbye to small forward Paul Puopolo, skipper Ben Stratton and defender James Frawley, who quickly came out of retirement to sign with St Kilda. Smith shapes as the biggest loss and will slot straight onto a wing for the Cats, who are throwing everything at 2021.
39. Callan Ward left spinning by social media's dark side
Greater Western Sydney midfielder Callan Ward revealed he had received death threats after he was awarded a controversial free kick against Essendon in round 10. Ward reacted to contact to the head instinctively and was given a free kick 40m from goal, converting his set shot to seal the result. He conceded he would like his time again, but said the reaction from rival fans was out of line. By speaking openly on the issue, he gave fans a window into the impact social media criticism can have. "I think it just has to stop because if you have been getting death threats like I have been getting, some players couldn't handle that," he said. "It is disappointing to see where people feel the need to express their passion and hatred towards me at the moment."
38. 'Dirty Pies' take on the Wild West
It was built up by the Magpies as the ultimate 'us against them' final, and the opponent was not just West Coast but the entire state of Western Australia. They were labelled by The West Australian newspaper as the 'Dirty Pies', given the COVID-19 protocols they needed to abide by in the state, and they were more than happy to get their hands dirty in a classic final. Midfielder Taylor Adams was the hero, throwing his body at the ball as Tom Cole kicked forward with 30 seconds to play and preventing a last ditch inside 50. The Magpies' reaction on the siren showed what it meant, winning a thriller by one point. Unfortunately for Nathan Buckley's men, their season lasted only one more week.
37. The Transition Hub team
Apart from being a truly unique situation, the Transition Hub team was a significant part of 2020 for the role it played in keeping a champion's season alive and helping a star Tiger become a triple premiership player. Gary Ablett and Shane Edwards joined forces with Saint Dan Hannebery in early September to train on a small area of grass inside the AFL's Palm Meadows quarantine hub, working under the eye of various team officials, including Andrew Mackie and Jarryd Roughead. The 'team' expanded to include Saint Jade Gresham and Tiger Bigoa Nyuon and allowed players to re-join their sides after a period away.
36. Dockers go undefeated with thrilling AFLW win
The 117-point aggregate score between Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs in round six was the highest in four seasons of the AFLW as the two teams played one of the most exciting games in the competition's history. The Dockers came from 17 points down in the third quarter to win by 15 in what turned out to be the final round of the season. Fremantle finished with a perfect 6-0 record and was the competition trendsetter and premiership frontrunner before the season was abandoned. Tough and skilful, Trent Cooper's team set a new standard for the competition to aspire to.
35. Aggression lands Lynch in hot water
Richmond key forward Tom Lynch produces his best form when he plays on the edge, according to coach Damien Hardwick. So it was in 2020, with the star goalkicker incredibly influential while also treading a very fine line with the Match Review Officer. In a four-match period, Lynch struck Gold Coast's Sam Collins with a roundhouse punch to the stomach, forcefully pushed Brisbane defender Alex Witherden's head into the turf, and then allegedly struck Michael Hurley high. In something of a statement about Lynch's ill-discipline, he was referred directly to the Tribunal for the last of those transgressions. The incident didn't warrant such treatment, however, and Lynch avoided any sanction. Lynch still became a villain to rival fans and he transgressed again in the finals, dropping his knee into St Kilda defender Dougal Howard and earning a $750 fine for misconduct. He played on the edge all season and finished with a premiership medal around his neck.
34. Young Swan sacked after one season
Elijah Taylor was recruited with pick No.36 in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft and was described on the night as an "excitement machine" by his club. He faces a battle to ever realise his potential after being sacked by the Swans after he assaulted his former girlfriend in a hotel room. The Swans said Taylor's actions "could not be reconciled" after he pleaded guilty to the charge, receiving a $5000 fine and a spent conviction. He had been suspended for the rest of the season in August after a quarantine breach in Perth and was stood down by the Swans after being charged by police. He played four games for the club.
33. Bombers fall short in Bulldog raid
Essendon's search for a big-bodied midfielder led it to the Whitten Oval, where Josh Dunkley was in search of what the Bombers could offer – more midfield time. Dunkley, who had spent time in the ruck and forward in 2020, requested a move to the Bombers early in the AFL Trade Period, and talks went down to the final minutes, with the Bulldogs holding firm on their demand for two first-round draft picks. The Bombers' best offer was pick No.7 and a future second-round selection, and Dunkley remained at the club he won a flag with in 2016. Contracted until the end of 2022, Dunkley and coach Luke Beveridge met soon after the Trade Period closed, resetting after a request that had come as a "huge surprise" to the coach.
32. Gray and Newnes sink rivals after the siren
Port Adelaide star Robbie Gray focused on staying confident and thinking about his connection with the footy when he lined up to kick what turned out to be a match-winning goal after the siren against Carlton in round seven. The four-time All-Australian was mobbed by teammates as his kick sailed through, giving the Power an important three-point win that kept them atop the ladder. Jack Newnes was in an almost identical spot, albeit at Optus Stadium, when he stepped forward against Fremantle in round 12 to take a free kick that should have gone to teammate Michael Gibbons. With the Blues' finals chances still alive, Newnes hit the ball sweetly and his miraculous set shot 45m out from the boundary fence sailed through for a goal. A series of dramatic decisions from players and umpires led to that moment, but Newnes' kick will be the lasting memory from a four-point win.
31. Stars walk as Bombers launch review
Twelve months after a failed bid to join Sydney, star Essendon forward Joe Daniher again requested a trade out of Tullamarine. This time he was successful in his bid to join Brisbane, and he was joined by Carlton-bound defender Adam Saad at the exit door. The losses came after a terrible end to the season that prompted new president Paul Brasher to launch a review into the Bombers' football operations, with more than 40 interviews with players, coaches and staff conducted. The review revealed fundamental coaching differences between John Worsfold and Ben Rutten during their coaching handover, with the players more suited to Rutten's ruthless, high accountability style. Football manager Dan Richardson departed and was replaced by Melbourne's Josh Mahoney, while the loss of Daniher and Saad meant Essendon at least went to the NAB AFL Draft with a strong hand, landing selections at 8, 9 and 10.