WEST Coast's and Western Bulldogs' respective AFL and AFLW Grand Final triumphs weren't the only big stories of the football year. Tribunal confusion, personal tragedy, fairytale moments, superb goals and subsequent jubilation combined to produce another eventful season.
You might have forgotten some of what happened, so AFL.com.au is counting down 2018's top storylines – in order – continuing today with 30-21.
30. Fyfe's Brownlow Medal hopes go up in smoke
Fremantle fans were treated to the Nat Fyfe of old in the first half of the 2018 season, so much so he sat atop Brownlow Medal betting markets. As the 2015 Brownlow medallist, he seemed on track to join champions such as Chris Judd, Gary Ablett jnr and Adam Goodes as a two-time winner. However, as in 2014, Fyfe ruled himself ineligible with a self-inflicted act. His split-second decision to make contact with Levi Greenwood proved fateful, as he connected with the Magpie's head firmly enough to incur a suspension. Fyfe chose not to accept a one-game ban but his appeal was unsuccessful, leaving the potential for him to follow in Corey McKernan's and Chris Grant's footsteps as an ineligible winner. But, as it turned out, it was Steele Sidebottom who led the Brownlow count at the time of Fyfe's sanction – and a hamstring injury cost him six matches, anyway. He finished 12 votes behind eventual medallist Tom Mitchell.
DISAPPOINTMENT AND FRUSTRATION Fyfe moves on from ban
Nat Fyfe collides with Levi Greenwood. Picture: AFL Photos
29. To touch or not to touch?
Umpire touching has always been a contentious topic, but it went into overdrive this year. Geelong forward Tom Hawkins' decision to plead guilty to umpire touching not only cost him a match, but became a major talking point the next week. The reason? Carlton's Ed Curnow and Gold Coast's Steven May were both involved in umpire-touching incidents as well. May's was slightly different, in that he was explaining his action in a contest, but nevertheless made deliberate contact. Curnow's brother, Charlie, was remarkably also booked on the same charge from the same game. Making matters more interesting was that both Curnows were fined rather than suspended before AFL football boss Steve Hocking's appeal sent them back to the Tribunal. This time older brother Ed wasn't so lucky and, like Hawkins, missed a week. Yet May and Charlie escaped with fines, findings that helped Dustin Martin in a similar situation later in the year.
The Curnow brothers following the AFL appeal. Picture: AFL Photos
28. Workplace harassment case rocks Freo
This story was only going to end one way, but it was an excruciating few weeks of deflection before the Dockers chose to address the issue at hand. Ross Lyon was named as the senior Fremantle figure at the centre of a workplace harassment incident from several years earlier, and once that happened the media were never going to relent. Lyon fielded questions for weeks – which were batted away – before the Dockers announced a Friday press conference that had some guessing the coach's time was up. Instead, Lyon, president Dale Alcock and CEO Steve Rosich addressed and effectively put to bed the incident while being emphatic the coach's job was safe. Lyon himself said he was "really sorry" about the impact the allegations had on everyone involved. A separate incident involving the club was forwarded to the AFL's Integrity Unit, only for the male complainant to quickly withdraw it.
Senior coach Ross Lyon, president Dale Alcock and CEO Steve Rosich address the media. Picture: AFL Photos
27. Motlop's Showdown heroics ignite Hinkley
Everyone loves a late matchwinner – or loser. AFL fans were treated to plenty of them in 2018, but arguably none with as much drama as Port Adelaide recruit Steven Motlop's Showdown sealer. Mitch McGovern's 50m set shot inside the last minute looked to have won the game for the Crows, only for Motlop to intervene. The former Cat received the Sherrin, charged inside 50, sidestepped his opponent and goaled on the run with 21 seconds to go. Once the siren sounded, coach Ken Hinkley's vociferous celebrations – in reference to the Power ending Adelaide's Showdown streak – was equally memorable. It wasn't the only late-game Showdown talking point for the year, but we'll get to that later in the countdown. Among the others were Jeremy McGovern's post-siren winner over Port; Harry Taylor's miss in the same scenario against the Bulldogs; and Gary Ablett's wayward shot with 90 seconds left against Richmond.
STEVIE'S WONDER 'One of the best goals I've ever kicked'
Steven Motlop and Sam Powell-Pepper celebrate the winner against the Crows. Picture: AFL Photos
26. Ryan flyin' into trouble
There was so much to love about Liam Ryan's story of persistence in his journey to the AFL. He defied an early ankle injury to put together a fine rookie campaign, including being part of West Coast's match-winning Grand Final passage. But Ryan's season also involved two off-field transgressions, as well as him leaving a pre-season camp early after struggling with the physical demands. The first was a drink-driving incident where he crashed his car into a tree, which saw him banned for two games and disqualified from driving for 18 months and fined $1700. In Ryan's first comments after the early morning incident he said the crash "really straightened me up". However, he again found himself in strife when police issued him with a move-on notice in West Australian coastal town Kalbarri after a family dispute in October.
'GROW AND GET BETTER' Coach's message to Ryan
Liam Ryan celebrates with fans after the Grand Final win. Picture: AFL Photos
25. Richmond's new walking headline a barrel of laughs
Tiger cub Jack Higgins was a breath of fresh air in his maiden AFL season, from the time he kicked two goals on debut and labelled them "snags" in his post-match interview. The Higgins legend – that's probably too much – grew with his ridiculous round 19 goal against Collingwood. Was it a throw? Maybe, maybe not. But Higgins' incredible ingenuity to conjure a major was brilliant and deserving of being the Coates Hire Goal of the Year. Coach Damien Hardwick quipped post-match that "they don't teach that in VCE," in reference to Higgins leaving school at the end of Year 11. Luke Parker's bicycle goal may have won any other season, but at least the Swans won the Woolworths Mark of the Year via Isaac Heeney's screamer. Higgins also made headlines with his unique half-time rev-ups, one of which left Dustin Martin in fits of laughter.
Jack Higgins kicks his incredible mid-air goal against the Pies. Picture: AFL Photos
24. Varcoe plays on in finals after tragic passing of his sister
The AFL community rallied around Travis Varcoe, and his family, after his sister Maggie's death from an on-field head clash in the Adelaide Football League women's Grand Final in August. She died four days after the accident, on the eve of Collingwood's finals campaign. A heartbroken Varcoe chose to play in September and kicked a goal in all four matches in a showing of courage that tugged at everyone's heartstrings. Varcoe dedicated his Grand Final performance to Maggie, declaring she was "there in spirit" and how appreciative he was for everyone's support. Then, he wandered off on his own in an unforgettable post-Grand Final moment to issue a personal tribute to his sister, including looking skyward, tapping his chest twice and kissing his hand.
'EVERYONE'S FAVOURITE PLAYER' Heartbroken Pie stars
Travis Varcoe points to the sky while Elliot Yeo celebrates the Eagles' premiership. Picture: AFL Photos
23. Dee-light as Melbourne ends finals drought
No club was starved of finals action longer than Melbourne entering last season, a streak already 11 seasons long after a round 23 disaster in 2017. So when news came through of the Demons' cancelled pre-season boot camp – as a result of player concerns – the criticism about their supposed lack of mental toughness followed. There were familiar setbacks throughout season 2018, too, with in-game lapses and a failure to perform on bigger stages. The round 21 defeat to Sydney at the MCG left Melbourne in serious danger of missing finals again, but this time the Demons responded. They travelled west to face the powerful Eagles without spearhead Jesse Hogan and co-captain Jack Viney, yet produced arguably their best performance of the season to win and seal a September berth. Melbourne went on to beat the Giants the following week, as well as Geelong and Hawthorn in the finals, before that same West Coast squad exacted vicious revenge. But the hoodoo was over and the future is bright.
The Demons were pumped to seal their long-awaited return to the finals. Picture: AFL Photos
22. Brennan brouhaha overshadows AFLW Grand Final
The build-up to this year's AFLW Grand Final was dominated by a Tribunal case involving one of the competition stars, Western Bulldogs captain Katie Brennan. A rule that differed to the men meant Brennan's second dangerous tackle charge – after a previous reprimand – cost her a one-game ban (and her spot in the decider), doubled if she unsuccessfully challenged it. An AFL player would have been fined in that scenario, but the relative pittance AFLW footballers receive was the reason for the differences. Brennan's appeal was rejected and the Dogs briefly considered a trip to the Federal Court, then threatened to go to the Human Rights Commission. All despite AFLW footballers and officials and the AFL Players' Association agreeing to the rules before the season started. The AFL avoided the gender discrimination case when it promised to make a change and also halved Brennan's ban to free her for round one, 2019. The Bulldogs won the Grand Final over Brisbane despite their skipper's absence.
Dogs skipper Katie Brennan still got to hold up the cup after missing the flag triumph. Picture: AFL Photos
21. Nic Nat, Burton Tribunal rulings outrage, perplex
A series of high-profile incidents ensured Match Review Officer Michael Christian was put to the test in his first solo season. Jeremy Cameron's late strike on Harris Andrews was one such example and was referred directly to the Tribunal, where he copped a five-match suspension. However, it was cases involving Nic Naitanui and Ryan Burton that sparked mass debate. Naitanui was left "dumbfounded" at his one-match ban for a tackle on Karl Amon despite Christian calling it his "easiest" tackling adjudication. The AFL's legal counsel, Jeff Gleeson, argued Nic Nat hadn't exercised a duty of care with his 30kg weight advantage over Amon. Meanwhile, Burton initiated contact with Shaun Higgins that resulted in a head clash – knocking the Roo out instantly – but he was spared from a ban. The reason given was he could not have reasonably foreseen what happened. That won't apply next year, with a law change meaning players who opt to bump and cause head clashes will be liable. Lindsay Thomas' dual suspensions the same week as Burton's case for incidents with the Selwood brothers, Scott and Joel, also dominated headlines.