PARTY like it's 1954?
If recent history is any guide, it's that the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne – courtesy of their unbeaten 6-0 starts – have a fair chance of replaying that famous battle of 67 years ago and playing off in the Grand Final once again later this season.
Very few teams have made 6-0 starts this century. In fact, this year marks the first time in eight seasons that two clubs both have winning records after round six in the same campaign.
In winning last weekend and extending their unbeaten starts to six matches, the Bulldogs and the Demons joined 17 other teams to go 6-0 since 2000. The last team to achieve this feat? The Crows back in 2017.
Of the 17 sides to go 6-0, more than half have used their successful starts as a springboard to qualify for the Grand Final. But only four (Essendon in 2000, Hawthorn in 2008, Geelong in 2009 and Geelong in 2011) have secured premiership success.
The other five (West Coast in 2005, Geelong in 2008, St Kilda in 2009, Collingwood in 2011 and Adelaide in 2017) have made it to the Grand Final after being 6-0, but ultimately came up short in the decider.
However, regardless of the future fortunes of the Western Bulldogs or Melbourne, both sets of supporters can be assured of finals footy this year. Each of the 17 teams to go 6-0 since 2000 have made it to the top-eight, with only Essendon – who was disqualified in 2013 as a result of the supplements saga – missing the finals.
Thirteen of the 17 teams have recorded top-four finishes, while only one (North Melbourne in 2016) has exited the season in the first week of finals. Instead, 13 of the 17 have still been standing on preliminary final weekend.
Five of the 17 teams lost their unbeaten records in round seven, giving the Dogs and the Demons timely warnings as they prepare to face the Tigers and the Kangaroos respectively this weekend.
But, on the other hand, five stretched their winning runs beyond 10 matches. There's no doubt the two clubs – and neutral supporters – will be hoping they do similar this year, given they're due to meet in a blockbuster round 11 encounter at Marvel Stadium.
This year is the fifth time since 2000 that two sides have both started 6-0 in the same season. Obviously, given Essendon's circumstances and the club's suspension from the finals in 2013, it couldn't compete in the Grand Final.
But on the other three occasions – with Geelong and Hawthorn in 2008, with Geelong and St Kilda in 2009 and with Geelong and Collingwood in 2011 – both 6-0 sides ultimately progressed through the finals series and met each other in the Grand Final.
Therefore, the 6-0 starts and the promise of what could be to come should fill Bulldogs and Demons fans with plenty of optimism for what lies ahead in 2021. But, should they ultimately play off in the Grand Final, they will follow a different path to the sides of 1954.
Back then, Footscray went 4-2 to start the year. Melbourne went 3-3. Led by captain Charlie Sutton, Footscray then breezed through September and easily accounted for the Dees in a 51-point win on Grand Final day.
Will the likes of Marcus Bontempelli and Max Gawn follow in similar, if not entirely identical footsteps later this year? History suggests there's a fair chance.
THE 6-0 STARTERS
2000: Essendon (premiership)
2001: Hawthorn (preliminary final)
2004: St Kilda (preliminary final)
2005: West Coast (runners-up)
2007: West Coast (semi-final)
2008: Geelong (runners-up), Hawthorn (premiership)
2009: St Kilda (runners-up), Geelong (premiership)
2011: Collingwood (runners-up), Geelong (premiership)
2012: West Coast (semi-final)
2013: Geelong (preliminary final), Essendon (finished seventh, disqualified)
2015: Fremantle (preliminary final)
2016: North Melbourne (elimination final)
2017: Adelaide (runners-up)
2021: Western Bulldogs (TBC), Melbourne (TBC)