MELBOURNE now has much grander plans than the minor premiership but recent history shows rising to the top in the final round is rarely the path to September glory.

When Max Gawn slotted a goal after the siren in round 23 the Demons snatched victory and top spot from Geelong's grasp.

They also secured their first minor premiership since 1964, which happens to be the year the club last won a flag.

But more recent history suggests Gawn’s goal could prove to be less a blessing than a curse.

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Of the past 10 premiers only Hawthorn in 2013 finished the season on top of the ladder and went on to win the premiership.

It was the Hawks' most commanding year of their 2013-15 'three-peat', as they only lost three matches and led the ladder from round 12.

Going back further only five more minor premiers in the past 25 seasons have also won the flag – Collingwood in 2010, Geelong in 2007, West Coast in 2006, Port Adelaide in 2004 and Essendon in 2000.

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Top spot and dominant seasons weren’t enough to lead to premiership glory for the Cats when they lost only one match heading into the 2008 Toyota AFL Grand Final, or for the Magpies in 2011 or St Kilda in 2009 when they each lost twice on the way to the decider.

The Power even led the League in all of the 18 home and away rounds in the shortened 2020 season, then won in the first week of finals but fell a goal short in a preliminary final.

Third place has been the sweet spot in the past decade with five premiers starting their post-season campaign with an away qualifying final, while second place has produced three Grand Final winners in that time.

Richmond's run of three premierships in the past four seasons all came from third-place finishes, while they missed out in 2018 after topping the table then losing a preliminary final.

Richmond players look dejected after losing the 2018 preliminary final. Picture: AFL Photos

The longer look over 25 years has second-place finishers winning the most premierships (nine), ahead of third place (seven) and then the home and away leaders (six).

Winning from outside the top-three is remarkably rare, which won't give Western Bulldogs much confidence ahead of its preliminary final after a fifth-place finish this season.

But the Dogs have smashed through history before – winning the 2016 premiership from seventh, though they had finished only one win behind fourth place and two from top spot in a tight season.

Adelaide is the only other club to buck the top-three trend in the past 25 years, winning back-to-back flags from fourth in 1997 and fifth in 1998, albeit under a different finals system.

The past 25 years show that the Power charging to second place and the Cats landing in third spot this season should give them a boost heading into their preliminary finals this week.

But the Demons will have to break a recent minor premiership curse as well as their own 57-year premiership drought to finish with Grand Final glory.

Mark Bickley and Malcolm Blight celebrate Adelaide's 1997 Grand Final victory. Picture: AFL Photos

Eventual premiers' final ladder positions (since 1996)

1st: Six teams (Hawthorn 2013, Collingwood 2010, Geelong 2007, West Coast 2006, Port Adelaide 2004, Essendon 2000)

2nd: Nine teams (West Coast 2018, Hawthorn 2014, Geelong 2011, Geelong 2009, Hawthorn 2008, Brisbane 2002, Brisbane 2001, North Melbourne 1999, North Melbourne 1996)

3rd: Seven teams (Richmond 2020, Richmond 2019, Richmond 2017, Hawthorn 2015, Sydney 2012, Sydney 2005, Brisbane 2003)

4th: One team (Adelaide 1997)

5th: One team (Adelaide 1998)

6th: 0

7th: One team (Western Bulldogs 2016)

8th: 0