SIGNATURE games from two Melbourne premiership heroes feature in the next instalment of's 50 biggest stories from 2021.

A Collingwood star's tumultuous off-season and Optus Stadium's grand audition are also on the list from 20-11, while an emerging Brisbane star experiences "footy karma".  

PART ONE 50-41 Biggest stories of 2021
PART TWO 40-31 Biggest stories of 2021

PART THREE 30-21 Biggest stories of 2021

20. List management loophole backfires on Suns

Gold Coast thought its ducks were in a row when it delisted Hugh Greenwood in early November with a commitment to redraft him later that month. What they didn't count on but should have anticipated was a rival club smelling an opportunity. Alerted to the Suns' surprise move by his wife, North Melbourne coach David Noble jumped into action and the Kangaroos made an enticing pitch to lure the 29-year-old to Arden Street as a delisted free agent. Ultimately, the opportunity to extend his career and set his family up proved too good to turn down. Having insisted publicly that he would still be at the Suns after the initial delisting, Greenwood captured the whirlwind process on Twitter when he wrote "24 hours can be a long time in footy".

Hugh Greenwood at North Melbourne training on December 8, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

19. Patton retires after AFL-Hawks investigation into behaviour

Key forward Jon Patton was stood down by Hawthorn in January after the AFL took over the club's investigation into inappropriate sexual conduct on social media from the former No.1 draft pick. Accused by multiple women of lewd behaviour, the investigation and public scrutiny ultimately led to Patton's retirement in April after an admission to hospital and management of his mental wellbeing. He apologised for his behaviour towards women, saying his actions were "completely unacceptable" and he was committed to learning from his mistakes. He joined fellow No.1 pick, former Demon, Giant and Hawthorn teammate Tom Scully in retirement after the wingman made the shock decision in February. One of the AFL's best wingmen at his peak but later plagued by a horror ankle injury, Scully retired due to personal issues away from the game.  

Hawthorn's Jonathan Patton during the club's team photo shoot ahead of the 2020 season. Picture: AFL Photos

18. Pies forced into tough stance on De Goey

Collingwood had little option but to stand down star forward Jordan De Goey in late October when his training camp in the United States took a nasty turn. In California on a sponsored trip to train with renowned fitness coach Johnny Louch, De Goey had ventured east to New York City and was partying on Halloween weekend when he was arrested and charged with assault and harassment. Charges of "forcibly touching" were later dropped, but the Magpies maintained their stance and rejected a request from De Goey and his manager to allow him to train with the team when he returned to Australia. With one year remaining on his contract, the 25-year-old's case has been adjourned until January 18 and he is training with local Geelong club Leopold under Garry Hocking.

Jordan De Goey training in the off-season. Picture: Instagram

17. Emerging Brisbane star experiences 'footy karma'

Zac Bailey should have kicked the match-winning goal in round two when he caught Geelong defender Mark Blicavs in front of goal with a perfect tackle in the dying seconds. The tackle went unrewarded, however, and the Cats won by one point. Fortunately for Brisbane, Bailey has a habit of being in the right place at the right time, and one week later he drilled the match-winner after the siren against Collingwood to deliver the Lions' first win of the season. "A bit unlucky last week with the finish, but to get a finish like that today was amazing … that's footy karma for you," he told broadcaster Channel Seven after the match.

03:23 Mins
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The final moments of a Pies-Lions nail-biter

The clash between Collingwood and Brisbane went down to the last second in Thursday night's round three opener

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16. Demon duo produce greatness when it matters

Max Gawn was simply on a different level in the third quarter of Melbourne's preliminary final win against Geelong. The captain booted four of his career-best five goals in the critical quarter, converting on the run from outside 50m, slotting set shots and then snapping a magnificent goal out of the ruck. He kicked his fifth after taking a contested mark in a pack of five, capping a rare performance. It was Christian Petracca's turn in the following match, equalling Simon Black's Grand Final record of 39 disposals to win the Norm Smith Medal. Like Gawn, he lifted in the third quarter, with a brilliant dribbling goal from the pocket a highlight. His contested possessions (24), score involvements (15) and inside 50s (11) were all match-highs, saving the best performance of his career for the Grand Final.

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MAX IMPACT: Gawn transforms to new heights in five-star demolition

Max Gawn elevates to a frightening level in this outrageous five-goal performance

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03:18 Mins
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Petracca writes history in the most powerful performance

Christian Petracca equals the record for most touches ever in an AFL Grand Final to deservedly claim the Norm Smith Medal

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15. Final round chaos as Dees lock up top spot

The top eight options appeared endless going into the final round of the season, with not a single spot locked in. A series of thrillers endued, with Port Adelaide locking away a top-two spot on the Friday night when they beat the Western Bulldogs by two points. Brisbane then grabbed the Bulldogs' spot in the top four the following night, securing the percentage boost they needed in the dying seconds against West Coast. The highlight, however, was Melbourne's fightback against Geelong, with Max Gawn kicking a goal after the siren to secure the club's first minor premiership in 57 years and avoid a qualifying final trip to Adelaide. Around all of that, Richmond and Hawthorn drew, and Essendon and Greater Western Sydney locked away finals spots. 

03:51 Mins
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Last two mins: Max the hero after insane finish

The thrilling final moments between the Cats and Demons at GMHBA Stadium

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14. Carlton review claims yet another coach

Carlton announced in June that it would be appointing an external panel to conduct a whole of football department review, reporting to incoming president Luke Sayers. Coach David Teague was immediately put in a difficult position and ultimately lost his job in August after 50 games, becoming the sixth Carlton coach axed by the club in two decades. Chief executive Cain Liddle followed Teague out the door the following month in a messy period for the club, which also replaced half its board, was linked to Ross Lyon but never appointed him, and discarded assistant coaches. The appointment of former Geelong and West Coast chief executive Brian Cook was hailed as a brilliant appointment and shapes as a turning point for the club.

David Teague leaves the ground after the round 23 loss to GWS on August 21, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

13. Perth delivers a Dreamtime to remember

Perth's ability to put on a breathtaking Dreamtime game in June was essentially what secured Optus Stadium the right to host the 2021 Grand Final. Perth fans embraced the marquee match between Richmond and Essendon and packed their stadium with more than 55,000 fans, blowing the target of 40,000 out of the water. As a celebration of the extraordinary contribution Indigenous Australians have made to the game, Dreamtime in Perth also included the iconic Long Walk and showed what was possible at short notice if major AFL events needed to be relocated due to COVID-19. The finals-like atmosphere under lights in what was an engrossing game made the event one of the highlights of the season.

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Moving pre-match ceremony kicks off Dreamtime

Watch the moving pre-match ceremony before the Bombers and Tigers go to battle

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12. Dusty goes down as Tiger rule ends

Bumped by Brisbane wingman Mitch Robinson, Richmond superstar Dustin Martin limped from the Gabba in round 18 and was taken to hospital. It was revealed he had suffered a lacerated kidney that ultimately ended his season and caused him to shed around 15kg. At the time of Martin's injury, Richmond's reign was ending, winning only two of their last 10 games to slip from eighth to 12th. A powerhouse for four years, they missed the finals for the first time since 2016 and farewelled triple-premiership heroes Bachar Houli and David Astbury. 'Slim Dusty' is rebuilding his body and aiming to return to his best. It is to be seen if the Tigers can do the same, or if 2021 was more than just an aberration.

01:04 Mins
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Dusty grimaces in agony after crunching hit

Dustin Martin goes down after colliding into Mitch Robinson in this massive blow

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11. Vaccination policy leads to defender's shock retirement

Carlton defender Liam Jones cited "personal reasons" when he retired in November, shortly after the AFL revealed its vaccination policy in preparation for the 2022 season. Contracted for 2022, the important defender had been in constant dialogue with his club in order to make an informed decision about his future and opted to end his 161-game career, which started with the Western Bulldogs and saw him reinvented as a key defender. Dual AFLW premiership player Deni Varnhagen, meanwhile, was moved onto Adelaide's inactive list after choosing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. St Kilda gun Georgia Patrikios then took a leave of absence from the Saints' AFLW program to consider her vaccination options, rather than moving straight to the inactive list.

Liam Jones during Carlton's official team photo shoot at Ikon Park on February 26, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos