RICHMOND is odds-on favourites to go back-to-back in 2018 after another dominant season.
But if recent history tells us anything, it's that nothing is guaranteed in September.
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With the competition as even as ever, the Western Bulldogs' 2016 fairytale to win the flag from seventh typified that anything is possible when the AFL finals roll around.
But it's not the only time it's happened, with history littered with examples of so-called unbeatable teams being suddenly stopped in their tracks.
Here are a handful of teams thwarted over the last few years when everything was going their way – a select group that Richmond will be hoping to avoid this month.
The Bombers soared to the top of the AFL ladder in round nine and didn't relinquish that position for the remainder of the year. Everything looked in place for Essendon to go back-to-back, having finished the home and away campaign with an ominous 17-5 record. Its premiership claims were then bolstered following a 70-point victory over Richmond in the qualifying final. Unfortunately for the Dons, they met a Lions side destined to become one of footy's great dynasties in the Grand Final. Having led by 14 points at half-time, Essendon conceded six goals to one in the third term and couldn't recover.
2003: PORT ADELAIDE
It was in 2003 when Port Adelaide's 'chokers' tag really developed. Having finished on top of the ladder the year prior, the Power bowed out in the preliminary finals. Everything then looked in place for the team to finally rectify that defeat 12 months on, when Mark Williams' side finished the season three games clear on top of the ladder. However, a 12-point loss at home to Sydney in the qualifying final soon put a dent in those hopes. Once again, Port Adelaide failed to make the Grand Final – thrashed by Collingwood to the tune of 44 points in the prelims. All of a sudden, the glory of winning the minor premiership seemed a long time ago.
Pies fans heckle Power players after the preliminary final. Picture: AFL Photos
'The Crowbots'. That's what Neil Craig's Adelaide side was referred to throughout the 2005 season. The nickname was given as a result of the methodical, clinical and professional manner in which Adelaide continued to grind out victories throughout the year. A strong finish to the season ultimately took the Crows to the minor premiership, leapfrogging the Eagles in the final round. But 'the Crowbots' would malfunction come September. An eight-point loss to the Saints in the qualifying final was followed by a 16-point defeat to the Eagles in the prelims. All of a sudden, Craig's Crows weren't as daunting as they once appeared.
Ben Hart walks off after the Crows' loss to West Coast. Picture: AFL Photos
It's not often a side loses only one game throughout the home and away season, but doesn't win the premiership. That's what happened to Geelong in 2008. The Cats' year was already strange enough, having finished four games clear on top of the ladder with an imposing 21-1 record. However, that loss was against Collingwood – to the tune of 86 points. Having comfortably seen off St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs in the qualifying and preliminary finals respectively, Geelong looked set for its second straight flag. But Hawthorn shocked the football world, producing an incredible game plan that completely thwarted the strengths of its opposition to complete a 26-point upset. It wasn't all bad for the Cats. They still won three of five premierships throughout this era.
The Cats only lost two games in 2008, but one of them was the Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos
2009: ST KILDA
The Saints were 19-0 towards the end of the 2009 season, having already vanquished a strong Cats outfit in round 14. They looked unbeatable, but weaknesses were discovered when they lost two on the trot just before the close of the home and away campaign – albeit, both losses were by under a kick. St Kilda rediscovered its mojo in the finals, comfortably seeing off Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs to stroll into the Grand Final. If they were ever going to break their premiership drought, this was their opportunity. But the Cats were waiting for them. Keen to rectify their upset loss a year prior, Geelong won an arm wrestle of a contest, holding on for a narrow and thrilling 12-point win.
Nick Riewoldt was in tears after the 2009 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos
AND THE FAVOURITES THAT SALUTED …
The Bombers lost just one game for the year and looked untroubled throughout the finals.
The Cats finished three games clear on top of the ladder and won the Grand Final by 119 points.
The Hawks made up for their Grand Final loss in 2012 with a season that produced 19 wins and a comfortable victory over the Dockers on the big stage.