In the history of the AFL, the game’s greatest players and its greatest stars have put many great performances on display. The current group of stadiums in use have bared witness to these historic showcases of skill and excellence in the AFL, and it’s time we look at the best individual performance at each current stadium. Please note, we decided not to include the new Optus stadium, Mars Stadium in Ballarat and the Shanghai stadium in China (among a couple of others) as not enough matches has been played there. We also excluded historical stadiums except for Subiaco oval and Football only stopped there last season.
Melbourne Cricket Ground
While many outstanding performances have been seen at Australia’s greatest stadium, without a doubt a Norm Smith medal-winning game should be named. While there have been plenty of great games in the Grand Final, none stand out like Gary Ablett Sr.’s 9 goal haul in the 1989 VFL Grand Final. Although the Cats came up short against a dynastic Hawthorn side on the 1980s, Ablett put on a show for the ages. His 9 goals still remain the most in a Grand Final, and his play almost singlehandedly won Geelong the Premiership that year, kicking 5 in the second half to bring the Cats back from 6 goals down. While Tom Mitchell’s record-breaking 54 disposals earlier this season was up for consideration, there’s something truly remarkable about 9 goals in a Grand Final.
The secondary stadium of the AFL in Victoria, while not as historic or as prestigious, the Docklands has still witnessed fantastic performances in the history of the game. For us, there is no performance that stood out more than Patrick Dangerfield’s record-tying 48 touches against North Melbourne in 2016. Danger had a landmark season in 2016, earning a then record 35 Brownlow Votes, and this game exemplified his dominance that year. He was simply untouchable, racking up the ball and damaging North for the duration of the game, finishing with 48 disposals, 13 marks, 3 tackles and a pair of goals. The decision to not have a tagger on him was costly, and Danger took full advantage of this coaching mistake.
In the young life of the new Adelaide Oval, Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows have put on entertaining displays of fast footy and dynamic goal scoring. In the 2014 season, Port Adelaide was the surprise package of the season, finishing the season only a kick away from making the Grand Final. During this breakout season and the inaugural season for the Adelaide Oval, Jay Schulz booted 8 goals against a young Western Bulldogs side. It was the first big performance by a player in the new stadium, and so far hasn’t been topped.
Sydney Cricket Ground
The SCG has been the home to the Sydney Swans since 1982, after their relocation from South Melbourne to Sydney. Many great players have adorned the red and white and put on standout displays, but nothing can compare to Greg Williams’ record-setting 53 disposals in 1989. Williams is known as one of the great ball-magnets in the game’s history, racking up touches like the ball was an extension of his body, and it says something that even in the modern era where pace and ball movement pays dividends, that this record has only been matched and beaten by Gary Ablett Jr. and Tom Mitchell. He also added 6 goals, as if 53 disposals wasn’t enough. The SCG is still yet to see a performance like what Greg Williams put on in 1989.
While the Lions have been shambolic over the last few years, their glory years during the 2000s cemented them as one of the best teams of all time. While this was in the epilogue of this great side, Jonathon Brown’s 10 goal performance against Carlton is the most ever scored by a Lion’s player, by one of the club’s greatest servants. No one has scored more goals at the Gabba than Browny, and no one put their body on the line quite like he did, and led the club in the manner that he did following their three-time Premiership dynasty. At his best, he was one of the best key forwards of his era, and this game proves it.
It seems too obvious to name an Ablett has having the best performance in Geelong, and that’s exactly the case. While the man known as ‘God’ by the Geelong faithful, and his prodigal son have been supernatural in their abilities, another Geelong legend etches his name in the history books, Doug Wade. One of the all-time top goalscorers in league history, his 13 goals against North Melbourne in 1971 is still the record at Kardinia, and likely won’t be matched. He was the first post-WWII player to hit 1000 career goals, and with games like this it’s easy to see how he was the first to achieve the feat.
The Gold Coast Suns haven’t been so successful in their young history, especially compared to fellow expansion side Greater Western Sydney. When you think of the Suns, you do think of Ablett Jr. who was carrying the club during the first several seasons in the league, and before his body broke down he was still the best in the game. During his second Brownlow year in 2013, he managed 49 touches against Collingwood, alongside 2 goals, 10 clearances and 6 inside-50s. Scott Pendlebury and Nathan Buckley both called him the best in the game afterwards, and considering what he had done to their team it was hard to have disputed them.
Sydney Showground Stadium
The home of the GWS Giants since they joined the AFL in 2012, the Giants have become a dominant side in the AFL following their expansion and look to win their first Premiership in the coming seasons. During their early years, however, the grass wasn’t as green as their youth left them subject to a lot of big losses, such as their 113-point loss to Richmond in 2014. Jack Riewoldt had come under fire following his criticism of Richmond’s game style, but he responded to the firestorm with a career best 11 goals in this thumping of the Giants. GWS are still young, though, look to see one of their budding superstars make history at their stadium.
Hawthorn’s interstate home has been a stomping ground for them to destroy lesser opponents during their decade at the top of the AFL. Their biggest star during this time was always the mercurial Lance Franklin, who had a game for the ages in 2012 against North Melbourne, scoring 13 goals in a colossal 113-point win. He ended up kicking 4 more goals himself than North did as a team, but the performance itself was mesmerising. There was nothing that could’ve been done, he marked every kick that went to him, and if he picked up the ball in open play, you could guarantee a goal. It is perhaps the best performance in the 21st Century.
This stadium in Hobart has been North Melbourne’s interstate home ground for a number of years, and for the most part the Kangaroos have been able to flex their football muscles against any opponent in this arena. While Ryan Bastinac’s mammoth 45 touches against GWS in 2012 is worth a mention, Max Gawn’s dominating performance against Todd Goldstein in 2016 takes the cake. Goldy was coming off a massive All-Australian year, setting numerous ruck records along the way for hit-outs, but Max Gawn showed why he should be considered the best in the league, posting 63 hit-outs along with 18 touches. It was a battle for the ages, but Gawn edged out his counterpart in the end.
Filling in as an interstate home ground for many teams including North Melbourne, Western Bulldogs and GWS, a few big games have been seen in the capital. Callan Ward’s 40 touches is the most ever seen, but Jeremy Cameron’s 6 goal outing against the Bulldogs earlier this season trumps it. Not only did he put on a virtuoso display, all of his 18 disposals were kicks and he contributed with 9 marks as well. Cameron simply had his way with the Bulldog’s defence in one of the most dominating performances by a key forward in recent memory.
Used sparingly, Marrara Oval has seen some of the game’s biggest stars brought to the Northern Territory to put on a show for the Darwin natives. The ultimate performance in Darwin has to be Kane Corne’s 41 disposals against the Bulldogs in 2008. Although he is more known for his very controversial opinions, he was a great player in his day, and that was on full display here, as he racked up the touches against the Doggies.
Rounding off our interstate home stadiums, is Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns. While recently it has come under fire for the wet weather conditions, especially as Carrara is being used for the Commonwealth Games, but Cazaly’s has still seen a great performance or two. Most memorably was Jack Macrae’s 43 touches and 2 goals against Gold Coast in 2014. What makes this standout was not just how prolific he was, but 29 of his touches were kicks and he kicked at an 81% efficiency, having his way against the Suns and truly running amok.
Although no longer used by Fremantle and West Coast, the two team’s outstanding crops have talent have meant that Subiaco was witness to a number of exciting displays in its history. Josh Kennedy scoring 11 goals has to be the standout, against GWS in 2014. There must be something said about a full-forward that takes 11 marks and kicks 11 goals, whenever the ball went in his direction there was nothing that could’ve been done, he was unstoppable on this day, the best performance by a player in Subi’s history.