MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - 1989: Melbourne Demons players celebrate victory after a VFL match. (Photo by Getty Images)

Whether allowing for old rivalries to be rekindled or new ones to be stoked, the finals firepit is always white hot.

Champion players and teams stamp their brands here, but for the vanquished, sometimes the burns can take a lifetime to soothe.

Ahead of the the temperature rising during the first week of the 2023 AFL Finals series, we turned the clock back to the last time each finals pairing faced off this late in the season.


1. Collingwood and Melbourne - Elimination Final, 1989

While the Pies and Dees met time after time in big games during the 1950s and 60s, the pair of old enemies have not met in a final since 1989.

On a perfect afternoon for footy, Leigh Matthews' Magpies did battle with John Northey's Demons on the vast expanses of Waverley Park.

Melbourne, with their record of 14-8, would enter the elimination final as favourites, even after Collingwood flogged them like a dead horse in the pair's only meeting that season, a 10-goal drubbing at the MCG.

Yet by the time the sun had begun to set behind the Sir Kenneth Luke Stand, the Redlegs - steered by four goals from future NFL punter Darren Bennett - had run out 23 point winners.

While forced to watch the remainder of the finals from the sidelines, Matthews and his men would be back next September to snap the club's dastardly premiership drought.

For Melbourne - eliminated the following week by Geelong - it would be another three decades and change before the champagne corks would fly.