After one of the great home and away seasons in 2022, footy fans have been privileged with 11 more rounds of pure highlights, iconic plays and memorable moments before Winter of 2023.
Tom Lynch's late heroics on opening night kicked the season off perfectly. Now, 99 games in, this season is chock-a-block full of towering hangers, boundary-line snags and clutch one-percenters.
With only 20 spots available, here are some honourable mentions to kick off the list in style:
- Mattaes Phillipou's Round 8 hanger vs North Melbourne
- Harry Sheezel's late game heroics in Round 2 victory vs Fremantle
- Darcy Fogarty's matchwinner vs Hawthorn in Round 6
- Bobby Hill's run and dribble goal vs GWS in Round 9
- Izak Rankine left-foot snap vs Brisbane in Round 11
- Paul Curtis' double fend and boundary-line goal in Round 10
Now, here are the top 20 moments of the 2023 AFL season (so far):
20 - Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti playing footy
In a perfectly scripted Round 1 fixture, Essendon matched up against arch-enemy Hawthorn in their first match under Brad Scott, and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti's first match since 2021. While the game was decided in Essendon's favour by the fourth quarter, there was still unfinished business for the Bombers.
With just over 13 minutes to go, skipper Zach Merrett found Tipungwuti on his own inside 50 and sent it his way as nearly all the Bomber faithful rose to their feet. Tippa then went back and slotted it from 50, sending the nearly 70,000 fans in attendence into a complete frenzy in an emotional moment felt by all footy fans.
You have to love this man.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) March 19, 2023
19 - The Cameron vs Curnow shoot-out
Footy fans were treated to an old-fashioned shoot-out for the ages just four days later as the two players touted as potentially the best in the competition (Jeremy Cameron and Charlie Curnow) battled out a 90-82 nail-biter, kicking 11 between them.
— AFL (@AFL) March 23, 2023
Curnow's five were made more meritorious by the eventual win, but Cameron's six were accompanied by 25 impactful posessions and a clear best-on-ground performance under the duress of an in-game rib injury. His three fourth-quarter goals from all angles weren't enough to carry the Cats over the line and Charlie took home the chocolates.
18 - Darcy Moore runs down old teammate
In one of the most anticipated opening week matchups in recent memory, Collingwood and Geelong faced off in a qualifying final rematch with former Pie Ollie Henry taking the field in new colours against his former club.
After enticing the crowd with a set-shot goal to extend a healthy Geelong margin, the ball again fell into Henry's lap just outside the goal-square, giving him a chance to boot home his second and silence the Magpie army.
Darcy Moore runs Henry down!! pic.twitter.com/Ntq6Ix376c
— 7AFL (@7AFL) March 17, 2023
Enter Darcy Moore in his first game as captain lunging at the last second to save a certain goal with potentially the most inspiring tackle of the season. The effort saved Collingwood from falling to a 27-point deficit and the Pies would eventually storm home in the fourth quarter to win by 22.
17 - Miraculous Mihocek volley
It was a Round 8 match littered with controversy as the Sydney Swans looked to attack Collingwood at the source by terrorising young superstar Nick Daicos from the get-go. The Magpie Army were involved in the match all day, even in unsavoury fashion through the booing of the legendary Lance Franklin.
So the match needed a separate spark, and it was the unsung hero in Brody Mihocek who bobbed up with a career best 5-goal haul including a miracle from the goal line. After a Jordan De Goey snap looked to be sailing through for a goal but fell just short, the quick-thinking Mihocek held his opponent away from the ball and flung a right boot at the footy with a spectacular volley to truly ice the game and give the fans something to celebrate.
You just have to see it to believe it.
BRODY MIHOCEK YOU DID NOT! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/kaR5d5Unlw
— Collingwood FC (@CollingwoodFC) May 7, 2023
16 - Aliir spoils Swans' celebration
As we skip forward 50 seconds, the ball finds its way to Swans stalwart defender Dane Rampe who laces out Isaac Heeney in the centre with a bullet of a kick. In a complete Power collapse Heeney found Oliver Florent on his own who marked with a chance to kick from 45-out on an angle after the siren.
After one of the best performances of his career, Florent's kick left the boot with pinpoint accuracy, sending the stadium into complete delirium... until Port Adelaide's All-Australian defender Aliir Aliir met the ball at its apex and sent it back into play before crossing the line, saving the match and breaking the heart of the Bloods before being mobbed by his teammates in a truly iconic moment of 2023.
Aliir Aliir, on the line.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) April 8, 2023
15 - Ash Johnson's sky-high speccy
In the rematch of last year's round 23 epic, Collingwood and Carlton met for a round 10 clash in polar opposite circumstances. The Blues had been fighting form and pressure like we've never seen before, while Collingwood was sitting a-top the ladder, playing champagne football week in, week out.
The match was already getting away from Carlton at the opening stages of the second before Beau McReery missed his target on a long-range set shot and set up Ash Johnson in the box seat. Johnson proceeded to leap onto the shoulders of ruckman Marc Pittonet and reel in a 'Moorcroft-esque' hanger, landing painfully on his backside before catching his breath as the Magpie Army watched on in hysteria.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) May 21, 2023
14 - Harry Himmelberg hanger No. 1
Yet another Round 1 highlight took place, this time at GIANTS stadium in the scorching heat when the Crows travelled to take on GWS. Trailing 25-8 late in the first, the Giants required a motivational spark to get their season going on a gruelling day.
A Connor Idun kick out of defence was set upon the head of the 202cm Reilly O'Brien, giving Harry Himmelberg a chance to leap over the top. He jumped onto the shoulders of the Adelaide ruckman and got comfortable, hanging up there as the ball fell into his hands and into early mark of the year contention.
This truly was a GIANT grab 🤯
— AFL (@AFL) March 23, 2023
13 - North Melbourne's interchange meltdown
This was another match littered with controversy as the Kangaroos faced the Swans on a Saturday afternoon at Marvel in North Melbourne's first match of the year in Alastair Clarkson's absence. As promised by recent footy folklore, the club playing under their new coach put together a gallant performance and looked set to defend a 3-point lead to victory with 59 seconds remaining.
In a shocking twist, the Swans were awarded a free-kick and 50m penalty from a forward 50 stoppage after North Melbourne breached the interchange count of 75 when Liam Shiels rotated with Tom Powell for the 76th rotation.
“That is just tragically cruel…”
The box was in disbelief as an interchange infringement cost North Melbourne the game. pic.twitter.com/QcGrUPn60g
— Triple M Footy (@triplemfooty) May 20, 2023
12 - Jason Horne-Francis' inspired 4th quarter
Saturday night of the inaugural Gather Round saw Port Adelaide face the Western Bulldogs with both teams fighting for their third win from five matches. At three-quarter time, the Bulldogs led by two points and young star Jason Horne-Francis had been held to just eight disposals for the match.
Footage captured a despondent Horne-Francis beside coach Ken Hinkley prior to the fourth quarter, presumably sharing some encouraging words with his young gun. The 19-year-old proceeded to light up the Adelaide Oval with 11 game-changing possessions, including five inside-50s and four clearances.
A late Zak Butters goal sealed the game for the Power but the hero was the former Roo, who was embraced by Ken Hinkley post-match in an iconic piece of football imagery that will go down as a memorable moment in Port Adelaide's dense history.
Ken Hinkley has hit out at critics of Jason Horne-Francis.
— Zero Digital Sports (@ZDMSportsAU) April 16, 2023
11 - Stringer pulls out the "Easter Sunday Barrel"
In the final term, a quick goal to Essendon's Archie Perkins was matched by another goal for Jake Stringer, and suddenly the Bombers had momentum. With an 18-point lead and 60 metres of grass in front of him, Jake Stringer found the footy again and unleashed a gargantuan torpedo punt accompanied by Mark Howard's brilliant 'Easter Sunday Barrel' call. The kick sailed through the goalposts and set the crowd alight as the Bombers closed out the win.
It had to go to the barrel 😍
— AFL (@AFL) April 13, 2023
10 - Collingwood pulls off another miracle
At three-quarter time of Collingwood's Round 7 twilight match against Adelaide, the entire footy world knew the Crows' 16-point lead was not safe; they needed the first goal to stop the Pies' inevitable fourth-quarter charge. Less than 2 minutes in, Chayce Jones provided exactly that and Collingwood was faced with a 22-point deficit and a home crowd to silence.
The next 30 minutes produced moment after moment of clutch disposals, smart plays and crucial one-percenters in Collingwood's favour as the footy world watched in awe.
The Magpies kicked two goals in relatively quick succession. 27 minutes into the last quarter, John Noble found the ball and rushed to get within range before booting a late goal to cut the margin to one point.
Four specific moments in the last 2 minutes then led to a historic finish. A clever tactical rushed behind by Ash Johnson tied the match. A sensational spoil by Will-Hoskin Elliot running back with the flight halted a late Crows surge. A clutch mark and set-shot behind from Steele Sidebottom gave Collingwood their first lead of the match with 21 seconds remaining before a final intercept mark taken by captain Darcy Moore saw out the final seconds and sealed yet another famous Collingwood win under Craig McRae.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) April 30, 2023
9 - Jack Lukosius' monster punt
A critical Round 3 match between Gold Coast and Geelong saw both teams fighting for their first win of the season. The game was tight throughout and Jack Lukosius had the hot hand mid-way through the final term.
With less than eight minutes remaining, the Suns held a seven-point lead. Cat Tanner Bruhn sent a rebound 50 to be intercepted by Lukosius more than 65 metres out. Rather than pump it back inside the arc, Lukosius confidently directed the umpire toward goal, indicating he would have a shot. He proceeded to run in and launch a 70-metre drop punt through the big sticks with one of the best set shot kicks you will ever see. The Suns eventually ran out 19-point victors.
"How could you doubt him?!"
— AFL (@AFL) April 6, 2023
8 - Zak Butters holds off Melbourne with iconic performance
It was set up to be one of the games of the year and still may have exceeded expectations. Yartapuulti (Port Adelaide) hosted Naarm (Melbourne) on a slippery Friday night at the Adelaide Oval to kick off Sir Doug Nicholls Round in style. In a see-sawing affair, it was Melbourne who looked to be separating themselves with a third quarter blitz and all the momentum.
The Power needed a hero, and it was Zak Butters who stepped up with two massive third-term goals to keep his side in it. It took 41 clean, game-changing possessions from Butters to lift his side against a former premier and take charge in the fourth, eventually coming out four-point victors in a memorable game and an iconic performance from Ken Hinkley's favourite son.
— AFL (@AFL) May 19, 2023
7 - Tom Lynch ties up opening night
With just over a minute remaining, Carlton led by one straight kick but Richmond recruit Jacob Hopper had the ball outside the Tiger's 50. He sent the ball the way of Tom Lynch who leaped and took a towering contested mark 25-out on a slight angle.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) March 16, 2023
With one clutch kick, Lynch sent it through the goalposts and tied the match with 17 seconds left. One last Carlton clearance gave the Blues a final sniff, but it wasn't enough as opening night ended in a draw.
6 - The Ashcroft Miracle
One of the most highly touted draft picks in recent memory, Will Ashcroft has already built a case for the Rising Star Award with 11 brilliant matches to kick off his career, but he may never kick a better goal in his life after his Round 7 classic against Fremantle.
At the start of the second, Brisbane held a comfortable lead and had a stoppage deep in their forward pocket. A hit-out in the Ashcroft direction looked certain to be killed over the boundary line until the young cub decided to try something. He jumped, collected the ball, and karate-kicked it all in one motion before the ball miraculously went through for a goal from the tightest angle possible.
The league's goal-kickers have since been fighting for second-place.
Will Ashcroft OH MY GOODNESS!! 🤯🤯
— AFL (@AFL) April 29, 2023
5 - Jamarra Ugle-Hagan's proud stance
0-2 on the year, the Bulldogs needed a victory against flag-fancy Brisbane and importantly, needed a spark from one of their big-name players. Early in the first, it was Jamarra who marked the ball in the pocket, went back and nailed a snap on his non-preferred before he turned to the crowd, lifted his jumper and pointed to his skin in a touching ode to the great Nicky Winmar, 30 years on from his iconic stand.
He finished the game with five goals and proved to be the difference in a 14-point win for the Dogs, capped off by a goal on the siren as teammates flocked to celebrate the performance of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.
AFL star Jamarra Ugle-Hagan responds to racist abuse with iconic gesture https://t.co/boI0hHXNpx
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 31, 2023
4 - Nick Daicos' ANZAC performance
In potentially the most anticipated ANZAC Day match in AFL history, both Collingwood and Essendon entered at 4-1 with their 5th win at front of mind. The first half lived up to expectations with both sides playing inspired footy and taking control in patches. The third quarter saw Essendon surge with six goals to establish a commanding 28-point lead heading into the 4th. Enter Nick Daicos.
In a final quarter for the ages, the Magpies, led by their 20-year-old juggernaut Nick Daicos took complete control and piled on seven goals. Daicos kicked a pair himself, including one to take the lead in time-on. He finished with two goals and 40 disposals at 80% efficiency to take out the ANZAC Day medal on one of the most iconic days in AFL history.
Nick Daicos, ANZAC Day Medalist 🏅 pic.twitter.com/YzuFc70Zyf
— Collingwood FC (@CollingwoodFC) April 25, 2023
3 - Toby Greene sinks the Swans
With 70 seconds left, the Swans held a 5-point lead as Giants' captain Toby Greene presents, taking a mark 70 out before sending the ball inside 50 to eventually be spoiled over the boundary line by Nick Blakey.
It is at this moment when commentator Dermott Brereton foreshadows a Toby Greene play as he enters the stoppage to "be the playmaker". In the most important play of the day, the footy falls in the hands of Greene who gathers, snaps from 40 and watches the ball sail through for his fourth goal with 42 seconds remaining. Giants lead by one.
Reasonable day of footy...
Check out Toby Greene's winning goal from earlier today 🎥 pic.twitter.com/m4GIhZ243Q
— 7AFL (@7AFL) April 29, 2023
2 - Harry Himmelberg's heroics vs Hawthorn
Never have we seen three individual moments of brilliance in quick succession by one player at this level of magnitude.
Both GWS and Hawthorn were sitting 1-3 entering their Gather Round meeting at Norwood Oval on Sunday afternoon.
It was a see-sawing affair as the Hawks controlled most of quarters one and three while the Giants had the upper hand in quarters two and four. But with 2:17 remaining in the final term, the Hawks led by three.
A stoppage on GWS' forward flank allowed Toby Greene to insert himself in the action and he collected a ground ball before skying an inside 50 to no one in particular. At the back of the pack came the opening week's mark of the year archetect, Harry Himmelberg, who launched himself yet again and took potentially the second-best grab of the season on the head of James Sicily.
Himmelberg went back, cool as ice, and slotted the major with 90 seconds to go and the game far from over. Eager to ensure one of the most spectacular match-winning efforts in memory, he then sent himself to the backline before Hawthorn's Jarman Impey collected the ball with a chance to steal the lead back with a kick outside 50.
Planted on the goal line, and from a standing start, Himmelberg leaped for his life and reached both hands at the ball to create a rushed behind and the final game-sealing effort necessary for a famous Giants win.
GIANTS WIN AN ABSOLUTE THRILLER! 🟠
Harry Himmelberg with the HUGE mark and game-winning goal for a crucial GWS win!
— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) April 16, 2023
1 - Dimma's Last Dreamtime Dance
So much context surrounded Dreamtime at the 'G in 2023 and this marquee matchup on the AFL fixture felt a little more important than normal. With the entire nation in a state of discordance with the Hawthorn racism investigation and questions over the Indigenous voice to parliament, this game between Richmond and Essendon brought upon a chance to harmoniously celebrate the social, cultural and spiritual value of our sport.
The events in this game produced quaking changes to the AFL landscape, with Richmond coach Damien Hardwick standing down from his role soon after this match after three historic premierships in the yellow & black.
The pregame ceremony was typically marvelous, the jersey designs were spectacular and the stage was set for the most thrilling Dreamtime finale in history.
An early fourth-quarter goal to Dustin Martin gave the Tigers a three-goal lead before the Bombers responded with two of their own from Jake Stringer and Sam Durham. By this stage, the heat in the match was palpable, and with the ball on a knife edge at Richmond's goal line, young Judson Clark kicked the ball into the back of the net to establish a 12-point lead with 7 minutes left.
In time-on, Anthony McDonald Tipungwuti attacked the ball for the bombers and found young Alwyn Davey Jnr, who hacked a kick inside 50 leaving six players to chase the footy. Again, Durham stepped up and gathered an awkward bounce to set up a run-in goal for Jye Menzie to cut it to one kick.
Some crucial plays in the final 2 minutes then led to the most profoundly dramatic moment of the year. Mason Redman rotated onto the fat side of the field to set up a potential attacking switch. But Dusty found the footy at a forward flank stoppage and began charging toward goal before a desperate chase from Bombers' skipper Zach Merrett altered his kick and gave Essendon the ball. A release kick to Redman then put the Bombers into attack... but the Tigers stuck fat and rebounded the ball.
In a huge play, Dyson Heppell took an intercept mark and the ball was sent back inside 50 for the Bombers where Jake Stringer collected and scrapped the ball to the top of the goal square where Sam Durham, the unlikely hero, bobbed up again and took the most crucial mark of the day.
Durham put it through with 7 seconds to spare, giving Essendon a one-point win as the crowd sent shockwaves through Melbourne. The camera then cut to the Richmond box where Hardwick left his seat for the final time and the Bombers stole arguably the best win and the top moment of 2023 so far.
A DONS DREAMTIME SPECIAL!
— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) May 20, 2023