Regrets are an inevitable part of life. They come with the territory of breathing and are a part of the unwritten deal we all sign for the right to exist.

Although some contrition can feel enormous – such as the misery born when a relationship breaks down or after committing a far more criminal act – others are forgotten in the blink of an eye.

In terms of the unpredictable game of football, there are a plethora of scenarios that have made or broken careers.

What if your side picked a different player from a certain draft?

What if your star spearhead had kicked straight when it mattered?

What if your team had doubled their premiership tally instead of tasting defeat?

Well, for fans of every creed we have sought to answer the question that has rankled you for years and kept you up at night for far too long.

We can't promise that we won't open old wounds, as let's face it, that is the entire point of the exercise.

From Adelaide to the Bulldogs, Fitzroy to the Bears, here are every club's biggest 'what if' moments since the dawn of the AFL era in 1990.

OTHER WHAT IFS: AdelaideBrisbane BearsBrisbane LionsCarltonCollingwoodEssendonFitzroyFremantleGeelongGold CoastGWSHawthornMelbourneNorth MelbournePort Adelaide, Richmond

Heads up, Saints fans. This one might be up your alley.

What if the ball had bounced into Stephen Milne's hands?

Heading into the 2010 finals series, the Ross Lyon-led Saints had weathered a summer of discontent before surging back into the September action after completing the home and away season with a 15-1-6 record.

Whilst they were unable to repeat their barnstorming form of 12 months prior, the third-placed Saints proved good enough to the grand final stage after knocking off the Cats and Dogs before their date with destiny against the table-topping Magpies.

Unless you've been living your life under a rock on the dark side of Mars, you will know that the 2010 grand final ended in a draw – only the third occasion in the then-113-year-old competition's history.

If not, welcome to the world.

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Although the ending has been spoilt for any of you extraterrestrial visitors, I'll quickly bring you up to speed on how this impasse came to pass.

Once the Sherrin was placed into the turf by umpire Brett Rosebery to start the near-sold-out contest, it only took a fraction of a minute for the minuscule number of punters who backed Goliath's Darren Jolly to slot the opening major to begin their collective sprint towards the TAB teller.

Just under 13 minutes later, the Pies - thanks to a genuine mongrel off the boot of Dale Thomas - rung up another six points to stretch the margin to 19 points. At this stage, the Saints' backs had begun to become one with the proverbial wall.

With the pain of the year prior's loss still burning within them, Lyon's men fought back into the contest. However, had Travis Cloke's not shanked a shot in the shadows of half-time, then the Saints' efforts may have been for naught.

The perpetually wayward Collingwood big man sprayed a pair of straightforward attempts that would have tucked the Saints in tighter than your mate who phantoms when it's their shout at the pub.

Given an opportunity to continue striving for redemption, a superhuman Lenny Hayes, a red-hot Nick Riewoldt, a god-like Brendon Goddard and a geographically shifted Sam Gilbert dared St Kilda's loyal band of bruised fanatics to dream again.

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Following Hayes' goal from uptown and Stephen Milne's steady set shot to start the fourth term, the league's perennial underachievers had dragged the game back to within a touching point of parity. Yet, it would take the first of a pair of betraying bounces to square the ledger for the first time.

With the ball loose inside his side's offensive arc heading toward time-on, Riewoldt snapped across his frame and sent the ball tumbling towards the open Ponsford Stand goal mouth.

The ball bounced predictably onwards and then onwards again before, in its infinite wisdom, decided to sit up long enough for Riewoldt's opposite number, Nick Maxwell, to scrape his fingertips across its leather just before it crossed the chalk.

Still, it was the dagger wound of the next piece of deception that would never heal for Saints fans.

With just shy of half-an-hour elapsed, Hayes, once again, found the footy in his hands. Instinctively, he – like his skipper before him – threw the ball on the boot and hoped for the best.

Ironically, the ball landed on about the same patch of grass that Barry Breen wobbled his famous behind through from 44 years and one day prior. However, the result would not elicit the same jubilant celebrations from the Saintly backers in attendance.

Hayes' kick made a beeline to the only two players inside forward-50 for –Collingwood's Ben Johnson and his direct opponent, Milne. The latter edged the former under the football after it had turned like a Shane Warne leg-break with the first bounce. Although it appeared certain to fall into his arms, the Sherrin then snapped like Warney's wrong-un, tumbling through the same posts as Breen's effort for an identical score.

With only seconds left to play in the grand final, the scores were tied at 68 points apiece.

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From certain vantage points, it certainly appeared as though Milne could have made the moment his.

Still, the man who had the best view of just how unpredictable a football's bounce can be sees it differently.

“I had him [Ben Johnson] cooked, but it [the ball] was five metres away from me and I couldn't have dived for it,” Milne told documentary maker Peter Dickson in 2016.

“So, that's why I let it bounce.

“If I could have got it, I would have got it – obviously.”

If we take the small forward at his word, then a St Kilda victory during regular time appears to have been an impossibility in reality.

However, we're not here to deal with typical timelines.

Without delving too deeply into the mechanics of just how incalculable the bounce of a football can be, we will just briefly surmise that unless you own the innate ability to speak fluent 'Sherrin-ese' like Kevin Bartlett or Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, then you, like several generations of Australians, have likely been made a fool by the pill.

Still, what if the Sherrin had sat up on its point rather than spun viciously like a Beyblade?

Had Milne waltzed into the open goal with ball in hand and slammed it through the big sticks, there are two certainties that would have occurred within the space of the next two minutes.

Firstly, you can be sure that the man affectionately referred to as ‘Yapper' would have mouthed off to the Collingwood cheer squad.

And secondly, the siren would have signalled just the second premiership for the country's most tortured fanbase.

As sweet as this daydream has been for Sainters everywhere, another question that is worth posing is what would have happened had extra time been allowed.

For a conclusive answer to this, I'll allow a pair of names who combined for 50 disposals on that fateful day to fill you in.

Despite missing out on the first of two Norm Smith Medals to the voiceless Hayes, Brendon Goddard's 18 kicks, 13 handballs and two goals during the drawn decider should have, in the eyes of many, seen him claim the honour over his former skipper.

Yet, I'm fairly certain the former number one draft pick would have exchanged it in an instant for a premiership medallion – something he is certain would have been his had the game have continued on.

When asked point blank about this view by Dickson his the documentary 'The Final Draw', Goddard was typically unabashed in his response.

"Another 10 [minutes]? Well, we win," the former Saint and Bomber claimed.

"Another 30 seconds and we win."

Scott Pendlebury – the man who would eventually claim the second Norm Smith on offer in 2010 - begrudgingly held a similar view.

"Another 10 minutes and I reckon they would have probably held up the cup," the dual premiership-winner admitted.

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So there it is from the mouths of two champions that grew up less than an hour's drive apart from one another in country Victoria.

Had any other timeline played out other than the one that eventuated in reality, then for the first time since a pot of beer could be paid for with shrapnel and pubs closed at six, Saints fans would have had a trophy to toast.

But what would it have meant in the aftermath? Would the good times have continued to roll for the men from Moorabbin?

Even had the cup been claimed in 2010, once the mass hangover had subsided in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs, a grim reality would have set in.

Heading into the 2011 season, Ross Lyon had a list of 46 players at his disposal. Of this catalogue, four players had laced the boots on less than 10 occasions and 12 had never played a game of AFL football at all.

Alarmingly, this latter group would only ever combine for 116 games whilst calling St Kilda home - an average of 9.6 matches per head.

In addition, St Kilda's financial status could never misconstrued as being its strength. And according to the then captain of the ship, neither could their optically non-existent recruiting and development teams.

"We had appalling facilities," former CEO Michael Nettlefold stated in 2016.

"[We had] no development program [and] virtually no recruiting program.

"We didn't have the funding [or] the finances to actually have any decent structures in those places."

Having bombed out in an elimination final in 2011, the gap between St Kilda and the teams at the peak of the ladder had begun to widen, as had the chasm between the most experienced and inexperienced names on the club's list.

And with Lyon up and leaving in the wake of that early September exit, the battle to get back had only become harder.

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As the club was caught in a perilous position of missing out on multiple premierships, dealing with the fallout of salary cap mismanagement and operating without a battle-hardened coach at the helm, it was little wonder why the Saints, once again, slipped into the cellars quickly after the 2010 grand final replay.

If this unhinged trip has taught you anything, it should be that even if the ball had sat up for Milne late in the drawn decider, the Saints still appeared to be living on borrowed time at the ladder's tip.

The cash-strapped Saints went for an ‘all or nothing' approach in the Lyon era and were eventually left with empty hands, just like Milne himself.

Still, had it paid off at least once, you can be sure that there would still be some sore heads and bloodshot eyes amongst the Saints' congregation of loyal followers.