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 a superstar free agent chose your club and not your rival?

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, from 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 LionsCarltonCollingwoodEssendonFitzroyFremantleGeelong, Gold Coast 

This one might sting a bit, Giants fans.

What if GWS, not Sydney, landed 'Buddy' at the end of 2013?

For fans of clubs that are old enough to walk into a bottle shop and not raise the suspicions of the clerk behind the counter, the GWS Giants have often been looked at disdainfully.

With a plethora of draft and salary cap concessions gifted during their startup years, there has always been a notion that it is only a matter of time before the Breakfast Pointers break through and claim their inaugural flag.

Still, now 12 years after the Giants clomped onto the scene, the league's youngest club, and their band of 33,000 paid members, are still waiting for any flag to fly in Sydney's west.

Operating with baby-faced teams, the club's opening season produced waves that wouldn't have toppled a toddler, much less a tsunami.

The side, comprised mainly of top end talent hauled in from around the nation, played before paltry crowds and routinely had cricket scores tallied against them.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 08: Players from the Giants look dejected as leave the field after losing the round 15 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Greater Western Sydney Giants at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 8, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

However, after claiming their second successive spoon in 2012 and 2013, the Giants' eventual rise to prominence could have been turbo-boosted had they secured the signature of the contemporary game's greatest forward.

By the completion of the 2013 season, Lance Franklin had done it all. The superstar spearhead had claimed two Colemans, topped the tonne in 2008 and collected a pair of premiership medallions.

Though the Hawks would eventually go on to create history by completing the league's most recent three-peat, the then 26-year-old dynamo had just become a free agent and was eyeing his options.

Originally, the rumour mill had ‘Buddy' joining the Giants on a six-year deal worth $1.2 million a season. However, this deal was usurped by a richer deal from the harbour city's east instead.

On October 1, 2013, GWS officially pulled out of the running for Franklin's signature, instead opting to fish through the schools of much smaller fish left in the sea.

While the eight-time All-Australian would eventually find a home amongst Sydney's latte set, one can't help but wonder what would have been had Franklin chosen to call Homebush home instead.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: Lance Franklin of the Swans attempts to take a mark under pressure from Sam Taylor of the Giants during the round five AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Greater Western Sydney Giants at Sydney Cricket Ground on April 17, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

The mooted move from the 2013 premiers – Hawthorn - to the wooden spooners – GWS - would have almost certainly fuelled Franklin's competitiveness and satisfied his hunger for a challenge, but could it also have worked out better than our shared reality?

Would ‘Buddy' have added to his pair of premiership medallions had he joined the Giants?

How would the club's forward line have functioned?

Would he still have become the sixth man to surpass the 1000-goal mark?

Between the start of 2014 – the year that Franklin would have made his debut with GWS – and the beginning of 2016 – the season that the Giants first made the finals – the ‘Orange Team' scored a grand total of 524 goals across 44 games and entered the forward 50 on 2116 occasions, taking 460 grabs within said arc.

Run these raw numbers through a calculator, and you will find that Leon Cameron's side averaged 48 inside 50s, 10.45 marks inside 50 and just shy of 12 goals per game.

These numbers tell us that the Giants averaged a major on every four trips inside 50 and a mark every 4.6 journeys.

With Franklin tallying means of 3.23 goals and 3.07 offensive marks across his 39 games within the same period of time, it would be fair – and exceedingly obvious – to suggest that had he plied his trade at the Showgrounds, and not the SCG, during this two-year stint, the Giants' offensive strike rate would have been much stronger.

It would also be logical to suggest that by inserting Franklin into an otherwise youthful forward line, any possible heat on their three other forward options would have been dulled.

During the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Jeremy CameronJonathon Patton and Toby Greene recorded 27.1 per cent of the club's total goals, as well as 32.83 per cent of its marks within the arc.

Jeremy Cameron during the round nine AFL match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Richmond Tigers at Spotless Stadium on May 20, 2017 in Sydney, Australia.

Now, if ‘Buddy' were acting as the lightning rod from 2014 onwards, this trio's share of the scoreboard may have fluctuated, but you can be certain that they would have been marked by lesser defenders, with the bigger bodies each drawn to Franklin's flame.

Still, it is a challenge to truly pin the tail on exactly how many majors Franklin would have across his career had he joined the Giants. But if this attacking band was still splitting the sticks together in 2023, it is no stretch to suggest that Leon Cameron would have owned a career win rate of more than 53.33 per cent, and the club's still-barren trophy case would likely have something on display

But when exactly would these theoretical premierships have been won?

Between the start of 2016 and the end of 2019, the Giants fell at the preliminary final hurdle twice, in the semis once and, of course, at the very final jump during the 2019 grand final.

Even though Franklin's injection would have made little difference against the Tigers in 2017 and 2019, had ‘Bud' been involved in the remaining pair of finals, then the results could well have been reversed.

In the 2016 prelim' against the Bulldogs, Leon Cameron's percussion went down to the premiership Pups by one straight kick. When you consider that Franklin averaged more than three goals against the Dogs that season, this meagre deficit could very easily have been erased.

Two years later in the semi-final against the ‘Pies, the Giants went down by 10 points at the MCG, and as Franklin bagged a haul of 6.4 against Collingwood just a month before the finals kicked off, had he been wearing charcoal and orange in 2018, the scoreboard could have been flipped in the Giants' favour.

Whether or not the competition's babies would have grown up and graduated in these seasons is hard to say, but with these numbers in mind, interesting cases can certainly be tabled, at the very least.