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 an umpiring decision at a crucial crossrods had helped your side instead of hindering them?

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 AdelaideRichmondSt KildaSydney, West Coast

Heads up, Dogs fans. You're our lucky last entry.

What if Libba's behind had been called a goal late in the 1997 preliminary final?

Following a 1996 season that became famous for a coaching spill, the possibility of yet another staved merger and their replacement coach publicly announcing that near enough being celebrated as good enough was enough to make him sick, Footscray shed their suburban title and entered 1997 as the Western Bulldogs.

Having finished above only the ravaged Roys the year prior, dreams of September were hardly likely to be commonplace as the rebranded club commenced their Ansett Cup campaign against reigning premiers North Melbourne. But by the time the bye had arrived in late June, spirits at the Whitten Oval had risen as high as their ladder footing.

Despite dropping their opening game of the season in heartbreaking fashion to the Fremantle at Princes Park, the Bulldogs had won eight of their next 11 matches to sit a game clear atop the AFL ladder.

Although the Dogs' fortunes would eventually dip between late July and early August, they bit and roared their way through the final month of the home and away season to earn both a double chance and a date with the Swans in the qualifying final.

Following masterclasses by midfielders Scott West and Leon Cameron, and a tidy day in front of the big sticks from James ‘Captain' Cook, the team of the Mighty West had booked their first preliminary final berth since 1992 after smashing Sydney by just shy of six goals.

27 Jul 2000: Scott West #7 for the Western Bulldogs, handballs during a training session at the Whitten Oval, Melbourne, Australia. Mandatory Credit: Darrin Braybrook/ALLSPORT

Their opponents following a week off? The fourth-placed Crows.

While a grand final berth had alluded the Dogs for over three decades by that stage, by half-time of their clash with the Crows, the Bullies drought appeared set to break.

With West once again finding the Sherrin at will, Cook's mainsail as full as a harvest moon, and the scoreboard showing them more than five goals to the good, the Terry Wallace-led club appeared destined for the big dance for the first time since the Berlin Wall had been erected.

Whether complacency crept in as they tucked into orange wedges in the bowels of the Southern Stand, we're not sure, but throughout the third term, the Pups were outscored 4.4 to 3.1.

No matter though, at 22 points up by the opening bounce of the final quarter, the damage had been done.


In spite of the deficit they faced, the previously wayward Crows began to correct themselves, with the Dogs, in opposition, seeming desperate to catch Adelaide's disease.

After a Jose Romero poster, a Brett Montgomery miss from the top of the square and Chris Grant spurning a chance to waltz into goal, the ball fell at the feet of possibly the most pugnacious Bulldog to ever don a red, white and blue jumper.

Despite claiming the honour of being named the best under 19s prospect in 1984, Tony Liberatore was told by North Melbourne that he was too small to ever dream of wearing blue and white stripes in the seniors.

After departing Arden Street and making the short journey west down Dynon Road, ‘Libba' was twice named as the best and fairest player in the VFL's reserves competition. Although decorated, it would take until his 1990 Brownlow Medal for the 163cm terrier to truly be estimated correctly.

However, by the time that Footscray's disastrous 1996 campaign had ended, Liberatore's future with the club appeared non-existent.

During the much-loved behind-the-scenes documentary ‘The Year of the Dogs' that documented the dispiriting season, the club's coaching staff could be seen discussing the merits of re-signing the midfielder for another year before eventually offering him a substantially smaller deal.

Perhaps the cut-priced contract that the son of Italian immigrants eventually inked was due to the fact that there were minimal other interested parties for his services across the league, or maybe, the move was designed to spur the man who had used rejection and denigration as ammunition throughout his entire career.

Either way, by the time that Liberatore had plonked the ball on his boot and sent it gliding through the fading sunlight towards the Ponsford End goalmouth, his redemption was all but complete.

In spite of the fact that the footy appeared to drop through the big sticks and extend the perennial battler's lead to 28 points, the officiating goal umpire - butcher's coat, Panama hat and all – signalled only a point to Liberatore's late shot.

Was he right to do so?

Not according to the pint-sized Pup, who had climbed higher than King Kong, across the torso of Montgomery and into the arms of Paul Hudson.

Yet, even if the Doggies were dudded, their lead still sat at just under four straight kicks with plenty of time already expired in the final quarter.

Still, as downtrodden clubs are wont to do, the Bulldogs collapsed to eventually fall short by two points after Darren Jarman slotted three and a pair shared by Nigel Smart and Simon Goodwin forcibly removed the Pups' paw from the accelerator pedal.

The Dogs did have their chances through the dreadlocked Mark West and the previously effervescent Grant, but as their respective kicks sailed wide or were smothered, the team of the mighty west's season was scuppered.

So, what if the goal umpire had agreed with Liberatore and had signalled a goal instead?

By the time the then 31-year-old had, in his view, been short-changed five points, there was still 11 minutes and two seconds left on the clock. Even if the ball had returned to the centre for Luke Darcy and Shaun Rehn to do battle, had ‘Libba's miss been marked as a major, the Crows would have required a goal every 90 seconds to take the lead.

Now, as was witnessed first by Bulldogs fans, and then their St Kilda-supporting counterparts a week later, Jarman proved himself to be a second-half wizard across the course of that September. Nevertheless, even if Wallace's defence had continued leaking like a sieve, a goal every minute-and-a-half was almost certainly outside the realms of possibility, even for Jarman.

With this in mind, had Liberatore's luck come in on the 20th of September 1997, then so would have a pass to face the Saints in a grand final contest that would have guaranteed a drought-breaking rain.

But would the Dogs have won?

Having finished atop the ladder that season and having knocked off the premiers from the season before less than 24 hours earlier, the Saints would have been red-hot favourites throughout this alternative grand final week.

Still, had the pain of Chris Grant's unlucky Brownlow ‘loss' been distilled and injected, and if their Round 13 form that saw them top the Saints by 17 points at Waverley was able to be replicated, then the Bulldog's song could well have been blaring from the tannoy once the final siren had sounded.

Although Liberatore could count himself wildly unlucky that a premiership medal never joined his Brownlow, Morrish and pair of Gardiners on his mantle, you can be sure that his son, Tom, achieving the ultimate prize for the club where he made his own name was as close to nirvana as he could hope to imagine.

AFL Grand Final - Sydney v Western Bulldogs
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Tom Liberatore of the Bulldogs shares a beer with his dad Tony Liberatore during the 2016 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Sydney Swans and the Western Bulldogs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 01, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)