The most anticipated AFL home-and-away games of the 21st century

The Carlton-Collingwood match on Sunday will headline one of the most climatic finishes to a season in recent history.

With finals implications for both teams on offer, a bumper crowd is expected at the MCG. So, in honour of this high-stakes clash, here is a sample of the most anticipated matches of the 21st century.

Carlton vs Essendon (Round 20, 2000)

The two Victorian powerhouses were unstoppable during this period. After playing out one of the best preliminary finals ever the year before, 91,571 came out to watch the rivals square off in the top-of-the-table clash.

Carlton came into the contest on a 13-game winning streak, but Essendon were too good in the final quarter, maintaining their infamous undefeated streak. This would come to an end the following week when the Dogs shocked the footy world.

Collingwood vs Brisbane (Round 8, 2002)

Collingwood early became the surprise packet of 2002, sitting in second spot before their clash with the rampaging Lions. In what ended up being one of the greatest matches played under the roof, the Pies held off Brisbane late to get home by three points. The two teams would face off in the grand final, producing an absolute belter of a game.

Port Adelaide vs Brisbane (Round 22, 2002)

First versus second to decide top spot in the last round of the season, it doesn’t get any better than that. For the first time in their short history, the Power had the chance to win the minor premiership, but would have to go through a prime Brisbane outfit to do so.

In a grandstand finish, Port Adelaide’s Roger James would cap off his best on ground performance kicking the winning goal with 90 seconds left.

North Melbourne vs Adelaide (Round 6, 2003)

This match was highly anticipated for all the wrong reasons. It would be the first match Wayne Carey played against the Kangaroos since his messy exit. North Melbourne players were getting into Carey before the bounce, creating for entertaining viewing.

Sydney vs West Coast (Round 1, 2007)

The 2005-2007 Sydney-West Coast rivalry eclipses that of any other state versus state rivalry in AFL history. With five consecutive matches under a goal in the lead-up to the game (the most recent a one-point grand final), this match had intriguing written all over it.

Michael O'Loughlin celebrates a Swans win

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

In true Swans and Eagles fashion, the teams could only be separated by a solitary point.

Hawthorn vs Carlton (Round 22, 2008)

Lance Franklin at one end, Brendan Fevola at the other. History was on the horizon on this night, with both players in reaching distance of the ton. Franklin wasted no time, achieving the feat in the first quarter, while Fevola fell one goal short, thanks to Hawthorn flooding their backline despite going on to win by 78 points.

Geelong vs St Kilda (Round 14, 2009)

Never before have we seen a situation like it, and we likely won’t see anything like it again. This Sunday afternoon blockbuster under the roof of Etihad Stadium saw two 13-0 sides do battle at the peak of their powers.

A record crowd of 54,444 saw Michael Gardiner convert with a minute left to give the Saints the win. Geelong would get their revenge in the grand final, however, thanks to some last-minute Paul Chapman magic.

Collingwood vs Geelong (Round 8, 2011)

Two of the powerhouse teams to start the 2010s would go into their Round 8 clash undefeated, in what was a 2010 preliminary final rematch. In a match that saw 81,691 people in attendance, the Cats took the lead in the last quarter and held on for a three-point win.

Geelong vs Hawthorn (Round 19, 2012)

This Friday night blockbuster wrote the next chapter in the legendary Hawks-Cats rivalry (aka the Kennett curse period). With an eight-game winning streak against the Hawks since the 2008 grand final, Geelong wanted to maintain their dominance once again.

However, fresh off a preliminary final finish in 2011, Hawthorn wanted to draw blood over their rival. Despite trailing by 51 points at one stage, the Hawks would lead at the final siren, only for Tom Hawkins to launch a 55-metre bomb and keep the streak alive.

Richmond vs Collingwood (Round 19, 2018)

When Collingwood announce themselves as a contender, the murmurs amplify that little bit more, and this match was no exception.

After a five-year absence from September action, the Pies were in the picture, coming up against the then-unstoppable Tigers. Despite a valiant effort from Collingwood, Richmond would prove far too strong, winning by 28 points.

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