UNDERDOGS: Opposing skippers Robert Murphy (Bulldogs) and Nick Riewoldt (Saints) deserve to meet on the biggest stage, one day soon.
UNDERDOGS: Opposing skippers Robert Murphy (Bulldogs) and Nick Riewoldt (Saints) deserve to meet on the biggest stage, one day soon. Michael Willson/AFL Media

Saints, Dogs grand final, I’d like to see that

LEICESTER City's English Premier League triumph is one of the truly great fairytale stories in sports history.

Twelve months after narrowly avoiding relegation, the Foxes rise above all to claim their first top-flight championship title in 139 years.

But as good as that achievement is, it's got nothing on Fitzroy's back in 1916, when the then-named Maroons went from being VFL wooden spooner to premier ... in the same season.

Okay, so there were only four teams competing that year due to World War I so they all made the 'final four', but the 'Roy boys, after registering just two wins during the home and away rounds, managed to string three together in the finals.

No team is ever going to replicate that quirky achievement, and even rising 17 spots from last one season to premier the next would be a stretch now.

The closest thing we could have to a 'fairytale' this season is GWS going from wooden-spooner in 2013 to flag-winners in 2016.

And won't it have warmed the hearts of the rest of the competition - especially Collingwood president Eddie McGuire - to hear Giants midfielder Stephen Coniglio say during the week that "Nothing is impossible in sport now. The belief is there ... the sky is the limit".

But, enough about the Giants, and their "generous" recruiting zones - this column covered the issue that they had the pick of an (AFL-dominated) area in southern New South Wales that had bred greats Wayne Carey, James Hird and Shane Crawford and more recently Luke Breust and Tom Hawkins two years ago.

No, for the majority of clubs and their fans, a Giants premiership appears to be the stuff of Brothers Grimm storytelling.

Few though would begrudge the real rags to riches rise in the AFL - a Western Bulldogs-St Kilda grand final in the next couple of years, with one of them claiming just their second flag.

It almost happened in 1997, but Adelaide spoiled the party, firstly in the preliminary final when they came from being five goals down at half-time to roll the Dogs, before upsetting the Saints in the granny.

It's also now been 61 and 68 years, respectively, since they tasted the ultimate success.

It's not quite as long as the Swans had to wait - 72 years - but it's getting up there.

The Bulldogs and St Kilda watched as the competition's own traditional 'Big 4' of Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon and Richmond racked up 56 of the 93 VFL premierships between 1897 and 1989.

The Saints, meanwhile, collected their 27th 'spoon' in 2014.

While the Bulldogs are clearly building towards something special, the Saints may not be too far behind - they have earmarked 2020 as their time, but who would begrudge the club getting ahead of schedule, just in time to send skipper Nick Riewoldt off on a high.

A physical freak who is still the leading marker in the game, averaging 10.5 this season, the 33-year-old deserves a premiership medal as much as of those long-suffering Saints.

 

STUFF OF (VFL-AFL) FAIRYTALES

JUMPS BETWEEN SEASONS

13 spots - Brisbane 1998 (16th) to 1999 (3rd)

12 spots - Melbourne 1997 (16th) to 1998 (4th)

12 spots - Bulldogs 1996 (15th) to 1997 (3rd)

12 spots - West Coast 2010 (16th) to 2011 (4th)

SPOON TO SUCCESS

Brisbane - Wooden spooner in 1998 to Premier in 2001

Sydney - Wooden spooner in 1992-1994 to minor premier and grand finalist in 1996

Collingwood - Wooden spooner in 1976 to minor premier and grand finalist in 1977

Collingwood - Wooden spooner in 1999 to grand finalist in 2002

Footscray -Wooden spooner in 1959 to grand finalist in 1961


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