We remember freakish goals, superb passages of play and zany celebrations but it’s the spectacular marks that will always remain etched in our memories. Below we recall some of the contenders for Best AFL Mark of All Time. The ‘speckies’ that have helped to make our national game so special.
- Ashley Sampi (West Coast Eagles) vs Melbourne – Round 12, 2004
- Gary Moorcroft (Essendon) vs Western Bulldogs – Round 14, 2001
- Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda) vs Sydney Swans – Round 11, 2004
- Jonathan Brown (Brisbane) vs Hawthorn – Round 17, 2002
- Shaun Smith (Melbourne) vs Brisbane Bears – Round 22, 1995
- Jeremy Howe (Melbourne) vs Sydney Swans – Round 8, 2012
- Alex Jesaulenko (Carlton) vs Collingwood – Grand Final, 1979
- Matthew Lappin (Carlton) vs Essendon – Round 1, 1999
Best AFL Mark #1: Ashley Sampi (West Coast Eagles)
LOCATION: Melbourne Cricket Ground – Round 12, 2004
You’d normally require Cirque Du Soleil tickets to find a human with the ability to leap ten feet off the ground and make it seem so simple. But that’s exactly what mercurial Eagle Ashley Sampi achieved when he took flight at the MCG during the 2004 season. When team-mate Brent Staker gathered the ball 70m out from goal and sent a high arching drop punt into the West Coast forward 50, Sampi leapt for the heavens. Perched feet first and upright on the broad shoulders of Melbourne’s Paul Wheatley and team-mate Andrew Embley, the popular goal sneak not only took the ball safely in his hands but stuck a landing you’d normally find on a Nadia Comaneci highlight reel. ‘Samps’ was rewarded for his effort with the 2004 AFL Mark of the Year award and a regular mention in any Best AFL Mark of All Time discussion.
Best AFL Mark #2: Gary Moorcroft (Essendon)
LOCATION: Etihad Stadium – Round 14, 2001
Brad Johnson spent most of his 364 games running opponents into the ground. But halfway through the 2001 season, one of those foes extracted revenge….and then some. Nuggety Bomber Gary Moorcroft would have been forgiven for watching Scott Lucas’ quick kick forward sail high over his head to the next contest on the Essendon goal line. However, the fiery redhead saw an opportunity in the shape of Bulldog champion Johnson’s shoulders. Launching himself, first from the Etihad Stadium turf and then a second thrust off his opponent, Moorcroft plucked one of the most acrobatic grabs in recent memory. In fact, ask any diehard Dons fan and they’ll tell you it was the Best AFL Mark of All Time!
Best AFL Mark #3: Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda)
LOCATION: Sydney Cricket Ground – Round 11, 2001
Some big AFL marks are all about timing, some about courage and some require elite athleticism. And then, there’s this from St Kilda icon, Nick Riewoldt. Bucket loads of all three ingredients and with a blatant disregard for his own safety thrown in for good measure, this would have to be considered the most courageous mark ever taken on an AFL field. Mere mortals would have watched Robert Harvey’s scrappy kick forward float over their head into the path of the oncoming pack. But ‘Rooey’ had other ideas and took off at a speed Usain Bolt would be proud of. Making up the required ground to meet the ball on its final descent, he launched himself at a three-man pack moving rapidly in the opposite direction – eyes only on the TW Sherrin. Words could never do proper justice to this act of sheer and utter madness, so just click the link, hold your breath, and watch it for yourself.
Best AFL Mark #4: Jonathan Brown (Brisbane)
LOCATION: Melbourne Cricket Ground – Round 17, 2002
Another from the ‘insanity’ file, fearless Lion Jonathan Brown made a living out of putting his body on the line for the benefit of his team-mates and club. Even Hawk defender Jade Rawlings and Brisbane forward Alistair Lynch, themselves no shrinking violets, must have had reservations when they looked up and saw the rampaging Brown charging directly at them with eyes fixed toward the sky. Warrnambool’s favourite son left the ground with reckless abandon and clutched the ball to his chest, collecting an unfortunate Rawlings on the way through. Brown received the 2002 Best AFL Mark of the Year gong and let’s face it, nobody in their right mind would have been willing to argue otherwise!
Best AFL Mark #5: Shaun Smith (Melbourne)
LOCATION: The Gabba – Round 22, 1995
Widely considered to be the Mark of The Century, Demon Shaun Smith’s Gabba flight path could easily have been tracked by NASA. The Brisbane Bears may have taken the 4 points in front of a near 12,000 strong crowd, but it was Smith who scored a near perfect 9.5 for his leap over team-mate Garry Lyon and Brisbane’s Richard Champion. Only the dismount cost him the perfect score!
We all have our favourites but it’s tough to see this mark ever being beaten for the title of the Best AFL Mark of All Time.
Best AFL Mark #6: Jeremy Howe (Melbourne)
LOCATION: Sydney Cricket Ground – Round 8, 2012
You know when your YouTube clip includes paid ads that you’ve taken one for the ages!
Another Demon makes the list, this time more recently with now Magpie Jeremy Howe’s miraculous effort against the Swans at the SCG. A long clearing kick from the Demon’s defensive 50 saw Swan Heath Grundy in what he would have assumed prime position to repel the attack. Howe had alternate plans. This grab was as remarkable for its duration as it was for its height. After taking flight, the athletic Tasmanian stuck one Adidas book on Grundy’s shoulder and his knee in the back of his head before perching there like a wake boarder riding a wave. After grasping the Sherrin, reading the paper and sipping a quick cup of tea, he finally came back to Earth…….and then played on!! Young Jeremy is definitely in the frame for the Best AFL Mark of All Time.
Best AFL Mark #7: Alex Jesaulenko (Carlton)
LOCATION: Melbourne Cricket Ground – VFL (AFL) Grand Final, 1970
“Oh Jesaulenko, you beauty!!!!!” Four words that any lover of AFL history will never forget. Maybe not the Best AFL Mark of All Time but certainly the most famous. Due in no small part to the fact it occurred on the biggest stage of all, Grand Final Day at the MCG. The fact it was against Carlton’s greatest rival, Collingwood, was the icing on the cake.
Pies ruckman Graeme Jenkin could never have imagined he’d be seeing himself on television literally thousands of times in the 4 decades that followed this towering mark but that’s exactly what’s happened. An iconic mark in every sense, Jesaulenko’s pluck was the first to be officially voted as the VFL/AFL Mark of The Year.
If useless trivia is your thing, Jezza’s also the only Austrian-born Ukrainian to win the award 😉
Best AFL Mark #8: Matthew Lappin (Carlton)
LOCATION: Melbourne Cricket Ground – Round 1, 1999
When long kicking Carlton ruckman Matthew Allan has the ball 45m out from goal, you generally don’t set yourself for a marking contest. If you’re Matthew Lappin, however, you don’t take anything for granted and the diminutive Blue saw an opportunity there for the taking. The only issue, how do you catch a footy sailing though for a behind at half post-height? Enter Essendon strongman Dean Wallis. The Bomber’s idea was clearly to shepherd the ball through and take the resultant kick-in. He probably hadn’t planned on ‘Skinny’ planting his left knee firmly against his right ear, leaping just high enough to see the 8:30pm to Frankston departing Richmond Station!
The 251-game champion held onto the towering grab and in the process, also grabbed the 1999 AFL Mark of The Year crown.
The Best AFL Mark of All Time Verdict?
Well, of course it’s only our opinion and despite an honourable mention to Ashley Sampi, it’s hard to go past Demon Shaun Smith for the Best AFL Mark of All Time.
The combination of height, duration and sheer disregard for his own safety makes it a tough effort to overlook. That, plus the fact Melbourne rarely win anything………
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