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Team rivalries in Australian rules football are the matches between certain clubs in the country’s premier competition, the Australian Football League (AFL), which are sure to draw large crowds regardless of team positions on the premiership ladder. Due to the popularity of these matches, the AFL has arranged a Rivalry Round each year between traditional rival teams as a way of generating extra publicity for these matches. The biggest rivalries include neighbouring teams within Melbourne, and in Adelaide and Perth, as well as ‘blockbuster’ matches between the four leading Victorian clubs of Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon and Richmond.

Perhaps the biggest single rivalry and one that goes back to the nineteenth century is that of blue collar Collingwood versus white collar Carlton, two neighbouring inner suburbs in Melbourne. Both teams have been very successful over the years, with Carlton winning the competition 16 times (equal first with Essendon) and Collingwood 15 times. Their matches frequently attract 60,000-80,000 spectators, and more in a Grand Final. They have fought some memorable Grand Finals, such as in 1970 when Carlton fought back from a 44 point deficit to win. Carlton has won five of the six Grand Finals between the teams and more games than Collingwood overall.

Another big AFL rivalry is between Carlton and Essendon, who jointly lead in the number of Grand Final victories with 16 each. Melbourne and Collingwood traditionally draw large crowds to their matches. It was Collingwood who prevented Melbourne from winning its fourth consecutive premiership in 1958, a feat that has only been achieved by Collingwood itself in 1927-1930. Richmond and Collingwood played in five Grand Finals from 1919 to 1929. In the 1970s and 1980s, the two teams were involved in a bidding war for players.

There is a great rivalry between Essendon and Hawthorn. These teams played in the Grand Final in three consecutive years in the 1980s. In the Preliminary Final between these clubs in 2001, a huge brawl erupted at half-time and a number of Hawthorn players were suspended. Richmond and Carlton have been intense rivals over the years, contesting several Grand Finals from 1969 to 1982. Strong rivalry between Essendon and Collingwood goes back to early last century when they played in Grand Finals in 1901, 1902 and 1911. They play each other on Anzac Day each year, a holiday in Australia to commemorative the efforts of its forces in major wars.

Some of the biggest rivalries and most fiercely contested matches in the AFL are between non-Victorian clubs in the same state, including games between West Coast and Fremantle in Western Australia and Adelaide and Port Adelaide in South Australia. These games are promoted as ‘local derbies’. West Coast beat Fremantle in their first nine matches. After that, Fremantle was able to reverse the result, winning six of the next seven encounters. Just as intense and noisy are the battles between Adelaide and Port Adelaide, with the honours fairly even. A local derby of sorts that is always keenly fought is between Sydney and Brisbane, brought about by the traditional rivalry between the states of which these cities are the capitals: New South Wales and Queensland.

The most prominent recent rivalry is arguably between West Coast and Sydney. They met six times from September 2005 to March 2007, including in two Qualifying Finals and the two Grand Finals, with the winning margin being 4, 4, 2, 1, 1 and 1 point, a very small difference in a game where team scores of over 100 points are common. Similarly, many close matches have been fought between Adelaide and Collingwood. Another of the biggest rivalries is between Port Adelaide and Collingwood, which probably stems from the fact that Port were known as the Magpies (as are Collingwood) in the local Adelaide competition where they played from 1870 to 1996.

One of the biggest past rivalries involved St Kilda and South Melbourne. Both teams were based in the inner southern suburbs of Melbourne. They played for the ‘Lake Trophy’, named after a lake in the same area, Albert Park Lake. St Kilda still plays in the AFL, but South Melbourne relocated to Sydney in 1982 for financial reasons and as a stepping stone towards a national competition. Another major past rivalry was between Collingwood and Fitzroy, neighbours in the inner north of Melbourne. Fitzroy merged into the Brisbane club in 1997 and the rivalry has continued, now between Collingwood and Brisbane.

A couple of new sets of rivalries have emerged with the entry into the AFL of a Gold Coast team in 2011 and Greater Western Sydney in 2012. Already there have been some tough local derby battles between Brisbane and Queensland’s second team 50 miles or 80 kilometres down the road and between Sydney and the new team in that city’s western suburbs.

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