Coach: John Northey
Captain: Robert Flower
Finishing Position: 5th
Best and Fairest: Steven Stretch
Leading Goalkicker: Robert Flower (47)
Best First Year Player: Steve O'Dwyer
Major Sponsor: Drake
|Matches||Ladder||Playing List||Best and Fairest||Reserves||Under 19's|
Brisbane and West Coast entered the league after a torrid 1986 when various clubs discussed mergers and relocations. Fitzroy looked most likely to go interstate but survived in their own right and the clubs unanimously voted to accept a new Brisbane club to the competition instead. Only eight of the 12 VFL sides voted in favour of the Western Australian team entering, the bare minimum required to introduce a new side. Teams received approximately $700,000 from the licence fees, enough to keep the likes of St Kilda and Fitzroy alive.
As the league entered a new era Melbourne returned to their original dark blue colours. They ordered lighter, tighter fitting jumpers but when they arrived shortly before the first night game it was discovered that they didn't fit. Tailors were called in to unpick numbers on the jumpers so they could be swapped to fit players.
Thanks in part to an emotive campaign centered around Robert Flower and his last chance to play finals football the Demons raised money to sign Warren Dean from East Perth, Earl Spalding from Subiaco and Todd Viney from Sturt. The newly formed Brisbane Bears were sent Daryl Bourke, Darryl Cox, Dale Dickson, John Fidge and Mark Withers under the lax rules which allowed teams to dump unwanted players on the new side.
Flower himself had to be talked out of retiring at the end of 1986 and having one last crack at the finals. Despite his body rapidly falling apart on him Flower's presence was one of the key drivers behind the Demons startling run to the finals.
He remained captain - for a record breaking seventh year - with Greg Healy his deputy, and Danny Hughes the deputy vice captain.
Not only did the national competition truly arive but closer to home for the first time since 1975 the Demons returned to wearing their traditional navy blue and red jumpers, discarding the electric blue number they'd first sported to welcome the colour television era. Coincidentally they also won their first trophy of the colour age, defeating Essendon in the Panasonic Cup Final
Despite the onset of a national competition the broadcast rights for the year were held up in a dispute between the league and Channel Seven. Games ended up being shown on the ABC for the only time.
Unable to string two wins together all season it appeared that a Round 17 loss against St. Kilda would consign Melbourne to yet another season outside the final five. Even when they finally racked up two in a row after beating the lowly Brisbane and Richmond it still looked as if they'd left their run too late and would have to go back and focus on a crack at the finals in '88. However with two more wins taking the streak to four in a row they went into Round 22 with a chance of breaking a 23 year hoodoo as long as they could beat Footscray and Hawthorn defeated Geelong.
Cue a day that will never be forgotten by those who lived it. Playing with enormous confidence after thrashing Collingwood and West Coast over the past fortnight Melbourne were thrown up against the Bulldogs at the Western Oval with a simple equation - whoever won made the 5 as long as the Cats got beaten. The two sides were never more than a couple of goals apart, but at three-quarter time it looked as if the Cats were going to triumph and ruin both team's day. Wary of a last quarter fadeout the coaching staff told the players that Hawthorn were winning comfortably and all they needed to do to play finals was to to win the last quarter. In fact the Cats looked good for their lead and with the game at the Western Oval ending earlier the entire ground glued their ears to their radios and heard the Hawks fall over the line by 3 points. The Demons, and Robbie Flower, were in the finals at last.
More than 72,000 showed up for the Elimination Final against North Melbourne, and any suggestion that the Demons had played 'their grand final' in the preceding weeks was destroyed when Melbourne piled on 19 goals to 2 after quarter time to slaughter the Roos by 118 points. The next week they came up against a rapidly disintegrating Sydney side who had finished third but lost their first final to Hawthorn by 99 points. Against an opposition playing like men possessed they were never going to stand a chance and Melbourne duly saluted by 76 points in front of more than 80,000.
By now there was a belief that they were capable of pulling off the miracle. Hawthorn had lost to Carlton and missed the opportunity to go straight to the Grand Final but were still formidible opponents.
Sadly the fairytale came to a shuddering halt after the siren in the Preliminary Final when Jim Stynes ran across the mark and gifted Gary Buckenara a 15m penalty. Simon Eishold and Tony Campbell had missed seemingly simple chances to put the game away, and somehow the ball had managed to travel from the kick-in to the half-forward flank untouched in 11 seconds before Rod Grinter gave away the free kick to Buckenara.
None of that would be remembered though when Stynes made his mistake. Whether or not Buckenara would have kicked the goal anyway is open to debate, but there's no doubt that the big Irishman's blunder had made it a lot easier for him.
Demon officials protested the decision at the time but there was no doubt that the error had been made. It was heartbreaking at the time, and still smarts, but a year later the Demons went a step further and made the Grand Final, before becoming finals regulars over the next few years. It was scant consolation at the time though, and the "What If's" have raged for more than 20 years after that fateful day.
|Round 1||David Williams||Rough Contact||Not Guilty|
|Round 2||Greg Healy||Striking||Not Guilty|
|Round 4||Steve O'Dwyer||Striking||2 matches|
|Round 5||Rod Grinter||Striking||Not Guilty|
|Round 8||Brian Wilson||Rough Conduct||Not Guilty|
|Round 8||Steve O'Dwyer||Striking||2 matches|
|Round 10||Rod Grinter||Striking||2 matches|
|Round 12||Brian Wilson||Striking||Not Guilty|
|Round 14||Graeme Yeats||Striking||2 matches|
|Round 14||Steve Turner||Striking||2 matches|
|Round 21||Rod Grinter||Striking||3 matches|
|Round 21||Steve O'Dwyer||Striking||2 matches|
|Round 22||Earl Spalding||Striking||Not Guilty|
|Round 22||Dean Chiron||Striking||Not Guilty|
|EF||Dean Chiron||Striking||1 match|