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An updated look at the longest finals droughts across Australia’s major codes


Finals droughts in Australian sport

Winning’s not supposed to be easy and some fan bases know that way more than others.

Across Australia’s major sporting codes, some pretty lengthy and unfortunate finals droughts have formed.

The post-season is sometimes known as the promised land… an appropriate term for some clubs and supporter groups.

For some fan bases, it’s only been a couple of seasons and things look destined to change.

For others, it’s been over a decade and not looking like there’s a lot of light at the end of the tunnel.

Most people know that the Wests Tigers in the NRL, for example, currently have one of the longest active finals droughts and the 2023 season under coach Tim Sheens was every bit as painful as previous recent campaigns.

Finals droughts
Finals Droughts | 12 years and counting for the Wests Tigers

So here’s how it sits across Australia’s major competitions.

Biggest Finals droughts in Australian sport

Four finals droughts are into double-figures and fans, we feel your pain. Here are Australian sport’s longest active finals droughts, ordered by size.

Super Rugby – Western Force (Never/16 years*)

When it comes to competitive rugby in Australia, it’s a little complicated. There have been numerous iterations of the Super Rugby across the last decade; expansion, COVID-19 and a regional shift.

Excluding the Super Rugby AU competitions of 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic, where the handful of Aussie teams competed just in isolation, the Western Force have never made the Super Rugby Finals.

So whether that’s the Super Rugby Pacific – like it’s now become – or the older Super 14 version, finals rugby is something that still eludes the west.

simon cron, western force, finals droughts
Can coach Simon Cron pull the Force out of the darkness? | Finals droughts

The Melbourne Rebels (13*) are in a similar boat. Excluding those two COVID-impacted years mentioned above, the Rebels are yet to play in the post-season in Super competitions.

NRL – Wests Tigers (13 years)

It hasn’t been easy for Western Suburbs, Balmain and Wests Tigers fans alike for over a decade now with the side’s last NRL finals appearance way back in 2011.

The club ‘won’ another wooden spoon last season, despite plenty feeling optimistic about the side’s 2023 prospects; the club’s new star signings and fresh coaching group was supposed to drag them out of its dark age.

Luke Brooks’ career speaks to the Tigers’ woes. He’s making the move to the Sea Eagles for 2024, after 205 first grade games in black and orange… and zero finals appearances.

The Tigers have one of the longest finals droughts in Australian sport right now.

AFL – Gold Coast Suns (Never/13 years)

Suns fans have never experienced the excitement of post-season football. Gold Coast is a relatively young operation, but it’s now 13 years and counting.

Now while it’s been a long journey, things do appear to be heading in the right direction; a mountain of young and emerging talent. But the Suns have been here before.

The reality of interstate rivals continuing to poach hot, young commodities continues to haunt. But the arrival of triple-premiership winning coach Damian Hardwick is sure to generate fresh optimism they can win more games next season and not bleed out any more talented risers.

Gold Coast finished 12th in 2022 but them 15th last season, despite promising early signs.

With star midfielder and Brownlow hopeful Touk Miller leading the way, who was one of the top choices in our top 23 for 2023 list, their chances are improving year on year.

Finals droughts
Finals droughts | The Suns are still searching for a maiden post-season push

A-League Men’s – Newcastle Jets (6 years)

The Western Sydney Wanderers just ended one of the longest finals droughts, which last six years. And their qualification last season leaves the Newcastle Jets stranded at the top of the list.

The Jets hosted the 2018 Grand Final, losing 1-0 to Melbourne Victory, but haven’t been back to the post-season since.

A-League Women’s – Newcastle Jets (6 years)

That’s right — the Jets are suffering a six-year drought in both the Men’s and Women’s A-Leagues.

Newcastle’s Women’s outfit didn’t play finals since making the Semis in the 2017-18 season.

The competition started in 2008, known as the W-League originally. Newcastle are yet to reach a decider.

matildas, clubs
Which clubs do the Matildas play for? Here’s where they’re all signed

Super Netball – Queensland Firebirds (6 years)

The Adelaide Thunderbirds ended an excruciating 10-year drought last season.

The Firebirds takeover the mantle now, having not finished in the top half of the Super Netball standings since 2018 (3rd).

The Queensland outfit hasn’t won a title since the ANZ Championship days; going back-to-back in 2015–’16.

NBL – Adelaide 36ers (5 years)

It may not be a long time, but this just shows how strong and evenly competitive the NBL is becoming.

Adelaide have finished in the bottom four for five straight years since their last finals appearance in 2018 and their fans are absolutely desperate for it to change.

Before the Sydney Kings’ recent fifth championship, Adelaide’s proud and storied NBL franchise shared was equal with the Kings and New Zealand Breakers for the third-most titles (four). But plenty has gone wrong in recent seasons for the Sixers.

The last few years have been more about celebrating the breakout of Josh Giddey in the NBA, after he was a Next Star prospect in Adelaide for the 2020-21 season.

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Broadcaster Jo Healy runs through her top 5 most intriguing imports for NBL24.

Big Bash League – Melbourne Stars (3 years)

It’s hard to believe the star studded Stars (pardon the pun) now have one of the longest finals droughts we’ve seen in the Big Bash. And somehow still have never won the competition, despite going really close a few times.

The last time the Stars made the finals was back in 2020 where they finished first on the ladder heading into the postseason, but lost the Final to the Sydney Sixers.

The past three seasons the Stars have finished 7th, 6th and bottom. It’s a slight shock considering franchise’s profile and power. But things can change quickly in the BBL, as we know.

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