2021 AFL Grand Final Preview: An overtime thriller in prospect?


While most pundits predicted a Melbourne Demons v Port Adelaide Power AFL Grand Final, hindsight says it was a pie in the sky.


Reality struck the Power under the Adelaide Oval lights on Saturday as the Western Bulldogs defied ‘all logic’ to trounce the star-struck and nervous hosts.


It was an ‘anomaly’ for Port but, boy, what a game to get short-circuited.


Reality and fact show that the two best teams are in the decider at Perth’s Optus Oval.


The Dees pretty much were top from go to whoa while the Doggies were second for all but the final match of the home and away season.


Port Adelaide added to its ‘false positive’ readings after a ‘last-gasp’ Robbie Gray set shot that sent the Dogs out of second spot in Round 23.


It was the Western Bulldogs’ third loss on the trot, made worse, supposedly, by the Brisbane Lions snaring fourth spot and the finals double-chance that same weekend.


Bullies’ coach Luke Beveridge galvanised the playing group.


There’s no doubt he masked his concerned look from the players but portrayed it to the media as that of a mentor grasping at straws as to how to give the Western Bulldogs ‘yelp’, a quality it was missing in the latter stages of the season.


‘Bevo’ listened to Kane Cornes’ comments that the side would not make the Grand Final.


‘Bevo’ listened to the critics of Collingwood recruit Adam Treloar.


The coach instilled motivation like no other ahead of the game against Essendon in the rain in Launceston, Tasmania.


Tick ‘woof’!


On that first week of the AFL finals, both Melbourne and Port registered predictable, if somewhat and surprisingly lop-sided, results against Brisbane Lions and Geelong Cats.


The Doggies made history as the first winning side in Tasmania’s AFL finals hosting.


A trip to the Lions’ den beckoned and the Dogs were down and out mid-way into the third quarter.


Enter the blue-eyed boy wonder with the blonde flowing mullet, Bailey Smith. He pounced on a handball from another forward revelation, Mitch Hannan, to pierce through a left-footed goal and subsequent and iconic ‘nerves of ice’ pose.


While the Lions’ Zak Bailey levelled scores with his own ripping goal moments later, the Western Bulldogs’ ‘them against us’ ethos played to script when Laitham Vandermeer toe-poked a point to put his side ahead.


Captain Marcus Bontempelli was injured late but Taylor Duryea warded off Brisbane’s dynamo Charlie Cameron and the game was won in one of the best finals games ever


Tick ‘woof’ two!


‘The Bont’ was in some doubt for the ‘mission impossible’ task against the Power at Adelaide Oval.


Add to that Cody Weightman’s omission due to a concussion he sustained when ex-Dog Marcus Adams got the young forward high.


Then there was the hamstring strain at training to defensive key talisman Alex Keath in the week leading up to the Preliminary Final.


All the planets were lining up for the Power to qualify for the Grand Final for the first time since 2007.


But someone forgot to tell Beveridge and his charges.


There’s no doubt he used all the South Australian pro-Port media mania to his and his team’s advantage.


The Western Bulldogs played with freedom against a side that had all the weight of Adelaide and the State on its shoulders.


Just like in the first Preliminary Final when the Melbourne Demons put Geelong to the sword by half-time, the Doggies had the Power players plagued with bite marks by the long break.


The midfields were worlds apart as Jack Macrae, Lachlan Hunter, Tom Liberatore, Smith (four goals) and company smashed Port’s on-ball brigade at the coalface and on the spread.


Strategic moves by ‘Bevo’ included the introduction of experienced ruckman Stefan Martin into the fray.


This freed up Tim English who did some nice things up forward that included the starting of the rot for the hosts when his deft handball found Smith for the opening goal.


Josh Schache was the other masterstroke by Beveridge. Schache was the roadblock that prevented Port’s own defensive roadblock in Aliir Aliir from playing his intercept game.


It worked a treat while Aaron ‘Astro’ Naughton terrorised Trent McKenzie and Port skipper Tom Jonas.


‘The Bont’ was always going to play and he did with 20 touches and two goals.


So, hindsight says that there is justice and that the two best teams will go toe-to-toe in the West.


If the Doggies get up, it WILL be the best-ever grand final triumph by an AFL/VFL team.


The Dees are hellbent to break a 57-year premiership drought.


Both teams are on one win each in their two home-and-away meetings.


Keath and Weightman will return in a forward and defensive boost for the Western Bulldogs while Melbourne’s key defender Steven May is expected to be fit to play after hamstring tightness saw him rested in the second half against the Cats.


The two ‘Italian Stallions’, Bontempelli and Christian Petracca, will face-off in a dynamic midfield duel.


May may get Naughton, though the unheralded Harrison Petty could get the gig on the athletic forward.


It’s a big game for Schache who’ll be assigned to negate the Demons’ defensive interceptor Jake Lever.


There are many wonderful match-ups and Duryea is likely to mind Melbourne’s crafty forward Bailey Fritsch; Ed Langdon on Smith and the Bulldogs’ Treloar on Angus Brayshaw on the wings.


Martin and English will have to both play out of their skins to be on par against Max Gawn.


Gawn went the full ‘Mad Max’ against Geelong with five goals, four of which came in a breathtaking third quarter when Gawn was still stationed…as a ruckman!


Both teams know how to win coming from behind – the Dees against the Cats in Round 23 and the Dogs against Lions in the semi-final.


So who wins this one?


A draw is not out of the question and the Bullies will make most of its own fairytale ride to win it in the six-minute, split by two three-minute halves, overtime thriller.


Schache to find a gap in Melbourne’s defence to be at the end of a spearing Macrae pass and slot through the game-winner – point or goal.



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About Nicholas Kossatch

Tall and intelligent and athletically built who calls a spade a spade. Love sports writing and sending letters and texts to the editor about AFL and the Port Adelaide Power - win, lose or draw. I do not sit on the fence. Soon to be 40! I play basketball and over 35's supers football. Have played amateur footy and a bit of cricket and basketball when living in Adelaide. Do some writing for the Murray Pioneer,


  1. Nick, I agree that this could be one of the great Grand Finals if both teams play attacking, fearless footy. I only hope that one or the other doesn’t steal a march early on and turn it into a one-sided affair. The problem for me is that I can’t decide which one is the more likely to do that! As a ‘let’s have a fairytale result’ type of person, I’m hoping the Demons can break their long drought.

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