FEARLESS 2021 – Grand Final: The Big Dance goes national for the second year running




Judging by the Preliminary Final results, the footy world got the two best teams of 2021 in the Grand Final. If anyone doubted this, the two teams had been on top of the ladder for most of the home and away season. The stage and the city’s new sports Mecca were set for a beauty. A week of footy festivities in Perth led up to the game that determined the champions of the AFL. Never mind the allocation of seats, that was sorted early. Even the public allocation got sorted quickly. A full house ensued. Like the Dreamtime game, Optus Stadium was to host two Victorian teams after a week off. All roads led to Perth after a week off between Preliminary and Grand Finals. In turn, the competing teams had the chance to rehab injuries and niggles to have best players ready and available.


After the ball was bounced, it was clear that the Demons had prepared to break the Norm Smith Curse, 57 years since its last flag in 1964. Six-time Premiership Coach Smith was sensationally sacked in 1965. Nine scoring shots to three in the first quarter and the Demons were on their way, a 21 point lead at the first change. Fritsch, Petracca and Oliver were setting the tone and unlucky Dog Roarke Smith was his team’s only goal kicker. For a side that hadn’t been in the Grand Final since 2000, the Demons had settled remarkably well. The Bulldogs (Premiers in 2016) on the other hand looked jittery.


Former Magpie Adam Treloar led the Dogs back into the game with two goals in the first four minutes of the second to settle his team. The Astro-Naught goaled soon after and the margin was suddenly within a kick. Game on. Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli was at the forefront of the resurgence. The Demons fought back through ex-Roo Ben Brown and the Dees were holding sway before the Bont kicked a major, followed closely by Hunter to give the Dogs the lead for the first time. Bulldogs back Caleb Daniel was raking in the possessions. Points followed, scores tied and the Bont pushed the Dogs further in front to take an eight point lead at the main break. It all pointed to a closely fought contest. The Dogs seemed to have regained composure and the Demons now searching for theirs.


Jason Johannisen, the 2016 Norm Smith Medallist, bobbed up to kick a goal early in the third, leading many to assume that the Dogs were on track. The Dogs’ pressure was killing the Demons and their forward line held most of the play. When Bont kicked his third goal, the Demons looked like they were teetering on the brink. 12 minutes in and the Dogs led by 19. A four minute stalemate saw the game seesaw, until some smart play by Demon midfielder Harmes to kick wide to Number 31, Bayley Fritsch, symbolically wearing the famous old number of Barassi. Bang! Bang! Not one but two Fritsch goals in two minutes and the margin was back to seven. Had the pendulum begun to swing?


Petracca, the raging bull, burst clear and kicked to Brown. Another. The margin was now one point! Angus Brayshaw soon goaled and the Demons were back in front. If the Demons’ pendulum hadn’t begun to swing as Brayshaw goaled at the 25th minute of the third, then subsequent goals to Petracca, Sparrow and Oliver rectified that! Three goals within three minutes that followed the same pattern through vacant space in the centre square. The Dogs’ coaching staff were left to ponder how twenty minutes could see seven Demons goals kicked to none from the Dogs. The final change saw the Demons lead by 24 points and head to the huddle with a renewed belief.


Sometimes the game is played above the shoulders, collectively and individually. Melbourne started well, allowed the Dogs back in, looked like caving in and suddenly wrestled back momentum. And how! The Demons not only ended the Norm Smith Curse, they smashed it out of the ballpark with a nine-goal last quarter, and a 74 point win. The Dogs barely gave a yelp and their solitary last term goal was kicked by Adam Treloar, his third for the night. Brown, Fritsch, Neal-Bullen, Langdon, McDonald, Salem, Jackson, Fritsch and McDonald to finish off the last quarter blitz…in front of 61,118. Take a bow, Perth…and take a bow Christian Petracca, a 39 possession, two-goal game to earn the Norm Smith Medal and to bring the Premiership joy back to the Melbourne Demons. The grand old flag was flying again at full mast by the time captain Max Gawn and coach Simon Goodwin held the cup aloft. Both teams should feature prominently as benchmarks in the September action for the foreseeable future.





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