Melbourne Demons win extraordinary grand final against West Bulldogs to end 57-year flag drought
Suddenly, very little was going in Melbourne’s direction. Max Gawn thought he had kicked a goal but was disallowed by an online goal umpire decision, while Lachie Hunter gave the Dogs the lead after taking a free kick for high contact from Charlie Spargo. The Dogs had indeed regained not only their composure but also their cohesion. Suddenly, it was Melbourne – down eight points at halftime – which needed to find answers.
They were not there in the first half of the third trimester. Jason Johannisen stole brilliantly and kicked the first half-time goal, before Bontempelli grabbed the favoritism of Norm Smith Medal with a sublime snap. The Dogs were 19 points ahead midway through the quarter. It was now or never for the Dees.
Then came quite possibly the best 17 minutes in the history of the oldest football club. It was unbelievable. Fritsch kicked two goals against the run, the second set up by a magnificent job in the middle of Petracca and Oliver. Brown got his second before Angus Brayshaw put the Dees in front. Petracca had already been huge in the previous minutes but then came his piece de resistance: a pocket dribbler. Tom Sparrow and Oliver then both finished spellbinding in the race. Melbourne led by 24 points. They had put the prime minister in prime minister’s quarters.
In a grand final that had already resulted in two astonishing changes of momentum, it was not impossible that the Dogs could still come back. It was Melbourne we were talking about, after all.
But it was old Melbourne. The Melbourne died in Perth on September 25, 2021. There would be no more nervous moments as Brown and then Fritsch added their third and fifth goals respectively. Neal-Bullen’s saved eight-minute shot increased the lead to 42 points. It was 9.40pm, Melbourne was 40 minutes away from its nighttime curfew, but the city was about to be painted red and blue.
The last minutes brought exultation. Petracca, performed a festive bust – first with Oliver, then with the equally remarkable Christian Salem. Petracca would end with 39 assignments. There was no debate on who would win the Norm Smith Medal.
Melbourne 4.5 5.9 12.11 21.14 (140)
Western Bulldogs 1.2 7.5 9.5 10.6 (66)
Melbourne: Petracca, Fritsch, Salem, Oliver, Brayshaw, Jackson, Brown, Lever, Neal-Bullen.
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Treloar, Daniel, R. Smith
C. Petracca (Melbourne) 9 [Norm Smith Medal]
B. Fritsch (Melbourne) 8
C. Salem (Melbourne) 8
C. Oliver (Melbourne) 8
M. Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs) 7
Stay up to date with the best AFL coverage in the country. Sign up for the Real Footy newsletter.