West Coast are the 2018 AFL premiers, after emerging five-point victors in one of the best grand finals we’ve ever seen.
The winning play saw a magnificent intercept mark in defensive 50 from Jeremy McGovern set the Eagles off in motion, before an ice cool Dom Sheed slotted a difficult set shot to be the unlikely hero.
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Jack Darling threatened to be the villain after he dropped the easiest of catches unmarked in the goal square with only a minute left on the clock, but his blushes were saved after Luke Shuey cut off the kick-in just outside 50.
After the Pies got off to a blistering start, West Coast spent the better part of two quarters getting themselves back into the contest, levelling the scores at three-quarter time to set up a thrilling finish.
It was Collingwood who got off to the dream start in the last quarter, with Brody Mihocek and De Goey splitting the middle with not even a minute on the clock to put the Pies back out by 12.
The twists and turns didn’t stop coming, however, with a Nathan Vardy set shot goal from the ensuing centre stoppage pulling the margin back to an even six points.
Mason Cox bobbed up for his second goal of the game to give his team some breathing room but, just like that, Josh Kennedy responded with his third major to make it five once more.
Liam Ryan hit the post twice – once from a miracle snap and once from a set shot – to trim the margin back to three. Kennedy, too, had a chance to put the Eagles in front, but his set shot from right on the arc was punched through.
The weight of entries had Collingwood under enormous pressure, but West Coast couldn’t land the killing blow. An errant kick in defensive 50 gifted Chris Masten a set shot, but he also couldn’t guide it through the big sticks as the margin was reduced to just one point.
Collingwood had their time in the sun, with an obvious and correct score review calling back a goal, before two shots from Cox and Taylor Adams failed to trouble the scorers.
They still had the ascendancy as the clock wound down, but they were left to rue being behind at the final siren despite leading for the overwhelming majority of the game.
Luke Shuey was awarded the Norm Smith medal after a blistering effort that saw him rack up 34 disposals, 19 contested possessions, nine clearances, eight tackles, eight inside 50s and a goal.
Among the Eagles best as well were Josh J Kennedy (18 disposals, 11 marks, three goals), Dom Sheed (32 disposals, eight clearances), Jeremy McGovern (nine marks, six rebound 50s, nine one percenters) and Tom Barrass (17 touches, 10 marks, 13 one percenters).
Collingwood were led admirably by Taylor Adams (31 disposals, nine clearances, two goals), Adam Treloar (26 disposals, 11 tackles), Chris Mayne (15 disposals, 14 tackles) and Jordan de Goey (13 disposals, three goals).
The Magpies were ferocious at ground level, winning the tackle count by 32, but they couldn’t shut down West Coast’s aerial game plan, conceding several uncontested marks around the ground and not being quite able to withstand their opponents’ extra 15 inside 50s.
Earlier, Collingwood were served an almighty omen prior to the game, with their banner totally disintegrating in the MCG wind before the team took to the field.
Shannon Hurn won the toss and elected to kick to the city end of the ground but, while his side had a few chances early, it was Travis Varcoe who kicked the first of the match with a cool shot from 35 out on the run.
It got even better for Collingwood thereafter, with two great crumbing goals to Jaidyn Stephenson – one after a simple dropped mark by Thomas Cole – putting them 17 points up. When Jordan de Goey broke two tackles in the forward pocket to snap a fourth goal, it was alarm bells in the West Coast box already.
So out of sorts were the Eagles, that it took Willie Rioli more or less accidentally treading on the ball on the goal line for them to finally put a major on the board. But they found themselves back in the game soon after, with Kennedy’s snap from the pocket getting them back under three kicks at the first break.
It was an almighty arm wrestle in the second stanza, with both sides absorbing incredible amounts of pressure as time-on came on before a goal had been scored. Jordan de Goey broke the deadlock with a super kick from outside 50, but the Eagles hit right back through Mark Hutchings.
West Coast finally grabbed some ascendancy after Luke Shuey’s excellent snap saw them close within 12 points but, despite some good chances late in the quarter, the margin remained just that at the long break.
Shuey was putting his name in the Norm Smith conversation at the break, with 18 touches, six clearances, five tackles and a goal, while Chirs Mayne’s 11 touches at 100 per cent effectiveness were proving more worthwhile than the stat sheet suggested.
It was the perfect start to the second half for West Coast, after a decisive clearance and successful Josh Kennedy set shot within 40 seconds got them back to within six points.
But, after being unsighted in the first half, Mason Cox emerged to take a strong mark on the lead and slot the chance to re-establish the breathing room.
The match kicked into another gear, with Jamie Cripps and Taylor Adams trading goals, before a golden opportunity went begging after Scott Lycett missed a very easy set shot.
Lycett redeemed himself, however, with a smart centreing kick to Jack Darling in the square helping them trim the margin back to six points once more.
Thing truly got turned on their head, however, after a dreadful kick in defence from Taylor Adams gifted Elliot Yeo a set shot – which he duly converted to give the Eagles their first meaningful lead of the afternoon.
Both sides peppered the goals to level the scores and, although Will Hoskin-Elliott had a chance to put the Pies ahead with a set shot after the siren, his kick from just outside 50 fell short as the sides headed into the final break at 55 apiece – setting up an all-time classic of a final quarter.
West Coast Eagles – 2.2 | 4.3 | 8.7 | 11.13 (79)
Collingwood Magpies – 5.1 | 6.3 | 8.7 | 11.8 (74)
Eagles: Kennedy 3, Rioli, Hutchings, Shuey, Cripps, Darling, Yeo, Vardy, Sheed
Magpies: De Goey 3, Stephenson 2, Cox 2, Varcoe, Hoskin-Elliott, Adams, Mihocek
Eagles: Shuey 34, Sheed 32, Hurn 21
Magpies: Adams 31, Treloar 26, Crisp 25