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GRAND FINAL RESULT: Second-half avalanche sees Demons smash Dogs, end premiership drought

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25th September, 2021
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Melbourne’s 57-year wait for a premiership is officially over, after a scorching run of 12 consecutive goals saw them erase what looked to be a commanding 19-point Bulldogs lead and win the 2021 grand final by 74 points.

The Demons were well in control in the first quarter and took a 21-point lead into the first break, but the Bulldogs had taken a stranglehold on the game in the second and third quarters.

Leading by 19 points midway through the third quarter and having kicked eight of the last nine goals, the Dogs looked to be well in control. Melbourne had no answers to the Bulldog momentum and were getting beaten at their own game.

But a switch was flicked and they went on one of the great tears.

Bayley Fritsch – who already had two goals to his name – kicked two quick ones to get the roll underway. The first was a simple set shot that came about by a perfect kick to space inside 50 from James Harmes. The next, off the very next centre clearance, saw him crash the pack at full forward, recover before anyone and dribble it through from the square.

Petracca won the very next centre clearance and his booming long kick inside 50 was marked one-on-one by Ben Brown. When he converted his set shot, the margin was back to a solitary point in the blink of an eye.

Angus Brayshaw took a great lunging mark inside 50 a few minutes later and he converted his set shot to – against all odds – put the Demons back in front.

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It looked like it’d be just a one-goal lead for the Dees at the final break, before they went on an unfathomable last-minute tear – kicking three goals in 32 seconds to blow the game open and lead 24 at the final change.

First it was Petracca, who dribbled through a gorgeous goal with a checkside snap from deep in the pocket. Then, after a decisive centre clearance win, Tom Sparrow took the handball over the top and dobbed one from right on 50.

The Dees still weren’t done. Another clean break out of the centre square saw the ball end up in Clayton Oliver’s hands and he too kicked a goal on the run to complete a run of seven straight Melbourne goals for the quarter.

It was eight in a row inside the first minute of the last quarter, with Sparrow’s well-weighted kick to the forward pocket finding Brown – who slotted his third to make it 30 points. Fritsch kicked his fifth from another set shot soon after to put the result all but beyond doubt.

It was ten in a row and game over a few minutes later after Neal-Bullen’s set shot from 47 out sailed through for a 42-point lead. Ed Langdon added another to make it eight goals and 11 in a row, before Tom McDonald made it a dozen.

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Christian Petracca played out of his skin with 40 disposals, nine clearances, 15 score involvements, 11 inside 50s, eight intercept possessions and two classy goals in one of the greatest grand final performances that saw him awarded the Norm Smith medal.

He was ably supported by Clayton Oliver (33 disposals, ten tackles, one goal), Christian Salem (27 disposals, seven tackles, one goal) and Jack Viney (25 disposals, 12 clearances).

Marcus Bontempelli (25 disposals, three goals) tried hard, while Caleb Daniel had himself a seriously good first half, but the rest of the midfield group were unable to withstand the Melbourne pressure and had plenty of numbers with almost no impact.

It was that relentless pressure that gave the Demons the first real chance of the game – but Alex Neal-Bullen’s snap from a long way out was rushed through.

The Demons midfield – particularly Clayton Oliver – was holding its own very early and it was the minor premiers who looked the most threatening. The pressure eventually bore fruit, with Christian Petracca producing the game’s first goal with a sublime kick from just inside 50 off one step.

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Another penetrating long kick inside 50 found Bayley Fritsch on the goal line and he converted the point blank set shot to give the Demons the first two.

The Dogs were able to stem the flow, however, and got their first after an excellent aerial effort and ground level follow-up from Roarke Smith.

They let themselves down soon after though, with Bailey Williams’ kick inside defensive 50 going straight to Luke Jackson and allowing Melbourne to nab their third through Charlie Spargo.

Williams couldn’t find a hole deep enough to hide in after another mistake led directly to a Melbourne goal. He got in front of Fritsch on what looked to be a misdirected kick inside 50, but it slipped through his fingers and straight into the bread basket of Fritsch – who straightened up and kicked his second.

The rest of the quarter was played firmly at Melbourne’s end of the ground, but Ben Brown and Ed Langdon both bombed chances to put the Dees further ahead before the break.

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Adam Treloar got the Bulldogs off to the perfect start in the second quarter, with a quick snap through traffic inside 50 lighting a spark – and he got his second a few minutes later thanks to some great forward pressure.

It officially became a red, white and blue avalanche when Aaron Naughton kicked a rare crumbing goal off the very next centre clearance.

The Demons got an important steadier soon after when Ben Brown converted his easy set shot from a superb pack mark, but the Dogs weren’t done.

Some good counter-attack up the wing was capped off by a great mark running back with the flight into the pack by Marcus Bontempelli – who slotted the set shot in his first major involvement in the game.

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Lachie Hunter then received a high contact free kick just inside 50 and nailed the long set shot to give the Bulldogs their first lead.

Melbourne did well to stop the tidal wave of Bulldog momentum from there, but it was the Dogs who looked the most likely to score for the rest of the second quarter.

There was a moment of controversy when a Max Gawn set shot that was called a behind looked to have gone through – but a behind the goal camera-angle seems to show it was clearly over the post.

Eventually, the Doggies got on the board again and it was thanks to another sublime pack mark and set shot by Bontempelli. It capped off a superb second quarter from Luke Beveridge’s side as they look an eight-point lead into the main break having trailed by 21.

Fritsch had the chance to wheel around and kick an important early goal for Melbourne, but his shot hit the post. The Dogs marched up the other end of the ground and did land the first blow after Jason Johannisen took an excellent grab on the behind line and converted.

Then it was time for Bontempelli to reassert himself on the game with his third goal – an impressive long snap from just inside 50.

But just as the game looked like it was getting away from the Demons, they completely flipped the script.

Full time

Melbourne – 21.14 (140)
Western Bulldogs – 10.6 (66)

Goals

Demons: Fritsch 5, Brown 3, Petracca 2, McDonald 2, Spargo, Brayshaw, Sparrow, Oliver, Neal-Bullen, Langdon, Jackson, Salem
Bulldogs: Bontempelli 3, Treloar 3, R. Smith, Naughton, Hunter, Johannisen

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