Thousands of people in the western suburbs were left shattered on Saturday night as the Western Bulldogs’ AFL premiership dreams came crashing down.
A dominant second half performance from Melbourne ended the longest premiership drought in the VFL/AFL competition.
The Demons piled on the goals in the last two quarters to seal the 21.14 (140)-10.6 (66) win.
Hours earlier fans from both teams were eagerly awaiting the biggest game of the year, which was held at night for a second straight year.
Many people had started preparations two weeks beforehand, with fences painted, banners made and houses became red, white and blue, while a few red and navy popped up as well.
On game day, platters were made, Norm Smith sweeps were created and guernseys were on display.
Lockdown meant that families had to watch alone, so Zoom and video chats were also going on in many houses before, during and after the game.
Once the pre-game entertainment ended, the game got underway. It was all the Demons early on and as they got out to the ideal start.
There were multiple goals to Bailey Fritsch, while Christan Petracca and Clayton Oliver were getting plenty of the ball.
The second quarter would see the Bulldogs finally get into the game. The deficit was quickly gone and the Bulldogs hit the front.
They would lead by eight points at half time.
Jason Johannisen, one of the stars of the 2016 premiership win, and Marcus Bontempelli kicked the first two goals of the third quarter to extend the lead to 19 points and early thoughts of maybe this was the Dogs’ day started to creep in.
The game again turned on its head. The Demons would take control of the game with the next seven goals in the third quarter.
It would be much the same in the last quarter. An Adam Treloar goal at the 21 minute mark in the last quarter was a rare highlight for the Bulldogs in the second half.
Petracca was clearly best on field with 40 possessions and two goals, winning the Norm Smith Medal. Fritsch would finish with six goals and finished second in the Norm Smith voting.
For the Bulldogs, Caleb Daniel battled hard all day and got plenty of the ball with 37 possessions, while Treloar had one of his best games for the club with 27 possessions and three goals.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said his team gave Melbourne full credit for the performance they put out.
“To think we were 19 points up during that third quarter and for the scoreline to end up like it was, was a considerable show of power and strength out of the middle,” Beveridge said in his post game press conference.
“We couldn’t stem the tide and we couldn’t get a clearance, couldn’t get into our half. It happened so quickly and to think in the blink of an eye, the game is almost gone.
“All you can do is credit them. I couldn’t be more grateful in what our players have done to get us to that stage. When you look at the scoreline I don’t think it’s a great reflection on our year.”
Beveridge said he was proud of the group and what they had achieved this year.
“Our guys showed a lot of heart to fight their way back and get up but in these games when there is no tomorrow.
“We had a period of uncertainty key personal going down at different times, players played critical roles in doing everything they could to get us to the biggest stage.
“I would rather be here then not, but obviously they’re all hurting. We know we are capable of more than that.“
Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli said the group was pretty disappointed and felt like it was a missed opportunity.
He said the result was a hard one to swallow after getting themselves into a strong position.
While Western Bulldogs supporters were left disappointed, there were some good feel stories to come out of the Demons side.
Ben Brown wasn’t sure what his footballing future held 12 months ago. On the outer at North Melbourne, Brown chose to head to Melbourne.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, with Brown spending time in the VFL early in the season. He would get back into the senior side and hold his spot. He kicked three goals in the win.
A premiership is a long way from when he arrived in Victoria to play in the VFL with Werribee in 2013.
It would be at Werribee he would be turned from a ruckman into a key forward. The rest is history.
“Absolutely surreal,” Brown told the AFL website.
“I’ve had a very up and down 12- 18 months… To cap it off with this, I’m so thankful for where I am now.
“I definitely had some mental battles, some mental hurdles to get over. It probably could have gone two ways to be honest. Thoughts am I up to it? Can I get back to that level?”
Former Romsey star Jake Lever entered the grand final as the only Demons player to have grand final experience.
He played a key role for the Demons in defence.
“The last one didn’t go to plan,” he told Fox Footy after the game. “Half way through the second quarter I thought it was going to go the same way, but to everyone’s credit, the way the midfield, the forwards and even the backs turned it around.“
Another key player in the Demons run was former Werribee coach Mark Williams. The 2004 premiership coach joined the Demons at the start of the year and was able to provide plenty of experience.