Melbourne’s Christian Petracca broke down in tears after one post-match question, before explaining why he was overwhelmed.
The longest premiership drought in Australian football is no more.
The Demons reversed the club’s 57-year curse in phenomenal fashion on Saturday night in one of the craziest Grand Finals in recent memory.
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Melbourne has won its first flag since 1964 — and the tears were flowing on and off the field at Optus Stadium after the 21.14 (140) to 10.6 (66) victory.
The emotions were too much for superstar Christian Petracca at the end of the game with the midfield bull breaking down in tears when being interviewed by Channel 7 on the field.
He had reason to be speechless after such a dramatic comeback and reason to be humbled when he was announced as the winner of the Norm Smith Medal as the best player on the field — but his record 40 disposals made it less of a surprise.
Petracca also finished with nine clearances and 24 contested possessions, making it one of the greatest performances ever witnessed in a grand final.
He received a perfect 15 votes from the Norm Smith Medal judging panel, with every member awarding him three votes.
He lived every young footballer’s fantasy.
And it was all too much when asked about his special day in the minutes that followed the mayhem of the Demons’ final-siren celebrations.
“I don’t know what to say to be honest,” he said when asked to explain how he was feeling while his teammates jumped about behind him.
“I actually can’t speak right now. It feels like a dream.”
He then needed a moment to compose himself with his head in his hands before he could deliver a special message for his team’s supporters.
“This is for every fan that’s watching back home. We bloody did it,” he said.
The victory had settled in by the time he was called up to the microphone to accept the Norm Smith Medal.
“To the boys, unbelievable job. We said it from the start we wanted to be here and we are here,” he said to the crowd.
“And to the fans back home, to the fans here, firstly, thank you. And to the fans back home, we did it, baby!”
Channel 7 interviewed Petracca a second time after the official post-match medal presentations to give him a chance to speak directly to his fans around the country.
“It’s sunk in a little bit. This is unbelievable. This is what you play footy for,” he said.
“This is unbelievable. It’s a dream come true. We haven’t been here in 57 years. It’s so special for the club.
“To finally be here, it’s so special.”
Petracca wasn’t the first senior Demons figure to break down in tears — coach Simon Goodwin was in tears the moment he came down to sit with his players on the bench in the minutes for the final siren.
The euphoria of victory was very nearly denied them.
The curse looked like it was about to be extended for at least one more year when the Bulldogs led by 19 points in the third quarter — but then everything changed.
Melbourne kicked 12 straight goals including the madness of three goals in the space of 33 seconds (not including time off) to break the Bulldogs’ backs heading into the fourth quarter with a 24-point lead.
When Petracca kicked his second goal of the match early in the fourth quarter the party had begun for the Demons.
The record football crowd of 61,114 at Optus Stadium was rocking as the Demons rolled on to their historic victory.
Melbourne kicked 16 of the final 17 goals to put an exclamation mark on the victory.
The Grand Final delivered on the hype as the game featured dramatic momentum swings before the Demons produced 15 minutes of perfect football late in the third term.
Melbourne led by 24 points at the final change of ends after seven consecutive goals that came from out of nowhere.
The crowd exploded right from the first bounce as Melbourne shot out to a 21-point lead at quarter-time.
However, that was quickly erased by a thrilling second-quarter fightback from the Bulldogs that turned the contest on its head.
A six-goal second quarter gave the Dogs an eight-point lead heading into the second half — but that’s when the Demons showed their might and proved they were deserving premiers.
Fourth Quarter: Freak Petracca helps Demons rip the Dogs apart
Melbourne’s run of consecutive goals was finally ended by Bulldogs star Adam Treloar in the 21st minute of the fourth quarter, ending the Demons’ run of 12 straight goals.
It was raining goals at the start of the fourth quarter with Bayley Fritsch kicking his sixth goal just minutes after midfield bull Christian Petracca became the first player to ever record more than 40 possessions in a grand final.
It looked impossible with the Demons trailing by 19 points in the third quarter.
“It really is the most extraordinary turn around you can imagine,” Channel 7 commentator James Brayshaw said.
Third quarter: Melbourne destroys Dogs in 15 minutes of madness
The Melbourne Demons have broken the Bulldogs’ back with 15 of the most extraordinary minutes of grand final football ever played.
Trailing by 19 points midway through the premiership quarter, the Demons suddenly roared to life on the back of a midfield domination.
In the blink of an eye, the Demons had kicked seven goals in 15 minutes to blow the Dogs out of the water.
It came from nowhere. When Marcus Bontempelli and Jason Johannisen kicked early goals the game looked almost over.
But that’s when Bayley Fritsch proved the spark for a dramatic comeback when he kicked back to back goals.
Soon it was three goals in four minutes.
It got even crazier in the minutes before the three-quarter time siren, when the Demons again went on a run of three goals in less than three minutes on the back of a string of centre clearances.
It was four consecutive goals from centre clearances without the Demons even getting the ball into their forward fifty.
“That’s incredible,” Channel 7’s James Brayshaw said.
There was controversy when Melbourne forward Kysaiah Pickett was denied a free kick directly in front for a blatant high tackle.
Replays showed Christian Petracca lost his cool at the umpires when the free kick wasn’t paid.
“He’s going bananas,” Channel 7’s Brian Taylor said.
It didn’t matter in the end with Angus Brayshaw kicking the next goal to put the Demons in front.
Tempers had earlier boiled over in a controversial moment where Max Gawn took a heavy fall on the concrete surface in front of the sideline fence.
Gawn was tackled by Caleb Daniel as he stumbled over the sideline and replays showed Daniels’ contact was enough to result in Gawn’s head hitting the ground. Gawn was briefly taken from the field and returned with a red mark on his forehead.
When he returned the Demons roared to life.
Second quarter: Bulldogs turn Grand Final on its head
The Bulldogs exploded out of the blocks at the start of the second quarter and hit the front in an extraordinary twist to he Grand Final.
It started with two back-to-back goals from Adam Treloar, which helped the Dogs cut the Demons’ lead to just three points on the back of three goals in four minutes.
All of a sudden it was game on. All of a sudden it was on the Dogs’ terms. All of a sudden, the Bulldogs had kicked six goals in the second quarter, including the last three goals to take an eight-point lead into the second half.
The half time stats sheet quickly explained the reason for the Bulldogs’ comeback with the outsiders scoring their six goals on the back of just 11 entries inside their 50m arc.
The crazy stat shows the Bulldogs did what no other team has done this year — breaking the Demons defence apart.
The Demons’ defence has been the best in the competition this year, but twin pillars Steven May and Jake Lever were outplayed in the second quarter as the Bulldogs found a way to take contested marks near the goal. It included two tough goals from Dogs captain Marcus Bontempelli — with both coming off classy contested marks.
Channel 7’s James Brayshaw was shocked at the Demons’ defensive failures.
“That’s unheard of,” he said.
May and Lever did not take a mark between them in the half.
The other stunning detail from the half time stat sheet showed Dogs defender Caleb Daniel had 26 disposals.
There was some controversy during the second quarter when Max Gawn’s set shot soared over the top of the goalpost.
Replays appeared to suggest it may have snuck inside the big sticks and the ruckman looked shock when it was awarded a point.
First quarter: ‘Demons off the charts’
Melbourne has their foot on the Dogs’ throat after a first-quarter rampage.
The Dogs were shell-shocked as a result of the Demons’ pressure with Channel 7 commentator Brian Taylor declaring the Bulldogs were being “suffocated”.
When Bayley Fritsch kicked his second goal late in the quarter the Dogs looked on the ropes as Melbourne extended their lead to more than three goals.
The Dees’ pressure acts were causing the Bulldogs to panic and it was opening up plenty of opportunities to score on the back of turnovers.
Channel 7’s expert commentator Daisy Pearce said the Bulldogs were “feeling the squeeze” of the Demons’ pressure.
Taylor said the Bulldogs look “really nervous”.
The Herald Sun’s Michael Randall posted on Twitter: “Dogs in massive trouble here. Must absorb this insane pressure from the Dees”.
AFL reporter Ashley Browne said the Demons’ pressure was “off the charts”.
It was looking ominous for the Dogs early. And it wasn’t until the 17th minute that Roarke Smith finally kicked their first goal.
Grand Final entertainment hits and misses
The extended AFL Grand Final pre-match entertainment was worth the wait.
The performances from Young Australian of the Year Baker Boy and a medley performance of Ice House’s iconic ‘Great Southern Land’ wowed the crowd early with sections of the songs being performed in a local Indigenous language.
It was followed up by an Eskimo Joe cover of an INXS classic and a performance of Men at Work’s Down Under which included a video performance from frontman Colin Hay.
Sunrise presenter Natalie Barr posted on Twitter: “Perth nailing pre game entertainment for the AFL!”.
Bailey Smith left behind, forgets accreditation
Bulldogs sensation Bailey Smith was not on the team bus when it travelled to Optus Stadium ahead of the Grand Final.
The Bulldogs arrived two hours before the first bounce and entered their dressing room without Bailey with the group.
The West Australian reported Smith was not with the team when they left their hotel in East Fremantle and he then arrived at the venue via a separate car trip.
The report details Smith forgot the official accreditation lanyard that AFL players have carried with them all season as a result of Covid-19 protocols.
After telling a security guard out the front of the team’s dressing room in the bowels of the Perth stadium that he did not have his pass, Smith was reportedly told by the security official:
“You’ll be fine”.
It is not the smooth entry Smith would have wanted before the biggest game of his career.
US superstar posts weirdest tweet of Grand Final
American YouTube star Jake Paul has taken to Twitter to show his interest in the Grand Final from the other side of the world.
The social media influencer-turned-boxer on Saturday morning posted his support for both teams, in a bizarre message for his four-million Twitter followers.
His tweet included tagging in the official accounts for the two clubs.
“My manager’s Aussie wife told me it’s the AFL Grand Final this weekend, Bulldogs versus Demons,” he wrote.
“You know I’m a dog so I like the dogs but my heart is always gonna be with the Demons. Demons about to end the drought?”
His post is only marginally stranger than a post from English Premier League giant Manchester City, which also took to Instagram to wish both AFL Grand Final teams good luck.
Fans roast Channel 7’s Grand Final blunder
Footy fans were having a chuckle at an unfortunate gaffe by broadcaster Channel 7, taking to social media to make fun of a cross-code mix-up.
In an email promoting the AFL Grand Final, Seven accidentally said the match was between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm. The Storm, of course, are an NRL team — and plenty of punters on Twitter were keen to remind Channel 7 of that fact.
Norm Smith judging panel revealed
The official judging panel for the Norm Smith Medal — awarded to the best player on the ground in the Grand Final — has been revealed.
It includes journalists Tania Armstrong and Callum Twomey and former AFL players Luke Hodge, Harry Taylor and Andrew Krakouer.
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