Demons scorch Bulldogs in AFL decider to end 57-year drought

Christian Petracca amassed 39 disposals and two goals in a dominant midfield display

James Harmes and Bayley Fritsch of the Demons celebrate with fans at Perth Stadium. Photograph: Gary Day/Getty Images

James Harmes and Bayley Fritsch of the Demons celebrate with fans at Perth Stadium. Photograph: Gary Day/Getty Images

 

A fast-finishing Melbourne Demons ended a 57-year premiership wait on Saturday, claiming the Australian Football League’s top honour with a 74-point Grand Final victory against a shell-shocked Western Bulldogs under lights at Perth Stadium.

Christian Petracca amassed 39 disposals and two goals in a dominant midfield display, helping the Demons to a 21.14 (140) - 10.6 (66) win before a 61,118 strong capacity crowd.

The AFL awarded coronavirus-free Western Australia its first Grand Final because of a prolonged lockdown in the game’s traditional home state of Victoria.

The Demons settled early by scoring four of the first five goals, but the Bulldogs fought back in the second quarter with midfielders Adam Treloar and Marcus Bontempelli kicking two majors apiece to set up an eight-point lead at halftime.

Melbourne’s victory quickly became assured after the break as they piled on 12 unanswered goals, with forwards Bayley Fritsch (six goals) and Ben Brown (three goals) leading the way.

Petracca was awarded the Norm Smith medal for his best-on-ground performance.

On the path to their 13th premiership, the top-ranked Demons demolished the Geelong Cats and the Brisbane Lions in the playoffs.

Melbourne’s last Grand Final win, however, came against the Collingwood Magpies in 1964.

“It’s a long time coming. My heart goes to everyone at home in the eastern states watching this, we did this for you,” Demons captain Max Gawn said.

“I must admit in the second quarter I was a tad nervous, but then we were able to get going in the second half.

“After 57 years of pain (the premiership cup) is coming home.”

For a second year running, Covid-19 restrictions played havoc with the AFL season.

Crowd limits were routinely imposed and matches were shifted around ever-changing state border rules, but unlike 2020 the complete fixture list was fulfilled and full-length games were played.

“Hopefully, everyone back at home, all the Demons supporters, are loving what was a hell of a Grand Final and a great finish to the season,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said.

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