It's been 62 years in the making, but it's here. They've done it.
THE WESTERN BULLDOGS ARE THE 2016 AFL PREMIERS!!!!!!!
Western Bulldogs 2.0 7.1 9.7 13.11.89
Sydney Swans 1.2 7.3 8.5 10.7.67
Western Bulldogs: T. Boyd 3, Dickson 3, Picken 3, Cordy, McLean, Smith, Stringer
Sydney Swans: Kennedy 3, Mitchell 2, Parker, Smith, Rohan, Franklin, Hewett
Alex Docherty's Best
Western Bulldogs: Johannisen, T. Boyd, Picken, Hamling, Morris, Macrae, M. Boyd
Sydney Swans: Kennedy, Mitchell, Grundy, Rampe, Heeney, Jack
A 62-year long premiership drought is over. History was indeed made on Saturday as the Western Bulldogs have defied every odd possible throughout September and that one day in October and can now be claimed as the champions after completing their fairytale finals run, defeating the Sydney Swans by 22 points in what can only be described as one of the best modern-day AFL Grand Finals you could ever see in front of a crowd of nearly 100,000 people. The Bulldogs, who finished seventh in the home and away season became the first side in the history of the league to have won a Grand Final from that position. The only other team to have won a premiership from outside of the top four was the Adelaide Crows back in 1998, who won from fifth spot.
The first three-quarters were hotly contested and you couldn't pick a winner by three quarter time. The Dogs looked to have the upper hand early as Sydney's gun forward Lance Franklin came to bench after rolling an ankle, but it was Sydney co-captain Kieran Jack set the tone of the contest early by taking a courageous mark inside 50, going back with the flight, being collected by acting Dogs captain Easton Wood just milliseconds after taking control of the ball. Although Jack missed the opportunity to get the game's first goal, his team mate Luke Parker had no issues, slotting through the opener after 12 minutes of play. The Dogs counteracted with two great goals to cap off a scrappy first term with a spectacular set shot on goal from deep in the pocket by Zaine Cordy – just minutes after he botched a shot on goal on the other side of the the forward 50 and a nerve settler from renowned goal-kicker Tory Dickson.
From quarter time, both sides showed signs of taking this game by throat. The Dogs kicked three of the first four goals of the second term – all of them brilliant snaps at goal, before the Swans asserted their dominance with a four-goal run through Josh Kennedy and Tom Mitchell. A late goal before half-time from Toby McLean was badly needed for the Dogs as they had looked like they were beginning to fall away from this contest.
But from half-time, the Dogs were starting to emerge as the better of the two sides as they controlled and dictated play, but failed to convert on missed opportunities. Jack Macrae couldn't capitalise on a 50 metre penalty as he missed a real sitter and misses to Caleb Daniel, Jake Stringer and Tom Boyd were a bit more difficult, but still so crucial in a Grand Final, however goals from Clay Smith and Dickson gave the Dogs an eight-point edge at the final change.
When Dan Hannebery injured his knee in a contest against Easton Wood early in the last quarter, it was beginning to look like the end of the Swans, before Franklin finally broke through for his first and only goal of the afternoon – the Swans weren't going to give up so quietly. Jake Stringer finally stamped his authority on the game with a half-chance snap shot to give the Dogs a seven-point lead, before that goal was crossed out by Sydney's George Hewett, but from there, the Dogs kicked the final three goals of the game to seal the deal. Liam Picken started the run, with a goal that his team was made to earn, a Jason Johannisen goal was controversially over-turned by the video review system, but it mattered little. Tom Boyd's goal in the 22nd minute pretty much confirmed the Dogs first premiership since 1954, Liam Picken's third goal of the match just minutes later was the icing on that premiership cake.
But the moment of this game was without a shadow of a doubt during the presentation of the medals and of course, the premiership cup. As coach Luke Beveridge received the Jock McHale medal and ended his speech, he gave his medal to the injured captain Robert Murphy in an unbelievable display of selflessness. Beveridge quoted 'You deserve this more than anyone' and rightfully so. From day one, Bob has bled red, white and blue and is as passionate about the club as anyone and to see him hold the premiership cup along with acting captain Easton Wood was certainly unbelievable scenes.
If I've said it once, I've said a thousand times: The city of Footscray needs to have a statue of Luke Beveridge erected in front of the Whitten Oval as soon as possible!
Leading The Way
Jason Johannisen took home the Norm Smith medal for his stunning game off half-back, and while there were times I cursed under my breath (team-high six clangers), his run and carry off of half-back was first-class, and his stat-line of 33 disposals, nine inside 50s, seven marks and seven rebound 50s are telling of a fine performance, and while it was Johannisen that received the 'Normie', you could've argued that it could've gone the way of Liam Picken, he was simply brilliant in that last quarter, kicking two of his three goals and taking a spectacular leaping mark, he finished the day with 25 disposals, five inside 50s, four tackles and three goals.
And what about Tom Boyd? That lucrative deal that had so many people talking is finally beginning to pay off and the young man had played the game of his life. He took eight marks, with six of those being contested, he kicked three goals and looked like every prospect of that number one draft pick that was taken by Greater Western Sydney just a few years ago. Even those that continue to mouth off about him would've stood up and applauded this brilliant performance. People were talking about Boyd's 'coming of age' performance in a similar fashion to Geelong's Tom Hawkins and his 'coming of age' game in the 2011 Grand Final. Fingers crossed it's a sign of things to come.
This'll make me sound like a broken record, but the defence again were brilliant. Joel Hamling was given the job on Lance Franklin and definitely took the honours, restricting Buddy to just one goal despite the fact he injured his ankle early, but it was Hamling's one-on-one efforts that wowed me the most. Dale Morris again outstanding in stopping goals. His smother on Josh Kennedy in the third quarter was telling as was his tackle on Lance Franklin in the last quarter, even more amazing was the fact that he revealed post-game he was playing with what was virtually a broken back. Easton Wood – a premiership captain. If you told me this two years ago, I would've simply laughed, but since the appointment of Beveridge, Wood has emerged as one of the many stars in the Bulldogs' backline as is Matthew Boyd, who only two years ago was on the decline as a midfielder.
And of course, it wouldn't be a premiership team without the Bulldog midfielders, with Jack Macrae digging deep to lead the Doggies' on-ball brigade with 33 disposals, five inside 50s, five marks and four clearances. Marcus Bontempelli had 22 disposals, but was at his brilliant best and made most of his disposals count, Luke Dahlhaus worked hard for 23 disposals and eight tackles, as did Tom Liberatore who had 22 disposals, eight clearances and eight tackles.
As I watched the Swans see that premiership slip away from their grasp, it looked obvious that it was left to too few. Josh Kennedy was arguably Sydney's best player. He made the second quarter his own, having 22 disposals up to half-time, and although his impact slowed up in the second half, still finished with 34 disposals, six clearances, six tackles, six inside 50s, five marks and three goals. He had assistance in the midfield from Tom Mitchell, who may have played his last game for the Swans as he contemplates a move to Hawthorn. He finished with 26 disposals, 13 tackles and two goals.
Heath Grundy and Dane Rampe marked everything they could've from the defensive end and if it wasn't for these two, the Swans probably would've gotten smashed. Rampe showed everyone why he was chosen as an All-Australian with 24 disposals, 11 marks, nine rebound 50s, and also keeping the dangerous Jake Stringer in check for most of the day, whilst Grundy had 21 disposals, nine marks and six rebound 50s.
Lance Franklin battled on despite his ankle injury early on in the game, finishing with 16 disposals, eight marks and seven tackles, Isaac Heeney was very good in what was only his second year of AFL footy, with 22 disposals, six marks and five inside 50s and despite missing two gettable shots on goal in the first half, I though Kieran Jack tried hard all game long for 22 disposals.
But it's the senior Swans that needed to deliver, but didn't. Luke Parker had 19 disposals, but would've been disappointed he didn't get his hands on it more. Kurt Tippett couldn't register a score, being well held by Fletcher Roberts whenever he went down forward, whilst Ben McGlynn and Gary Rohan could only combine for 14 disposals and one goal.
Soak The Win In Doggies Fans, It's Been A Long Time Coming!