The Demons are the toast of the city after breaking a 57-year premiership drought to thrash the Western Bulldogs by 74 points in the AFL grand final in Perth on Saturday night.
Their comeback victory brought smiles to many Melburnians waking up to their 238th day in lockdown, and on a day Victoria recorded 847 new coronavirus cases, its highest rise in daily infections during the pandemic.
‘They are doing it tough through Covid, so we had a greater purpose, for Victoria and all the Melbourne fans out there,’ Demons midfielder Clayton Oliver said in a post-game interview, while skipper Max Gawn and Norm Smith Medallist Christian Petracca dedicated the victory to their fans stuck in lockdown.
It’s been a tough week for Melbourne with protesters causing chaos and clashing with police for six days running on top of the state’s roadmap to freedom being delayed due to vaccination targets not being met.
‘You know what? Melbourne really really reeeeeally needed this win!’ actress Magda Szubanski tweeted after the game.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews added his voice to those rejoicing in the Demons’ win late Saturday night, but his message sparked mixed reactions.
Demons stars Angus Brayshaw and Ed Langdon can’t wait to return home to Melbourne with the premiership trophy
Perth was a sea of red, blue and white as footy fans flocked to Optus Stadium for the grand final
Chapel Street in Melbourne’s South Yarra was deserted on Saturday night due to the city’s sixth lockdown in 18 months
The Premier paid tribute to former Demons coach Neale Daniher, who’s battled motor neurone disease since 2014: ‘Gave em hell. And I reckon they’ve given this guy a hell of a smile too.’
Mr Andrews added a photo of Essendon great Daniher, who was the last man to lead the Demons to a grand final 21 years ago.
But some Melburnians reacted angrily, furious the AFL Grand Final was relocated from Melbourne for a second consecutive year due to Covid-19.
No city in the world has been under stay-at-home orders longer after Melbourne surpassed Argentinian capital Buenos Aires’s 234-day lockdown record on Thursday.
’57 years and because of you the supporters could not go to this grand final. 61,118 people at the game, almost as many have left Victoria because you give us hell,’ one man commented.
A different user added: ‘If only you’d give the people who have had the gumption to get vaccinated a reason to smile by letting us out of the prison we have to pay for too. Get back under your rock until you do something beneficial.’
‘Neale was a legend! Stynes was a legend. Dan Andrews is the furthest thing from a legend. Please resign, disappear, go quiet. Just leave. Surely you have no friends,’ said a third.
Another wrote: ‘It’s not about you today Andrews. Stop. Leave us alone.’
But many others thanked Mr Andrews for his message and said the Demons’ win was ‘exactly what Melbourne needed’.
Premier Daniel Andrews sparked a divided response with this tribute to the Demons and Neale Daniher on Saturday night
Proud Melburnian Magda Szubanski led the message of hope following the Demons’ famous AFL grand final victory
Melbourne emergency physician and former Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Stephen Parnis said he hopes the grand final would be a turning point for the city’s fortunes
Cricket commentator Trent Copeland spoke for many when he recognises the importance of the win for the people of Victoria
Usually packed with AFL grand final fans post-match, Melbourne’s Swan St in Richmond was deserted on Saturday night in the city’s 237th day in lockdown
Melbourne emergency physician and former Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Stephen Parnis was among those reflecting on one of Australia’s biggest sporting events being played on the other side of the country instead of the MCG.
SNAPSHOT OF MELBOURNE’S AFL GRAND FINAL WIN OVER THE WESTERN BULLDOGS
* Result: Melbourne 21.14 (140) bt Western Bulldogs 10.6 (66) in front of 61,118 fans at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
* The story: Melbourne showed no signs of early nerves to lead by 21 points at quarter-time. Midfield stars Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca were instrumental in the hot-start. But the Bulldogs awoke from their slumber, with Marcus Bontempelli and Adam Treloar putting together outstanding second quarters to give their team an eight-point lead at the main break. The Bulldogs got out to a 19-point lead, before the Demons broke the game open with an extraordinary 12-goal run. In the blink of an eye, Melbourne had a 24-point lead at the final change, before sealing the flag early in the last quarter.
* Key stat: The Norm Smith “curse” is dead and buried. Melbourne have their first premiership in 57 years – 20,285 days since they defeated Collingwood in the 1964 grand final.
* Key moment: If the Bulldogs were any chance of making a last quarter comeback, they needed the first goal. But Ben Brown brought down a strong mark in the first minute to give Melbourne an unassailable 30-point lead.
* Star player: Christian Petracca was the bookies’ favourite for the Norm Smith Medal and the former No.1 draft pick did not disappoint. The explosive midfielder was the most influential player on the ground, bursting the game open in the first and third quarters to finish with a record-breaking 40 possessions and two goals.
* Key quote: “It is a long time coming. My heart goes to everyone in the eastern states at home watching this.” – Melbourne captain Max Gawn
* Injuries: Star Melbourne defender Steven May came in an under injury cloud and looked to still be hampered by his hamstring issue but played out the match.
Australian Associated Press
‘I wonder if this moment captures the lowest point of #COVID19Vic,’ he captioned a photo of Demons skipper Max Gawn being interviewed post-match
‘Our sporting capital of Australia again forced to watch one of our biggest events from a distance of 3,000km.
‘If so, I hope we’ll be like the Demons – team success is sweet after suffering together for so long.’
The Demons’ premiership was welcomed by a broad cross-section of Melbournians including Bulldogs fans, who said the victory was what the city needed during tough period.
‘The earth moved twice this week for Melbourne!’ Magda Szubanski added to her first Tweet, and many of her fans agreed.
‘I’m not even a Melbourne supporter! It brought a tear to my eyes of happiness after the week Melbourne has had.’ one wrote.
‘They aren’t even my team but I’m so excited that the Dees won! They did this for all of Melbourne,’ said another.
Cricket commentator Trent Copeland spoke for many when he recognises the importance of the win for the people of Victoria.
‘Remarkable,’ he wrote. ‘Not just this Grand Final, but what it’ll mean for the Demons club, and a huge part of Victoria in a bloody tough time.’
Other man added: ‘Melbourne are free after 57 years, hopefully our city will be! Get out and celebrate.’
But as the beer and champagne flowed for Demons players and their fans in Perth, there were no wild celebrations in Melbourne.
The city’s streets were deserted on Saturday night due to strict 9pm-5am night curfew which remains in place.
Eerie photos of nightlife precincts in Richmond and South Yarra show not a soul in sight, while they would usually have been packed with AFL fans celebrating into the early hours.
Almost six decades of premiership heartache ended for the Demons after their incredible fightback against the Western Bulldogs on a historic night for the code.
The game was held in Perth for the first time in front of a sell-out crowd of 61,118 fans at Optus Stadium.
Melbourne’s stunning third quarter fightback saw them turn a 19 point deficit into a 24 point lead with seven unanswered goals against the shell-shocked Western Bulldogs.
The Demons then ran rampant in the fourth quarter, with five more unanswered goals before running out 21.14 (140) to 10.6 (66) winners.
The Demons were already celebrating before a goal after the siren put the icing on the cake of a famous 74 point victory.
Demons skipper Max Gawn and Norm Smith Medallist Christian Petracca dedicated the famous victory to their long suffering fans stuck in lockdown back home in Melbourne.
Christian Petracca celebrates with fans after winning the premiership and Norm Smith Medal
Demons fans are rejoicing in the taste of premiership glory for the first time in 57 years
The Melbourne Demons are the new AFL champions after a historic night for the code at Perth’s Optus Stadium
‘After 57 years of pain, it’s coming home!’ Max Gawn (right) cried as he and Demons coach Simon Goodwin held the premiership trophy aloft
Norm Smith Medallist Christian Petracca led a second half Demons rampage to win their first premiership flag since 1964
Clayton Oliver celebrates with Demons teammates as a fourth quarter blow-out sealed a 74-point victory
‘It is a long time coming,’ Gawn told Channel Seven moments afterwards.
‘My heart goes to everyone in the eastern states at home watching this.’
Petracca added: I actually can’t speak right now. It feels like a dream.
‘It is quite unbelievable. We set out pre-season and the off-season to get this club back to where it should be.
‘For every fan that is what to home, we bloody did it!’
Petracca was awarded the Norm Smith Medal as the best player on the ground with two goals and a grand final record of 40 disposals.
Bayley Fritsch became the first player since Adelaide Crows’ Darren Jarman in 1997 to kick six goals in a grand final.
The Demons celebrated with fans on a lap of Optus Stadium and Facetimed recently retired 302-game club veteran Nathan Jones, who was celebrating back home with a can of beer.
Jones returned to Melbourne two weeks ago to be with his wife for the birth of their twins.
Many of the players have been separated from their partners and young children for weeks.
Just eight years ago, the Demons won two games all season and were the laughing stock of the AFL.
‘My first game, we got beaten by 80 points,’ Jack Viney recalled.
‘Second game, we had 150 supporters throw their scarves at us. We were the laughing stock of the competition.’
‘Now we’ve won a premiership, for the first time in God knows how long.’
‘I don’t think it is going to fully sink in until we get out of the crowd and take a step back.’
Demons skipper Max Gawn shows off the premiership to fans during a lap of honour around Perth’s Optus Oval
Demons players Facetimed recently retired club veteran Nathan Jones on their lap of honour
The Western Bulldogs were left dejected after letting a 19 point lead in the third quarter slip through
Back in the dressing room, Gawn reflected on the heartbreaking tragedies the club has suffered in the last 17 years with the deaths of stalwarts such as Jim Stynes, Colin Sylvia, Troy Broadbridge and former coach Dean Bailey.
There’s also Daniher’s well-publicised battle with motor neurone disease, the last Demons coach to lead the club to a grand final 21 years ago.
‘We’ve had a lot of tragedy that’s followed the club, especially since I’ve been there,’ Gawn said.
‘Troy Broadbridge, Dean Bailey who drafted me, Colin Sylvia, his parents reached out to me and Neale Daniher who is going through one almighty fight with MND.
‘His poster was up on the wall before the game. He’s got a big quote you can talk as much as you want, it’s about doing.
That was my speech before the game, quoted his famous comment. He lives with us. He is still going strong.
It is a shame he wasn’t here tonight. The Daniher family and the Stynes family, they’re special people that make this club special.
Ben Brown celebrates one of his three goals for the Demons after seven unanswered goals in the third quarter
Western Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli was an early contender for the Norm Smith Medal with three goals for the Bulldogs to lead their fightback
Roarke Smith was the first goal-scorer for the Western Bulldogs in their grand final showdown against the Demons
The Western Australian capital was blanketed in a sea of blue, red and white ahead of the grand final showdown between minor premiers Melbourne the Bulldogs, who went into the clash as underdogs.
Thousands of footy die-hards descended on Optus Stadium, including Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, who arrived via train proudly donning a Demons scarf as he posed for photos with fans.
A sell-out crowd of 60,000 enjoyed a pre-match entertainment line-up of Australian chart-topping anthems ahead of the first bounce.
There was pre-match drama for the Bulldogs prior to the match with young gun Bailey Smith not on the team bus after he forgot his official accreditation lanyard and arrived at the ground separately via car.
Sporting a Demons scarf, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan posed with fans on the train en route to the stadium
Western Bulldogs fans arrive at Optus Stadium, hoping their club can win their second premiership in five years
Melbourne Demons fans made plenty of noise amongst the sea of red and blue at Optus Stadium
Optus Stadium was already packed with Bulldogs and Demons fans more than one hour to the first bounce