Almost six decades of premiership heartache is over for the Melbourne Demons after they staged an incredible fightback against the Western Bulldogs in the AFL grand final 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 61,000 fans at Optus Stadium in an epic AFL grand final for the ages.
The Demons claimed their first premiership flag in 57 years after a stunning third quarter fightback saw them turn a 19 point deficit into a 24 point lead with seven unanswered goals against their shellshocked opponents .
Five more unanswered goals in the fourth quarter against before running out 21.14 (140) to 10.6 (66) winners.
Demons stars Max Gawn and Christian Petracca dedicated the famous victory to their fans stuck in lockdown back home in Melbourne.
‘It is a long time coming,’ Gawn told Channel Seven
‘My heart goes to everyone in the eastern states at home watching this.’
Christian Petracca added: I actually can’t speak right now. It feels like a dream.
‘ It is quite unbelievable. We set out preseason 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!
The Demons were first on the scoreboard with two behinds before Christian Petracca extended their lead to boot the first goal of the match.
Teammate Bayley Fritsch extended the deficit with the first of his four goals minutes later for the Demons before the Bulldogs finally got on the board with their first six-pointer.
The Demons kicked two more goals to enjoy a 4-5 (29) to 1.2 (8) quarter time lead.
But the second quarter belonged to the Bulldogs who staged a fightback by kicking six of the next seven goals to lead 7.5 (47) to 6.3 (39) at half-time
Playing in his third grand final, Adam Treloar led the second quarter Bulldogs fightback with two goals before a late six-pointer from skipper Marcus Bontempelli cemented an eight point half-time lead.
The Bulldogs extended their lead within the first two minutes of the third quarter when Jason Johannisen took an epic mark in the goal square before Bontempelli’s third goal of the game increased the deficit to 19.
The Demons clawed their way back with the next seven goals to reclaim the lead to lead by 24 at three quarter time.
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
Western Bulldogs’ Adam Treloar (pictured) scored two second quarter goals as his side came from 21 points down to hit the front against the Demons
Jason Johannisen (pictured) extended the Western Bulldogs lead with a goal early in the third quarter
The Western Bulldogs hit back in the second quarter by kicking six of the seven goals of the quarter. Pictured are the Bulldogs celebrating Lachie Hunter’s goal
Christian Petracca celebrates with Melbourne Demons teammates after booting the first goal of the grand final
The Melbourne Demons booted four of the five first goals of the AFL grand final. Pictured is Bayley Fritsch celebrating after kicking the second goal
Roarke Smith was the first goal-scorer for the Western Bulldogs in their grand final showdown against the Demons
Western Bulldogs’ Adam Treloar led his side’s second quarter fightback to hit the lead against Melbourne 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 Demons and Western 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.
Footage and photos of McGowan showing his allegiances to the Demons surprised Channel 7 commentators.
‘He’s made a statement there, I did not expect that,’ James Brayshaw said.
Abbey Holmes added: ‘That’s controversial.’
A sell-out crowd of 60,000 enjoyed a pre-match entertainment line-up of Australian chart-topping anthems ahead of the first bounce.
‘Everyone is excited, no doubt about that. I’ve never seen a crowd like this,’ Channel Seven commentator Brian Taylor told viewers.
‘Absolutely superb. They are enjoying every moment of this.’
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.
The Demons fans were loud and proud during the first quarter as their side kicked four of the first five goals
The Western Bulldogs cheer squad found their voice in the second quarter as they side hit the lead
These Melbourne Demons fans were among the lucky 60,000 footy fans able to snare grand final tickets
Western Bulldogs young gun Bailey Smith arrived at Optus Stadium separately after forgetting his official accreditation lanyard
Sporting a Demons scarf, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan posed with fans on the train en route to the stadium
Demons skipper Max Gawn (right) hopes to lead his club to their first premiership flag in 57 years
Viewer reaction was divided over Amy Manford’s rendition of the Australian national anthem prior to first bounce
60,000 AFL supporters in Perth are making their way to Optus Stadium (pictured a Melbourne Demons supporter)
Western Bulldogs fans arrive at Optus Stadium, hoping their club can win their second premiership in five years
Marcus Bontempelli leads the Western Bulldogs onto Perth’s Optus Stadium for the 2021 AFL grand final
Earlier in the day, eagled-eyed viewers mercifully mocked broadcaster Channel Seven over a cross-code mix-up.
Channel Seven accidentally called the Demons Melbourne Storm, the city’s club in the rival NRL code in emails promoting the game.
Defending NRL premiers Storm were also in action on Saturday night in their preliminary final against Penrith Panthers before going down 10-6.
‘Oops. Hey does Melbourne Storm know they’re in the AFL grand final? I know you guys are *good*,’ one fan tweeted.
Another fan quipped ‘I thought it was going to be a tight #AFLGF but I think the Bulldogs’ AFL experience will be too much for the Storm to overcome.
AFL fans have also gathered in Melbourne to watch the big game, despite warnings from health officials to stay home after Victoria recorded 847, its highest ever daily infection spike during the pandemic.
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
There was no doubt which team these dogs were barking for in Saturday night’s AFL grand final
Channel Seven has been mercifully mocked over this embarrassing blunder calling the Demons Melbourne Storm
It’s the second time in history the AFL grand final has been played outside of Melbourne due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The code was also been rocked by the sudden death of AFL legend Greg Parke, who played for both grand final sides.
The former Melbourne Demons and Western Bulldogs player passed away on Saturday morning aged 73 following a reported long illness.
Centre half-forward Parke began his storied career with the Demons, making his debut in 1968 and booting 169 goals for the VFL club.
In his time with the Demons, Parke was famous for wearing his iconic number 26 guernsey as well as his elite marking skills near the goal square.
He then joined Footscray – now known as the Western Bulldogs – in 1974 after an attempt to join SANFL side South Adelaide was blocked at the time.
AFL boss Gil McLachlan was delighted with how Perth has rallied around the grand final.
This colourful Demons die-hard hopes his club can win their first AFL premiership since 1964
‘There’s a huge energy and demand that I took for granted,’ McLachlan told 6PR radio on Friday.
‘What’s struck me is how appreciative West Australians are. There’s a respect and an empathy for the loss the Victorians are feeling.
‘We might have a silver lining for West Australians, where there’ll be more big games coming to this town.
‘I’m confident about that. We know this is a football town.’