Melbourne Demons’ AFL grand final win has reunited long suffering residents after a tumultuous week for a city in its sixth lockdown.
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 players dedicated their win to fans back home on a day Victoria recorded 847 new coronavirus cases, its highest rise in daily infections during the pandemic.
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.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews joined those rejoicing in the Demons’ win late Saturday night, but his post-game message sparked mixed reactions.
Demons stars Angus Brayshaw and Ed Langdon can’t wait to return home in 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 eerily deserted on Saturday night due to the city’s sixth lockdown in 18 months
The Premier was roasted online for paying tribute to the Demons and AFL champion 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 captioned a photo of Daniher, who was the last man to lead the Demons to a grand final 21 years ago.
It didn’t take long for fired up Melburnians to hit back, 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 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.
Another 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.’
Many others described Mr Andrews as tone deaf and renewed calls for him to resign.
‘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,’ one man commented.’
Another added: ‘It’s not about you today Andrews. Stop. Leave us alone.’
Premier Daniel Andrews sparked a divided response with this tribute to the Demons and Neale Daniher on Saturday night
Tears flowed for Demons legend Garry Lyon and coach Simon Goodwin (right) on Saturday night
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.
‘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 3000km.
‘If so, I hope we’ll be like the Demons – team success is sweet after suffering together for so long.’
The Demons’ premiership reignited a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel for other Melburnians desperate to be freed from lockdown for a sixth time.
Proud Melburnian Magda Szubanski led the message of hope following the Demons’ famous AFL grand final victory
‘You know what? Melbourne really really reeeeeally frickin needed this win!’ actress Magda Szubanski tweeted.
Cricket commentator Trent Copeland wrote: ‘Remarkable. 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, usually packed with AFL fans celebrating into the early hours.
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
Almost six decades of premiership heartache is over for Demons after they staged an incredible fightback against the Western Bulldogs on a historic night for the code.
The game was held in Perth or the first time in front of a sell-out crowd of 61,118 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.
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.
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
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
Angus Brayshaw and Ed Langdon
‘It is a long time coming,’ Gawn told Channel Seven moment 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 Melbourne Demons have capped off an incredible season with a 74-win in the AFL grand final
The Demons came from 19 points down in the third quarter to kick 12 unanswered goals and steal the game
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 AFL legend’s Neale 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.
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.’
But not everyone watching at home was impressed, with some calling the musical entertainment ‘worse than Meatloaf’ – referring to American singer Meatloaf putting in a widely panned 12-minute performance at the 2011 AFL Grand Final at the MCG.
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.’