The Western Bulldogs shocked the Sydney Swans 89-67 on Saturday to claim the AFL premiership at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Dogs, who last tasted premiership glory in 1954, have been the Cinderella story throughout the finals series. First they knocked out former champions Hawthorn then, a week later, swept aside the GWS Giants.
The first half was enthralling. The Swans opened the scoring but the Dogs were ahead by the end of a low-scoring first quarter. The Swans pulled back then took the lead in a high-scoring second quarter as both sides threw in some bone-rattling tackles in pursuit of dominance. Buddy Franklin was an early casualty, rolling an ankle while contesting the ball, a niggling injury that hampered him throughout the match.
The teams went in for the long break at 45-43 to the Swans, but from there on, the Sydney side were limping and the Dogs began to look dominant. Tom Boyd, Liam Picken and Tory Dickson each picked up three goals for the Dogs, while the struggling Swans could add only 22 more points to the Dogs’ 46, despite Josh Kennedy’s best efforts to get the Swans back in the contest.
The Swans were gallant but by the final five minutes, despite Buddy Franklin defying his injury and the odds to bring the Swans within one point of the Dogs. It seemed the Swans could not string two passes together while the Dogs could do no wrong. Picken kicked two late goals to hammer home the Melbourne team’s dominance.
The Dogs’ Jason Johannisen won the Norm Smith medal for his impressive display of 33 possessions, nine inside 50s and seven rebound 50s. The Bulldogs’ coach Luke Beveridge nobly accepted his medal then invited injured skipper Bob Murphy, a 295-game veteran who was severely injured in round three, onto the stage and presented it to him. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, least of all from Murphy. – Jesse Mullens