EVERY game of football is a collection of moments that sometimes carry meaning and sometimes count for little.
The 2016 Toyota AFL Grand Final, the unforgettable premiership decider between the Western Bulldogs and the Sydney Swans, was one in which every little moment mattered.
The one that lives longest in memory was Tom Boyd's goal in the last quarter that sealed the Western Bulldogs' premiership, the second in the club's history and first since 1954.
The moment came at the 21-minute mark of a gripping final term, with the Bulldogs leading by nine points but the Swans in striking distance of a comeback. The game was still up for grabs, and the Dogs knew it.
Swans superstar Lance Franklin had the ball on the half-back flank and looked set to drive it into his team's forward half. But Bulldogs veteran Dale Morris had other ideas. He chased down the million-dollar star, who lost possession in a dangerous spot and was caught holding the ball.
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Boyd, who like Franklin also switched clubs on a lucrative multi-million dollar deal, gathered the ball off the ground and took a few quick steps. He then unloaded a long kick from inside the centre square that bounced on its end in the goalsquare before lobbing through. Boyd lifted both arms in the air, becoming an instant Bulldogs hero.
Who made it happen?
For Boyd, it was the icing on his breakout game cake. Much like Geelong forward Tom Hawkins, who was maligned as a developing forward but grew into a star after his coming-of-age effort in the 2011 Grand Final win over Collingwood, Boyd saved his best for the biggest stage.
The 21-year-old key forward dropped the first marking attempt that went his way in the opening minute of the game, but it was almost his only blemish. He was huge in the third term, taking two contested marks across half-forward and giving the Dogs a presence in attack.
Before his premiership-sealing goal, he had also booted majors in the opening term and late in the second quarter, seeing him finish with three goals from 14 disposals, eight marks, and 14 hit-outs when supporting main ruckman Jordan Roughead.
Morris, too, was vital in this passage of play and across the afternoon. The veteran defender set up a goal to Clay Smith in the third term with a brilliant slide and trap of the ball across half-back that lifted his side (they never lost the lead after Smith's major put them ahead).
Morris was under a minor fitness cloud leading into the clash after going through what appeared to be a fitness test earlier in the week, but the 33-year-old's experience and cool head in the backline was crucial for a young but enthusiastic group.
Franklin's Grand Final didn't start the way he would have hoped. He rolled his right ankle after a marking contest four minutes in the contest and appeared to carry the complaint through the clash. He was physical and tried hard, and kicked a last-term goal to give his side a chance, but it was not his best performance.
Give boydy 2 mill— Maverick Weller (@Maverickweller) October 1, 2016
What did it mean?
It meant everything for Boyd and the Dogs. The goal delivered the Dogs their long-awaited second flag. For Boyd personally the goal meant just as much.
Boyd was no stranger to scrutiny. He was the No.1 draft pick in 2013, and has been highly-touted for a long time. But his decision to quit Greater Western Sydney at the end of 2014 after one season to move to the Bulldogs divided opinion, and he had the natural growing pains that come with a tall forward in his first three seasons. That changed in the Grand Final.
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In the context of the game, it was the goal the Bulldogs needed to break the Swans' back. Liam Picken, a star in the Bulldogs' win and throughout its remarkable finals series, kicked the final goal five minutes later to clinch the historic 22-point win.
The goal meant everything for Boyd and the Dogs. Picture: AFL Photos
Any cameo performers?
Tom Liberatore deserves a mention. The hardened midfielder's aggressive block on star Swans midfielder Josh Kennedy forced him to shoot out a handball over his shoulder that missed Franklin. The pressure act meant that Franklin had to bend over and pick up the ball rather than receive it straight in his hands, offering an extra split-second for Morris to make up the ground required to run him down.
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How did they call it?
"Tom Boyd's got it, Tom Boyd goes long. How will it bounce? The stadium holds its breath … it's a goal! And the western suburbs erupt." – Dennis Cometti, Channel Seven
And the fans went ...
Absolutely crazy. You could almost tell that the fans recognised the back story to this goal, and why it had extra meaning being delivered by Boyd. The recruitment of Boyd on his high-price and long-term contract had been questioned outside of the Dogs' headquarters, including from some sections of the club's supporter base. However short Boyd's career would prove after his Grand Final performance – he will remain a club immortal.
Will they play it in 20 years' time?
Of course they will. Let's face it, every minute of this tense Grand Final will be replayed forever as the Bulldogs broke their flag drought. But Boyd's goal is the moment that made the MCG shake, the supporters roar loudest, and the passage of play where everyone in ground thought: 'Yep, this is actually going to happen. They're going to win it.'