Main content

Ten things we learned from the 2016 Grand Final

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Jake Stringer of the Bulldogs celebrates a goal during the 2016 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Sydney Swans and the Western Bulldogs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 01, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Justine Walker/AFL Media)
Jake Stringer struggled mightily on the big stage but his final quarter goal meant all sins were forgiven

1. Kieren Jack's courage is unquestionable
The opening 10 minutes of the decider was tough and uncompromising as expected, and the Swans co-captain was right amongst the action. When his side pumped a high ball inside 50, Jack bolted back with the flight without hesitation, took a sensational chest mark, and was immediately crunched by opposite number Easton Wood. The 29-year-old looked in some trouble initially but recovered to take his kick, which resulted in a behind, but it was an inspirational act from the tough midfielder, something the footy world is well accustomed to from Jack.

Full match coverage and stats

2. The Dogs' youngsters are stacked full of character
Zaine Cordy hasn't been a major player in the Bulldogs' brilliant finals run, but he's made a habit of making some big moments count. The young tall forward made a mistake by ignoring Lachie Hunter at the top of the goalsquare early, before kicking the ball out on the full, then a minute later, was softly pushed aside in a marking contest with Heath Grundy. But he didn't drop his head, and when Grundy dished off to Callum Mills, Cordy jumped on the Rising Star winner to earn himself a free kick. The 19-year-old then calmly slotted the Dogs' opening goal from an acute angle, and everybody had forgotten his earlier howler. 

WATCH: Top five plays - Sydney Swans v Western Bulldogs

3. How did the Dogs tame Josh Kennedy?
He was ranked as one the game's best inside midfielders heading into the match, and by half-time of the Grand Final, the star Swan had all but jumped clear of the rest of the competition. Kennedy had an incredible 22 possessions, five inside 50s, three tackles, two centre clearances, and two crucial second-quarter goals. Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said his assistant coaches Joel Corey and Steven King switched some players around after half-time, and Kennedy was 'limited' to just 12 more possessions for the day. "We made an alteration with our inside mids, who had responsibility for Josh (Kennedy), and that came off, so our assistant coaches were fantastic today," Beveridge said.

 

4. It's bound to be a long summer for Jake Stringer
The gun forward was a star in 2015 with 56 goals, and although he's shown a bit on occasions this season, poor form and injuries have conspired to rob Stringer of his major weapon, his confidence. The 22-year-old has the ability to win a game of his own boot with a big quarter or even less, but his Grand Final wasn't one to remember. Stringer had zero influence on the game in the first half with four possessions, and when he had two mini opportunities in the second term, he butchered both of them, and booted them out on the full. His final-quarter goal showed just how capable he is of being a dominant force in the game. On raw talent alone, he's one of the competition's best, but unless his work rate and selflessness improves, last year's All Australian selection might be a one off. Plenty of reflection needed before 2017 begins.

 

5. Did the men in green feel the pinch of a tense Grand Final?
As hard as it is for the players, the job of the umpires must be even more difficult on Grand Final day, and there were some puzzling decisions at the MCG. The Bulldogs led the free kick count 12-4 at half time, with more than a couple of head scratchers going their way. The third term ramped up the pressure on the players and the Dogs were given another two or three questionable decisions, with a 50-metre penalty against Jeremy Laidler, and a high shot on Clay Smith among them. The Swans didn't land a free kick at all in the third quarter, and co-captain Jarrad McVeigh certainly made his feelings known to the whistleblowers. The below the knees rule also seemed to be abandoned with Tom Papley and Dan Hannebery both brought down by Dale Morris and Easton Wood with no whistle.

6. Tom Boyd came of age when faced with his biggest test
The former No.1 draft selection has copped his fair share of heat for his form and jumbo-sized contract, but he took a significant step forward against the Swans. Boyd jumped at the footy like we've rarely seen so far in his short career, and took eight marks, six of them contested in the decider. It's a performance that could finally kick start the 21-year-old and give him the confidence to assert himself on the competition, like Geelong's Tom Hawkins did back in the Cats' 2011 flag win. "He was unbelievable," Luke Beveridge said post-match. "I'm just so happy for him, with all the external pressure that’s come his way. Today we needed our players to find their best and he found his in a Grand Final, and that was amazing."

 

7. Liam Picken is made for finals
The Bulldogs hard nut has been a revelation during the finals so far and was brilliant again in the big one. A last-quarter hanger showed just how far he's come from being the team's tagger and dour stopper. Picken's competitiveness and team-first attitude have always been his forte, and he's now added the polish. Finished with 25 possessions and three crucial goals, two of them in a pulsating last term.

 

8. The Joel Hamling-Lance Franklin duel was a beauty
Nobody gave Hamling a chance of curbing the superstar's influence, but he did as well as anyone could have expected. Franklin suffered an ankle injury in the opening term, which looked to affect his mobility, and he still finished the match with 16 disposals, eight marks, and a goal, but Hamling's ability to fight and scrap for every contest was outstanding. "Those one on ones where we needed a special effort to halve those deals, and possibly win one or two, he was fantastic," coach Luke Beveridge said post match.

9. There's will be some sore boys after this epic
Players from both sides treated the last game of the year like it was their last, as they should, and they're lucky there is no next week. Franklin (ankle), Hannebery (knee), and Jason Johannisen (calf) all played on despite obvious injuries, and there were countless others who were bashed and crashed in massive contests around the ground. All 44 men played their hearts out in a classic decider, and the fans and everyone looking on, were treated to an epic.

 

10. Heath Grundy's intercept marking is elite
The veteran was outstanding deep in defence for the losers with nine marks, four of them contested, under immense pressure from the Bulldogs. The Dogs played into his hands on several occasions by bombing the footy inside 50, and the 30-year-old cleaned up like he always does. Grundy finished the day with 21 possessions and seven rebound 50s for the Swans, and can hold his head high in a losing cause.