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THE BIG V reigns supreme once more.
On the canvas midway through the third quarter, Victoria produced a spirited comeback to overturn a 30-point deficit and storm home against a talented All-Stars outfit in the State of Origin for Bushfire Relief match in front of a packed crowd at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.
The Victorian side, led by Josh Kelly and Dustin Martin's class in the forward line and Scott Pendlebury and Trent Cotchin's leadership in midfield, kicked 11 unanswered goals in a barnstorming finish that inspired an impressive and determined 46-point victory.
Martin – already a Brownlow Medal winner, a two-time premiership player and a dual Norm Smith medallist – added a State of Origin best on ground medal to his list of accomplishments following a stellar game that yielded 23 disposals and two goals.
"It was a great experience, very fun. I was a bit nervous yesterday, coming into training and being around people you don't really know, but tonight was awesome fun," Martin said afterwards.
His Richmond and Victorian coach Damien Hardwick was thrilled to be involved with the match.
Asked if he thought the concept had a future, Hardwick replied: "I think the timing of it is right. I don't think it's an annual event, but maybe every third year might be something to look at. I think the guys are starting to understand the value of the jumper. I used to run home from school to watch the games in WA, and I think the players have a real need and a real want for it."
He was aided by Tom Papley (11 disposals, five goals), Toby Greene (23 disposals, four goals) and Kelly (22 disposals, four goals) – who were a constant menace forward of centre.
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For the All-Stars, Stephen Coniglio (24 disposals, two goals) was busy across the ground, while livewire forward Charlie Cameron (17 disposals, three goals) was also impressive.
However, early inaccuracy in front of goal was costly for the All-Stars, who ultimately fell to a resounding 24.10 (154) to 15.18 (108) defeat in front of 51,052 people.
There was no better example of the end-to-end nature of the game quite like a thrilling seven-minute patch midway through a breathless first quarter of footy.
The All-Stars had been dominant, if slightly wasteful, controlling the territory battle and opening up an early 22-point lead with the first three goals of the match.
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In fact, they'd kept the Victorians goalless throughout the first 15 minutes – only for successive Papley majors to quickly change the momentum of the contest.
Within those seven minutes, the Vics then added four straight and were suddenly ahead.
Goals were being poured on at a rapid rate. Whether it was 'Dusty' snapping on both sides of his body at one end, or Coniglio miraculously working through scrums to force it home at the other, the scores and the entertainment grew as the night wore on.
The friendly club rivalries were also sparked when defender Callum Mills nearly hauled down one of the all-time great grabs, leaping over his Sydney teammate Papley.
There was also James Sicily giving his Hawks mate Luke Breust stick behind play, while Coniglio's battle with his Giants buddy Lachie Whitfield was just as intriguing.
All the while, the All-Stars – inspired by Lachie Neale's industry and Jason Johannisen's drive from defence – reclaimed its grip over the contest to surge 22 points clear.
However, Kelly moved forward and a pair of crucial goals from the talented Giant just prior to half-time ensured the Victorians remained within a kick at the main break.
The second half might have started with a 'Mexican Wave' in the stands, but it was also met with a barrage of All-Stars goals as it sought to finally make the most of its dominance.
The visitors kicked four straight to re-open proceedings, quickly moving 30 points ahead.
Victoria needed a spark and again turned to Kelly to provide it, but the All-Stars' speed in transition was one step ahead as Charlie Cameron helped re-establish a sizeable buffer.
That lead was slashed to just nine points by three-quarter time, with Patrick Dangerfield's impact across the field ensuring it was still all to play for heading into the final term.
Perhaps fortunate to even be in the contest at that point, given the profligacy of the All-Stars, Victoria then made its move and made its wasteful opponents pay the full price.
Eleven unanswered goals to finish the match – with Papley, Kelly and Greene all getting amongst it – sealed the deal and ensured an ultimately emphatic Victoria victory.
Longmire said his line-up had burned it energy – and chances – by the final term.
"The game was extraordinary. Our blokes were out on their feet at three-quarter time because we didn't have too many gears: it was flat out, or it was stop. And we just went, and we didn't take our chances and we paid for it in that last quarter," he said post-game.
"Some of the [field] kicking was incredible to sit back and watch."
The Swans' 2012 premiership coach said the players' response to being involved in the game meant there could be room for the contest to have a place in the fixture.
"I can only go off what the players are like, and I think everyone feeds off that – whether you're staff, or the AFL or supporters," he said.
"I don't know what it might look like going forward, but they certainly really seemed to enjoy playing with other greats. I couldn't believe how well they gelled together."
VICTORIA 4.1 10.2 15.7 24.10 (154)
ALL-STARS 4.7 9.14 15.16 15.18 (108)
Victoria: Papley 5, Kelly 4, Greene 4, Martin 2, Gaff 2, Bontempelli 2, Gresham 2, Dangerfield, Cameron, Lynch
All-Stars: Cameron 3, Coniglio 2, Breust 2, Riewoldt 2, Smith 2, Neale, Weller, Walters, Hill
Victoria: Kelly, Martin, Greene, Papley, Pendlebury, Haynes, Cotchin, Dangerfield
All-Stars: Coniglio, Cameron, Mills, Cripps, Neale, Johannisen
Umpires: Fisher, Stephens, Nicholls, Williamson
Official crowd: 51,052 at Marvel Stadium