Clayton Oliver (left) and Christian Petracca celebrate the Dees' premiership win. Picture: AFL Photos

JUST like that, it was wiped away. All in 31 seconds.

Fifty-seven years of hurt, the curse of Norm Smith, record defeats and a decade of dysfunction. All of it was absorbed in a scintillating and glorious 31 seconds of football perfection.

MATCH REPORT Demons finally exorcise 57 years of pain

Momentum had shifted dramatically and rapidly throughout Saturday night's thrilling Grand Final. Melbourne had led by 21 points, the Western Bulldogs had produced a 40-point turnaround, and now the Demons were next to be riding on the crest of a wave.

They had kicked four straight goals to turn a 19-point deficit into six-point lead. But with 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter and just a goal separating the season's best two teams, an epic contest craved a defining moment.


Christian Petracca was the man made to produce that very moment.

Having already emerged as one of the game's best players, Petracca's remarkable crumbing gather and audacious dribbling check-side snap from deep inside the forward pocket sparked one of the most outrageous bursts in Grand Final history.

ON TRAC FOR GREATNESS Superstar Demon claims Norm Smith Medal

A seesawing, unpredictable and titanic contest became a runaway train heading in one direction. The manner in which it turned was sudden, unexpected and jaw-dropping. It all happened in 31 seconds, and it all stemmed from that very moment.

Petracca, the Norm Smith Medal winner, the man who – when drafted to Melbourne with pick No.2 in 2014 – kickstarted the club's return to relevance and its re-emergence as a football powerhouse once more, was now producing this on the biggest stage of all.


With 39 disposals, 24 contested possessions, 15 score involvements, 11 inside 50s, nine clearances, eight intercepts, 896m gained and two goals, this wasn't exactly the time when the jeweller began carving Petracca's name on the Norm Smith Medal.

That would happen 31 seconds later, when the significance of Petracca's goal and what it would lead to became apparent. After all, his sublime piece of individual skill had simply turned a six-point lead into a 12-point advantage.

It was Melbourne's fifth goal in a row, but – at that stage – the game still felt on a knife's edge. The Western Bulldogs had overturned a bigger margin than this once already on the night.

ALL THE STATS Full match coverage

Just 31 seconds later, though, it would feel like anything but. Any fight the Bulldogs had left was sapped from them by a relentless Demons midfield that had been inspired by a moment of Petracca magic.

Twenty seconds of game time passed between Petracca's goal, a clearance and Tom Sparrow adding the next major. Eleven seconds of game time would elapse before another clearance and another goal, this time from Clayton Oliver.

It was blink-and-you'll-miss-it stuff. To think that just 31 seconds earlier, one solitary goal separated the two sides. Now, the Dogs were on their haunches. Oliver, wheeling away with one finger aloft, was ready to spark scenes of delirious celebrations.

Clayton Oliver celebrates a goal for the Demons in the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Bayley Fritsch, a success story of his own as a mature-aged recruit from the club's VFL affiliate Casey as a 20-year-old, kicked the first two goals of that run. His total of six for the night capped a Therabody AFL All-Australian calibre season.

Ben Brown, a player cast aside from North Melbourne last year – and cast aside from Melbourne's senior team when he was dropped for six matches this season – would add the next. His tally of three for the evening more than justified his recruitment.

10 TALKING POINTS Dee-structive third quarter, was Max robbed?

Angus Brayshaw, the player drafted alongside Petracca with the third selection in that memorable 2014 draft, would give Melbourne its lead. It was part of a 25-disposal performance reminiscent of his tireless 119-game Demons career.

But it was the Petracca goal that followed which would spark the spellbinding surge. It was the goal that started the game's most defining period and lit a fuse under Melbourne's hopes of a drought-breaking premiership.


Seven straight goals, kicked in just 17 minutes and 14 seconds of real time, had put the Demons in seventh heaven. The 31 seconds of game time at the end of it had clasped one red and blue hand around the premiership cup.

Melbourne didn't need a second opportunity to size its chance. Putting their foot firmly to the floor, the Demons kicked 16 of the game's final 17 goals to race to an emphatic 84-point victory.

FROM BEST TO WORST Every Demon rated out of 10

Petracca was central to them doing exactly that. It was therefore fitting, then, that his two goals amid a prolific 40-touch performance will be renowned as the two punctuating moments within the game's final result.

His first, a clean pick-up on the half-volley before brilliant hooking a shot from beyond 50m on the turn, was the settler. His second, the bold, daring and magnificent snap from the boundary, was the sealer.

Fifty-seven years of hurt, wiped away. Just like that.