An umpire throws the ball in during the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos

THE SOUND of a 57-year drought ending was always going to be deafening, whether in front of the Melbourne faithful at the MCG or a thrilled set of fans in an adopted city.

The greatest show in Perth, as the 2021 Grand Final turned out to be, was an historic day and night that the Demons will long savour at a venue that did the historic occasion justice.

And having seen off the Western Bulldogs' best shot and then kicked an incredible 16 of 17 goals to win by 74 points, they will be desperate to repeat the magic at the MCG in 2022.

 As a now iconic captain of the Demons, Max Gawn yelled from the dais post-match: "After 57 years of pain, it's coming home!"


The Demons embraced Perth this finals series, just as Perth embraced them, and the record Optus Stadium crowd of 61,118 was behind them on Saturday night in a match that swung with the stars.

There was none brighter than superstar midfielder Christian Petracca, who kicked two outstanding goals and won the Norm Smith Medal with 40 disposals and received a roar of his own when he thanked WA for putting on "an amazing show".

DEMONS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats

The connection with the Demons' last premiership team of 1964 could be made most obviously through Bayley Fritsch, who booted a game-high six goals wearing the No.31 of club legend Ron Barassi.

The connection with the Demons many eras since best made through champion Garry Lyon, who twitched nervously in the stands when the Demons fell 19 points behind early in the third quarter but then handed the premiership cup to coach Simon Goodwin and Gawn.

Garry Lyon presents the Premiership cup to Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin and captain Max Gawn after the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Perth was told to treat this Grand Final like its own. Don't try to emulate Melbourne and the MCG when this beautiful city and stadium can do the event justice in its own way.

But there were aspects of the day that only Perth could provide, and others that borrowed from the home of football.

The build-up centred around the southern lawn outside Optus Stadium, with queues milling outside the Camfield pub from 8am, more than nine hours before the game.

Around it, radio stations set up their outside broadcasts, handball competitions drew the kids, and fans queued for new merchandise to support their team, if only for that day.

Fans mill around outside Optus Stadium before the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos

You could spot the occasional diehard too, in their faded beanies and worn scarves. More than anything, the terrified looks on their faces and vacant stares gave them away. These were hours to be endured, not enjoyed.

Fans streamed across the Matagarup Bridge, leading to the Nicky Winmar statue, where fans lingered to meet mates. They didn't have the choice of 'Lethal' or 'KB', or Norm Smith or Jim Stynes, whose carvings would have popular meeting spots today. 

But Nicky has quickly become that spot at the four-year old Optus Stadium, and more will follow as the history of the venue grows.

On the concourse, local figures took centre stage. Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir analysed the match on radio as fans gathered to listen to the coach many of them would be hoping gets to experience this day himself soon.

A general view during the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos

Inside the venue, Channel Seven commentator and four-time premiership player Luke Hodge paced nervously. A Norm Smith Medal judge, the two-time winner of the historic medal was desperate for the game to get underway.

The pre-match entertainment, loaded with local WA artists, lifted the atmosphere as the shadows expanded over Optus Stadium and fans took their seats.


And then we were away. It was a ferocious contest early and both sides had runs through the first half that would have given them some confidence.  

The lights kicked in as the sun set over Perth in the second quarter, and the venue went dark for a half-time entertainment show that put all of Optus Stadium's capabilities and acoustics on display.

It was an event that had you wondering how so much could be achieved in the 25 short days since Perth was announced as the official Grand Final venue.   

Birds of Tokyo closed their set alongside the West Australian Symphony Orchestra with their track 'Unbreakable'.

Birds of Tokyo and WASO perform in the Telstra Half-Time Show during the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos

The song was "dedicated to the frontline workers who are keeping us safe and alive", also giving a nod to those doing it tough.

Having ended another testing season in thrilling style, it was a song that also described the game, which again proved itself unbreakable in 2021.