MELBOURNE has broken its 57-year premiership drought with stellar performances from its biggest stars while its most damaging forward also lit up the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final.
Jake Bowey – 7
The 19-year-old half-back had a vital role locking down on Cody Weightman and kept the Dogs’ electrifying forward to only seven disposals and a scoreless game while collecting classy 17 touches of his own. Was also able to use his deft kicking to find clever paths out of defence and went at 88 per cent efficiency. Won a premiership in just his seventh match.
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Angus Brayshaw – 7
Matched up to Lachie Hunter on a wing for much of the match and had the better of the battle with 25 disposals to 16. Was often seen working back hard to support his defence but had his biggest impact when a key contributor to the Demons’ comeback. Kicked a high-pressure set shot to put the Demons back in front late in the third term.
Ben Brown – 7
Got better as the game went on and finished with three goals to go with a premiership medal in his first year at the club. Took a nice mark on the lead and kicked a steading goal when the Dogs had stormed out with three quick majors after the first break then added two more after half-time. Was also handy further from goal when presenting as the Demons moved the ball through the midfield.
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Bayley Fritsch – 9
Capped an impressive season with a stellar performance. Was lively throughout and had two goals to half-time but arguably his most important major came in the third term when the Dogs led by 19 points and looked set to run away with the game. The damaging forward added to that just seconds later when he was the quickest to react to the ball coming off hands deep in the forward line and sparked the revival. Ended the match with six goals – the most in a Grand Final for more than 20 years – and the second most goals for the season in the League with 59.
Max Gawn – 8
The Demons’ premiership skipper was immense as he won the ball at contests and regularly set up a kick behind play to build a one-man wall and keep the ball in the forward half. Hit his head hard on the ground halfway through the third term when tackled across the boundary line by Caleb Daniel, leaving a nasty mark on his forehead, but battled on and ended with 21 disposals and 30 hit-outs.
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James Harmes – 5
Had his usual understated but integral role in the Demons’ midfield while limiting the opposition’s biggest threats and allowing his star teammates to shine. Battled hard to finish with 14 disposals.
Michael Hibberd – 6
The hard-nut defender spent much of the match negating former teammate Mitch Hannan who had only seven disposals. The 31-year-old didn’t offer too much going the other way with seven touches of his own but played the role expected of him.
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Luke Jackson – 6
The athletic forward looked set to explode several times when hitting contests at speed but had his biggest impact when relieving his skipper in the ruck during significant parts of the Demons’ most damaging period. This year’s NAB AFL Rising Star winner has added a premiership medal to his honours.
James Jordon – NA
The medical sub wasn’t required to play but will receive a premiership medal nonetheless.
Ed Langdon – 6
Started well and helped set up the second goal of the game after a trademark run around the wing but then struggled to stay in the game. Burst to life in the final term gathering 11 disposals and kicking a goal.
Jake Lever – 5
Wasn’t able to dominate the air or have his usual influence on the game due to Josh Schache’s single-minded role, but battled hard to negate his opponents when the ball hit the deck. Wins a premiership medal after missing out with Adelaide in the 2017 Grand Final.
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Steven May – 7
Kept Aaron Naughton in check throughout by dominating their aerial contests and only allowed the Bulldogs’ biggest forward threat to kick one goal. Admitted after the game he had felt a twinge in his troublesome hamstring during the match but showed few signs of it restricting him.
Tom McDonald – 5
The key forward was well held by Zaine Cordy and had little influence on the match until kicking a goal during party time in the final term. Added the icing on the red and blue cake with a major after the siren.
Alex Neal-Bullen – 7
The tough tackling half-forward was important when pressuring the Dogs’ defence and trying to trap the ball close to goal, but also had an impact by helping his teammates hit the scoreboard when the game was on the line. Often connected defence with attack and finished with 10 score involvements to go with his 24 disposals and a goal.
Clayton Oliver – 9
The clearance king was involved in everything early as he had six touches in the first five minutes to set the tone for his typically powerful display. Battled hard to keep the Dogs within reach during their period of ascendancy, then was vital to turning the contest around in the third term. Gathered 33 disposals and had a game-high 10 tackles while being one of the best players on the ground.
Christian Petracca – 10
An outstanding display from the Norm Smith medallist that solidified his status as a superstar of the game. Kicked the opening goal when he received the ball on the 50m arc and still had plenty to do until wheeling around to boot a long bomb and put his stamp on the Dees’ hot start. Was one of the very best throughout and especially instrumental in the third-term surge, winning repeated centre clearances to help set up the flurry of goals and dribbled through another of his own. Ended the match with 39 disposals – the equal-most ever recorded in a Grand Final.
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Harrison Petty – 5
The unheralded defender had the better of a heated clash with Tim English whenever the big Dog pushed forward and kept his opponent goalless. Didn’t do much with the ball going the other way but played his role.
Kysaiah Pickett – 3
Did the dirty work to try to get into the match with three tackles inside 50 and played a crucial role in an early goal when worked alone to pressure two Dogs and force a turnover. But the 20-year-old was restricted to only four disposals and failed to add to the 40 goals he booted this season.
Trent Rivers – 5
The 20-year-old half-back played a crucial role in the opening goal when backing himself to gather a bouncing ball inside the centre square and got a quick handball to Christian Salem. Was a composed contributor throughout.
Christian Salem – 8
The half-back was integral to the Demons’ fast start with nine disposals and five inside 50s in the first term and ended the match as one of the premiers’ best. Provided plenty of run and his 27 touches gained 639 metres, while he was also strong defensively and claimed seven tackles. Kicked a well-earned late goal.
Charlie Spargo – 5
The crafty forward showed no sign of a sore ankle and as usual made the most of his few touches. Kicked an early goal and had four score involvements.
Tom Sparrow – 5
The half-forward kicked a classy goal from 50m off one step late in the third term to be part of the Demons’ decisive rush of goals. Was an important link moving the ball through the midfield and had five inside 50s while adding three goal assists.
Jack Viney – 8
The rugged midfielder was a beast throughout and had a game-high 12 clearances, with several of those helping kickstart the Demons’ third term revival. The former Demons’ co-captain gathered 25 disposals with 14 of those contested, and ended his 150th match as one of the most important players on the ground.