The Bulldogs pull off the fairiest fairytale that ever fairied.
So, in case you got kidnapped and placed in solitary confinement with no access to the outside world by rebel guerrillas (or even actual gorillas,) I’ll let you know the news about the Western Bulldogs winning this year’s premiership.
Yep, the team that had its captain and a Brownlow Medalist walk out two years ago, sacked its coach during that pre-season, took out a second mortgage to secure a young forward with very debatable promise, secured a new coach whose name sounds like the description of a warm drink and – most significantly – finished seventh at the end of the home and away season, managed to win the flag. And they did it, by defeating last year’s runner-up on their home ground, then the three-time reigning premiers, then the team with 4,289 first round draft picks on their home ground, and finally the top of the ladder battled-hardened Swans.
As far as remarkable football feats go, this one is hard to beat, and you get the impression that the memory and euphoria of this win will stick around for as long as football is played.
There are more Bulldogs articles floating around at the moment than there are Donald Trump articles, so I’m not going to get into the whole romance of this win here, even though it is blissfully romantic. Hell, even my then-unborn daughter knew something special was brewing this week, as she decided she wasn’t gonna wait the remaining four weeks, she wanted out before the Grand Final began. (She started the process about ten minutes before the Brownlow started, and we managed to get her home ten minutes before the first bounce on Saturday. But more on that when I can next find a way to podcast in between nappy changes.)
The game itself was a cracker, not quite up to the level of the ‘Game of the Century’ last week, but as far as Grand Finals go, this one was bloody good to watch. Speaking of last week, there were some real similarities in the way the game panned out. While the contest was close on the scoreboard all day, it always seemed that the Bulldogs were the ones in control, and any goal that the Swans got seemed to be from sheer force, rather than through any fluency in their game. The Bulldogs’ pressure just doesn’t allow opposition teams to play the way they want, no matter how good the opposition is. And let’s not mince words, the Swans are a very good football team.
The aftermath of this historic win saw scenes that may never be repeated, and they are still going strong as I type this. The little moments were everywhere; Bob Murphy’s sheer exuberance, Peter Gordon’s look of warranted satisfaction, Tom Boyd’s big ‘fuck you’ to the footy world, Dale Morris and Matty Boyd finally seeing success, Liam Picken’s fist-pump as he strolled in for the sealer, the die-hard fans who have stuck fat through years of disappointment… it’s just a sea of red, white and blue elation, and you’d have to be a pretty twisted soul to not feel absolutely stoked for all of those people.
Instead of writing any more about the game, I’m gonna do a similar thing to the Herald Sun’s Chief Football Writer ‘Wobbo,’ and point out the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
There’s Something About Luke: Great football coaches come in all different shapes, sizes and types. You’ve got mad eccentric nutjobs like Kevin Sheedy and Bomba Thompson, you’ve got hard-as-nails sociopaths like Leigh Matthews, you’ve got unlikeable little sniping c*nts like Alastair Clarkson and now, you’ve got nurturing and highly-likeable leaders like Luke Beveridge. In fact, highly-likeable is probably underselling him, this guy could currently have more men man-crushing on him than Ryan Gosling.
He has always had his share of admirers, but when he took the opportunity to give his premiership medal to Bob Murphy, and step aside to allow Bob to raise the cup alongside Easton Wood, his place in footy folklore was secure. It was as genuine and touching a moment as you’ll ever see in this game.
Million Dollar Baby: Tom Boyd has had his critics, and I’ll admit to being one of them. Even now, I still think his extraordinary contract will hurt the doggies in years to come, but as it stands right now, who cares? He played an absolute blinder of a game, kicking three very important goals, clunking contested marks all over the place and essentially arriving as a player on the biggest stage there is. Good on you young man, you deserve to enjoy this as much as anybody.
The Tagger: I always rated Liam Picken, but then again, I have a sneaky penchant for taggers. I like the role they play, and Picken was one of the best. But that was then, and this is now, and the ugly tagging duckling turned into a beautiful swan-destroying hero, and as far as this writer is concerned, was very stiff to miss out on the Norm Smith medal. His pressure was matched only by his skill, and it’s guys like him who win you premierships. Another Luke Beveridge success story.
Weekend at (Hanne)Bernies: I know they didn’t win, but if the swans did manage to get up, a lot more would be said about the sheer courage of Dan Hannebery. I knew he was tough, but to come back on the ground when you’ve clearly done your knee, and can only run in straight lines, shows the sheer determination of the man. Tough as fuck.
Apologies: Josh Kennedy, Jason Johannisen, Joel Hamling
What Forwards?: Tom Papley, Ben McGlynn, Buddy Franklin, Kurt Tippett and Gary Rohan, kicked 2.4 between them. If it wasn’t for the Swans midfielders getting goals, they wouldn’t have even been in the contest.
The Bitter End: Jarrad McVeigh was under an injury cloud all week, and he probably should have stayed there. The Swans desperately needed some class and drive off half back, and the man who has spent his career doing exactly that, gave nothing. It’s most likely he’ll retire on that game, and it’s the exact opposite of the fairytale finish.
Empty Package: Ok, so he snuck a very important goal in the last, but outside of that, Jake Stringer provided very little once again. It’s been a shocking finals series for the man likened to Gary Ablett snr earlier in the year, and you wonder when his performance will once again be more prevalent than his ego. Had the doggies not got up, he’d be copping the brunt of it right now.
The Tip-truck: Kurt Tippett is on almost as much money as Tom Boyd, with 20% of the scrutiny, and about 1% of the grand final output. Sure, he may be carrying an injury, but once you declare yourself fit, you have to provide something. 10 touches, 3 marks, 0.1. That’s not something. That’s not anything.
It was an amazing win, an amazing day and one that football sorely needed. After the horror of the drugs saga, the top few team’s continual dominance, draft concessions, messy and absurd contract negotiations and having Gillon Mclachlan as the AFL boss, footy has had some soulless years recently. This one makes up for it though. It was a fairytale, one for the ages and any other cliche you can throw up.
Well done Doggies. We love you now, but we’ll hate you next year.
*NOTE: That is most likely our final footy story for the year, and I’d like to take this chance to say a big thank you to our Chief Football Writer Dave Bremner, who showed great dedication to this site week in, week out, and provided interesting and unique coverage of season 2016. It’s just a bummer that he wasn’t able to do the final two games of the year, which ended up being the best.