The Western Bulldogs have done it. After 62 years, they've actually done it. The team whose captain was injured early in the season and who surmounted all kinds of obstacles just to be at the MCG on the last Saturday of the season has done the impossible. They've beaten the Sydney Swans and won the AFL flag.
Bruce McAvaney must have said "what a story" a million time in his career. But this time, he really meant it. The final score was 13.11. (89) 10.7. (67). It is the Bulldogs' second premiership.
In winning, the Dogs -- who finished seventh in the regular season -- become the first team from the bottom two positions of the final eight to win the flag. And they did it by grinding down the team who are the best grinder-downers in the business.
What a match. What a grand finale to the season. If the last chip in the world was sitting on the last beach in the world, and every seagull in the world was going for that chip, that gives you only half an idea of the desperation with which these two teams fought for every single ball.
Swans, Bulldogs. Bulldogs, Swans. The Bulldogs had a lead of 16 points early in the second quarter, but for the bulk of this engrossing match, there was no more than a goal between the two teams.
The Swans started well and a typically tough tone was set with an incredibly gutsy Kieren Jack Mark, He knew he would be crunched running backwards for the ball and was. From then on, you knew just how tough this match would be.
Swans midfielders kicked their team's first five goals. Their forward line struggled to get involved, including Buddy Franklin, who twisted his ankle badly in the first quarter and was off the field for a while. His good mate Dan Hannebery did his knee later, yet bravely fought on.
With every quarter you expected the Swans forward line to click. Never happened. In contrast, towering 200 cm Bulldogs forward Tom Boyd got better with every quarter. The former top draft pick, who started his career at the Giants but transferred to the Dogs in 2014, finished with three goals.
But he did so much more than kick straight. His presence on the field was both literally and figuratively enormous. Led by the likes of Boyd, the Bulldogs just had too much bite and growl. Their team song says "we come out snaaaarlin' and so they did. They never stopped snarlin' either. And in the end, they totally shut out the potent Swans forward line.
"Their day. Their year. Their joy." So said Dennis Cometti in the last call of a celebrated 40 year career, and as ever, he got it right.
"It all comes down the the players. So many people have put a lot of work into them. It's just an amazing performance from our guys, Sydney are an unbelievable side," ecstatic Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said.
"We needed composure as well as the real grit and hardness around the ball, and the whole backline was tremendous, then our midfield got a bit of control.
"This group of players is incredible, their hearts are so big. I really thought at half time it was going to take something extra special even though they'd given their all already."
Beveridge is in just his second year in charge. But as a former Bulldogs player, he knows the culture of this success-starved club better than anyone.
"To you the fans, our supporters, it really was an amazing day yesterday [at the grand final parade] and we all felt like The Beatles. You boosted our spirits, our players couldn't have done any more. They're totally spent."
Swans captain Kieren Jack was magnanimous if a little brief in defeat. "A huge congratulations to the Bulldogs boys. You guys play footy the right way. Our boys couldn't get the job done but we'll be back."
Jason Johanissen, the 23-year-old Bulldog who was born in South Africa, won the Norm Smith medal for best on ground. Johanissen's incredible leg speed and elusiveness proved the difference in the second half at a time when the match was developing into trench warfare. Time and again, he changed the tempo.
"We did it! To all the supporters, it's been a long time coming," Johanissen said, to the huge cheers of the crowd.
"Happy days, happy bloody days," said Bulldog Tom Liberatore, son of club legend Tony Liberatore, who got within two points of a grand final in 1997 in what was otherwise a dark era for his beloved club.
"Dad's probably passed out somewhere," young Libber said.
Passed out with joy, perhaps.Suggest a correction