Behind the scenes: Unfiltered access after Joyce vs Parker final bellSep 26
AFL 2021: All you need to know ahead of the grand final
It all comes down to this. BT Sport’s AFL expert Josh Gabelich previews the grand final between Melbourne and Western Bulldogs.
The wait is nearly over.
After the weekend off, the Brownlow Medal and 26 weekends of footy amid another season dramatically impacted by the pandemic, the AFL Grand Final has arrived.
Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs won’t run out onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of 100,000 supporters at the home of football – Melbourne is still in lockdown – but they will enter another cauldron, Perth’s shiny, new Optus Stadium.
Perth has been the centre of the AFL universe across not just the past fortnight, but the finals series with most of the action occurring in Western Australia, a part of the world that has almost been entirely unaffected by COVID-19.
Now it is all about the football.
Four quarters across two hours that will define legacies.
Watch the grand final on BT Sport
Melbourne take on Western Bulldogs from 9am on Saturday 25 September on BT Sport 3 HD, btsport.com and the BT Sport app
The Bulldogs ended a 62-year premiership drought when they upset Sydney back in 2016, winning four finals to climb from 7th spot to win a second flag. This time around, Melbourne are aiming to bring a 57-year premiership drought to an end.
But much like five years ago, Luke Beveridge’s men have done it the hard way. They’ve won in Launceston, Brisbane and Adelaide – all whilst living in quarantine conditions – and will now need to win in Perth if they are going to make the most of only their fourth appearance to the big dance.
Despite starting the season under the more pressure than any other coach in the competition, Simon Goodwin has made the Demons the team to beat almost all year, even if it has taken long-suffering Melbourne supporters six months to get truly believe this is happening.
Melbourne won the first encounter between the two sides this year back at Marvel Stadium in round 11, before the Western Bulldogs got the job done at the MCG in round 19.
Western Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli and Melbourne ball magnet Clayton Oliver narrowly fell short of winning the Brownlow Medal to Port Adelaide star Ollie Wines on Sunday, but that will be a distant disappointment if they end Saturday with a premiership medal draped around their neck.
The only real injury cloud has hovered over Melbourne key defender Steven May after he tweaked his hamstring in the preliminary final. But the first All-Australian is all but certain to face the Dogs in his first Grand Final appearance.
Now we wait for the first bounce.