Perth lived up to the hype to host the 2021 AFL grand final and I was most fortunate to gain a ticket to attend what turned out to be a day that will be etched in history for so many reasons.
Firstly there is a pandemic sweeping the world, so to just have the event and have the borders open between SA and WA was a win and for the Melbourne Football Club to break a 57-year premiership drought had grown men crying in the stands.
Coming from Victor Harbor in South Australia, I am a passionate Port Adelaide man, who it must be said, has been undergoing constant counselling since the preliminary final capitulation to the Western Bulldogs a fortnight ago. But as I have family residing in lockdown Melbourne and are loyal supporters of the Demons, I donned their colours for the big game.
The game and the stadium lived up to everything that was promised. There was a buzz of excitement and expectation. Perth was alive and the stadium that has been claimed as the best in the world was living up to that reputation with colour and more than 61,000 spectators. There was no talk of COVID, there was not a mask in sight and there were two teams contesting for the flag.
As a nostalgic football follower I was captivated by the pre-game entertainment and it started with Mike Brady performing from Melbourne the great football anthems 'That one day in September' and 'Up there Cazaly'. The hairs were standing up at the back of my neck. I was pumped for a great contest.
'Welcome to Country, Birds of Tokyo, Baker Boy and the National Anthem added to the build up, but when the players ran out on the ground the noise went to another level. The acoustics at Optus Stadium are second to none and the game was ready to play out.
Melbourne opened up the better and had a good lead on the Dogs by quarter time, but then the game swung and it was all Western Bulldogs, led by Bontempelli, Treloar, English and Daniel. The Western Bulldogs led at halftime and in the third term were well on top and possibly should have had a bigger lead than 19 points midway through the term.
Then the Demon switch was turned on. Everyone knew the 2021 Melbourne team was good, but not even coach Simon Goodwin would have thought it was that good. They booted 16 of the next 17 goals in a powerhouse 40 minutes of football. Three were kicked in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter to almost put the grand final to bed. The game was on a knife edge and then you just went wow, wow, wow.
How did that happen?
Melbourne supporters have doubted themselves and their team for 57 years and by the time Langdon kicked a goal in the last term even the most pessimistic follower knew the 'Norm Smith Curse' was broken.
Petracca was magnificent, Salem was at his rebounding best and Jackson played a game that belied his 19-years. And then there was the surprise packet in Fritsch, who booted a calm and calculated six goals. The Demons played insane football and reaped the ultimate reward.
Where I sat, I witnessed first hand growing men crying in red and blue jumpers and scarves and there was one special moment sitting in front of me where a father was hugging his son and they were both uncontrollably crying. They were genuine tears of joy and it affected me so much my own eyes started to well.
Incredibly Melbourne won the game by 74 points after being down by 19 points in the third term. It is a day I will never forget and felt privileged to be there.
In 2016, I was lucky enough to be present at the MCG when the Western Bulldogs defeated Sydney to bust a 62-year premiership drought, so now I have to wait for St Kilda to make a grand final and I will have to attend to assist the club that has won only one premiership in its history and that was way back in 1966.
Melbourne have proved miracles happen and it can happen for the Saints too. Who would have ever envisaged there would be AFL grand finals played in Brisbane and Perth in successive years? No one!
Perth embraced the biggest day in the country's sporting calendar and now the argument continues on why the grand final must always belong to Melbourne.