Best Coast Eagles Win Thrilling AFL Grand Final
They did it. The Eagles have landed. 11.13 (79) to 11.8 (74).
No Nic Naitanui, who was injured earlier this season. No Andrew Gaff, due to THAT punch. No chance, or not much anyway, according to the bookies.
But despite missing two of their best players and being 29 points down in the first quarter, somehow the West Coast Eagles fought their way back to win a classic AFL Grand Final over the gallant Collingwood Magpies.
The Eagles claimed their fourth flag in the most dramatic way. It was all square at three quarter time, at 8.7 (55) apiece. But the Eagles ran out winners 11.13 (79) to 11.8 (74). In the end, just a kick separated the two teams in one of the truly great grand finals in VFL/AFL history.
Collingwood set the pace for much of this match, and were not headed until the third quarter. After he Eagles drew level at three quarter time, the Magpies kicked the first two goals of the final term and you thought, OK, maybe these Magpies can do what Richmond did last year -- win a premiership after finishing 13th the year before.
But the Eagles clawed their way back to win a classic grand final, every contest hard fought, every goal a little nugget of gold. And when Dom Sheed kicked truly from a very acute angle in the final moments, it was effectively all over.
To the Eagles boys, you were too good in the end. Well done, enjoy the victory, thanks," Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury said in his brief speech afterwards.
The Norm Smith Medal for best-on-ground went to eagle Luke Shuey.
"To our fans who have come out today, you guys have travelled thousands and thousands of kilometres to be here and we love you, this one’s for you. Cheers!"
West Coast captain Shannon Hurn thanked the sponsors, the fans, his team, the staff and all the right people. And at the last minute, after almost forgetting, he also thanked Collingwood and Nathan Buckley
Eagles coach Adam Simpson spoke of "a good sense of unity in both clubs and you can sense that today".
That was a point which shouldn't be underplayed. The premiers and runners-up finished 8th and 13th respectively last season. They have both been great throughout this finals series. There's more to sport than great players, and both these teams have it.
Read our quarter-by-quarter breakdown of all the action below.
Things started positively for the Eagles, with a Josh Kennedy mark inside 50 within 30 seconds. Out in front, sure hands. Pure Kennedy. He missed to the right. That bit was not so Kennedy-like.
Magpie Tavis Varcoe kicked the first goal of the game after five minutes. The 30-year-old has had a great season, and also kicked the first two grand final goals in his previous footballing life as as a Geelong Cat, when the Cats beat Collingwood in 2011.
A few minutes of tough, scrappy play in the centre of the ground followed, every contest a mini battle. Then Jaidyn Stephenson snapped from a really tough angle. And snapped truly. Wow.
Then another. This kid is just 19, playing in his first AFL season and was named Rising Star this year. If you didn't already know why, now you do.
And then, Jordan de Goey did something even more magical. You knew he would at some point today. But as though feeding off the Stephenson energy, he backed himself. He had to break a tackle. He did. The ball was almost out but somehow he kept it in. He kicked around the corner. Goal. Of course goal.
These Magpies have their confidence up now. A young team with its confidence up is the most dangerous thing in any sport, especially with a huge crowd behind them.
Anyone shocked that they kicked the next major, to make it five goals straight? It's the first time since 1939 that Collingwood have kicked five goals in the first quarter of a grand final. Should we mention that they lost that game by 57 points?
The West Coast got what you'd almost have to call an accidental goal later in the quarter. But hey all count. Boy, did they need that. And then another. They're still in this.
The Eagles have started more positively here. A grand final that looked like it was all black-and-white is now a little royal blue-and-gold too.
This is real grand final footy here. Half a quarter and just a single behind to the Eagles. They say defence wins big games. Will this play be crucial?
Big American Mason Cox has not been a factor at all yet.
There was drama of the injury kind with about five minutes to go in the quarter when Magpie Brayden Maynard went off with what looked like a pretty bad shoulder injury.
He's had a painful afternoon so far.
Drama of the footballing kind followed soon afterwards when Jordan de Goey kicked a long bomb for his second of the match. It followed a beautiful diving mark from Will Hoskin-Elliott who had really put in the big ones to make it to the ball. The importance of the one percenters, people. The importance of the one-percenters.
But West Coast struck back -- as they needed to -- through Mark Hutchings. That prompted one of the commentators to say, "And the roof is lifted off the 'G!"
Is now a good time to remind them that, uh, y'know, there is no roof?
Another goal to the Eagles, this time to Shuey. The West Coast big names are starting to make a big impact now.
It's Collingwood 6.3 (39) to the Eagles 4.3 (27) at halftime.
We're back. What a roar. Wow, and just like in the first quarter, Josh Kennedy marked inside 50 within seconds of the siren. This time he kicked truly from about 45 metres. Eagles within six points. Game on. Game was already on, but game on on on on on now.
But Collingwood struck back, as you sensed they really needed to do. Just as a young team runs on confidence when things are going well, the opposite can apply.
And it was none other than Mason Cox, who marked and kicked truly in what was his first serious moment of impact in this game.
Another to the Eagles. Another to the Pies. What a grand final. This thing is starting to smell like a classic. Ascendancy is not a word that has not had a lot of meaning here today because neither team has had it, or not since the first half of the first quarter anyway.
Oooh, and then a bad miss by Scott Lycett. He should have nailed that after marking well inside the 50. Pies by 11 after that. If you're not enjoying this, you don't have a soul. And that's a scientific fact.
They call the third quarter the "premiership quarter". And West Coast are making it perfectly clear that they're up for winning this particular premiership.
After they had closed the game to five points, Elliot Yeo showed why he's been one of the big guns for the Eagles all year, kicking from distance for the Eagles' fourth goal of the quarter.
There was also the strong suggestion that the Collingwood runner impeded their own player.
Eagles by two. First lead they've had all day.
Then a couple of behinds to The 'Pies. 54-54. What a game. Remember, these two teams finished 13th (Magpies) and 8th (Eagles) last year. Gotta love the competitiveness and unpredictability of footy.
Collingwood with a kick on the siren. Will Hoskin-Elliott can't make the distance from outside 50. The teams are level for the first time at three quarter time in a grand final since 1937.
Collingwood grabbed the first two goals of the final term, and quickly too.
But the Eagles struck back. What is it about this club? Apart from 2015, when they fell pretty meekly to the Hawks, their grand finals tend to be classics. Who could forget the two consecutive thrillers against the Swans in '05 and '06?
MASON COX! HUGE MARK! Backing into the pack. Then that approach that never quite convinces you the ball will go within a postcode of the posts. That familiar low trajectory. It sneaks in. Just! Pies by 11.
But again, the Eagles strike back. It really is just that sort of game. And it's none other than Josh Kennedy. The big men are really standing up here. And we mean big in every sense of the word. Big, tall, high-profile, you name it.
What. A. Player.
Pies by five. Anyone got any fingernails left? After Eagle Liam Ryan juuuuuust missed, striking the post after a beautiful crumbing effort, the answer is probably no.
Oh you won't believe this. Ryan just hit the post again, this time from a set shot. The young man in his first AFL season has never played at the MCG before today. Can you believe that?
Ten minutes to go. Collingwood by two points, 11.7 (73) to to 10.11 (71). This has been a long period of sustained pressure by the Eagles. Another set shot, this time to Chris Masten. Another miss. If Collingwood win this, they'll look at this five or six minute period -- the middle third of the fourth quarter if your brain can handle that -- and say that a premiership was forged right there.
Then finally the ball went up the other end. And Cox marked. And the person who runs the AFL's Twitter account got rather excited but in a very succinct way.
Cox missed. Didn't quite get the distance. Pies by two still.
Hold the phone. Goal to Dom Sheed. This is going to be very controversial if the Eagles win as it appears he may have taken a step before going back to take his set shot. But he goaled from a very acute angle. Eagles by four. Not long to go now.
And that's that. The Eagles held on.
Featured image: Getty Images