MELBOURNE, Australia -- Melbourne has won its first final in 12 years, overcoming Geelong by 29 points in a tense and fiery clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
A five goal to nil opening quarter gave the Demons an early break in front of the 91,767 strong crowd and while they only finished with 10 majors for the game, it was more than enough to earn a place in the semifinals where they will meet Hawthorn.
Melbourne's midfield trio of Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw and James Harmes was superb and combined for 81 possession, 13 clearances and 20 tackles while Sam Weideman was the unlikely hero in the forward line kicking a career-high three goals.
Here's three things we learned from the game...
Experience means little when you're hungrier
A staggering 4,376 days had passed since Melbourne last contested an AFL final. In that time, Geelong had played in 26, including four grand finals for three premierships.
So it was no surprise that the Cats squad that took to the field on Friday night had played a combined 184 finals compared to Melbourne's 27. In fact, outside of Jordan Lewis -- who spent 12 seasons at Hawthorn -- only four games of finals experience were shared between 21 Demons.
However, from the opening bounce it was clear experience wasn't going to mean a lot as Melbourne, motivated by a fanatical MCC contingent, played with far more hunger and energy. Their willingness to work over the Cats and get their hands dirty helped them to a five goal quarter time lead, putting them in the box seat to advance to the semifinals.
Even when scoring dried up in the second term it was Geelong, not Melbourne, who played like the inexperienced finalists. The Cats butchered the ball around the ground and failed to hit simple targets by hand and foot. Oh, and what about the back-to-back point blank misses by Patrick Dangerfield and Daniel Menzel that would have given them a truckload of momentum? Simply inexcusable.
But perhaps the most impressive sign from the inexperienced Demons was what happened in the first minute of the final term when skipper Nathan Jones slotted a vital goal from 45m out to deny Geelong's charge and give his side confidence of finishing the job.
Chris Scott is lucky to have earned a contract extension
If we were giving Geelong coach Chris Scott a letter grade for 2018 then it has to be an emphatic F.
At the beginning of the season the Cats were installed as second favourites -- behind Richmond -- to win the premiership and with Gary Ablett back in hoops there was plenty of optimisim about the fairytale being realised in his return year.
But they never really got going and Friday night's game, in a way, summed up their frustrating and underwhelming year.
The Cats finished the home and away season with a 13-9 record and only scraped into the finals after Port Adelaide completely capitulated in the latter rounds, so when news broke that Scott had signed a three-year contract extension, something didn't quite add up.
After 12 long years Melbourne returned to the finals and did so with a bang, overcoming Geelong by 29 points to advance to the semifinals where they will meet Hawthorn.
Scott's record in recent finals is utterly appalling. He has only coached three wins from his past 13 matches in September and with the quality of Dangerfield, Ablett, Joel Selwood, Tom Hawkins and Mitch Duncan, that is simply not good enough.
Against the Demons he lacked ideas and it seems the only tactical change he has in his repertoire is to throw Dangerfield forward and hope for the best. That didn't work.
In this day and age contracts might not mean as much as they used to so if success doesn't come soon -- next year soon -- then perhaps the Cats will be forced into looking for alternative options.
The Tigers aren't premiership locks
When the final siren sounded at the MCG on Thursday night just about every football fan was feeling as though the 2018 premiership was a forgone conclusion. Richmond had breezed past Hawthorn -- their 22nd consecutive victory at the home of football -- booking a place in the preliminary finals for the second straight year.
But 24 hours later there was renewed optimism with Melbourne sending a real warning to the Tigers in a rampaging first quarter against Geelong. Sure, they didn't sustain it for the entire match but it was a glimpse of what they can produce in a crunch final.
Simon Goodwin's troops were ferocious around the ball, out-pressuring and out-tackling the Cats in the early stages as they raced out to a 36-2 lead.
The Demons won the clearance battle (+11), inside 50 count (+17), tackled more (+8) and won a greater share of contested ball (161-144).
It wasn't a perfect performance, far from it. They missed a number of chances in front of goal that they'd have to bury against a higher quality opposition but there were certainly signs that they could worry the top four sides if they clean up some of their ball use.
No matter who they play, Richmond will start as favourites but don't count these young, hungry Demons out just yet. They could be peaking at the right time.