Grand Final H&V: Ice cold Dom Sheed; Buckley's blunder?

Who was it that said low-scoring footy was boring?

The West Coast Eagles have been crowned 2018 premiers after overcoming a stunning start from Collingwood, kicking 11 of the last 17 goals to secure a famous five-point victory.

There were match-winners on all parts of the ground for the Eagles, from Jeremy McGovern, Will Schofield and Tom Barrass in defence to Luke Shuey, Dom Sheed and Josh Kennedy in the middle and up forward.

Here are the Heroes and Villains from the 2018 AFL Grand Final:


Dom Sheed: Ice. Cold. Dom. Sheed.

Things could have gone very differently for the West Coast midfielder had Andrew Gaff not hit Fremantle young gun Andrew Brayshaw in the jaw in Round 20.

Dropped for Round 20 and then brought back into the Eagles' side in Round 21 after the Gaff incident, Sheed was a bit of a yo-yo for most of 2018, but it matters not after he slotted the game-winning goal from the tightest of angles with just two minutes remaining in the match.

Sheed's goal from the pocket capped off one of the best passages of the game from West Coast, after Jeremy McGovern marked in the back 50 and sent the ball rebounding to Sheed via Nathan Vardy and Liam Ryan with just two minutes remaining.

But not only did Sheed kick the sealer under pressure and with his side down by two points, he also racked up 32 touches (15 contested) and had eight clearances on the day. You could argue that he was a bit stiff not to win the Norm Smith Medal.

Nevertheless, we're not sure Dom will care as it's fair to say he'll never have to pay for a beer in Western Australia for the rest of his life.

Luke Shuey: He's a John Worsfold medallist, a premiership player, and now the West Coast midfielder can add a Norm Smith Medal to his impressive AFL resume.

With his side down by 29 points late in the first quarter, it was Luke Shuey who kickstarted the Eagles' revival, while his clutch second-quarter goal cut the margin to 12 points just moments from half time.

The 28-year-old star collected 34 disposals (19 contested) for the match, while his clearance work was far an above that of anyone else on the ground on the day. His vision and composure coming out of stoppages and in heavy traffic was intoxicating to watch, and helped spark what will become West Coast's most famous comeback since the 1992 Grand Final.

As well as gathering eight inside 50s (the most on the ground), Shuey was also dogged in defence, rebounding three times, while his four one-percenters were behind only under-siege Eagles defenders Tom Barrass, Jeremy McGovern and Will Schofield.

It was a Norm Smith Medal which was thoroughly deserved.

Jack Darling: Staring down the barrel of a second straight Grand Final disaster, West Coast key forward Jack Darling pulled out a third term which helped lift his side to its fourth premiership flag.

With memories of his 2015 Grand Final debacle -- where he touched the ball just 10 times and dropped a sitter of a chest mark in front of goal -- no doubt lingering in his mind, Darling's start to the 2018 version was equally as horrid.

At the main break, and with his team down by 12 points, Darling had amassed just four touches and wasn't even looking like kicking a goal. But in a third term of redemption, Darling began plucking contested marks, hitting targets up the ground, and slotted a vital goal to keep the Eagles in touch.

He finished the match with 12 touches at 92 percent efficiency, seven marks (four contested), two tackles inside 50 and 16 pressure acts -- though he can count himself lucky that his dropped mark with a minute left in the match didn't come back to bite him on the bum!

Special mention should also go to Collingwood's Mason Cox, who, like Darling, turned around a woeful first half. The big American went into half time with just one clanger kick to his name, but finished the match with nine touches, seven marks and two goals.


Liam Ryan: The man in blue and yellow breathing the biggest sigh of relief is no doubt West Coast small forward Liam Ryan.

With just minutes left in the third quarter and with the game in the balance, the Eagles found themselves in some rare space heading into an open forward 50.

A kick to the hot spot was set up for Ryan, who was floating back into space on his own, but a decision to drop his head as contact loomed proved costly, and the Pies kicked the next two goals (the first two of the last quarter), keeping the game momentarily out of the Eagles' reach.

It didn't get much better for Ryan in the last; trying to shake his moment of regret, he fluffed two (admittedly difficult) chances in the space of five minutes, contributing to a run of four straight behinds which at one point looked like it could have cost his side the game.

Ultimately, Ryan's moment of indecision and his inability to finish didn't come back to haunt him, but he was a Sheed miss away from being one of the biggest villains of the year.

The AFL: Was this year's Grand Final the best we've seen since the turn of the millennium? Was it better than 2005, 2006, 2009 or 2012?

Sure, this year's finals series as a whole was a little underwhelming, but it all culminated in one of the best Grand Finals in recent memory.

So why, then, is the AFL hell-bent on changing the rules? Would the game have been that much better with fewer interchanges? Would a longer goal square (aside from looking ridiculous) have contributed to a better spectacle? Would starting positions affect a high-pressure Grand Final anyway?

Why is the AFL considering messing with arguably the most watchable sport in the world? Considering 100,022 people rolled through the MCG gates on Saturday -- breaking the record of fans attending a Grand Final under the ground's current configuration -- was the game itself not evidence enough that it doesn't need to be meddled with?

Gillon McLachlan was front-and-centre for one of the best games in recent times. Let's hope common sense prevails and the game is left alone.

Collingwood's coaching panel: With the game in Collingwood's control and Magpies tagger Levi Greenwood doing an impressive, close-checking number on Eagles midfielder Elliot Yeo, the Collingwood hierarchy made the bizarre decision at half time to switch the tag from Yeo to Luke Shuey.

Yeo was being covered brilliantly, and amassed only three hard-fought touches in the first quarter. In the second he began to find more of the ball, but was rushed and was often forced to kick blindly to a contest.

However with the shackles off in the second half, Yeo stepped up his disposal efficiency from 40 percent in the first half to 66 percent in second, all the while Shuey was having just as much influence over the contest as he was having in the first half.

It's hard to say if the decision to drop the tag on Yeo cost Collingwood the match, but when he kicked his goal in the third quarter, it gave West Coast their first lead of the day, and the rest is history.