Melbourne have broken their 57-year premiership drought. So whose stocks have risen and whose have plummetted after the 2021 AFL Grand Final?
Our footy experts cast their eye over the 2021 Grand Final to find out whose stocks are up -- whether it's a coaching masterstroke or a player having a blinder -- and whose are down.
How good is Christian Petracca!? He might just start the 2022 season as the No. 1 player in the league after dismantling the Bulldogs in one of the all-time great Grand Final performances, and we're saying this with Dustin Martin's Norm Smith hat-trick still firmly in our memory banks. 'Trac' collected a Grand Final record-equalling 39 disposals, won 11 clearances and sent the ball inside 50 on 11 occasions. He also finished the night with 896m gained and 15 score involvements, easily game-highs in both categories. Petracca was rightly awarded the Norm Smith Medal for his heroic contribution.
If anyone was unsure about Bayley Fritsch's selection into the 2021 All-Australian team, hopefully they are now convinced of his supreme class and value to this Demons side. The No. 31 become the first player this century to boot six goals in a Grand Final and had it not been for Petracca, could very well be wearing two medals around his neck. The bag of six takes Fritsch's goal tally to 59 for the season, finishing behind only Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins. Not bad at all for a mid-sized forward!
On a night where the Demons snapped a 57-year premiership drought, it just doesn't seem right to have anything heading in the red but could that Steven May selection have come back to haunt them if they didn't get up? May said it himself after the final siren that he hadn't exactly overcome his hamstring injury, sustained in the preliminary final win over Geelong, and was limited throughout the Grand Final. By May's defensive standards, he was quiet, finishing with just three intercepts and laying one tackle.
Yes, it's been spoken about at length but we're going to mention it again. Timing is everything in football and you REALLY have to feel for Melbourne stalwart Nathan Jones' luck. He gave everything to the Demons, playing 300 games through the leanest period in the club's history. Not only could Simon Goodwin fail to find him a place in the team (and that's fair enough), but Jones wasn't able to be in Perth to celebrate the drought-breaking flag win, after he returned to Melbourne to be by his pregnant wife's side. A great man who rightly deserves some credit for this premiership.
Those who were criticising Adam Treloar after a lean qualifying final performance need a serious reality check. The former Pie was a constant threat for the Doggies and kickstarted the second term fightback with two quick-fire goals to cut the deficit in half. He then helped set up a goal to Aaron Naughton as the Dogs started to take control of the match. Unfortunately for Treloar, his side faded out of the game and he won't get as much credit as he deserves. But 27 disposals and three goals in a Grand Final is something of which to be very proud.
The only other Bulldog who could really have walked off Optus Stadium with their head held high was skipper Marcus Bontempelli. Like Treloar, the Bont booted three brilliant goals either side of half time to put his side in a great position to win a second premiership in six years. He took contested marks, won clearances and had more score involvements than any other player on his team. In fact, he was the only Bulldog who ranked in the top 10 for score involvements! Bontempelli finished with 25 touches to go along with his three Grand Final goals.
It really was a night to forget for the Bulldogs forwards. Having Aaron Naughton, Mitch Hannan, Cody Weightman, Tim English, Josh Schache and Jason Johannisen combining for just two goals was never going to cut it, and unfortunately that's what happened. Hannan, the former Demon, couldn't get near the ball and finished with seven touches, as did Weightman. The other didn't fare much better and the margin could have been even worse if not for the eight goals which came from the Doggies midfield.
Caleb Daniel was one of the Bulldogs' best and with 26 disposals to his name at the main break, it looked as if he could be on his way to winning the Norm Smith Medal. But the diminutive defender will probably regret his decision to stand over and stare down Dees captain (and ruckman) Max Gawn early in the third quarter after the ball had run out of play. It was a moment which seemed to ignite Melbourne who reeled off 16 of the next 17 goals to win the game by a whopping 74 points. We're not saying Daniel is to blame for the loss (he wasn't!) but boy, when you're willing to taunt an opponent during a Grand Final, you'd be hoping your team can back it up!