Demons blitz Bulldogs in AFL grand final

Christian Petracca’s record-breaking performance has helped Melbourne end a 57-year premiership drought with a 74-point thrashing of the Western Bulldogs in the AFL grand final.

© Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS Christian Petracca was voted best on ground in Melbourne’s grand final thumping of the Bulldogs.

The Demons engineered a stunning turnaround to post an emphatic 21.14 (140) to 10.6 (66) victory in front of 61,118 spectators at a sold-out Optus Stadium in Perth.

Petracca was at the heart of it, amassing 40 disposals – one more than Brisbane gun Simon Black’s previous grand final mark of 39 – and kicking two goals to claim the Norm Smith Medal as best afield.

Petracca’s midfield partner Clayton Oliver (33 disposals) was outstanding and dangerous forward Bayley Fritsch finished with six goals, with the trio and young ruckman Luke Jackson all influential as the Demons seized control of a see-sawing contest late in the third term.

They trailed by 19 points but piled on seven unanswered goals, including four direct from centre bounces, in a 15-minute burst of dominance before the final change.

The rampant Demons went on to kick 16 of the last 17 goals and run away with the match.

“It feels like a dream,” Petracca told the Seven Network.

“We set out in the off-season to get this club back to where we should belong … we bloody did it.”

It is Melbourne’s first premiership since 1964 and 13th overall, drawing them level with Richmond and Hawthorn in equal-fourth position – three flags behind competition leaders Carlton and Essendon (16 each).

There was a sour note, with the majority of the Demons’ legion of fans stuck in Melbourne’s latest COVID-19 lockdown and unable to witness the momentous triumph in the flesh.

“It’s been a long time coming,” captain Max Gawn added.

“My heart goes out to everyone in the eastern states that are at home watching this, we did it for you.”

Watching on television, those fans saw a cautious start from both sides before Petracca’s booming goal from 50 metres gave Melbourne a spark.

Their pressure strangled the Bulldogs’ ball movement and two goals to Fritsch helped fire the Demons into a 21-point lead by the first change.

Marcus Bontempelli, Caleb Daniel and Adam Treloar breathed much-needed life into the Bulldogs during the second quarter as they fought their way back into the contest.

Bontempelli and Treloar finished with three goals apiece, combining for 52 disposals, and Daniel’s 37 touches included 26 in the first half alone.

But the Bulldogs couldn’t do anything to stop the Dees’ third-quarter surge.

Melbourne’s Ben Brown complemented Fritsch in attack with three goals and fellow key forward Tom McDonald finished with two, completing the rout with a set shot after the siren.

Gawn and tough midfielder Jack Viney were valuable contributors in the engine room, while All Australian duo Jake Lever and Steven May stood tall in defence.

The long-awaited flag means Melbourne can finally lay claim to having buried the infamous curse of Norm Smith.

Master coach Smith guided the Demons to their last VFL premiership but was sacked in controversial circumstances the following year and the club took almost six decades to reach the pinnacle again.

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