Demons win Australia's AFL grand final for first time in 57 years
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Perth (Australia) (AFP) –
Melbourne Demons won their first Australian Football League title in 57 years on Saturday, ending decades of misery by sweeping past Western Bulldogs in front of 60,000 fans.
Skipper Max Gawn lifted the trophy after they cruised to a 21.14 (140) to 10.6 (66) win in Perth, the culmination of another disrupted season for Australia's most popular spectator sport.
"After 57 years of pain, it's coming home," said an ecstatic Gawn, whose team last won the grand final in 1964 in what had been the longest active AFL premiership drought.
Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli said the loss "will sting".
"But we'll lick our wounds and hopefully make something of it," he added.
A dynamic game similar to Ireland's Gaelic football, the victory capped another year of Aussie Rules severely affected by the pandemic, characterised by empty stadiums, last-minute fixture changes and bio-secure hubs.
Both the Bulldogs and Demons are from Victoria -- which makes up most of the 18-team ladder -- and ordinarily the final would be played at the cavernous Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of 100,000 fans.
But a resurgence of Covid-19 in Victoria forced the game out of the state for the second straight time after Brisbane's famed cricket ground the Gabba played host last year.
That game -- won by Richmond Tigers -- was the first time the decider had not been held in Victoria since 1898.
Western Australia, which boasts two AFL teams in Freemantle and West Coast, got the opportunity this time and fans jumped at the chance with tickets selling out in minutes.
Perth has been largely Covid-free for months, although the sport's bosses got a scare last week when a truck driver tested positive, sparking fears that fans could be barred.
But it was given the go-ahead with no restrictions and AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said he had been blown away by the support from Perth football fans.
"The state loves football and I think it's a 150-year event that this state deserves," he said.
"And it's frankly a huge silver lining of this that we can have it here where people are so passionate."
© 2021 AFP