Long wait over for Dees with AFL final win

·2-min read

As Melbourne shrugged off a nervous start to seize control of their AFL preliminary final against Geelong, you could almost hear the collective exhale from the Demons faithful.

For all of Melbourne's dominance this season, their long-suffering supporters had barely allowed themselves to believe it could finally happen.

But Friday night's 83-point thrashing makes it official: their first grand final berth in 21 years and the opportunity to win their first premiership since 1964.

The minor premiers had entered the Optus Stadium clash as favourites but for a couple of nervous moments, it seemed the ghosts of their September past might return to haunt them.

With neither team having scored in the opening minutes, Tom McDonald lined up for goal but booted it straight into the man on the mark in Geelong's Zach Guthrie.

Moments later, Bayley Fritsch found himself in space on a wing but turned over what should have been a simple assist for McDonald.

Melbourne's nightmare 66-point loss to West Coast in the 2018 preliminary finals notably started with an errant Jordan Lewis handball which gifted the Eagles their first goal.

But while 11 Demons who took the field that day returned to Perth on Friday night, this was assuredly a different Melbourne side.

After conceding the first goal of the game, the Dees booted five straight to close out the first quarter, their speed and pressure proving irresistible.

The Cats still had a heartbeat at halftime but any hope was quickly extinguished by Melbourne's superstar ruckman Max Gawn.

Gawn's third quarter was simply enormous, befitting his stature - eight disposals, 11 hitouts and four goals, three of which he booted in five minutes.

The 208cm giant was comfortably best-afield but midfield stars Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver and Jack Viney were similarly brilliant.

Former captain Garry Lyon had spoken this week of the emotion surrounding the Demons' finals run, telling the Herald Sun of his hope that club greats Ron Barassi and Neale Daniher could witness the side winning a premiership.

Daniher, who has battled motor neurone disease since 2013, was pictured on Friday night wearing a Melbourne jumper and scarf as he prepared to watch the game from home.

His influence will loom large as the Demons prepare to face either Port Adelaide or the Western Bulldogs in the September 25 premiership decider.

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