Dom Sheed has capped off a West Coast comeback that will go down as one of the club’s finest moments and one of the classic Grand Finals.
After trailing Collingwood for most of Saturday’s Grand Final at the MCG, Sheed marked 40m out from goal on a tight angle with less than two minutes to play.
The Eagles had dominated general play in the last term but trailed by two points at that point, having missed their previous four shots at goal.
However, when his team needed him most, Sheed went back and coolly split the big sticks to put West Coast four points up and send Eagles fans into a frenzy.
It looked like the visitors would ice their fourth premiership soon after, but Jack Darling, who had memorably missed a pivotal chest mark in West Coast’s 2015 Grand Final capitulation to Hawthorn, somehow botched an unopposed mark on the goalline.
It gave the Magpies one final chance, but when Luke Shuey marked a long kick-in in the centre of the ground in the dying seconds West Coast was able to hang on for a thrilling 11.13 (79) to 11.8 (74) victory.
Earlier it had looked like the crowd of 100,022 at the MCG would be forced to endure a boilover when the Magpies piled on the game’s opening five goals to open up a 29-point lead late in the first term.
At that stage West Coast looked as overawed as its class of 2015 had been against Hawthorn three years earlier.
However, this year’s Eagles team was made of sterner stuff and on the back of a massive third term from one of 2015’s biggest villains, Darling, they briefly hit the front before going into the final break on level terms.
It set up a thrilling final term and the teams gave the fans at the MCG a finish they will long remember.
Again, the Eagles were slow starters as the Pies goaled twice within the opening two minutes, through Brody Mihocek and Jordan De Goey.
But, again, the Eagles were far from done. They kicked two of the next three goals, via Nathan Vardy and Josh Kennedy, and then peppered the goals for just four behinds before Sheed stepped up to play the hero.
Luke Shuey (34 possessions, nine clearances, eight tackles, eight inside 50s and one goal) was a thoroughly deserved winner of the Norm Smith Medal, while Sheed (32 possessions, eight clearances and six inside 50s) was also outstanding, his contribution extending far beyond his match-winning goal.
Josh Kennedy was held goalless in the 2015 Grand Final, but rebounded strongly against the Magpies to finish with 3.2 and 11 marks, while Darling overcame a slow start – and his last-minute brainfade – to get the Eagles back in the game with six marks in the third quarter.
West Coast’s defence was also superb, especially in the first half when Collingwood was on top.
Tom Barrass kept Mason Cox on a tight leash until late in the game, Will Schofield gave little room to De Goey in the first half and Steele Sidebottom in the second half, while a noticeably sore Jeremy McGovern took some telling marks when the game was on the line.
Run-with midfielder Mark Hutchings also kept Sidebottom so quiet the Magpie star was thrown deep into attack midway through the third term.
In winning their fourth flag, the Eagles moved past Brisbane (three) for the most premierships won by teams that have joined the competition since 1987.
They have now also won more flags in that time than any other club bar Hawthorn (seven), while their win broke a streak of five Grand Finals when Victorian teams had defeated interstate opponents.
The Magpies were brave in defeat, but missing the chance to equal Carlton and Essendon on a record 16 premierships will sting.
Taylor Adams (31 possessions, nine clearances and one goal) starred for the Magpies through the midfield, while Tom Langdon (23 possessions, seven marks, and 11 one-percenters) and Jack Crisp (25 possessions and nine marks) stood up strongly in defence.
Adam Treloar (26 possessions, five clearances and 11 tackles) was also a tireless worker through the midfield, Jeremy Howe waged an entertaining battle with Darling and Travis Varcoe was influential with his unrelenting pressure.
With Saturday’s loss, Collingwood’s Grand Final record slumped to 15-27 and two draws.
The Magpies had set up their two finals wins leading into the Grand Final with first-quarter blitzes and they stuck to the same formula on Saturday, piling on the game’s opening five goals to jump to a 28-point lead after just 22 minutes of play.
Varcoe kicked the game’s opening major with a clinical finish on the run from 40m at the five-minute mark, and NAB AFL Rising Star winner Jaidyn Stephenson announced his arrival on the game’s biggest stage soon after with two goals in two minutes.
De Goey then brushed off attempted tackles from Shannon Hurn and Jack Redden and snapped truly from near the boundary line, and when Will Hoskin-Elliott converted from 40m out on the boundary line it seemed the Magpies could do no wrong.
On the other hand, the Eagles started as poorly as they had in the 2015 Grand Final.
The second quarter’s opening goal did not come until the 20-minute mark when De Goey played on and kicked truly from outside 50m to put the Magpies 23 points up.
West Coast quickly hit back when Hutchings gleefully accepted a Mark LeCras handball in the goalsquare and converted, while Shuey ensured his team entered the half-time break with a sniff when he goaled on the run after a boundary throw-in to cut the margin to just 12 points.
That sniff proved enough to inspire the Eagles to one of the great Grand Final triumphs.
AFL New Zealand would like to congratulate former New Zealand assistant coach and current West Coast forwards coach Jamie Graham for his role in the Eagles win. Graham was assistant coach to Justin Davies against the AFL Academy.
NZ heritage team member Sam Mitchell is also part of the West Coast coaching staff.
Story – AFL.com.au