By Nick Creely
As 57 years of anguish and despair washed away from die-hard Melbourne fans in the midst of one of the greatest patches of football ever played, the noise reverberating around the city, and around the country would have been deafening.
And the noise pumping out of Devon Meadows as one of its favourite sons, James Harmes, played a crucial role in the grand final win would have shook the town silly.
The Panthers favourite son – a heart-and-soul Demon – was a bull through the midfield and half-forward in an underrated performance.
Harmes’ selfless, team-orientated mentality was on full display late in the game, as he attempted to sub himself out of the game so medi-sub James Jordon could come on the ground and soak it all in.
It’s an attitude, and a selflessness that has crept into the club and one of the main reasons this group became every football fan’s second side in 2021.
The Demons triumphed in Perth against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night, overcoming a 57-year curse to clinch an unforgettable and emotional bit of silverware.
The Dees burst out of the blocks to lead by 21 points at quarter time, combining ferocious intensity at the contest with an incurable desire to run and gun the footy.
But the Doggies – well-drilled and oiled for the big stage – bit back through skipper Marcus Bontempelli to wrestle back the lead with a scintillating second term to slam on six goals.
It was then that the Demons stood tall as the Dogs threatened to run away with the premiership in the third term, with Bayley Fritsch slamming on two quick goals to get the fire started, with two brilliant individual pieces of play that set the tone for an inspired comeback.
It loomed as a classic grand final finish.
One with twists and turns, and everytime you looked away something seemingly shifted the momentum and energy of the contest.
But what occurred was almost inconceivable.
Ask any Melbourne fan for the past six decades – who would have been overcome by jitters of the past – whether it was all some big dream.
There was no way they could have envisioned what would happen next as they enjoyed their cheeseboards and vintage bottles of shiraz.
The Demons would go on to play one of the greatest 15 minutes ever seen, slamming on six goals to finish the third term and ice the game then and there.
It was breathtaking football led by Norm Smith medal winner Christian Petracca, with the midfielders completely dominating proceedings and turning each touch into one irresistible bit of gold.
As the premiership loomed brightly for long-suffering Melbourne fans, the players didn’t let them down in the final term, racing out to a 74-point win in 30 minutes of football that will be replayed for weeks, if not months and years on repeat.
The Doggies to their credit, never gave in, holding their heads high and running out the game with class.
But there was starring performances on every line.
Petracca’s masterpiece of a match comprised of 39 disposals and two goals, Coldstream boy Bayley Fritsch snared six goals to finish runners-up in the Norm Smith Medal, big Benny Brown kicked three, skipper Max Gawn towered above all else to lead from the front, and Angus Brayshaw drove himself from contest to contest and made an enormous impact.
57 years is a long time in football history – it’s last grand final victory prior to Saturday night being a four-point epic against Collingwood back in 1964 when the club was coached by the legendary Norm Smith and captained by the iconic Ron Barrassi.
It’s been a long time between the 12th and 13th premierships – but it was worth the wait.