Dees steal AFL minor premiership from Cats
MAX Gawn buried some personal demons as his goal after the siren helped Melbourne come from the clouds to register a thrilling fourpoint win over Geelong and claim their first AFL/VFL minor premiership in 57 years.
The Demons trailed by 44 points during the third quarter but kicked the final eight goals of the match in a stunning turnaround in front of empty stands at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.
Clayton Oliver was heroic for Melbourne and captain Gawn produced a massive last quarter, completing the 12.9 (81) to 12.5 (77) victory with the final kick of the night.
The result saw the Demons finish top of the ladder and avoid a qualifying final match-up away to Port Adelaide.
Instead, they have booked a meeting with Brisbane on neutral turf, with the week one finals schedule set to be confirmed by the league on Sunday.
A frenetic final minute in Geelong saw Melbourne’s Angus Brayshaw penalised for insufficient intent before Cam Guthrie’s resulting free kick went out on the full on the wing.
The Cats’ Brad Close was penalised 50 metres for punching the ball away after it had crossed the boundary and Jake Lever’s set-up kick to the top of the goal square was marked by Gawn.
The Dees’ skipper calmly went back from 20 metres out on a slight angle and kicked truly.
Far from the most reliable kicker at goal, Gawn famously missed a late shot from a similar position in a narrow loss to Geelong in 2018.
“I was pretty confident,” Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said.
“He’s spent a lot of time on his goal-kicking, he’s our skipper and he recognises the moment.
“It was an important kick for us and he nailed it.”
Cats coach Chris Scott described the crucial final minute as a “very strange situation”.
“What we try to coach in those situations is a player should fight as hard as he can to touch a ball before it goes out on the full, so I think he (Close) is entitled to contest the ball,” Scott said.
“But I think the decision before that for the insufficient intent free kick was probably a bit strange as well.”
Gawn had 25 disposals, 39 hitouts and seven clearances in a telling display alongside Brownlow Medal fancy Oliver.