THIS ONE’S FOR THOSE STUCK BACK AT HOME
THEY are more than 3000km away in Perth but Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will be playing for their fans in locked-down Victoria in Saturday’s grand final.
As the Demons look to end a 57year premiership drought, skipper Max Gawn says the weight of expectation to do so is no more significant than the burden the teams will feel to try to win for supporters who are unable to get to Western Australia due to Covid restrictions.
“I think there’s a responsibility for both teams,” Gawn said at the captains and coaches press conference.
“We were able to get out of Melbourne at a pretty grim time for the city and both teams have been able to come here to sunny Perth and live out our dreams of being able to play in a grand final.
“So we have a responsibility to go out there and perform at our best and make our members and families and supporters proud who are back in the eastern states doing things tough.
“The drought’s one thing but I’m more realistic about what’s happening I’m Melbourne now.”
Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli has backed a call by Perth mayor Basil Zempilas for the crowd to stand and applaud 20 minutes and 21 seconds – 2021 – into the first quarter to acknowledge those across Australia doing it tough in Victoria and NSW.
“The challenge of what everyone is experiencing back home, there’s no doubt at different points along the journey you reflect on ... how things are different and those who aren’t experiencing the traditional build-up, particularly for family and friends and those you’d love to have part of the journey,” Bontempelli said.
“So anything that does tip the hat to all the people back home ... would be a nice touch because everyone is thinking of them.”
For the second year, there will be a grand final held outside of Melbourne and it will feature two Victorian sides.
Last year it was Richmond versus Geelong at the Gabba.
This time, West Australian football fans have come out in numbers and the clubs can feel the support.
“I would’ve loved to have played this game at the MCG in front of that home crowd but this is the very next best thing – the city has really turned it on,” Gawn said.
“Not sure if there’s a few neutrals who have jumped on the Melbourne wagon, but if they have thanks for the support and it was there prelim night (against Geelong in Perth).”
The Bulldogs are aiming to win their first flag since 2016 but coach Luke Beveridge said this year felt different.
“It hasn’t been that meteoric type rise, we’ve been a team that’s been consistent all year, so our expectations are a little bit different,” Beveridge said of the club’s 2021 run.
No Demons players have won a flag and only former Crow Jake Lever has lined up in a grand final.
Gawn said he had reached out to former teammate and four-time Hawthorn premiership Jordan Lewis for advice but planned to lead his way.
“If you do look at the way the two teams have gone about it (reaching the grand final), ours has been quite different to the Doggies,” he said.
“Which one is the better way to go about it, I’m not too sure.
“It’s been a long time for our supporters. We had a good team in the early 2000s, we had a good team in the late ’80s and we had a good team back in the ’60s.
“Hopefully this is the team . . . hopefully we’re able to get sustained success.”