The first week of the AFL finals had us holding our breath until after the final siren.
Adelaide advanced through to a preliminary final after dismantling GWS. Richmond followed suit, taking down Geelong in front of a capacity crowd of 95,028 people, a record for a qualifying final.
Sydney outclassed Essendon in every way and proved they’re premiership credentials, winning by 65 points. The best was saved till last though, as West Coast outlasted Port Adelaide in a see-saw affair that went into extra time.
All the highlights and lowlights are covered below in a record-breaking weekend of finals.
DREAMS DO COME TRUE
The clash between Port Adelaide and West Coast was a scintillating, brutal contest, each side fought like gladiators but couldn’t be separated in regulation.
Extra time was played for just the third time in AFL history and ended with Luke Shuey being awarded a free kick on the final siren after being tackled high.
Shuey wrote himself into football folklore, kicking the match-winning goal after the siren, in a final, in extra time. He lived every Australian school boy’s dream. West Coast advance to play GWS at Spotless Stadium in a semi final.
A CLASS ABOVE
Dustin Martin showed the football world why he was every bit worth the mega seven-year deal he inked with Richmond two weeks ago.
The Tigers champ was invincible against the Cats, providing endless run, carry and creative flair. No one could tackle him as the famous ‘don’t argue’ was in full flight, not even Joel Selwood or Patrick Dangerfield.
One particular play perfectly sums up his night. Late in the third quarter, Martin shook Tom Stewart in a crucial one-on-one, before charging up the wing and setting up a Dion Prestia goal.
MCGOVERN’S GOT HOPS
It was a great weekend for both McGovern brothers, but Mitch wins the highlight contest. Mitch McGovern may be Adelaide’s biggest X-factor as they charge towards the premiership cup.
McGovern took a towering grab inside 50 over Phil Davis late in the piece against GWS, and while he failed to convert the goal, the mark alone was impressive enough.
McGovern’s leaping abilities and strong hands separate him from the rest and give his teammates great confidence to kick it to him one-on-one.
WHAT GOES UP
Geelong’s Tom Stewart had to wait a lifetime for a ball that was kicked high in the MCG skies to drop in the second quarter.
Once it finally did, Stewart dropped the mark and fumbled the ball, turning it over with a dinky handball. Richmond’s swarm pounced on Stewart’s mistake with their manic pressure.
The Tigers capitalised with another inside 50 as they’re dominance in this game was becoming clear. Forgive the youngster Stewart, who was playing in his first AFL final, and credit Richmond’s elite pressure.
LACKLUSTRE SEND OFF
Jobe Watson and James Kelly were both farewelled from their final AFL games in a reasonably uninspiring way on the weekend, after the Bombers barely left a scratch on the Swans.
Both of these greats deserved better than what their side served up, but perhaps it says more about Sydney’s dominance than anything else. The Swans march on to face Geelong in a semi final at the MCG, who they have had the wood over in recent times.
Watson retires after 220 games and Kelly after 313 games for both Geelong and Essendon, including three premierships. They will each be remembered for their unequivocal donations to the game.
DON’T SPIT WHERE YOU EAT
Sam Mitchell faces scrutiny after vision has come out that shows him spitting in the direction of a face down Sam Gray during their team’s clash.
The incident occurred after Gray was awarded a free kick and Mitchell hunched over him in displeasure following the umpiring decision.
Mitchell has strongly denied he spat in the direction of Gray and should at worst cop a minor fine should the AFL see fit.
PREMIERSHIP ASPIRATION ACL OVER
An ACL injury has ended the season of Crows’ running defender Brodie Smith in devastating fashion during his side’s win over GWS on Thursday night.
Smith will spend the next 12 months sidelined as he gets his knee rebuilt, following the shocking twist that occurred just 10 minutes into the game on the boundary line.
Much like on Thursday night, Smith can only watch from the sidelines now as his Crows’ teammates, the premiership favourites, try to conquer the September stage.
He wasn’t alone on the night, as Shane Mumford, Jeremy Cameron and Stephen Coniglio all complete a heavy toll of injuries for the Giants and will face health tests ahead of this week’s clash with West Coast.