Saturday night saw two fairytale stories collide at the MCG. Only one of the stories would continue beyond the evening and it took until the last minute of the match to see which it would be. Each fairytale was born of vastly different circumstances. For the Western Bulldogs, the story began last October when skipper Ryan Griffen walked out on the club. The coach and CEO soon followed and the club was then ridiculed for giving Giant Tom Boyd a five-year contract on huge money. To top it all off, their 2014 best and fairest player Tom Liberatore suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first practice match this year. But the Dogs put all that behind them to win an amazing 14 games to reach this Elimination Final.
Adelaide's fairytale began in the most tragic of circumstances, with their coach Phil Walsh being murdered early in July. The Crows had performed well until then, but suffered a heavy loss to West Coast in the week following Walsh's death and most pundits did nor expect them to recover. But they banded together and defied all logic to win six of their last eight matches to make it to this Saturday night showdown with the Dogs. The Bulldogs jumped out of the blocks but the Crows had reeled them in and hit the front by quarter time. The Dogs kept snapping at their heels for the rest of the night and Adelaide eventually surrendered the lead early in the final term. The Bulldogs were eight points clear halfway through the quarter and had chances to extend that margin but the Crows would not be denied, regaining the lead at the 17-minute mark and sealing a thrilling seven-point win via a goal with just 90 seconds remaining.
The Western Bulldogs got off to an absolute flyer, with Stewart Crameri goaling within the first two minutes, and Tory Dickson bending a snap through a minute later. Less than two minutes later, Luke Dahlhaus snapped another one and the Dogs were 18 points clear after just five minutes. Eddie Betts got the Crows on the board with a major at the nine-minute mark but Crameri's second put the Bulldogs 19 points clear at the 11-minute mark. Betts chipped in for his second and when Taylor Walker marked and kicked his first, Adelaide was back within seven points. At the 16-minute mark Betts handballed one over the top to Rory Sloane in the goal square, and he made no mistake, as the Crows drew within a point. The Dogs then had a couple of chances but Jake Stringer and Jarrad Grant both missed set shots. They were punished by the Crows, with Betts kicking his third and Ricky Henderson his first to give Adelaide and eight-point lead. Crameri and Lin Jong then registered further misses for the Dogs to take their score to 4.6 after they had been 4.1. Adelaide led by nine at the first change.
At the start of the second term, a beautiful tap-down from Marcus Bontempelli to Dickson in the goal-square gave the Bulldogs their fifth goal and brought them to within three points. However, a set-shot goal to Tom Lynch and a fourth goal to Betts gave the Crows a 14-point lead at the 10-minute mark. A beautiful snap from Jake Stringer five minutes later cut the margin to nine, but Riley Knight responded five minutes later again to make the margin 15 points, Adelaide's biggest lead of the match. A strong mark and goal to Jack Redpath cut the difference back to nine points and it was back to eight at the long break after the Dogs added two behinds to one in the last seven minutes.
The Bulldogs dominated large parts of the third term and would rue missing several very gettable shots in the quarter. Mitch Wallis and Jack Macrae both missed inside the first three minutes and then Charlie Cameron made them pay with a lovely snap from an angle at the other end to give the Crows a 13-point buffer. Jarrad Grant missed another set shot at the seven-minute mark before Redpath finally kicked truly to cut the difference to one straight kick. Bontempelli had two more set shots after that but once again both missed, the first hitting the left goal post and the second sailing right. A mark and very long kick from skipper Taylor Walker put the Crows 10 points clear but Dickson's third cut the lead back to four once more. A free kick for high contact saw Riley Knight goal for Adelaide but a great mark from Lin Jong was converted to a goal to see the Bulldogs back within three. Again, though, the Crows responded and a beautiful snap from Betts - his fifth - just before the three-quarter-time siren saw Adelaide 11 points clear at 'orange time'.
A mark and goal to Dickson opened the last quarter but once again Adelaide answered, this time through Scott Thompson, to kick 11 points clear again. Then the Western Bulldogs really came hard. Grant marked and finally kicked straight with a set shot and Dickson followed up with his sixth to give the Dogs a one-point lead. Crameri had a snap to extend the lead but hit the post, making it five behinds for him. Then the man they call 'The Package' - Jake Stringer - gathered a loose ball on the 50-metre mark and kicked truly to put the Dogs eight points ahead half way through the term. But Adelaide would not lie down. Walker marked and converted from inside 50 to cut the lead to one point and then two more behinds to the Crows out them in front by that margin. The Bulldogs then streamed forward and had a huge chance to take the lead but an errant handball from Lachie Hunter saw the ball locked up. From the ensuing ball-up, the Crows kicked clear of defence. Walker marked and took a long run, bouncing twice before hitting Cameron on the chest. Cameron goaled and the Crows held on in the final 90 seconds to win by seven to keep their fairytale alive and end the Bulldogs' in heartbreaking fashion.
Best for the Crows included Betts (five goals), Walker (three goals, 16 disposals), Thompson (26 touches, one goal) and Patrick Dangerfield (26 possessions, six marks). For the Dogs, Luke Dahlhaus (27 touches and a goal), Dickson (five goals), Hunter (26 touches, seven tackles) and Liam Picken (24 possessions and eight tackles) in his 150th AFL match were all outstanding.
The Crows will try and right another happy chapter in their fairytale when they take on Hawthorn on Friday night. The Bulldogs' fairytale has ended - at least for 2015 - but all indications are that they are set to right another great story in 2016.
Western Bulldogs: Dickson 5; Crameri, Redpath, Stringer 2; Dahlhaus, Jong, Grant
Adelaide: Betts 5; Walker 3; Knight, Cameron 2; Henderson, Lynch, Sloane, Thompson
BEST - THE SUNDAY AGE
Western Bulldogs: Dickson, Hunter, Dahlhaus, Minson, Bontempelli, Wallis
Adelaide: Betts, Walker, Sloane, Dangerfield, Laird, Henderson, Thompson
BEST - AFL.COM.AU
Western Bulldogs: Dahlhaus, Dickson, Hunter, Bontempelli, Wallis, Murphy
Adelaide: Betts, Thompson, Walker, Henderson, Laird, Sloane, Dangerfield
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Caleb Daniel replaced Mitch Honeychurch in the fourth quarter.
Adelaide: David McKay replaced Rory Atkins in the third quarter.
UMPIRES: Nicholls, Hosking, Schmitt
TELEVISION BROADCAST: Seven Network
COMMENTATORS: Brian Taylor, Luke Darcy, Matthew Richardson, Cameron Ling
Video sourced from YouTube, courtesy of the AFL.
|Western Bulldogs||Match Stats||Career|
|24||Biggs, Shane||13||2||4||17||0||0||0||5||0||0||24y 38d||16||3|
|4||Bontempelli, Marcus||16||3||8||24||0||2||0||7||0||0||19y 292d||37||32|
|5||Boyd, Matthew||15||4||6||21||0||0||0||2||0||0||33y 16d||258||83|
|8||Crameri, Stewart||11||3||8||19||2||5||0||1||1||2||27y 33d||97||165|
|6||Dahlhaus, Luke||11||2||16||27||1||0||0||3||0||1||23y 22d||94||86|
|35||Daniel, Caleb||1||1||6||7||0||0||0||3||0||0||19y 67d||10||6|
|29||Dickson, Tory||5||2||6||11||5||0||0||2||1||1||27y 351d||57||98|
|1||Grant, Jarrad||8||6||7||15||1||2||2||4||1||2||26y 68d||81||83|
|30||Hamling, Joel||5||4||7||12||0||0||0||1||0||2||22y 156d||11||0|
|22||Honeychurch, Mitch||3||1||6||9||0||0||0||1||2||1||20y 194d||14||10|
|7||Hunter, Lachie||13||9||15||28||0||0||0||2||0||0||20y 273d||36||16|
|46||Jong, Lin||9||4||14||23||1||1||3||5||1||1||22y 100d||23||12|
|11||Macrae, Jack||11||1||8||19||0||1||0||9||3||1||21y 40d||55||17|
|27||Minson, Will||9||1||3||12||0||0||26||4||1||2||30y 154d||189||80|
|38||Morris, Dale||4||5||10||14||0||0||0||1||1||0||32y 257d||207||3|
|2||Murphy, Bob||18||3||8||26||0||0||0||1||0||1||33y 95d||292||173|
|42||Picken, Liam||15||7||9||24||0||0||0||8||2||1||29y 42d||150||46|
|43||Redpath, Jack||6||6||1||7||2||0||4||3||0||0||24y 273d||15||21|
|18||Roberts, Fletcher||7||4||9||16||0||0||0||1||0||2||22y 101d||19||0|
|9||Stringer, Jake||9||2||3||12||2||2||0||1||0||1||21y 140d||50||94|
|3||Wallis, Mitch||12||6||14||26||0||1||0||7||2||1||22y 323d||76||30|
|10||Wood, Easton||9||9||10||19||0||0||0||0||0||1||26y 8d||87||12|
|21||Atkins, Rory||3||1||4||7||0||0||0||1||0||0||21y 62d||8||4|
|18||Betts, Eddie||9||4||3||12||5||1||0||0||0||0||28y 290d||228||404|
|16||Brown, Luke||9||2||5||14||0||1||0||3||1||0||22y 355d||68||3|
|23||Cameron, Charlie||11||3||1||12||2||2||0||4||0||0||21y 69d||28||38|
|25||Cheney, Kyle||4||1||3||7||0||0||0||0||1||1||26y 18d||52||2|
|44||Crouch, Matt||9||3||9||18||0||1||0||2||1||2||20y 144d||24||5|
|32||Dangerfield, Patrick||17||6||9||26||0||0||1||5||2||0||25y 160d||153||162|
|26||Douglas, Richard||11||3||9||20||0||0||0||3||0||2||28y 218d||170||114|
|15||Hartigan, Kyle||5||4||3||8||0||0||0||1||1||1||23y 309d||27||0|
|45||Henderson, Ricky||13||4||16||29||1||0||0||3||1||0||27y 1d||80||42|
|24||Jacobs, Sam||10||3||5||15||0||1||39||4||2||1||27y 155d||126||28|
|4||Jenkins, Josh||4||3||5||9||0||0||1||1||1||0||26y 216d||68||117|
|39||Knight, Riley||8||2||7||15||2||0||0||1||2||1||20y 169d||10||8|
|29||Laird, Rory||14||3||8||22||0||0||0||4||1||1||21y 257d||56||5|
|27||Lynch, Tom||7||3||8||15||1||1||0||3||1||0||24y 362d||59||81|
|14||Mackay, David||2||0||4||6||0||0||0||1||2||0||27y 49d||143||44|
|9||Sloane, Rory||9||2||11||20||1||0||1||5||0||1||25y 179d||117||73|
|33||Smith, Brodie||13||2||5||18||0||0||0||4||2||0||23y 241d||96||28|
|12||Talia, Daniel||7||4||3||10||0||0||0||1||0||1||23y 345d||97||5|
|5||Thompson, Scott||12||2||14||26||1||0||0||4||1||2||32y 182d||284||158|
|7||Van Berlo, Nathan||9||3||9||18||0||0||0||2||0||1||29y 98d||201||68|
|13||Walker, Taylor||11||10||5||16||3||2||0||1||1||1||25y 140d||106||255|