AFL: West Coast Eagles rally to snatch Grand Final from Magpies

  • 29/09/2018

They left it inexplicably late and flirted with disaster, but West Coast have exorcised their AFL demons of 2015 in thrilling fashion.

The Eagles, returning to the last Saturday in September after capitulating to Hawthorn three years ago, pipped Collingwood by five points in a classic Grand Final.

Those pundits grumbling about a month of largely lopsided finals were sated by a pulsating contest in which momentum shifted frequently and the result wasn't clear until the final seconds.

West Coast did it the hard way, giving up a 29-point headstart, before kicking a goal.

The visitors then registered some four consecutive behinds late in the final term, before Dom Sheed dobbed a stunning matchwinner, putting his side in front with some two minutes remaining.

Sheed was one of West Coast's 12 players who also took part in the 2015 Grand Final, when the Hawks pounded the Perth-based outfit by 46 points.

There are always plenty of subplots at play in a Grand Final, but the resilience showed by the rattled Eagles, especially those with memories of being outclassed so clinically in 2015, got them over the line.

Coach Adam Simpson, undoubtedly ecstatic, will also wonder why the hell his charges only conjured that composure after quarter-time.

Dual Brownlow medallist Chris Judd, West Coast's 2006 premiership star, remarked early in the contest that "you can't win an AFL Grand Final in the first quarter, but you can certainly lose it".

The Eagles were on the ropes but they followed up the most sluggish of starts with the most furious of fightbacks.

The contrast was frank.

West Coast captain Shannon Hurn, whose first season in charge was 2015, was among their leaders guilty of uncharacteristic errors that gifted Collingwood early goals.

At the other end of the MCG, star forward Josh Kennedy missed an early set shot, then had a near-certain goal ruined, when he and youngster Daniel Venables both flew for the same mark.

Hurn and Kennedy ensured their side steadied superbly. Hurn marshalled his defence, helping intercept kings Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass put the clamps on a potent forward line.

Kennedy finished with a match-high three goals, also setting up plenty of others.

Norm Smith medallist Luke Shuey, who - like Kennedy - had his heart broken three years ago, lifted after the early onslaught.

Shuey nailed the final goal of the second quarter to reduce Collingwood's half-time lead to 12 points.

Jack Darling, whose dropped chest mark in 2015 was the image that came to define West Coast's Grand Final loss, was next to step up.

Darling's forgettable opening half was followed by some six marks in the third quarter, four of them contested.

Darling fumbled a regulation mark in the goal square during a frantic finish, but victory means the key forward will look back on this match with nothing but delight for the rest of his life.