Sydney Swans win AFL premiership after 72 years in classic match

Saturday, September 24, 2005

After 72 long years, long suffering fans of the Sydney Swans football club will be toasting their club's success as they defeated the West Coast Eagles of Perth today in the AFL Grand Final by a score of 8.10 (58) to 7.12 (54), a victory of four points. This gives the Swans, formerly based in South Melbourne before moving to Sydney in 1982, their first premiership since 1933.

Sydney captain Barry Hall and West Coast goalsneak Adam Hunter both kicked two goals in a low-scoring affair. West Coast kicked the first goal, and then proceeded to kick another after Sydney replied. The Swans went on to kick five unanswered goals (6 points) to take a 20-point lead into halftime, while the Eagles could manage a handful of behinds (1 point).

The Eagles came alive in the third quarter, and at three-quarter time reduced the deficit to two points thanks to picked-up performances from West Coast stars like David Wirrapunda and Brownlow Medal winner Ben Cousins. However, attempts at goal were wasted as West Coast failed to capitalize throughout the game at many scoring opportunities.

West Coast gained the lead 15 minutes in the final quarter thanks largely in part to a misjudged short kick by Luke Ablett which was caught by Cousins right in the front of the goal. This would bring the Eagle lead up to 10, before Amon Buchanan's goal erased the deficit. The Eagles mounted a spirited charge in the dying minutes, but a timely saving mark by Leo Barry seconds before the final siren was the final nail in West Coast's coffin. Chris Judd won the Norm Smith Medal for being voted the best-on-ground, becoming the fourth person to win this honour while representing the losing side.

The grand final was Sydney and West Coast's fourth meeting of the season, with both teams splitting the home-and-away series. The Eagles had defeated the Swans by the same Grand Final-winning margin in the Qualifying final at Subiaco Oval three weeks ago, and it is a vindication for the Swans, who lost that match on a number of questionable umpiring decisions which the AFL's chief umpire Jeff Gieschen later admitted were incorrect.

The Swans had also come under great criticism earlier in the year from footy commentators and AFL Commissioner Andrew Demetriou for their now premiership-winning tactics, which was criticized as "boring" and, in the words of Demetriou, would lead the Swans to "lose more games than they would win" this season, but the Swans achievement forced Demetriou to backtrack his words days before the Grand Final.

91,898 footy fans of all stripes and locales packed the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the game, which was opened with entertainment from the likes of Delta Goodrem (singing I Am Australian), the finalists of Australian Idol (performing Waltzing Matilda), Dame Edna and Michael Buble.

John Steven's (Sydney Swans fan) later remarked "This was one of the most exciting, gripping and enthralling matches I have ever witnessed."

This game will certainly leave a mark in the record books.