The Western Bulldogs take on Melbourne in tonight’s decider, which is being held in Perth for the first time because of Covid-19 restrictions in Victoria.The opening bounce is scheduled for 5.15pm local time, which is 7.15pm AEST.For everything you need to know about the game, including how to watch and stream it, check out our ultimate guide.Watch Fox Footy’s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, half-time and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Start your free trial >Fans roast Channel 7’s Grand Final blunderFooty fans were having a chuckle at an unfortunate gaffe by broadcaster Channel 7, taking to social media to make fun of a cross-code mix-up.In an email promoting the AFL Grand Final, Seven accidentally said the match was between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm. The Storm, of course, are an NRL team — and plenty of punters on Twitter were keen to remind Channel 7 of that fact.Norm Smith judging panel revealedThe official judging panel for the Norm Smith Medal — awarded to the best player on the ground in the Grand Final — has been revealed.It includes journalists Tania Armstrong and Callum Twomey and former AFL players Luke Hodge, Harry Taylor and Andrew Krakouer.AFL boss ‘blown away’ by WAGillon McLachlan has been “blown away” by how Western Australia has welcomed its first ever Grand Final.The AFL CEO is thrilled with the way Perth has embraced the opportunity to showcase its passion for footy after Covid-19 complications meant the decider couldn’t be held at its spiritual home of the MCG.“There’s a huge energy and demand that I took for granted,” McLachlan told 6PR radio on Friday.“What’s struck me is how appreciative West Australians are. There’s a respect and an empathy for the loss the Victorians are feeling.“We might have a silver lining for West Australians, where there’ll be more big games coming to this town.“I’m confident about that. We know this is a football town.”
The Australian funnyman and one half of the popular Hamish and Andy podcast alongside Andy Lee is a Melbourne diehard desperate to see the Demons win today’s AFL Grand Final.Watch Fox Footy’s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, half-time and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Start your free trial >The Dees take on the Western Bulldogs in Perth tonight. The first bounce is scheduled for 5.15pm local time, or 7.15pm AEST, and Blake is nervously counting down the hours.Taking to Instagram on Saturday afternoon, the 39-year-old posted photos of himself, his wife Zoe and their two children each drinking from a Melbourne keep cup. In the caption, he explained why the gesture was so important as his team looks to break a 57-year premiership drought.“Every game of the AFL finals series, one member of the family has drunk from the sacred @melbournefc #positivelingers keep cup,” Blake wrote. “The Dees have won every game we’ve done this. Hamish Blake“I’m not saying dominating stoppages won’t be important today, but I feel secure in the knowledge we’ve completed our ritual sip, and have done all we can. “I know a lot of fans have a lot of rituals, as well as winning the contested ball today I feel if we can win the Omens, we’ve got this. “Feel free to leave yours below, I love them (especially how seriously you take it as a fan, I genuinely panicked today when I couldn’t find the cup for 2 mins) and GO DEES!!!”The Demons themselves certainly appreciated the support. The club’s social media team commented on the post: “You can’t underestimate the importance of playing your role on game day. Thank you for the commitment.”Blake’s lighthearted take on the biggest day of the footy calendar comes the week after he filmed his hilarious attempts to beat Western Australia’s border restrictions and sneak into the state to see Melbourne play in the grand final.
For a second consecutive year, the MCG will not host the sport’s pinnacle event due to Covid-19 restrictions.The AFL Grand Final will instead be played at Perth’s Optus Stadium in a twilight timeslot for the first time in the competition’s history.Watch Fox Footy‘s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, halftime and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free >Victoria recorded 847 new local cases on Saturday, the highest number of daily infections for the state since the pandemic began, beating last year’s peak of 725.Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Jeroen Weimar admitted he was “extremely worried” about the implications if Victorians breach measures to celebrate the AFL Grand Final.The Covid-19 commander warned Victorians if they go rogue, it could set the state back when they’re so close to freedom.“I’m extremely worried that large numbers of Victorians will say tonight, ‘Well, just for tonight we’ll all get together and have a good night out and we’ll take our masks off and we’ll scream and we’ll shout and we’ll have a good drink’,” Weimar said.“And as a result of that, in six, seven days down the road, we’ve got another big cluster of cases, and another big step up in our infection numbers.”In an attempt to promote Covid-safe behaviour, the official Victorian Department of Health Twitter account posted on Friday: “Whether you barrack for the Dees or the Dogs we can all kick a goal this AFL Grand Final by getting the COVID-19 vaccine and staying COVIDSafe to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community. Remember to follow the current restrictions in your area and leave home only for permitted reasons.”The tweet was accompanied by a graphic titled “Celebrating the AFL Grand Final”, which featured a collection of checkpoints for Victorian footy fans:– Celebrate with your household– Call a mate to heckle them– Don your club colours– Belt out your team’s anthem– Whip up your fave snacks– Go all-out on home decorationsAs expected, it didn’t go down very well with Victorians.Australian Olympian Tamsyn Manou wrote: “Who writes this stuff! So out of touch … heckle a mate and whip up snacks. Our GF is in Perth. It sux. No snacks or heckling or donning of colours can change that cr***y feeling that the MCG will be empty tomorrow.”Former Boomers coach Brendan Joyce posted: “I expect our good taxpayers $ paying for this rubbish too! Arrogance & patronising.”Sports reporter Bernie Coen tweeted: “Is that serious? Whoever gave that the go ahead in Vic Gov should be embarrassed … not to mention a waste of money coming up with that condescending rubbish.”Channel 10 journalist Stephen Quartermain called it: “Condescending c**p which has been dished out ad nauseam.”Western Australia was hit by another Covid-19 scare this week, but thankfully it will have no impact on the AFL Grand Final.On Friday, authorities revealed a woman tested positive after flying into Perth from NSW without a valid travel pass this week.WA Premier Mark McGowan said fellow passengers on the woman’s flight were in quarantine and there was no expectation Saturday’s footy decider would be affected.The first bounce of the AFL Grand Final is scheduled for 7.15pm AEST.With Natalie Brown and Andrew McMurtry
The Demons are looking to snap a 57-year premiership drought, having not won a flag since 1964 — coincidentally the same year Tokyo previously hosted an Olympic Games.Watch Fox Footy‘s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, halftime and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free >Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are hoping to replicate their fairytale 2016 run by winning the flag from outside the top four.What time is the AFL Grand Final?With the match being played at Perth’s Optus Stadium, the first bounce will take place during the twilights hours of Saturday evening at 5.15pm local time, or 7.15pm AEST.Here’s what time first bounce is around the country:Melbourne – 7.15pmSydney – 7.15pmBrisbane – 7.15pmPerth – 5.15pmAdelaide – 6.45pmHobart – 7.15pmCoverage of the season finale will commence on Channel 7 and 7HD from 2pm AEST.Meanwhile, Fox Footy will be running a full day of football coverage beginning from 2pm through to 11.15pm. You can also watch a replay of the Grand Final on Fox Footy from 11.15pm.What is the Grand Final pre-match entertainment?The official festivities begin at 6.15pm AEST, including the pre-match entertainment and the performance of the Welcome to Country and national anthem.Last week, the AFL announced the line-up for the match day entertainment, including a half time performance from Perth-based alternative rock group Birds of Tokyo alongside the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.This year’s pre-match entertainment is loaded with West Australian talent, including John Butler, Eskimo Joe, Abbe May, indie phenom Stella Donnelly, Men at Work’s Colin Hay and Young Australian of the Year Baker Boy.The Waifs’ Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn and Indigenous duo Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse will also feature.Mike Brady’s iconic performance of “Up There Cazaly” will once again be beamed into the venue from Melbourne due to Covid-19 restrictions, while Noongar cultural ambassador Richard Walley will conduct the Welcome to Country.
SANFL: One of AFL's top draft prospects Jason Horne-Francis has impressed many after a shining performance in his team's Preliminary finals clash against Glenelg.
Fans are counting down to the opening bounce of Melbourne’s clash against the Western Bulldogs tonight as the Demons look to break an agonising 57-year wait for a premiership.Taking place in Perth for the first time, the AFL Grand Final will start at 5.15pm local time — which is 7.15pm AEST.Watch Fox Footy‘s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, halftime and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free >How to watch the AFL Grand FinalThe AFL Grand Final can be watched on free-to-air channel Channel 7 and 7HD from 2pm.The match can be live streamed on 7 Plus, but only with the following devices:Apple TVTelstra TVFetch TVSamsung Tizen (2019 or later)LG 2017Android TV/Google TV (but only on Smart TVs or with a Set Top Box)PlayStation 4PlayStation 5Importantly, you will not be able watch the contest on desktop, tablet or mobile devices.You also can’t use a Chromecast to cast the AFL Grand Final to a television.Footy fans outside of Australia can watch the action on Watch AFL, featuring a special subscription price of AU$40 to stream the Grand Final. Watch AFL can be used on phones, tablets, desktop, Chromecast, Airplay or the Apple TV app.Meanwhile, Fox Footy is running a blockbuster day of football coverage beginning from 2pm through to 11.15pm. You can also watch a replay of the grand final on Fox Footy from 11.15pm.The official pre-match festivities begin from 6.15pm, including the pre-match entertainment and the performance of the Welcome to Country and national anthem.
Print it out, stick it up or take the sweep with you wherever you’ll be watching the Dees and Doggies battle it out to become the 2021 Premiers.DOWNLOAD THE SWEEP HEREHow to download your Grand Final sweep poster:Click the download link aboveOnce the page has opened, right click to saveSave to your computer or to a USBPrint at home or professionallyDownload your 2021 team posterShow your team colours and download your 2021 AFL team poster.Ultimate guide to Advertiser grand final special editions and souvenirsAs the granny heads interstate yet again, the Advertiser has you covered from first bounce to final siren. Here’s what’s coming up.
On Friday, the high profile Channel 7 presenter said he wanted to see the crowd of 60,000 at Optus Stadium stand and applaud in a supposedly kind act towards the rest of the country doing it tough with Covid-19 restrictions.Zempilas posted on Twitter the crowd was being asked to applaud for one minute during the first quarter to show their fellow Australians the state was behind their compatriots in places like Victoria and NSW as they continue to deal with lockdowns.Watch Fox Footy‘s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, halftime and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free >“(At) 20.21 in the first quarter, we’re asking everyone in the stadium to stand for one minute and applaud — a nod to our friends around the country who are doing it tough & to let them know we’re with them in this difficult time,” Zempilas tweeted to his 20,000 followers. “Let’s do it WA.”The tweet prompted an immediate backlash from fans, with many of the hundreds of comments laughing off the proposal.An overwhelming amount of replies to 7AFL’s Twitter post on the same subject were also completely against the idea.Later that day, Zempilas appeared on Channel 9’s Footy Show Grand Final Eve Telethon to further promote the idea.When asked if the gesture was still going ahead, Zempilas responded: “I think we are. I realise it has been received in a mixed way, but let me tell you, the intention is pure.“The intention was just to show everybody around the country that we‘re thinking of them, that we’re with them, we know they’re not doing it as well as we are over here, and if we can lend a hand and lend some support, that is all. Nothing more complicated than that.“But we’re thinking of everybody in Victoria. It’s a difficult time we know, and we’re going to put on a special grand final.“Paul Hayes rang me last night and said, ‘Why don‘t we do something?’ And I said, ‘All right, I’ll float it on the radio.’ “We did that on Triple M this morning, people said, ‘Why don’t we all stand up at 20 minutes and 21 seconds in the first quarter?’ It was an organic idea. It is just stand politely applaud, show our support, 60,000 Western Australians, to say to everybody around the country, we’re thinking of you. We’re with you. We know you’re doing it tough. We hope you’re putting on a great show for you. Nothing more complicated than that.”AFL Grand Final gestureOn Friday, sports reporter Catherine Murphy posted in response to Zempilas’ tweet: “Please. God. No. Can we just stop the week. #NoBasilNo.”Radio announcer Dave Higgins also blasted the proposal: “It truly is the most tone deaf idea I have heard of. I bet the people voting yes are from WA. Hearts in the right place, but please, don’t do this. It’s cringeworthy.”Western Australia is hosting the Grand Final for the first time as a result of the AFL being forced to move the game from its traditional MCG venue for the second consecutive year as a result of the pandemic.Perth’s Optus Stadium will feature a festival-like atmosphere in the lead up to Saturday night’s decider between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons.The official pre-match festivities begin from 6.15pm, including the pre-match entertainment and the performance of the Welcome to Country and national anthem.The AFL last week announced the line-up for the match day entertainment, including a half time performance from Perth-based alternative rock group Birds of Tokyo alongside the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.This year’s pre-match entertainment is loaded with West Australian talent, including John Butler, Eskimo Joe, Abbe May, indie phenom Stella Donnelly, Men at Work’s Colin Hay and Young Australian of the Year Baker Boy.The Waifs’ Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn and Indigenous duo Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse will also feature.The Demons are hoping to snap a record 57-year premiership drought while the Bulldogs are hoping to replicate their fairytale 2016 run to the premiership from outside the top four.
Of empty streets. And few gatherings, notwithstanding the menace of bogans in high-vis.At the Whitten Oval, a family of cyclists takes happy snaps under the fluttering scarf of Ted Whitten’s statue. Down Barkly St, where poles are wrapped in Doggies colours, other cyclists take photos of the Keep Calm and Go Doggies sign.At Conway Fish, where the Bulldogs’ 2016 flag win is emblazoned on the proud owner’s wall, a handful of patrons hunker against the wind gusts. That’s right, just another day in Melbourne.Where authorities urge locals to use spare time to get vaccinated.Where colour and vitality fades to the latest grim tidings, from rabbles without a cause to the odd earthquake.Where ordinary people ponder breaking the law just so that they can watch the footy with a mate.WHERE TO GET YOUR GRAND FINAL SOUVENIRSWhere the only numbers are cases and deaths and vaccination targets.And the heroes of the moment lurk in intensive care wards, such as at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where staff don club colours to announce their allegiances.It’s not supposed to be like this. Not again.For the second year running, Melbourne has forfeited its biggest street party. As we well know, a COVID capital cannot also be Football HQ.At the start time of the usual grand final parade, a lone footy fan, wearing a St Kilda cap, stands where throngs normally clump to wave to their stars.Even the Australian flags at 1 Macarthur Place appear to be languishing.You get a car park right outside the MCG, which has never happened to anyone, ever.No one huddles under the statues of Melbourne’s Norm Smith and Jim Stynes outside the ground. At least their bright scarfs liven the grey, both of sky and heart.Meanwhile, about 3500km west, people in Perth are milling for free mullet haircuts and the picnic hype.They bask in what used to be uniquely ours.Two of the oldest Melbourne clubs will play in Saturday’s grand final, somewhere else, just as two Victorian teams played elsewhere last year and we were grateful that they were playing at all. When the Western Bulldogs won their first flag, in 1954, the Whitten (then Western) Oval rocked for the week preceding. Brass bands featured, as did a women’s football match – between the so-called Cuties and the Explosives.When the Demons won their last flag, in 1964, its fans mirrored the optimism of the Doggies a decade earlier. More flags would follow, they accepted.But it didn’t go this way. The winning Bulldogs captain from 1954, Charlie Sutton, didn’t get to count club premierships: instead, he counted great grandchildren.Until five years ago, and the unlikely premiership of 2016, the club’s then 90 years of survival was shrunk into 120 minutes of glory, as narrated by Sutton.Sutton’s elbow ran into the head of Melbourne captain Ron Barassi early in that pre-television grand final. “They run into me,” he said, repeatedly, of those early match muggings until he died in 2012.Barassi, at Melbourne, assumes the same role that Sutton long shouldered at the Western Bulldogs. His tales of triumphalism have had to float a club long loaded with debt, failure and inexplicable unluckiness.Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight reveals 2021 Premiership posters ahead of the grand final game between Melbourne and Western Bulldogs football clubsTonight will be different to the Demons’ other flag tilts, and not only because the grand final entertainment is said to feature footage of health workers and patients in Melbourne intensive care wards.It will be played in front of 60,000 fans. Melbourne will wear the navy shorts of a home game. But only a fraction of the crowd will be barracking with the depth of hope and anxiety that only lifelong Demons’ disappointment can generate.The Bulldogs have travelled 10,000km on their finals odyssey, a resurgent force after late season stumbles. But they are not the sentimental underdogs.A win for them would trigger talk of a footballing dynasty, whereas a Demons win will snuff the so-called (dare we say) club curse which predates decimal currency. One of these teams, the grittiest of an uncertain season, will anoint new heroes tonight.Will Gawn stand beside Barassi, as Easton Wood rose to stand alongside Whitten and Sutton five years ago?Will it be Jack Viney (Melbourne) or Lachie Hunter (Bulldogs) who ventures into premiership glory where their football-playing father could not? Such questions distract from the restrictions of a Covid culture. Of helicopters which monitor, as opposed to celebrate, the crowds below. And cordons of police, gloved in rubber, who protect the city’s precious monuments. We may live in a city where what you cannot do matters more than what you can.But there are no limits to the imagining. If you think about the footballing possibilities, as we always do at this time of year, does it matter that the 2021 grand final will feel like just another day in Melbourne?
It’s a world far removed from today’s sports media landscape where Daisy Pearce, AFLW star and AFL commentator, will make history tonight when she provides special comments on Channel 7’s broadcast of the Grand Final, becoming the first woman to do so on the game’s biggest day.But before there was Daisy there was Dixie.Watch Fox Footy’s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, halftime and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free >Dixie Marshall, a WA native, was the first woman to feature in a football telecast when she was a boundary rider for Channel 7 in the late 80s.Aged 24 when she moved to Melbourne to report from the sidelines each Saturday, it was a baptism of fire for Marshall who, by simply doing her job, angered crowds, fans, viewers and even a league coach or two.Marshall this week reflected on her stint in Melbourne, recounting VB cans thrown at her head from over the fence, being spat on and signs in the crowd that read “Dixie, show us your t**s”.There were furious letters to the editor, a jammed talkback line at radio 3AW, death threats and even a bomb threat at Seven’s South Melbourne studios.“It caused a lot of controversy, I quickly learned it was something out of the ordinary, it was pretty heavy going the first six months,” Marshall said.“For me, on TV, I believed that I was there because Channel 7 had just won the football back from the ABC and they wanted a different flavour which was ahead of its time, let’s be frank.“But it was very much positive discrimination for me and I was very lucky to ride the wave.“But now I don’t think it is positive discrimination, these women have earned their place and they are just as highly skilled as any man, if not more so, certainly in Daisy Pearce’s case. She’s amazing.“We needed the tokenism in the early days to get underway, but now those days are gone.”Marshall arrived in Melbourne in 1987 and covered football from the following season until 1991.Christopher Skase was network boss at the time and his footy commentators were rock stars. A black stretch limousine would collect them from the studio and take them to the game at Victoria Park, Western Oval or Moorabbin each Saturday.Marshall could name the colour of the carpet in every club’s changeroom because she was used to staring down at it while reporting from a small room of, sometimes, naked men.“At halftime and the end of the game you’d go into the changerooms to get some information from the coaches and that just caused so much controversy. It’s different now the rooms are bigger and have private areas but back in those days it was one room,’’ she recalls.“Many of those players found it hilarious to drop their dacks or run past while I was live to air.“Many people thought it was inappropriate, a woman reporting live from a man’s changeroom. I just needed the opportunity to do my job in the same way that my male colleagues did.”Marshall’s on-air colleagues like Bruce McAvaney, Peter Landy, Sandy Roberts, Drew Morphett and Peter Donegan never played league football but didn’t attract the same criticism.“It was difficult, this notion that I hadn’t played the game so how could I possibly report on it. My colleagues never played the game but it didn’t seem to be an issue,’’ Marshall said.“For me, it was, ‘What would she know about football?’ That was very much front and centre, what would a chick know about sport that would be of any use to an audience?“Of course, a health reporter doesn’t have to be a doctor, a court reporter doesn’t have to be a lawyer, a war correspondent doesn’t need to know how to fire a gun but I was expected to have played.“The feedback was audiences were very cranky.”Marshall was well supported by her television teammates, especially some greats of the game.“It was really the old guys (past champions) Bob Davis, Ron Barassi, Peter McKenna, Don Scott, Bernie Quinlan — the guys you might have thought would be very difficult were very supportive,’’ she explains.“That gave me the cred that, ‘If those guys think she’s OK, then maybe we’ll give her a chance’.“By the time I left it wasn’t an issue and now look at it!”After her stint in Melbourne, Marshall moved on to the newsroom in Adelaide before a decade anchoring the nightly news back in Perth. She would depart the desk to serve as director of strategic communications for the WA government and today is managing director of advertising agency Marketforce.She maintains her passion for the sport as a WA footy commissioner.Decades on, Marshall delights in seeing women working in all facets of football from playing at the highest level, administrating and reporting on it and helming clubs. Grand Finalists Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs both have female presidents.“There are women everywhere and in very, senior leadership positions, at football clubs themselves,” she said.“It’s been a terrific shift.”
The Western Bulldogs star has exploded on the football field to become one of the best midfielders in the game this year, but it is in cyberspace where the 20-year-old has really taken off. Watch Fox Footy’s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, halftime and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Start your free trial >He will step onto the Optus Stadium turf on Saturday night in Perth as the third-most followed AFL player on Instagram. With 272,000 followers, only Dustin Martin (338,000) and Lance Franklin (334,000) have more reach in the social sphere. Smith boasts more Instagram followers than 17 of the 18 AFL clubs — behind only Richmond.Smith started the year with 130,000 followers but a series of high-profile headline moments during this season have turned him into one of the biggest stars in the game despite less than three seasons in the league.Smith himself doesn’t get why he has such a strong pull on social media. There is nothing dramatic, sensational or scandalous about the images and content he posts online. norm smithJust an unassuming, hard-working talent that has arrived in the AFL through the very common pathway of a Melbourne private school development system.The mystery may have something to do with the odd shirtless photo he posts showing his well-publicised chiselled frame. It could also have something to do with the ridiculous Billy Ray Cyrus mop on top that makes him one of the most noticeable players every time he steps onto a football field.Smith said at the start of the year he was beginning to receive interest from potential sponsors about partnering with his social media presence. Nine months later, he has ambassadorial arrangements with Cotton On, Monster Energy and Telstra.“It’s certainly humbling but at the end of the day it doesn’t mean too much,” he said of his Instagram allure.“It’s just one of those things that comes with football and some other stuff, so I don’t know.”Recently Smith’s following received a boost of another 20,000 followers after his game-winning major in the semi-final against the Brisbane Lions where he kicked a tough running goal from near the sideline to put his team in front with two minutes to play.The young gun celebrated by roaring at the crowd and proceeding to mimic putting a needle into his wrist, copying NBA All-Star D’Angelo Russell’s signature “ice in my veins” celebration.The Minnesota Timberwolves star liked what he saw and gave Smith a shout out to his 3.5 million Instagram followers when he came across a video of Smith’s celebration.Smith had also previously celebrated a goal by using former New York Nicks star Carmelo Anthony’s signature celebration.It is all part of the tapestry that makes Smith’s “Bazlenka” Instagram identity so engaging for fans.Part of the appeal may also be his thrift-shop hand-me-down fashion sense. Or even the inner-peace he reportedly feels through his Christianity — which includes regular appearances at a church in Malvern.Whatever it is, his teammates never let him forget his quirky place in the football landscape.“They call me either Joe Exotic (from Netflix series Tiger King) and Jackson Trengove calls me ‘Mr Instagram’ half the time in the warm-up at training,” Smith said in an interview with the AFL’s official website last year.“Barry is a new one. I get Barry a lot. That started earlier in the year and that’s probably the most frequent one as a version of ‘Barry Lenka’. I think Billy Gowers and ‘Libba’ called me that.”Smith is reported to be much more than the ragamuffin style footy player most would be quick to judge based on his appearance. Lost in his emotional appearance on the field, Smith is widely referred to as one of the hardest workers in his football club. Following the likes of Marcus Bontempelli ultimately helped catapult Smith into the conversation for All-Australian squad selection. It’s in the finals series where he’s found another gear. He picked up possessions at will against Essendon in the elimination final and his classy touches in the nailbiter against Brisbane are the reason the team progressed to a preliminary final against Port Adelaide.He may well be the reason the Bulldogs are crowned premiers by the time he walks off the Optus stadium field on Saturday night.
But a “random” post from EPL giants Manchester City has left Aussie footy fans baffled ahead of the biggest game on the AFL calendar. Watch Fox Footy’s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, halftime and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Start your free trial >Ahead of the highly anticipated clash between the Melbourne Demons, who are looking to end the AFL’s longest premiership drought of 57-years, and the Western Bulldogs, looking for a second in five years, one of the biggest and most expensive clubs in the world has sent its best wishes.Earlier this year, Forbes ranked Manchester City alongside the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams as the equal 13th most valuable sporting organisation in the world at $US4 billion ($A5.5b), a big price increase, when the club was bought by Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008 for a reported $US385 million.Only five football clubs — and only Manchester United ($US4.2b) and Liverpool ($US4.1b) — in the EPL were ranked higher on the Forbes list.But the defending Premier League champions took to Instagram on Friday to wish both AFL Grand Final teams good luck.The comments that followed were overwhelmingly from fans baffled by where it had come from.Commenters questioned the post, writing “I love It how the AFL official account replied to this. What’s the reason for posting about the AFL GF?” and “wtf why is city posting about our sport”.Sports broadcaster and football expert Daniel Garb took to Twitter about the baffling post.One commenter to Garb’s post said that it was something the City Football Group — who own Manchester City and Melbourne City in the A-League — do for other teams in the group but Garb replied “But this has nothing to do with the City Football Group.”Another pointed out that it was targeted only at Australian Instagram users.Garb’s suggestion that it was a “Charm offensive ahead of the upcoming Four Corners story?” comes ahead of a Four Corners documentary looking into the foreign ownership of A-League clubs including Melbourne City, Sydney FC and the Brisbane Roar and what the ABC website terms “the faceless investors backing Adelaide United”.In a piece of perfect timing, Man City’s clash with EPL ladder leaders Chelsea kicks off at 9.30pm AEST, which will coincide with the latter stages of the AFL Grand Final from Perth.
A 31-year-old South Australian man flew into Perth on Thursday and said he was going to the final between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs. But that evening, police established the man had allegedly been in Queensland two days before he travelled into the state and did not declare his travel from there. He was found in Perth, arrested and charged with one count of failing to comply with a direction. He is expected to appear in court later on Friday. Earlier this week, a 29-year-old Queensland woman allegedly breached hotel quarantine after she travelled to Perth to attend the game on Saturday despite being warned she would not be allowed out of her two-week mandatory isolation in time.She was charged with breaching a quarantine direction.Premier Mark McGowan on Friday revealed WA police had sent back multiple people in the past few days who were not approved to travel into the state.Mr McGowan said a woman from the extreme risk state of NSW flew into WA without a permit and tested positive to Covid-19 on Friday. Mr McGowan said the woman, who has been in hotel quarantine since she arrived in WA on Tuesday, had her G2G pass rejected three times but managed to board a Virgin flight at Sydney Airport.“For some reason, the airline let her on board and we don’t know why because they’re not supposed to,” Mr McGowan told reporters.“I want to stress that at this morning’s emergency management team meeting the chief health officer has advised there is no cause for concern with this case.”Mr McGowan said the woman had tested negative before her flight but later returned a positive result from a compulsory test in hotel quarantine.There were 15 people on the same flight as the woman, all of whom are in hotel quarantine and have returned negative test results.The woman also has two casual contacts who were involved in transporting her to hotel quarantine, both of whom are being tested for the virus.Mr McGowan said most of the contacts linked to a Covid-positive truck driver from NSW who visited WA last week had now returned negative tests.“Forty-seven contacts have now been identified. Of the 13 close contacts, 10 have tested negative (and) results for the remaining three are pending,” he said.Of the 34 casual contacts, 21 have tested negative so far.The WA government has declared Queensland a “low risk” state but travellers must still be screened and must quarantine for 14 days. Visitors from the state must also undergo a coronavirus test within 48 hours of arrival and on day 12 of quarantine.The WA government has considered all of NSW an “extreme risk” since late August, with travel prohibited even for compassionate reasons.Virgin Australia has been contacted for comment.
A dozen years on, and through the prism of a mateship that has outlasted their time as teammates, Trengove still laughs at the first words that Gawn said to him at Casey Fields.“You are lucky to be here, mate,” Gawn joked with new teammate. “If I hadn’t done my knee, I would have been the No.2 draft pick, and you would have been at Richmond.”It was a bold comment from a raw, beanpole ruckman recovering from a knee reconstruction.Gawn had been a speculative draft selection by the Demons – at pick 34 – after missing most of the under-18s season due to his first knee reconstruction. Trengove had been one of the most highly-touted draftees in the country, selected as the Demons’ pick 2.Watch Fox Footy’s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, halftime and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free >The Tigers had pick 3, which they used on a Bendigo Pioneers kid called Dustin Martin.“He just had that confidence from the outset,” Trengove recalled about the young man who quickly became one of his best mates.“You could just tell he did things a bit differently and enjoyed the idea that he was a bit different to everyone else. If anything, he thrived on it.“To be successful at this level, you have to have that inner confidence. Max had some confidence, but it is something he has worked on, too.”Gawn, now 29, will lead Melbourne into Saturday’s Grand Final against the Western Bulldogs as the club chases its first flag since 1964.Fresh from one of the great individual finals efforts, kicking five goals in a preliminary final, Gawn will aim to join the legendary Ron Barassi as a Melbourne premiership captain – the club’s first in 57 years.But his journey from a knockabout kid to one of the most recognisable faces in Australian sport hasn’t been conventional.Nothing about Gawn ever has been.Through the highs and lows, he steadfastly refused to change his personality to fit his vocation – even when he became captain in 2020.Trengove, who left the Demons four years ago, said: “It’s been an incredible transformation … no one would ever have predicted he would be standing where he is today as the captain of a Grand Final team.”Gawn’s long-time mate, TAB’s Nick Quinn, agrees. “You have got a captain who is a bit self-deprecating, who has a bit of fun, but the thing about Max is he just knows when he has to knuckle down.“He has always trained hard and been a good team person, but no one would tell you that they saw this coming … no one.”RAW TALENTYoung giants standing 208cm are rarely hidden gems, but astute player manager Anthony McConville reckoned he found one in 2009.Gawn was at the Sandringham Dragons, but wasn’t setting the world on fire early in the season.“I recall a tall, lanky kid who had this raw ability and I thought there was a huge upside in him,” McConville said. “The question was, did he know that?“I saw flashes of ability … his capacity to get the ball at ground level for a guy of his size and he took some nice contested marks.“I could see his potential and was crystal balling two, three or four years down the track.”Gawn’s parents, Rob and Sandra, came to Australia from New Zealand and his two brothers, Todd and Adam, had also been born there.Max was born in Australia, but did spend some time as a child in the town of Greymouth, on New Zealand’s South Island.“He didn’t come from a typical footy background, and his parents were a little surprised when I told them I thought he could not only play AFL football, but have a successful career,” said McConville, who now heads up Mac’s Sports Promotions.Gawn had suffered a serious knee injury early in that under-18s season.Quinn remembers standing with him at a game that year, asking which players would be drafted.“I said to Max, ‘Who should I be looking at who might get drafted?’ and he was like ‘This guy ... and this guy’. I didn’t even think to ask him about himself because he just seemed so raw.”The Sunday Herald Sun’s Jackie Epstein was at Gawn’s house — along with his family and 20 friends — on draft day, documenting the moment.Gawn’s mum told her, “He used to eat six Vita Brits for breakfast when he was two! He’d have them in hot water and cold milk then he’d follow up by eating his brothers’ toast.”The quirks were there from the start, it seemed.But McConville’s belief in Gawn came to fruition when the Demons called his name out in a draft group of Tom Scully, Trengove, Jordan Gysberts, Luke Tapscott and Jack Fitzpatrick.Melbourne president Jim Stynes, who had only been diagnosed with cancer five months earlier, instantly saw something in the ruck hope.“I can still remember Jim saying, ‘This bloke is a special person’ and he used to always say that when someone is a special, terrific person off the field, that can often translate on the field,” Stynes’ widow Sam Ludbey-Stynes said this week.Stynes presented Gawn with the No.37 he had first worn at Melbourne. A few years after Stynes’ passing in 2012, Gawn would take on the No.11 the Irishman made famous.INTERVENTIONA booth in the back of a cafe in Fitzroy St, St Kilda near the club’s then base at Junction Oval played a role in Gawn’s journey.McConville detailed: “There was a bit of an intervention (around 2010) with a meeting with the recruiter, the coach, the football manager and his father and myself.“It was in a little booth area out the back of a cafe in Fitzroy Street. He got a bit of a, ‘This is where we think you are at, and this is why you are at the crossroads’.“It was definitely a moment.”It was the time that Gawn was caught smoking when he shouldn’t have been, and the impact of his knee issues, a lack of development at the club and even his own motivation levels brought matters to a head.Thankfully for Melbourne, and for Gawn, the penny dropped.The rest is history.Quinn recalled a time when Gawn, Trengove, Jack Watts and Cale Morton were sitting around having a few beers at Trengove’s place.“Max just said: ‘I will be the best ruckman in the comp when I come back (from injury) … I know I can beat every ruckman’,” he said. “He named two ruckmen that he thought might have been better than him at the time – one of them was Nic Naitanui.“They threw up a few ruckmen at him, saying, ‘How would you beat so and so’. Max went on to break down their deficiencies, saying how he would negate them. He said, ‘This is how I am going to beat them’. “This is even before he played a senior game.”The inner drive and innate competitive spirit went into overdrive.TURNING POINTGawn played 26 senior games in his first five-and-a-half seasons.He had recovered from a second knee reconstruction, but by mid 2015 was playing as a forward in the club’s VFL alignment, while Jake Spencer was the first ruckman in the seconds’ side.His talent was there; the opportunity wasn’t.McConville said: “I remember having conversations with Todd Viney … they (Melbourne) weren’t doing Max a great favour at the time. “They were keen on re-signing him. I said, ‘You aren’t going to get a signature until you give him a crack as the No.1 ruckman’. “The following week Todd sent me a text saying, ‘You will be pleased to know Max is starting in the ruck this week’.”Within a few weeks Gawn turned in the breakout performance of his career, dominating in the seniors against Geelong, having 19 disposals, 44 hitouts, kicking a goal and earning three Brownlow votes.Gawn joked in the rooms that he had been “invincible”, which prompted then coach Paul Roos to write “Mr Invincible” next to the ruckman’s name on the white board that week.He has been the club’s No.1 ruckman ever since.Across five of the past six seasons, he has been in the All-Australian team, and he has won two best-and-fairests (2018 and 2019).But what came next might prove his greatest legacy to a club he adores.LEADERJack Viney seemed the natural fit as Melbourne captain with his inspirational on-field performances – until Gawn elevated his overall leadership to a new level.It is a credit to both players that the change of captaincy in 2020 hasn’t shaken the foundations of their relationship.Viney was initially shattered to lose the role. But he has long since moved on, and Gawn has made sure he felt a part of the decision-making and leadership process.Melbourne chief executive Gary Pert said the Demons had built an exceptionally strong leadership framework in recent seasons.“One of the things people have always talked about was that Max was this young character; but what makes him such a good leader is he is now an older, more experienced character,” Pert said.“Sometimes you have a captain of the playing group and other times you can have a captain of the club, and Max has become a captain of the whole club.“He engages with the corporates, the members and the sponsors, and everyone just loves interacting with him.“He knew if we were to be winning finals and playing in grand finals, he needed to evolve as a leader.“Goody (Simon Goodwin) has allowed Max some more space to be that leader and to drive the players.“The leaders have stood up this year. I’m not just talking about Max, I’m talking about Jack Viney, Christian Salem, Jake Lever, Steven May, Angus Brayshaw and Christian Petracca.”Gawn has matured, but he hasn’t changed, even if his life is about to.He and his wife Jess — who remains back in Victoria — will become parents for the first time in the weeks after the grand final.He cannot wait.Gawn won’t just be playing his first grand final, he will be attending his first one.He and some teammates — including Trengove — pledged years ago that they wouldn’t attend one until they got the chance to play in one.“It’s been the hardest week of my life,” Gawn said this week on Fox Footy. “As a skipper and as someone that’s incredibly driven as an (almost) 30-year-old guy that might not be able to get this chance again, I’m dedicating everything to be able to win this flag.“We’ve had some good teams (over the years). The Neale Daniher era in the late ’90s and 2000s, was a really good team; the late ’80s was a really good team. Unfortunately, they didn’t get to hold the cup up.”SuperRacing is backGawn hasn’t forgotten those closest to him, even in the biggest week of his footy life.He organised grand final tickets for Trengove and his fiancee with the pair to fly from Adelaide to Perth on Saturday morning. Gawn will be a groomsman at their wedding in December.“Max said, ‘Win, lose or draw, we’re going to have a drink afterwards’,” Trengove said.Gawn still loves having a good time — that hasn’t changed.But while McConville — who is still his manager and friend after all these years — says he has become “the best version of himself”, it hasn’t come at the expense of his personality.Gawn is proud of that fact.As he said on New Zealand radio this week: “I was injured and I was a real p---- of a kid, an 18-19-year-old who didn’t know what a professional athlete was.“Then, somehow, 10 years later I’ve been able to get some good individual accolades and get the team into a grand final, and I’m captain.“From what I was when I was 18, to where I am now — the best thing about it all is, I’ve been able to stay the person I wanted to be, just Max Gawn, and haven’t turned into anyone else.”
The pre-match entertainment was officially revealed last week, and the line-up is stacked with plenty of homegrown talent.Perth-based alternative rock group Birds of Tokyo will headline the Grand Final’s halftime show alongside the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.Watch Fox Footy‘s massive line-up of Grand Final week coverage on Kayo including live pre-game, halftime and post-game coverage with full analysis from the best team in the business. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free >The pre-match entertainment includes John Butler, Eskimo Joe, Abbe May, indie phenom Stella Donnelly, Men at Work’s Colin Hay and Young Australian of the Year Baker Boy.The Waifs’ Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn and Indigenous duo Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse will also feature.Mike Brady’s iconic performance of “Up There Cazaly” will once again be beamed into the venue from Melbourne due to Covid-19 restrictions, while Noongar cultural ambassador Richard Walley will conduct the Welcome to Country.The Australian national anthem will be performed by Amy Manford, who played the lead role in a West End production of Phantom of the Opera.2021 AFL Grand Final Match Day Running SheetAll times AEST6.22pm – Welcome to Country (Dr Richard Walley)6.29pm – Pre-Match Entertainment Performance (Abbe May, Baker Boy, John Butler, Stella Donnelly, Vikki Thorn, Donna Simpson, Gina Williams, Guy Ghouse, Eskimo Joe, Colin Hay)6.46pm – Pre-Match Entertainment Concludes6.55pm – Umpires enter arena / Delivery of match footballs to Umpires6.58pm – Western Bulldogs enter arena / Team photo7.05pm – Melbourne enter arena / Team photo7.10pm – Premiership Cup Arrival (Glen Jakovich, Garry Lyon and Chris Grant)7.11pm – National Anthem (Amy Manford)7.13pm – Two Sirens / Toss of Coin7.15pm – AFL Grand Final Commences7.45pm – Quarter Time7.46pm – Colgate Grand Final Sprint7.51pm – Second Quarter Commences8.21pm – Half Time8.29pm – Half Time Entertainment Performance (Birds of Tokyo and WA Symphony Orchestra)8.48pm – Third Quarter Commences9.18pm – Three Quarter Time9.25pm – Fourth Quarter Commences9.55pm – Final Siren10.06pm – Post-Match Presentation/Team Photo