AFL grand final: Melbourne Demons celebrate with fans at Forrest Place
A sea of red and blue flooded Forrest Place this morning as around 1500 exuberant Melbourne Demons supporters gathered to hail their premiership heroes.
Fans still basking in the afterglow of yesterday’s drought-breaking flag began arriving from 9am to watch a replay of the historic Optus Stadium grand final and by the time the Demons players arrived around 11am both the courtyard and the terrace were heaving.
Melbourne legend Garry Lyon – MC for the occasion – began proceedings by thanking the people of Perth for being “absolutely superb” throughout the build-up to the match and on the night itself.
“The Melbourne Footy Club team behind me want to show their appreciation for your support over what's been an unbelievable campaign and it culminated last night in the most extraordinary circumstances,” he said.
Club president Kate Roffey said 2021 marked the beginning of a new era for her club and that the Demons were now “back at the very epicentre of the AFL world”.
Melbourne chief executive Gary Pert said while the MCG was always his club’s first choice of venue “I want to focus on the people that have been supporting us here in Perth”.
“During a tough game the noise you made and the support for the players made such a difference,” he said.
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Those players – some looking a little worse for wear after a night of celebrations – then took centre stage, introduced one at a time by Lyon to wild cheers from the crowd.
Norm Smith medallist Christian Petracca was greeted with a deafening roar but was outdone by talismanic skipper Max Gawn, whose appearance sparked spontaneous chants of “Gawny”.
The ruckman described the outpouring of support for his team in WA as “incredibly special” but said he was looking forward to taking the premiership cup back to Melbourne – after a couple more days of partying – on Thursday.
“We feel for a lot of our Victorian supporters in Melbourne left behind, but this is crazy, this is a real good turnout today.”
Gawn said Bayley Fritsch’s six goals – the most in a grand final since 1997 – was a highlight of last night’s rout of the Western Bulldogs but revealed his favourite moment came immediately after match ended.
“The best part by a country mile is when that final siren went and you see Jake Melksham, Jayden Hunt, Majak Daw and all those boys who just missed out running onto the field and wanting to share that moment,” he said.
The ceremony concluded with two stirring renditions of club song “Grand Old Flag” before the playing group was swamped by fans seeking autographs and selfies.
Among the crowd was lifelong Melbourne supporter Tom Vlahos – waving a flag twice his size – who was backing up after helping to hold the banner the Demons ran through ahead of yesterday’s grand final.
“The Demon Army is just absolutely incredible and it’s something that I will never forget for my whole life.”
Dylan and Karla Sutton and daughters Summer, 5, and Emmie, 2 were also at last night’s game after securing tickets through Melbourne-based members unable to attend.
“We were very lucky and very, very grateful,” Mrs Sutton said.
“I never imagined we’d be able to go and see a winning grand final in Perth. Optus Stadium was amazing, you couldn’t fault it and the show was unreal.”
Quinn Vistisen and Margaux Nisseron said they were on the edge of their seats during until the final quarter when Melbourne finally ran away with the game.
“As an invested fan, it was nerve-wracking. You can’t relax until the final siren.”
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