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Dee inspired by haunted grand final memories

The 2021 AFL grand final is finally here and Richmond – for the first time since 2018 – are not contending for the premiership cup.

After a season which saw a host of clubs return to interstate hubs, close contacts of COVID-19 positives miss games and matches pushed back a day at the 11th hour, Melbourne are set to meet the Western Bulldogs in the league’s showpiece event.

It will be the first time in VFL-AFL history the grand final has been hosted by Western Australia and just the third decider played away from the MCG. Victoria’s Waverley Park held the the 1991 grand final between Hawthorn and West Coast, which the Hawks won by 53 points, and The Gabba in Brisbane was the venue for Richmond’s 31-point triumph over Geelong last season.

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As Melbourne, this year’s reigning premiers, shoot for their first flag since defeating Collingwood by four points in 1964, the fifth-placed Bulldogs will contest for their first premiership since trumping the Swans by 22 points in 2016.

At what time will the grand final start?

The opening bounce of the grand final between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs is set for 7:15pm AEST on Saturday, September 25. The match will get underway at 5:15pm AWST, making the grand final a twilight game for locals and a night match for those in Australia’s eastern states.

What is the venue for the grand final?

The AFL grand final will be played at Perth Stadium.

Head-to-head

This season:

Melbourne defeated the Western Bulldogs 13.9 (87) to 8.11 (59) at Docklands Stadium in May. The Bulldogs then beat the Demons 13.7 (85) to 9.11 (65) at the MCG in July.

Last meeting in a finals match:

Melbourne haven’t played the Western Bulldogs in a finals game since the Dogs’ Footscray days, with the Demons winning 21.18 (144) to 9.11 (65) in a 1994 semi-final at the MCG.

Last meeting in a grand final:

Footscray beat Melbourne 15.12 (102) to 7.9 (51) in the 1954 grand final. The Bulldogs broke a 62-year premiership drought in their win over the Swans in 2016.

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Finals form

The Demons couldn’t have asked for a much easier route to the grand final, with first-placed Melbourne beating Brisbane by 33 points in their qualifying final and downing Geelong by 83 points in a preliminary final.

Having lost their last three games of the regular season to slip from the top four, the fifth-placed Western Bulldogs were tasked with winning four finals games to take out the flag. They began with a 49-point thumping of Essendon in an elimination final, pipped the Lions by one point in a semi-final marred by umpire controversies and obliterated Port Adelaide by 71 points in a preliminary final.

What they said

Melbourne defender Jake Lever on how his preparation for this year’s grand final differs to his lead-in to the 2017 decider with Adelaide, in which Richmond defeated the Crows in an upset:

“If you look at 2017, I think Adelaide was probably the favourites going in and you almost start to imagine what it’s like and everything like that. For me I’ve really tried to stay in the moment this time.”

Western Bulldogs backman Caleb Daniel on how this year differs to 2016:

“It’s a completely different team, completely different personalities within the team, so we’re trying … to write a new story, write our own story.”

Odds (by Sportsbet)

Melbourne $1.64, Western Bulldogs $2.26.

Key stats

Melbourne are set to feature in their 17th grand final, from which they’ve won 12 and lost five. Victory against the Western Bulldogs would put Melbourne level with Richmond and Hawthorn, who have both won 13 premierships. Essendon and Collingwood lead the pack with 16 grand final wins, and Collingwood are running third with 15.

The Bulldogs, in taking into account their Footscray history, are set to compete in their third grand final. The club has won the only two deciders it’s contested. A win over the Demons would draw the Bulldogs level with the Brisbane Lions on three premierships.

Who will umpire the grand final?

Matt Stevic (426 games, 48 finals), Brett Rosebury (457 games, 46 finals) and Jacob Mollison (281 games, seven finals) have been revealed as the umpires for the grand final. While Stevic and Rosebury are both set to officiate a ninth decider, Mollison is on the cusp of his grand final debut.

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Grand final tickets

Tickets have sold out. The 60,000-seat capacity stadium is set to be flooded with attendees.

Recent grand final history

2020: Richmond 12.9 (81) defeated Geelong Cats 7.8 (50)

2019: Richmond 17.12 (114) defeated GWS Giants 3.7 (25)

2018: West Coast Eagles 11.13 (79) defeated Collingwood 11.8 (74)

2017: Richmond 16.12 (108) defeated Adelaide Crows 8.12 (60)

2016: Western Bulldogs 13.11 (89) defeated Sydney Swans 10.7 (67)

2015: Hawthorn 16.11 (107) defeated West Coast Eagles 8.13 (61)

2014: Hawthorn 21.11 (137) defeated Sydney Swans 11.8 (74)

2013: Hawthorn 11.11 (77) defeated Fremantle 8.14 (62)

2012: Sydney Swans 14.7 (91) defeated Hawthorn 11.15 (81)

2011: Geelong Cats 18.11 (119) defeated Collingwood 12.9 (81)

2010 (replay): Collingwood 16.12 (108) defeated St Kilda 7.10 (52)

Grand final entertainment line-up

The pre-game entertainment will once again see Mike Brady perform his iconic Up There Cazaly remotely from Melbourne, just as he did last year when the grand final was hosted by The Gabba.

The pre-game entertainment will also feature a host of Western Australian artists, including John Butler, Eskimo Joe, Abbe May, Stella Donnelly and duo Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse, as well as sisters Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn from Australian group The Waifs.

In addition to that pre-game entertainment, Men at Work lead singer Colin Hay will perform with 2019 Young Australian of the Year Danzal Baker, also known as Baker Boy.

The half-time entertainment will then see The Birds of Tokyo perform alongside the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. The Birds of Tokyo featured in the AFL’s pre-game and half-time 2013 grand final entertainment.

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