Geelong win big in AFL GF's return to MCG

The AFL grand final is back home.

After two years affected by COVID-19, forcing the AFL’s biggest game of the year to move to Brisbane and Perth, the MCG was buzzing again.

One of the most compelling AFL seasons in memory produced a fizzer of a conclusion, as Geelong produced a near-perfect performance to smash the disappointing Sydney Swans and claim their fourth premiership since 2007.

But it hardly mattered with the fear, isolation and pain of the pandemic years becoming a distant memory as Melbourne truly came alive to host its first grand final since the 2019 decider between Richmond and GWS.

There were AFL games played behind closed doors during 2020 and 2021 but the MCG was at 100 per cent capacity on Saturday as 100,024 fans packed into the famous ground.

Everything about the week in Victoria felt like it did before COVID-19 changed the world in March, 2020.

UK pop star Robbie Williams delivered one of the best pre-game shows in AFL grand final history, bringing everything outgoing league boss Gillon McLachlan hoped for, and more.

If the AFL’s entertainment low point is Meatloaf in 2011, Williams was right at the top end with a blistering set of his biggest hits and Delta Goodrem filling in for fellow Australian pop princess Kylie Minogue to sing ‘Kids’.

Williams knew his audience perfectly, giving a tribute to Shane Warne in the first grand final since the MCG’s biggest stand was named in honour of the late Australian cricket legend.

The Cats grabbed a 35-point quarter-time lead – the biggest in a grand final since 1989 – to set themselves up glory.

Star veteran forward Tom Hawkins set the tone by booting the first two goals, both snaps after grabbing the ball at ruck contests.

Things went from bad to worse on a nightmare day for the Swans.

Known for their fighting spirit, Sydney could show little of it in their first grand final since 2016.

Even a Sydney fan had enough midway through the third quarter as a red and white scarf dropped down from the top stand past the media box.

Geelong were led impeccably, on and off the field, by veteran skipper Joel Selwood, who broke Michael Tuck’s record for most finals played in VFL/AFL history.

The 34-year-old is yet to make a call about if he plays on in 2022, but it would be fitting if he signs off with a premiership in his final game after winning one in his rookie season 15 years ago.

A sometimes polarising figure for opposition supporters, even Geelong haters would have been won over by Selwood’s pre-game gesture.

Selwood ran through the Cats’ banner with Levi Ablett, son of Cats legend Gary Ablett Jnr, in emotional pre-game scenes.

Ablett, Selwood’s premiership teammate in 2009 and 2011, retired after Geelong’s 2020 grand final loss but wasn’t able to carry his son, who has a rare degenerative disease, on to the field.

Not everything went perfectly for the AFL, with Friday’s grand final parade on the Yarra River copping its fair share of criticism.

Even Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was up for joking about it at the return of North Melbourne’s famous grand final breakfast.

“Having watched the parade on the Yarra yesterday, to quote a former prime minister, we do need to stop the boats,” Albanese quipped.

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