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Saturday September 22 at Optus Stadium



In 2016, the Western Bulldogs were the fairytale story of the AFL. The Doggies captured the imagination of all AFL fans as they came from nowhere to break a 62-year premiership drought. And in 2017 the Richmond Tigers won their first premiership since 1980. Now the burning question in 2018 is whether the Melbourne Demons can break a title drought that stretches back to 1964.

This is a team riding an incredible wave and with ruckman Max Gawn in supreme form they will head west confident of taking down an Eagles outfit which has lost just three matches at Optus Stadium all season – to Sydney an eternity ago in round one, to Essendon in round 14 and the Demons in round 22 – a win which Melbourne players say gave them the belief they could go all the way in 2018.

“It’s probably just a confidence thing, breaking through that mental barrier and beating a good side,” said forward Tom McDonald as he addressed the media on Sunday.

“We had beaten good sides, we beat sides like Adelaide, who were top four when we played them and beat them, so we knew we could.

“Once we broke through against West Coast, the mentality of the group was, ‘we can win in the hardest stadium in the country to play in, and beat one of the best sides, then why can’t we do it against anyone else?’ I think it was a mental breakthrough for a few guys.”

Belief is a powerful weapon come finals time and the Demons have it in spades after McDonald, Jack Viney and Christian Petracca led them to a resounding win over the Hawks.

Viney, the man FFF focused on in the lead-up to the semi-final, had 27 possessions and seven clearances to again prove he is the man for the big occasion while Petracca had 22 disposals and seven inside 50s.

Both men will be critical again if the Demons are to break down a West Coast defence led by the genius of intercept king Jeremy McGovern and midfield supremo Elliot Yeo, who is coming off 36 disposals and nine inside 50s in the week one win over Collingwood.

When it comes to contested marks, the Eagles and Demons have reigned supreme in 2018, so the stage is set for an epic battle. Shannon Hurn and McGovern finished the home and away season in the top five for marks so you know they’ll get plenty of it and if the Eagles can get on the back of that and feed their power forwards and feed off the frenetic crowd then they can progress to their first grand final since 2015.

If Gawn dominates the ruck and Melbourne’s midfield gets on top then Simon Goodwin’s men will be one step closer to joining the Bulldogs and Tigers in the Fairytale Hall of Fame.




Dynamic duo Jack Viney and Clayton Oliver will cause the Eagles plenty of headaches at Optus Stadium.




These are the players from West Coast and Melbourne whose stellar deeds this season earned them a spot in Fit For Footy’s weekly tributes to the leaders who inspire by their deeds and the gut runners who simply never give up the chase.




Melbourne: Michael Hibberd (rd 5), Clayton Oliver (rd 19)




West Coast: Liam Ryan (rd13)

Melbourne: Tom McDonald (rd 9)



Liam Ryan is coming off one of his best games of the season in the win over Collingwood in week one.