Neutral football fans appear to have an adopted team for the AFL finals series with Perth-based Melbourne enjoying a ‘home’ preliminary final win against Geelong with a sell-out Optus Stadium crowd firmly on their side.
A crowd of 58,599 packed Perth’s $1.8 billion stadium for the historic match, the first of its kind between two Victorian teams and a record venue attendance for a non-WA team game, a promising sign for the league ahead of the 2021 grand final on September 25.
The experienced Cats were no match for Melbourne, who now earn a chance to end a record AFL premiership drought which dates back to 1964.
If the noise that greeted every Demon goal as they stormed to victory in the second half is any sign, the club will have the majority of neutral football fans in WA right behind them.
The club engaged their WA-based fans on Friday with a special bus service – nicknamed the ‘Demon’s Bandwagon’ – transporting 50 supporters to the ground from Fremantle.
Among them were parents of two home-grown talents – Luke Jackson and Trent Rivers – who have both tread almost identical paths to their first grand final after being drafted from WA in 2019.
Jackson, 19, won this year’s AFL Rising Star for the league’s best young player and developed his trade in junior footy with Bullcreek-Leeming, before playing colts for East Fremantle in the WAFL.
The no.3 selection in the 2019 national draft went to Willetton Senior High School before impressing in his debut 2020 season.