Schache’s performance was as disciplined as it was unexpected, with the forgotten forward on the scrapheap in the first half of the season when he was out of the team and staring at life out of the AFL.
When he kicked a stabilising goal in the third quarter it was just his sixth touch, but as a disruptor of Port’s plans his game was sublime as the Bulldogs were too good for Port when the ball hit the ground.
And it was there that the Bulldogs’ midfield strength overwhelmed Port Adelaide, the home team’s over-reliance on Ollie Wines and Travis Boak highlighted as Jackson Macrae, Bontempelli and Liberatore hunted the ball with ferocious intent. Their clean hands found Lachie Hunter, Smith, Adam Treloar and Josh Dunkley in space, leaving their startled Port opponents grabbing at air and struggling to breathe.
Every contested ball went their way as they led the count by 31 at three-quarter-time, with the half-time margin of 58 points remaining the same at the final break. The eventual margin didn’t matter as they were in their second grand final in six seasons after starting on the back of the finals grid again.
It was hard to believe it was a final as the Bulldogs ran away from stoppages with ease.
The only people Port would have pleased were South Australia’s health officials as they socially distanced as if following instructions to keep away from the ball and their opponents.
It was a shattering blow for their coach Ken Hinkley and Port Adelaide who have now been involved in three preliminary final losses together and must be losing faith in each other.
But their post-mortem will be confined to their state as Victorians celebrate the prospect of a grand final between the two best teams for the season, who were in first or second spot for 36 weeks combined in 2021.
The Western Bulldogs and Melbourne are one win apiece against each other and were combatants in the 1954 grand final before both became perennial cellar-dwellers in the early ’80s.
Both are coming off comfortable preliminary final wins and contain midfields that go deeper than a goblin shark.
The Bulldogs will be in quarantine for a week, stacking the odds against them again. It’s exactly how they like it.
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