Sydney win AFL Grand Final

Sydney Swans trump Melbourne's Hawthorn Hawks to win second premiership title in an epic final at the MCG.

    Sydney win AFL Grand Final
    The Swans kicked the last four goals of the game to overturn an 11-point deficit in the last quarter [GALLO/GETTY]

    The Sydney Swans twice came from behind to upset the Hawthorn Hawks by 10 points and claim their second premiership in seven years in an Australian Football League Grand Final thriller on Saturday.

    The 99,683 fans packed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) proved once again that Australia's native sport has no domestic rival when it comes to pulling in the crowds.

    They were treated to a dramatic topsy-turvy contest that was only decided when defender Nick Malceski kicked a goal with 34 seconds remaining to seal a 91-81 victory.

    It was a second title for the Swans, formed in 1874 as South Melbourne Football Club, since they moved to take up residence at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1982.

    "That's what our group is about," Sydney's Adam Goodes, twice a winner of the Brownlow Medal as the best player in the league, said in a pitchside interview.

    "No matter how hurt you are, no matter how bad you are playing, you can always give something for the team ... and that's what got us the win today."

    High drama

    The Hawks, the 10-times champions who hail from the Aussie Rules heartland of the Melbourne inner-city suburbs, were pre-match favourites and led after the first quarter.

    The Swans surged into the lead in the second on the back of a run where they outscored the Melbourne-based side 48-2, only for the Hawks to hit back with a purple patch of their own.

    Sydney again went on a run of scores and erased an 11-point deficit to tie the match up at 78-78 with a little over eight minutes of drama remaining.

    Canadian Mike Pyke, the first North American to take part in a Grand Final, had an excellent game in the ruck to complete his remarkable transformation from a rugby union international.

    The AFL is widely regarded as the best run league in Australia's highly competitive professional sports market and is in the first season of a five-year, $1.30 bn TV deal.

    Some 2.6 million tuned in for last year's AFL final but this year a figure closer to three million could be on the cards with Sydney's involvement giving it added appeal in the nation's most populous city.

    Analysts estimate the contribution of the Grand Final to the Australian economy runs into hundreds of millions of dollars when ticket sales, tourism, advertising and the spend at bars and liquor stores are taken into account. Comparisons have been made to the NFL's Super Bowl in North America, but that still tells the story only in the southern states.

    Australia is very much a divided nation in sporting terms and despite the inroads made by the Swans - 57,156 turned up at Sydney's Olympic stadium to watch their semi-final win - the East Coast remains rugby league turf.

    In much of New South Wales and Queensland, Saturday's match at the MCG would have been viewed, if watched at all, as an appetiser for Sunday's National Rugby League Grand Final between Sydney's Canterbury Bulldogs and the Melbourne Storm.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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