In a clash between two sides with a history of producing nail-biters in finals, the outcome of the second qualifying final between West Coast and Collingwood at Optus Stadium on Saturday was always going to be shaped by a few key moments.
The first AFL final at Perth's new 60,000-seat Optus Stadium did not disappoint the record crowd of 59,585, forced to the edge of their seats from the first bounce to the final siren after a game of unrelentless pressure and drama.
- Stutter works for strutter Liam Ryan
Conjecture on how the 21-year-old rookie would handle his first AFL final was put to rest early with Ryan throbbing around the forward 50 contests and looking dangerous. A missed 25m set shot deep from the boundary was preceded by a new Josh Kennedy-esque stuttering run-up, which Ryan wasn't afraid to try again minutes later after marking from outside 50m, sending the ball post-high through the middle and the Eagles to a 12-point quarter-time lead.
- JK finds touch late
After missing the past five matches it wasn't surprising dual Coleman Medallist Josh Kennedy was rusty early, dropping several pack marks he'd normally nab. But after a quiet first half and three consecutive behinds in the third term, JK finally kicked truly with just minutes left in the quarter from his preferred pocket on the 50m boundary line, giving his teammates much-needed momentum which they carried through the entire final quarter comeback.
- Lewis Jetta brings the house down
He was late to the game but not the party ... but the last time ex-Swan Jetta sent Eagles fans into a frenzy he was enemy number one after berating them for booing Adam Goodes with a spear-throwing war dance after a goal at Subiaco Oval. Three years on and the West Coast faithful could only worship the WA-born 29-year-old after he intercepted a Taylor Adams handpass and seized his moment, baulking and sidestepping the Pie to snap truly from 40m and give the Eagles the lead (and fans a slightly-less offensive Cristiano Ronaldo celebration with just minutes left).
- Darling goals then stalls for time
Moments after Jetta's magic and Jack Darling, as always playing in front, clutches a mark from a scrappy Mark LeCras kick and takes 30 seconds off the clock before converting from 30m for his second goal. The 26-year-old then marks strongly 55m out from the very next foray forward, using up another 30 seconds before kicking into the man on the mark ... then earning a free kick from the ensuing play-on, helping wind the clock down further again and ending hopes of a miracle from the Magpies.
- All you need is Gov
He was scratchy early but West Coast's intercept machine finished the first quarter with seven intercept marks in a typically robust performance, the highlight a passage of play late in the final quarter when the 26-year-old bravely ran backwards with the flight of the ball to a one-on-one inside 50m, which he managed to spoil before copping an accidental knee to the head and earning a free kick, which eventually led to another West Coast goal.