AFL finals: Capacity Optus Stadium crowd set for Melbourne, Geelong preliminary final

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Eliza ReillyThe West Australian
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Melbourne fans celebrate.
Camera IconMelbourne fans celebrate. Credit: Paul Kane/via AFL Photos

A crowd of 58,599 turned out at Optus Stadium to watch Max Gawn inspired Melbourne book their place in the 2021 grand final by spanking Geelong, the fourth-largest crowd in stadium history.

Coming in behind West Coast’s three finals against Collingwood (2018 elimination), Melbourne (2018 preliminary) and Essendon (2019 elimination), the crowd also marks the largest between two neutral teams in Perth.

Boasting two young and talented Sandgropers in Luke Jackson and Trent Rivers, footy neturals overwhelmingly sided with the Demons.

Gawn, who kicked five goals including four in the third quarter, received a custom ‘Gawny’ chant from the boisterous Perth crowd, spectators even starting a mexican wave late in the final quarter.

Nervous and anxious before the game, Melbourne supporters started flooding into Optus Stadium well before bouncedown.

But even despite star defender Steven May suffering a hamstring injury in the first quarter, the Demons’ nerves quickly subsided with a five-goal to one first term.

Tickets for the clash sold out just hours after going on sale, with Perth embracing our finals festival after more than 44,000 turned out to watch the Cats roll Greater Western Sydney last week.

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But the pressure remains on the Demons as they attempt to end their 57-year premiership drought.

Melbourne also overcame a scarring preliminary final belting in style, their last venture into the final four, at the same venue where they failed to kick a goal in the first half against West Coast in 2018.

A young Demons fan ready for the game.
Camera IconA young Demons fan ready for the game. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

The nervous Jackson and Rivers families were some of the first at Optus Stadium, unveiling a specially designed Bandwagon Bus featuring larger-than-life stencils of their boys.

“Wear your mouthguard,” was the advice from Jackson’s mum Melissa after her son lost his two front teeth against Brisbane a fortnight ago.

Melissa & Steve Jackson (parents of Luke Jackson) and Sam & Darryl Rivers (parents of Trent Rivers) have urged neutrals to jump on the Demons Bandwagon.
Camera IconMelissa & Steve Jackson (parents of Luke Jackson) and Sam & Darryl Rivers (parents of Trent Rivers) have urged neutrals to jump on the Demons Bandwagon. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

While it’s hard to split the fanatics from the pseudo fans, the sea of patrons building outside Optus Stadium appears to be in favour, gleaming blue and red.

Fremantle indie-pop band San Cisco will provided a local flavour for pre-game entertainment.

The Cats appeared relaxed as they left their accommodation at Fremantle’s Tradewinds Hotel this afternoon, led by star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield.

Patrick Dangerfield on his way to the game.
Camera IconPatrick Dangerfield on his way to the game. Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

The Demons got a pre-match boost with their non-playing squad members allowed to attend the match after originally believing they’d be forced to miss.

Players spent the morning shooting hoops to calm the nerves ahead of the blockbuster clash.

Melbourne Demons players are spending their last day of quarantine at Joondalup ahead of their preliminary final match against Geelong tonight. .
Camera IconMelbourne Demons players are spending their last day of quarantine at Joondalup ahead of their preliminary final match against Geelong tonight. . Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian, - Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian

Former Melbourne coach Neale Daniher showed off his pre-game get-up, with the Demons chasing their first grand final berth since he was at the helm in 2000.

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