Sydney dreams of an all-Sydney 2016 AFL Grand Final evaporated on Saturday, as the Western Bulldogs saved Victorian pride by getting the better of the favoured Greater Western Sydney Giants.
Fewer than 22,000 of the Giants’ supporters were fit to find their way to Spotless Stadium, where they saw their side lose by six points, 89 – 83.
In the other preliminary final, the Sydney Swans, who had somewhat slipped off the radar due to all the attention being lavished on the Giants, sent the Geelong Cats into an earlier-than desired conclusion to their 2016 campaign by a 37-point margin, 97 – 60.
Since the AFL adopted the final eight system in 2000, this marks the first year that the teams that won in the qualifying finals round did not advance to the Grand Final.
Despite attendance on only 21,790 at Spotless Stadium, it proved to be the largest ever turnout for an AFL game at that venue, indicating that perhaps more than a few of the spectators might have been expecting to see a rugby game.
Television viewership for the game, however, ranked as the number two most watched non-Grand Final game of all time. Well over two million TV fans saw the Doggies qualify for their first Grand Final since 1961.