Just under two years ago, the prospect of a Sydney v Western Bulldogs AFL grand final was laughable.
One of the most outstanding features of next Saturday’s premiership decider is how far the two clubs have come since some very dark days in late September- early October 2014.
Hawthorn’s first-half mugging of Sydney in the 2014 grand final left outsiders wondering how long it would take the Swans to recover mentally.
It was the sort of grand final loss that wrecks lesser teams.
Then, in early October, the AFL banned the Swans from trading in players unless they agree to end their controversial cost of living allowance.
The same day that news broke, coach Brendan McCartney left the Bulldogs.
The day before, Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen had requested his trade to the Giants.
At least the Swans had just been in a grand final – the Bulldogs had not made the finals since 2010 and were now apparently in freefall.
“I remember sitting through all of that and living it – it felt like everything was spinning out of control, almost,” Bulldogs defender Dale Morris told Channel Seven’s Game Day.
“It was a surreal experience to have everything happening to our football club.
“When it was all happening, I remember ringing ‘Roughy’ (teammate Jordan Roughead) and saying ‘what is going on? What’s happening? What can we do? It’s out of control’.”
The following month, the Bulldogs appointed Luke Beveridge as coach and Bob Murphy as the new captain.
And while it’s a mega-trade that still attracts plenty of scrutiny, the Bulldogs managed to snare former No.1 draft pick Tom Boyd as a trade for Griffen.
“The right people got put in the right positions,” Morris said of the sweeping changes at the Bulldogs nearly two years ago.
“As soon as Bevo walked in through the door, the belief was there.
“The buy-in from the players – Murph as skipper really helped galvanise the group.
“It’s just been an amazing turnaround.”
As for the Swans, they have brought through a crop of exciting young players and not skipped a beat.
After going out of last year’s finals in straight sets, they finished this season as minor premiers.
It’s been another triumph of Sydney’s famed Bloods culture.
The Bulldogs believe. The Swans expect.
And they’re both right.