This was a beauty of an AFL grand final, punctuated by constant high drama and a succession of highlights.
But in the end, the Western Bulldogs’ drought-breaking premiership win came down to something much more matter-of-fact.
The Bulldogs had more players contributing than Sydney did.
It was, put simply, a better team effort.
An AFL maxim holds that the top six players in a team don’t win the flag – the bottom six do.
Asked what went wrong, Swans coach John Longmire zeroed in on it.
“We think we probably needed to work a little bit harder, a little more consistently over the four quarters,” Longmire said.
“We weren’t quite up to the workrate we normally get from our group and probably the Bulldogs’ consistency over their 22 versus ours – we probably didn’t have as many contributors on the day.”
Minutes later, Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was also asked how they had prevailed in such a tight contest.
“In the end we again had the even contribution of the 22 and in big games like this, you have to have that,” he said.
Bulldogs players such as Caleb Daniel and Jake Stringer had quiet days, but they contributed.
Daniel finished strongly after not managing an effective kick or handball in the first term. Stringer kicked a crucial last-quarter goal.
Key defender Joel Hamling played the game of his life, winning some massive one-on-one duels with Swans star Lance Franklin.
At the other end of the ground, high-profile recruit Tom Boyd picked the perfect day to show exactly why the Bulldogs spent so much money to bring him to Whitten Oval.
He took six contested marks and kicked three goals in a command performance.
“Today, when we needed our players to find their very-best performance, he found his in a grand final,” Beveridge said.
Beveridge also heaped praise on his assistant coaches, particularly former Geelong stars Joel Corey and Steven King.
They were in charge of the midfield and at halftime, they had to come up with something.
Swans star Josh Kennedy was clearly best afield at that stage with 22 possessions.
Beveridge said the tinkering that Corey and King did with their midfielders made a huge difference.
Kennedy was still Sydney’s best at the end, but his influence on the game notably lessened in the third term especially as the Bulldogs steadily took control.
Of course, another key factor was the free-kick count – a whopping 20-8 in the Bulldogs’ favour.
It left the Swans seething and Longmire could only laugh ruefully when asked about it post-match.
But ultimately, the game was still there for Sydney to win. Not enough of their players seized the moment.