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Western Bulldogs beat Sydney to win AFL Grand Final

Associated Press Associated Press 1/10/2016

MELBOURNE, Australia — The Western Bulldogs produced an emphatic final quarter to beat Sydney 13.11 (89) to 10.7 (67) in the grand final of the Australian Football League Saturday, to claim its first premiership since 1954.

The Melbourne-based Bulldogs trailed 7.3 (45) to 7.1 (43) at halftime but its renown midfield aggression wrestled back the advantage and gave the Bulldogs a 9.7 (61) to 8.5 (53) lead at three quarter time. The Bulldogs dominated the final term, outscoring Sydney 28-12, to break the AFL's longest premiership drought.

The Bulldogs had to come from seventh place at the end of the regular season to reach the grand final for the first time since 1961 and started heavy underdogs against the top-ranked Swans who were bidding for the second title in five years.

Bulldogs defender Jason Johannisen won the Norm Smith medal as the best player on the field, typifying the tenacity of a team which was given little chance of winning the title when it started so far back at the outset of the playoffs.

The 23-year-old rookie had a team-high 33 possessions and a game-high nine inside 50s, leading his team's revival in the second-half just as Sydney seemed to be taking control.

"It's been an amazing ride and I just love being a part of it," Johannisen said. "To all the supporters, it's been a long time coming. We did it."

Tom Boyd, who finished second in medal voting, was also outstanding for the Bulldogs, booting three goals and winning six contested marks. Josh Kennedy came third with a game-high 34 possessions and three goals.

The match was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of a crowd of 99,981.

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge handed his premiership winner's medal to team captain Robert Murphy who missed the grand final with an injury. Murphy was also allowed to lift the trophy aloft with stand-in captain Easton Wood.

The 34-year-old Murphy has played for the Bulldogs since 2000 but was forced to miss the grand final with a knee injury.

"He's the heartbeat of our club. He's our leader," defender Matthew Boyd said.

The Bulldogs, formerly Footscray, led 2.0 (12) to 1.2 (8) at the end of the first quarter but fell behind by two points at halftime. They began their surge in the third quarter and outscored the Swans 3.4 in the last term.

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