Underdog story had to be seen to be believed
SO FAIRYTALES do exist. Dreams can come true.
In case you missed it, the Bulldogs proved as much at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday when claiming their second VFL/AFL flag.
And the amount of grit and determination shown by the Doggies was almost matched by the number of superlatives used to describe the result.
Greatest premiership win. Ultimate feel-good story. Emotion-charged result.
You get the picture.
But, while we all got wrapped up in the win over the Sydney Swans as the Doggies did their lap (and-a-half) of honour, in the cold hard light of a new day ... well, it still stacks up as arguably the competition's greatest success story.
It would certainly take some beating.
This was a side that, yes, as we we all knew, was playing in its first grand final in 55 years and hadn't won a flag in 62.
It was also a side that carried the hopes of past players - particularly those who had been part of seven losing preliminary finals in the past 30 years - and a passionate fan base brought together by adversity.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Their ascent to the top has been unprecedented - climbing from seventh on the ladder at the start of the finals, after which they duly won four cut-throat games they were "underdogs" in.
Never been done.
No team had come from so far just to make a grand final, let along won one. Adelaide triumphed from fifth in 1998. Carlton progressed to the last Saturday in September in 1999 from sixth.
The Bulldogs beat last year's runner-up West Coast in Perth, three-time reigning premier Hawthorn in Melbourne, new flag favourite GWS in Sydney and a red-hot minor premier Sydney in Melbourne.
Have we mentioned David versus Goliath?
Yes, the Dogs benefited from a first ever pre-finals bye, but making five changes to their round 23 line-up was actually supposed to unsettle them for the clash with the Eagles.
And while better-credentialled Bulldogs teams had stumbled and fallen, this outfit was the least-experienced grand final winner since the Crows of 1997, with an average of 82.1 games per player.
At the start of the season they were on the 10th line of betting with most agencies to win this year's flag at $18.
And they would have drifted a little further when inspirational captain Bob Murphy (knee) went down with a season-ending knee injury in round three.
They would later lose key defender Marcus Adams (foot), important onballer Mitch Wallis (broken leg) and big forward Jack Redpath (knee).
They didn't have a power forward, which is why they're interested in Travis Cloke (though do they need him now?), or a true ruckman, though one-time backman Jordan Roughead and much-maligned "forward" Tom Boyd have formed an outstanding big-man combination.
The Bulldogs, though, were relentless from that first bounce in Perth three weeks ago to the final siren at the MCG as they tore up the script and rewrote the history books.
The showed both flair and toughness. There was the run of Jason Johanissen, the smothering of Dale Morris, the contested marking of Tom Boyd, the tackling of Clay Smith and the spoiling of Joel Hamling.
Have we mentioned Cinderella story?