MELBOURNE, Australia -- "What a game! What a game of Australian rules football!"
You might remember these words being bellowed 13 years ago by former Channel 10 commentator, now Match Review Officer, Michael Christian, after Sydney's Nick Davis single-handedly dragged his side back from the brink against Geelong in the second semifinal of 2005.
It had been a low-scoring scrap to three-quarter time at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but Davis seized the moment and become an instant hero, booting four final-quarter goals -- including the go-ahead major with less than 10 seconds on the clock -- to sink the Cats in a game that no football fan could ever forget.
Football was great then. Oh, how it was great. But it most certainly still is now.
Christian's fitting words could quite easily have been repeated as the final siren sounded at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday afternoon. West Coast had just clinched a fourth premiership after producing a remarkable comeback of their own, turning a 29-point second quarter deficit into a pulsating five-point victory in front of 100,022 mesmerized fans.
It was one of the greatest Grand Finals of all time. An instant classic that had everything from momentum swings to jaw-dropping goals, ferocious pressure and tackling to heroic individual contributions -- Luke Shuey, take a bow. Oh, and what about Dom Sheed's ice-cool set shot that put the Eagles ahead by four points with less than two minutes left on the clock? That clutch, spine-tingling and ultimately life changing moment will be replayed for years and years.
That match was further proof that the game of Australian rules football is in a wonderful place right, despite what the AFL and its Competition Committee may have us believe.
Since the beginning of the season, both AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and operations manager Steve Hocking have been obsessed with potential rules changes. Among the suggestions are centre-bounce starting positions, expansion of the goalsquare from nine to 18 metres and reducing the interchange cap.
They hope the changes would reduce congestion around the ground, increase scoring and improve the overall quality and spectacle of the game. But the notion that low scores equate to mediocre football is simply untrue. At halftime in the Grand Final, Collingwood led West Coast 39-27, yet just about everyone was left spellbound after an enthralling opening hour.
At times it was being played at breakneck speed while in other periods it was more contested. That's how the game goes and that's what hundreds of thousands of people love about it.
As the old adage goes; why change something that isn't broke?
The past three seasons in the AFL have been some of the greatest in the history of the game. Competitiveness, particularly in the top half of the ladder, has been at an all-time high as the jostling for finals berths and position has often come down to the final game of the home and away season.
We've seen six different grand finalists and three different premiers in the past three years, all of which were seen as long shots to rule the AFL at the beginning of their respective flag-winning seasons.
Player skills, strength, fitness and endurance continue to improve. The stars of the game are shining brighter than ever, proven by a number of remarkable individual seasons. Geelong's Patrick Dangerfield set a new benchmark in 2016 when he polled 35 Brownlow Medal votes before Richmond's Dustin Martin raised the bar to 36 just 12 months later. This year, Hawthorn's Tom Mitchell claimed the award after collecting more disposals in a season than any other player before him.
Ultimately it's the fans who decide how good the game is and in 2018 they made their thoughts known by setting a record for the highest attended season in history. 7,595,165 fans poured through gates around the country -- and in China -- while the finals series alone had 700,395 in nine matches, also an AFL record.
The AFL's heavyweights don't need to make sweeping changes in order to justify their sizeable pay checks. The game is truly wonderful as it is and the vast majority of fans want it to remain untouched.
Sure, there's going to be scrappy and underwhelming matches from time to time -- just like any other sporting league around the world -- but it's no reason to panic and start browsing the rule book for a quick fix.
Instead we should cherish the game -- low-scoring scraps included -- and celebrate the magic it brings. This year's Grand Final alone should be enough to put things on hold.