Harrison Petty and Kade Chandler preparing for 2021 AFL grand final and a chance to realise football dream

READY: Kade Chandler and Harrison Petty hope to realise their football dream this weekend when the Melbourne Demons take part in the AFL grand final. Photo: Supplied
READY: Kade Chandler and Harrison Petty hope to realise their football dream this weekend when the Melbourne Demons take part in the AFL grand final. Photo: Supplied

From the ovals of Eyre Peninsula to the biggest stage in Australian football, Harrison Petty and Kade Chandler are preparing for the game of their lives.

The duo are within touching distance of realising childhood dreams of winning an AFL premiership when the Melbourne Demons face the Western Bulldogs in Saturday's grand final at Optus Stadium in Perth.

"This is what I play footy for," Petty said.

"It has been a dream since I was five or six in the backyard running around in Wudinna and it would mean the world to me."

The pair have been in Perth since last week with their teammates in preparation for the 2021 season decider, with the Demons hoping to cap a magnificent campaign in which they won the first nine matches on the way to becoming minor premiers, before defeating Brisbane and Geelong in the finals.

Melbourne are aiming to win a first premiership since 1964.

Both Petty and Chandler said there was a mix of nerves and excitement ahead of the big game, but they were looking forward to soaking up the atmosphere in the build-up to the clash.

"The bye helped to settle a few nerves and we've had an extra week to relax and enjoy the moment, but the anticipation is starting to go up," Chandler said.

"To win would mean everything, it is why we play football and is the ultimate goal, the ultimate team success.

"It would be amazing for all involved in the club and fantastic for the supporters as it has been a long 57 years since the last flag."

The Demons missed the finals in 2020, but as the wins kept coming at the start of this season the confidence within the squad continued to rise and the belief they could go a long way grew.

Chandler said he could not put his finger on one exact reason for the turnaround, but said determination, togetherness and spirit had taken the Demons far in 2021.

"It's not one thing, but a sum of all parts - it started with blokes coming back to pre-season really hungry and a lot of the team came in really good condition," he said.

"There was a total buy-in from all players and staff, and we have something we believe in.

"It's a little bit surprising to go so far after not making the finals last year and there's probably an element of good luck with injuries along the way, but we knew we could compete at a high level."

Petty noted there has been an excellent atmosphere around the club, but insisted they never got carried away.

"We started like a house on fire and kept a level head throughout the group," he said.

"We have been grinding away and focussing on the next game, not getting ahead of ourselves."

Roommates in Melbourne, the pair have come a long way from their time in the Mid West Football League and Far West Football League - Petty in the black and white at Wudinna United and Chandler gracing Penong Oval for Western United.

Petty was the first to make the move to Melbourne and made his Demons debut in 2018, before being joined by Chandler a year later.

For Petty it has been a fine season, with 18 appearances and a regular place in the side.

"It was not the start I wanted to have, being in the VFL, but I thought I was putting my best foot forward," he said.

"I was not that angry as the team was playing so well, so I was still happy about that, but once Adam [Tomlinson] did his knee I felt I was in form to play AFL and think I have done well."

Chandler has made five appearances in 2021, calling the season an "unbelievable learning curve".

"It has been challenging at times with the whole COVID situation and not playing a full season of VFL," he said.

"I have learnt a lot travelling with the team, I have been an emergency on many occasions and sat on the bench, and that has given me experience of AFL.

"It has been a positive overall, and great for my personal and professional development."

Both players said they had been in regular contact with the family and noted they were their "biggest support network", especially leading up to such a massive occasion.

Milton Chandler said it was exciting to see his son Kade and Petty be part of the grand final, and he was looking forward to the occasion.

"I told Kade that even if he doesn't play, he'll get the whole grand final experience," Mr Chandler said.

"It would be history-making if they won after 57 years."

Mr Chandler said Kade had done well during the season and continued to do well.

"I'm so glad he is at a club on the rise," he said.

"It is great they are doing well - it is probably unfortunate for him and it's hard for Kade to break through, but he has improved."

Mr Chandler and family members will be driving across the Nullarbor later this week to be at the game.