Yes, the Melbourne-based AFL media tells us that the Western Bulldogs have been the dream team, the romantic story of this AFL finals campaign — and so they have with their wins over West Coast, Hawthorn and, on Saturday night, the narrow defeat of Greater Western Sydney. But it is one thing for journalists to declare that (in the interests of selling more papers), it’s another to find data that supports the idea of an explosion of interest, not only in Melbourne, but across the country.

Such hard numerical evidence is rarely seen — but the free-to-air TV ratings for Seven’s Saturday night broadcast of the preliminary final told the story. In fact, it was something probably never seen before for an AFL final. The audience for the post-game TV chat was around 50% more than the size of the audience that actually watched the win by the Bulldogs over the Giants. The post-match audience for the game of more than 2.6 million viewers was the top program on TV last week, and will end up as one of the highest this year.

The audience for the game itself was an estimated 1.780 million people across the country — 1.659 million on Seven in regional and metro markets and a further 121,000 on the digital 7mate channel. But the post-match audience was estimated at 2.648 million people — that’s 2.358 million on Seven in metro and regional markets and a further 290,000 on 7mate in both areas. The post-match audience jumped by 868,000 in a matter of minutes as news of the Bulldogs win spread across the country.

It is very rare that there is turn on for the post result chat for a sporting event, let alone one of that size. Usually, the supporters of the beaten team turn off and the size of the audience falls away. Contrast what happened on Saturday night to what happened after the Swans had whacked Geelong. The game itself was watched by an estimated 1.421 million people on Seven’s main channel and 7mate. For the post-game chat, the audience fell to average 767,000 — a drop of around 650,000, and a big difference to what we saw on Saturday night. — Glenn Dyer