Finals Week 1 – Geelong v Richmond: The Tigers need a Hero

 

It is Friday night in Melbourne and the AFL Finals are upon us!

 

Already, we have seen one game. Less than twenty-four hours ago, on a cold and wet night in the city of churches, Adelaide comfortably accounted for Greater Western Sydney, underlining their status as Premiership favourites. They have tasted first blood! The Giants live on, courtesy of their much-coveted double chance.

 

Tonight, the Tigers and the Cats are to meet in what promises to be an enthralling contest on the hallowed turf of the MCG, the traditional home of our native sport, the sacred ground of our forefathers. They too, have a safety net, should it be required.

 

The Geelong team is a battle-hardened unit. They have won three flags in the last decade.  They are perennial finalists. They are winners. They have toyed with Richmond for years.

 

They are led by a courageous captain who will play with a barely-healed broken leg.  His face is scarred and craggy; he wears the visage of a storied warrior. They have the reigning Brownlow Medallist amongst their number. He is fast, powerful and inspirational. These are men made of granite.

 

The contrast with their Tiger opponents is stark. They are young and unproven. On their backs is a troop of monkeys.

 

They have not won a final since 2001, not played in a Grand Final since 1982, not won a Premiership since 1980. Their coach has failed to win in September at three attempts.  Only two Tigers have saluted at the business end of the season, both with other clubs.

 

The weight of expectation is oppressive.

 

Our group assembles slowly, in the fading light of the day, yellow and black scarves worn proudly. We take our place amongst a large and boisterous crowd, a chaotic mass of humanity befitting the occasion.

 

Seventy thousand Richmond faithful welcome the two teams onto the arena with rapturous cheers and ungracious boos. Some twenty-five thousand Geelong fans have made the trip up the highway and they are also present. The noise is deafening and the concrete stands shake, like a small earthquake has hit, like a mighty wave has crashed, like an electric crack of lightning has struck. We shall not be trifled with tonight!

 

A match is struck! Will a blazing fire scorch the earth once again?

 

The game begins and bodies crunch.  Within moments, Jacob Townsend has the first goal.  He is one of several young Tigers who have forced their way into this team in recent weeks, bringing form too good to ignore. A wag in the crowd suggests that he is surely now the favourite for the 2018 Coleman Medal.

 

His teammates bring heat. They chase, harass and tackle. They hold ground. They fight to gain territory. Josh Caddy emerges but his kicking for goal is sloppy and he lets his former team off the hook.

 

Alex Rance shines, showing grit and refusing to concede to Harry Taylor again. When he ducks into an errant knee and is forced to leave the arena for repairs, he shoos away a hapless trainer. His eyes blaze with a fierce determination. This game has meaning.

 

It is difficult to score. Both teams are manic in their attack on man and ball. For Geelong, Dangerfield provides the class and Lonergan repels the Tigers repeatedly. Richmond attack strongly but cannot land blows. A tense first quarter concludes with two posters to the Cats. The Tigers lead by twelve points after a low-scoring quarter.

 

We are shocked when both teams double-down in the second quarter and ramp up the ferocity. This is true finals football. It is pure. There are no cheap touches. There is no luck, no space, no clean ball. There is no pressure valve to release. Scoring goals is insanely difficult.

 

Richmond appear to be on top but the Cats remain dangerously close. When they conclude the half with two quick goals, they are back in the game. Steven Motlop has struggled with the intensity, turning the ball over several times, but his running goal opens the game up.

 

Has the effort of this keenly-contested first half taken its toll?

 

As the Cats claw and scratch to remain in the game, they equalise the score and the stage is set. We have arrived at the moment. It is worthy of a rousing Beethoven symphony, complete with clashing cymbals and soaring strings. Inexplicably, only the words of a stupid Bonnie Tyler song enter my head.

 

The Tigers need a hero!

 

He’s got to be strong and he’s got to be fast and he’s got to be fresh from the fight!

 

He does not ride in on a fiery steed but he IS larger than life. When he runs, menacing art-work and distinctive mohawk dance beneath the harsh light of six mighty towers on a moonless night. His trademark fend-offs are like chest stamps from the door attendant at a Blue Light Disco.

 

With the game in hot dispute late in the quarter, a contest is won, a glorious pass to the imperious Jack Riewoldt is made and a speculative run is handsomely rewarded.  Dion Prestia completes a spectacular team goal.

 

The last quarter belongs to the long-suffering Tiger Faithful. It begins with a 60 metre missile launched straight at the Tiger goals. Shaun Grigg also runs speculatively towards his team’s goal square, knowing who will win the contest. He finds the Sherrin implanted on his chest!

 

As Richmond piles on the goals, we are marched ceremoniously to the river, in single file.  We are immersed and bathed in cleansing waters. Thirty-five years of disappointment is washed away. We are reborn, we are released!

 

When the much-maligned Trent Cotchin gathers a hard ball, spins athletically and kicks a wondrous goal to complete our joy, there is no further doubt that Richmond has once again lit a fire that will scorch the landscape for years to come.

 

All is once again as it should be, as it should always have been.

 

GEELONG        0.4       2.4       4.9       5.10 (40)
RICHMOND     2.4       3.7       6.10     13.13 (91)

 

GOALS
Geelong:
 Motlop, Dangerfield, Parsons, Hawkins, Taylor
Richmond: Townsend 2, Caddy 2, Butler, Vlastuin, Edwards, Prestia, Grigg, Lambert, Castagna, Cotchin, Riewoldt

BEST
Geelong: 
Duncan, Tuohy, Dangerfield, S.Selwood, Lonergan, Smith
Richmond: Martin, Prestia, Rance, Cotchin, Vlastuin, Lambert

INJURIES
Geelong: 
C.Guthrie (calf)
Richmond: Nil  

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stevic, Nicholls, McInerney

Official crowd: 95,028 at the MCG

 

Check out the rest of the coverage from the Geelong v Richmond game HERE.

About Joe De Petro

My favourite period in history began with the Summer of Love and came to a sad end with the birth of Disco. It was from 1967 to 1975.

What was not to like in those days? The Grateful Dead, Creedence, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond and the mighty Tigers won Premierships every other year.

It was a magical time!

Comments

  1. Joe – spectacular recount of the night. The Tigers were way hungrier than the lacklustre Cats.

    Dusty’s kick to Grigg in the goal square; that 60 metre missile that seemed to defy the laws of physics, was probably the best kick I’ve seen in years. Almost as good as a Craig Bradley kick I saw when the Blues beat Geelong in the night grand final (1995?). Unbelievable vision.

  2. Joe De Petro says:

    Thanks, Dips.

    Dusty is too instinctive to have vision. He has a clear mind and does not overthink anything. He just does it.

    Grigg and Prestia on the previous goal showed vision. They knew he would win the ball and what he was going to do with it. They backed their man in.

  3. Peter warrington says:

    yep Dusty in the zone, but his angled work to Edwards and his dink to Butler and especially his one off the left and then follow-up to Townsend (one short but incisive, one long and perfectly weighted) showed me how far he has come this year.

    this is the stuff he was trying last year but he was under too much pressure and he had no runners and no recipients with belief

    haven’t seen it click like that since Maradona dragged his well organised and willing to be led men to the ultimate goal in 86. a giant making lesser men feel they are giants.

    kicks… there was one Buckley did. a MCG bog standard Pies and Blues game, probably 2001 but maybe 3 – we were down there and decided to go (Barnesey and son performed). this kick… under pressure, through a needle, 60m, flat, to Anthony Rocca’s advantage, maybe 30cm to aim at. FMD, I said (we were right in line with it, it was a tracer bullet.)

    I never rated him much, but that -THAT was other-worldly.

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