It was billed as the clash between the formidable Riewoldt cousins; Nick for St. Kilda and Jack for Richmond.  Established superstar Nick opposed to speeding comet Jack. While nobody expects Richmond to seriously challenge St. Kilda tonight, there is an intriguing subplot as to who will have the most influence upon the game.

Halfway through the first quarter Jack flies against two opponents. He almost reels it in with one hand before crashing backwards into the turf. He lies there motionless while play continues. Tiger fans have their hearts in their mouths and see the entire season flashing before their eyes. Is it his shoulder, his knee? Jack is assisted to his feet by trainers. He staggers like my children used to do after I had whirled them around on my office chair. Now they are teenagers. We stare at the replay together and recoil as we witness his head bouncing off the grass as he hits terra firma. It’s a knockout.

Jack’s finished for the night, and so are we. The contest between the cousins is over before it really begins.

The Saints already have three on the board and we are yet to have the two fingers raised for us. Milne is tormenting  second-gamer Reece Conca and has two on the board. McGuane is unable to cope with fellow Queenslander Nick, who bounds around the arena like a blonde giant wearing seven-league boots. All of the St.Kilda playmakers – Hayes, Goddard, Del Santo, Gram and Fisher – are directing traffic, accumulating possessions at will and feeding the ball to leading forwards. They threaten to amass their entire score of the previous week’s game against Geelong by quarter time of this one.

Somehow, the Saints contrive to waste shots at goal and the Tigers scramble a couple of majors. They trail by only 14 points at the break. Where are the goals going to come from? Jack’s on another planet and Andrew Collins was traded to Princes Park in the summer.

Jack bounds onto the field at the head of the Richmond coaching staff and interchange players. The fans let out an approving roar. He’s coming back on!

Early in the second term we are treated to an animated discussion between Jack and the medicos. There is plenty of arm waving and gesticulation on Jack’s part before he is forced to don the dreaded red jacket. He is finished for the night and about to be replaced by young substitute Brad Helbig.

We console ourselves with the thought that we would have taken it right up to ‘em if Jack had stayed on the park. With this new and unexpected state of affairs there is little shame in being walloped by the previous year’s Grand Finalist when your gun forward is back in the holster for the duration.

Then something unexpected happens. The Richmond match-ups start to work. Deledio eclipses Goddard and begins to weave his way into the game. Jackson reins in Hayes. White prevents Montagna from cutting loose. King snaps and snarls, says some nasty things and stops Fisher from rebounding from defence.

Dustin Martin is assigned to the re-jigged forward line and snares a couple. Jack’s replacement boots his first goal in the big time. The Tigers land five of the first six goals and finish with seven for the term. They make their way to the sheds at half time with a thoroughly deserved seven-point lead.

The Saints have had enough. They attempt to tighten the coils and asphyxiate the young upstart Tigers. They lower their defensive grid and the game becomes a series of rolling skirmishes in Richmond’s forward half. Like waves crashing against sea cliffs the Tigers attempt to breach the defences. Nahas and King try to find a way through the middle with some death or glory charges. The Saints lure the Tigers into cul-de-sacs and try to catch them on the counter attack. Lenny Hayes goes down with a knee injury and is carted off the field. Saints supporters around us expect the worse. The Tigers are unable to break through. Nick is starved of opportunities and doesn’t lay so much as a finger on the ball for the entire quarter. It’s three points the difference in Richmond’s favour at the final break.

The last stanza is full of drama as the lead keeps changing hands. Nick taps one through from the square after seizing the spillage from a marking contest. He participates in a gang tackle on McGuane, who desperately handballs it through for a rushed behind. Outrage! He is pinged for deliberately rushing a behind and Nick goals from the free. It may be the only free kick paid for this so-called infringement for the entire year. Scores are level. Milne boots another despite protests that the ball was touched. Minutes later in time on, with the Tigers up by a point, Grigg marks within range. He just  misses. Blake runs onto a beautifully weighted kick from Goddard and pops it through to put his team  up by four points at the 25-minute mark.

The clock ticks by to thirty minutes. I resign myself to defeat, until the young man with a radio earpiece next to me casually remarks that there are still three minutes to go. Three minutes! Hope rises as the news is passed around. Jackson snaps truly at the 32-minute mark to put the Tigers up by two points! Hit the button! All we have to do is win the centre clearance and bottle it up at our end. But it is the Saints who win the pill. First-gamer Daniel Archer, from Clarence in Tasmania, Jack’s old club, launches an attempt and misses by a mile. One point in it! Newman kicks out, the Saints win the contest and Milne marks on the lead. Just like he did in the drawn Grand Final, Milne stands on the cusp of history. He shanks his kick and scores are level. He has four goals seven for the night. Newman smothers an attempted shot at goal and it is Luke McGuane, mercilessly run up and down the MCG all night by Nick, who is standing in the right spot in front of the goals. He gathers the ball and hacks it out of harm’s way.

The siren blares with the teams locked at 95 points apiece.

Jacks strides onto the field again. He’s about to pat his disconsolate teammates on their rumps and shake the hands of his adversaries.

But first things first. He heads to Nick and sombrely offers his hand.

See ya next time Cuz.

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