Finals Week 1 – Brisbane v Richmond: Gabba Gabba Hey



by John Green


Back in 2001 I watched Richmond take on Brisbane in a preliminary final at the Gabba. I saw it on the big screen outside the arena now known as Marvel Stadium. Along with hundreds of fellow Tiger tragics, I had staked a claim to a spot in a queue outside the ticket window where Grand Final tickets would be sold on the following day. If we won through to the decider I had come prepared to spend the night in order to purchase the precious commodity.


But in those days the Lions ruled the footy jungle with formidable teeth and claws. They had already won 14 games in a row and they ruthlessly drew the blood of the visiting Tigers onto the Gabba turf. Brisbane went on to beat Essendon a week later for the first of three flags in a row.


After enduring that crushing defeat fortunes changed for Richmond at the old greyhound track in the suburb of Woolloongabba. The last time that Richmond lost there, back in 2004, was still a victory of sorts. They only went down by 18 points after a massacre was forecast and Jay Schultz had a day out with six goals. The good times commenced in the following year when Nathan Brown gleefully accepted an errant handball from Michael Voss to snap a late winner. It was the first of nine consecutive victories at the Lions’ den. In fact the Tigers were last beaten by the Queenslanders at the MCG back in 2009. That’s 13 wins in a row to Richmond.


The Gabba has become a familiar holiday resort for Richmond players, officials and supporters looking to soak up some winter sunshine. Holidaymakers could listen to The Ramones’ Pinhead on the walkman with the catchcry of Gabba Gabba Hey near the end of the song to get in the mood. Or maybe a touch of Tom Jones. What’s New Pussycat? Have you domestic cats turned back into real lions like you were at the start of the century?


My son and I settle down to watch the match on Foxtel. I haven’t heard such biased commentary since the days when I used to listen to the ABC Perth’s broadcast of Fremantle – Richmond games. Alistair Lynch and Paul Roos are former Lions who desperately want their old side to win. Cameron  Ling clearly hopes that his Cats won’t have to face Richmond in the finals. Ridiculous facts are cited to prove that “History is against the Tigers”. The fact that Brisbane has never lost a home final and Richmond has never won a final outside Victoria – all two of them, in 2001 and 2014. No mention of the recent history of Richmond domination that I’ve already chronicled.


Charlie Cameron was utterly unable to cope with the attentions of Dylan Grimes in the final-round clash at the MCG. The Lions’ response is to bemoan the alleged holding tactics employed by Grimes, complain to the AFL and assure everyone that the umpires are going to be right onto it in the qualifying final. The umpires don’t see Grimes as a serial offender. In 2019 he averages less than one free kick awarded against him per game.


There’s a record Brisbane crowd of over 37,000 in the house tonight as the Lions appear in the finals for the first time in 10 years. Richmond nail two early goals through Riewoldt and Martin. Cameron tussles with Grimes and they twirl in a flurry of arms and legs. Free kick to the Brisbane goalsneak! Then Hipwood bumps Grimes to prove he’s not overawed by the occasion. Grimes goes down, the free kick is reversed and outraged  commentators call for Grimes to be fined as a first response before being hauled before the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.


I had confidently predicted before the bounce that the young Lions would be overawed by the occasion. Yet here they are buzzing around like electrons energised by a rabid home crowd. They miss a few initially before Cameron, Neale, McStay and Rayner find their targets. Brisbane lead in contested possessions, inside 50s and clearances. Grimes controls the air in defence and minimises the damage.


The Tigers trail by 12 points at the first change and my son is anxious. I advise him to reserve his judgement. Richmond players have cultivated a hard edge in recent years. They don’t panic, they support one another and they have the confidence to maintain their plan in adversity. Cotchin lifts the team with some vigorous work in the packs. The Tigers relentlessly increase the pressure on the Brisbane ball carriers and wait to intercept across half back before swarming into attack once again.  Bolton reels in a spectacular mark and pinpoints his pass to Lynch, who duly converts. The Lions are unable to maintain their poise after their frantic opening stanza. Their kicking for goal is outrageously bad – Cameron, Rayner, McStay and McInerney miss simple shots and the home team fails to score a goal in the second term. Cameron has disappeared from proceedings. Rioli seizes the ball off the hands of the pack in a sublime act of forward play and slams it through from the square to regain the lead for the Tigers at the 20-minute mark.


After the half time interval Riewoldt strolls to the goal line without a care in the world singing along to the song on the arena PA.


Edwards and Prestia dominate the third quarter. Martin is like a beast which has emerged from the mudflats of Moreton Bay and stationed itself in the teeth of goal. The Lions have no answer and Dusty boots three for the term. They continue to mangle their shots at goal and the Tigers simply can’t miss. They slam on nine unanswered goals over the second and third quarters before McLuggage finally slots one. Caddy puts the Tigers up by 42 points and Richmond has booked a place in the preliminary final in a fortnight’s time. The visiting supporters are having a ball on a balmy evening in the sunshine state.


Saturday night television becomes more jovial. We ridicule the ludicrous axing of Dusty Martin from the All-Australian team, mock the commentators for making excuses for the home team and scoff when their fans blame their woes on the umpires. They have just cause for displeasure after Martin’s throw to Riewoldt in the pocket is not detected by the officiating umpire and Jack pops it through. They watch the replay on the big screen and smile at their good fortune. The game is theirs already and they know it.


The match is completed, the interviews take place and I get ready for bed. Eighteen years ago Richmond’s losing final against the Lions signified the end of a season’s hopes and dreams. Now it’s a different reality for Richmond barrackers. There’s a preliminary final to look forward to and the imperative to register for Grand Final tickets online this coming Thursday.



BRISBANE         4.6     4.10     6.14     8.17 (65)           
             3.0     7.3     14.4     18.4 (112)


Neale 2, Christensen 2, Cameron, McStay, Rayner, McCluggage
Richmond: Martin 6, Riewoldt 3, Rioli 2, Lynch 2, Caddy 2, Edwards, Bolton, Castagna


Brisbane: Hodge, Zorko, Neale, Robinson, Gardiner
Richmond: Martin, Edwards, Grimes, Prestia, Cotchin, Rioli


Crowd: 37,478



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  1. John
    Your forecast was correct. This was definitely a case of steady old hands prevailing against inexperience and over-exuberance. Richmond should have been 4-5 goals down at quarter time. Only the steadiness of Grimes and Brisbane’s errant finishing prevented this. Sensing that we’d dodged a bullet, the Tigers showed admirable composure to work their way back into the game and dominate after half time. The scoring pattern of the match was remarkably similar to the 2017 Grand Final.

    I’ll also acknowledge that we had a remarkably good run from the umpires, considering the usual fate of travelling teams.

    Grimes and Martin will take the headlines from this game but for mine Edwards was the architect of the win. His third quarter was sublime.

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