Finals Week 1 – Geelong v Richmond: The rough diamond


Geelong v Richmond

2nd qualifying final

Friday September 8

Melbourne Cricket Ground


GEELONG        0.4       2.4       4.9       5.10 (40)

RICHMOND     2.4       3.7       6.10     13.13 (91)



In his masterly study of cricket and colonial rule, Beyond a Game, Trinidadian cricket writer CLR James begins his narrative with the tale of two young batsmen. The first, Matthew Boardman, is seen by many as a ne’er do well. James’ church-going parents are offended by Boardman’s unkempt appearance and unruly behaviour.  But for the young James it’s the “grace and style” of Boardman’s batting technique and the elegance of his flashing cover drive that is significant. A few years later there is Arthur Jones, whose unimpressive appearance belies a cut shot that leaves on indelible mark on James.


James was fascinated by the contradiction between the beauty of Boardman and James as cricketers, and the socio-economic limitations imposed on them by class and colonial structures. It’s possible to see something of Dustin Martin in Matthew Boardman and Arthur Jones.


To the naked eye, Martin has always been something of a rough diamond. AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan is a perfectly coiffed product of the rural squattocracy, by right of birth destined for corporate success. Martin’s wears a 10cm-wide Mohawk and had neck tattoos by the age of 21. McLachlan’s uncle was a Commonwealth Government cabinet minister; Martin’s father is unable to watch his son play by force of the current Government’s draconian immigration rules.


Along with his 21 teammates, Martin took to the field on Friday to a roar that resembled a jumbo jet warming up on Tullamarine Airport. This was Richmond’s fourth final in five seasons; perhaps incongruously if you don’t follow football, for the non-Richmond supporter base (and some Richmond supporters too), Richmond went into the game as the underdog. The best football article of 2016 was a piece written in The Guardian in the aftermath of Richmond’s humiliating defeat by West Coast. Never before has there been a more acute analysis of the pain and hope of the modern-day Richmond Football Club.


For the past few seasons Geelong has had the stuttering momentum of a sedan that’s seen better days. At its best, it’s a dream on the open road; at its worst a spluttering machine that requires weeks in the garage.


The game started physically, and it was to remain so. Richmond hunted in packs, crunching Geelong bodies like kid slam dancing at LA punk rock gig in 1984. Martin’s first touch is telling. Hemmed in on the boundary line in Richmond’s forward line, the Richmond faithful waited for Martin to invoke his trademark Don’t Argue. For a moment Martin, too, contemplated the show-pony move. Instead, he jammed the ball onto his boot for a two metre kick to Dion Prestia. I’d seen that move before, in a game against Collingwood a couple of years ago, when Martin was pinned by the Collingwood backline and gave off to Brandon Ellis who set up a goal downfield.  This time around nothing came of Martin’s seemingly innocuous effort, but it spoke volumes for his football brain.


Richmond is all over Geelong everywhere but on the scoreboard. When he soccers the Tigers’ first goal, Jacob Townsend’s goal-for-kick ratio is approaching Bradman-esque proportions. Josh Caddy misses one he should have got, and gets another to balance the ledger. Trent Cotchin, in some ways the sociological antithesis of Martin, is everywhere, leading from the bottom of every pack. Rance is winning the contests. The Cats scrape together four points in the term, at least two of which should have been goals. There’s a sense the team is holding onto the game by a fraying thread.


The second quarter starts with a squandering of Richmond opportunities: Caddy, Prestia and Lambert all miss gettable shots. Geelong is still under the pump. Motlop is having a night he’d prefer to forget, shanking kicks like a rusty golfer. Dangerfield is good because he just is, but not because he’s doing anything spectacular. Motlop partially redeems himself with a running goal to break the 55-minute drought. Hawkins is presenting regularly. Tuohy is on the verge of doing something defining. Then on the siren Joel Selwood hands off to Dangerfield who waltzes in from 35 metres, giving the Geelong crowd a genuine feeling of hope.


The third quarter opens with the same ugly style of game we’ve seen for the first half.  Richmond’s credibility in crunch games is wafer-thin, and Geelong knows it. James Parsons goals from the goal square and the margin is under a game. A couple more behinds, and it’s a line ball game. The Tiger Army starts to chant. Shane Edwards misses another gettable shot.  Nathan Broad hits Nick Vlastuin on the chest just inside 50. Vlastuin has the measure and poise of a born leader. My brother sends me a message from the pub in the South Australian country town where he’s watching the game. “Well done to the Wildling”.


And then a portent of what’s to come. Martin is in the centre, threading his way through two flat-footed opponents and firing out a handpass. 30 seconds later Martin’s on the half-forward flank receiving a pass from Kamdyn McIntosh. Martin turns, props, runs to the left of his opponent and drops a flat stab pass on the leading Edwards’ chest. Edwards converts from 30 metres. The crowd starts to rumble.


The pressure is relentless. Hawkins gets a free kick and brings the margin back to seven points. Dangerfield will take a mark running into the pack, thereby filling half of his nightly highlight reel. Tiger nerves are starting to fray. Astbury traps the ball at half-back and kicks wider. Martin pushes Tom Stewart aside like he’s an annoying kid in the playground, grabs the ball takes two bounces and kicks it forward. Riewoldt nudges his opponent, gathers the ball and puts it on Prestia’s chest in the goal square. It’s a 19 point ball game and the Tiger Army is daring to dream.


If anyone can lose a game like this, it’s Richmond. But not tonight. The pressure is relentless: Edwards has lifted 100%, Butler, Rioli and Castagna haven’t had a lot of the ball but they’re still in there fighting. Prestia pushes and shoves, Caddy presents. If Jack Graham steers clear of injury, he could be a champion. Skilled and solid. Martin sets Riewoldt up 10 metres out, but Jack sprays the check-side right of the near post. A minute later Martin is there again, swatting away defenders, miraculously finding space and launching a 45 metre kick to Griggs’ chest in the goal square. Another roar.


Hope is now morphing into something bigger. Lambert’s shot to a vacant goal strays left. Martin gets space and puts the ball on Butler’s chest, who misses right from 25 metres out. Lambert ends up after a string of handballs and kicks over his shoulder. 28 points up. Not even Richmond can lose this. Martin winds through the centre, gives it to Lambert, then, amazingly, gets it back and unloads to the forward pocket where Townsend marks.  With his third kick for the night, Townsend kicks his second goal.


The once running waters of Geelong’s mid-field have stilled. Richmond is a torrent from goal line to goal line. Caddy kicks the Tigers’ fifth in a row and now it’s a waiting game. Rance takes a screamer at half-back, then a minute later a clearing spoil over the boundary line. Against the tide, Harry Taylor gets his first on a tough night out.


The Tiger faithful, die-hard devotees and bandwagon passengers alike, know a preliminary final is safe.  The ball comes down at half-forward, another 50/50 contest. Cotchin has already exorcised the memories of his self-described ‘putrid’ finals performance in 2015. Now he somehow grabs the loose ball, pirouettes and puts the ball on his left foot in one single fluid motion. Vaslav Nijinsky eat your heart out.


Back in the centre Martin breaks three tackles while rolling across the turf, and threads a handball through a maze of bodies. The next thing you know the ball’s on Jack Riewoldt’s chest. Riewoldt converts and it’s a 51 point blow-out.


Richmond won its last final three months after our first child was born. Tonight she’s sitting next to me, having ridden a wild rollercoaster of football emotion for the four years of her Richmond supporting life. “If schools wanted to really teach children how to be resilient they should just make them follow Richmond,” she smiles.


It’s a countdown to the siren. Martin, Cotchin and Rance are on the bench and the proverbial fat lady is warming her tonsils up on Swan Street. On the wing Richmond nails a couple more tackles. And then the siren blows. The Richmond theme song rings out across the greater Jolimont area. Half an hour later we’re still winding our way out of the MCG, the raucous tones of the theme song punctuating each 20 metres of the journey.


After the game the talk is of an even greater glory, a return to the days of yore when Richmond ruled the field.  CLR James never saw a game of Australian rules football. But somewhere James is looking down on the MCG, observing in the game’s manipulation of social, political and economic structures. And revelling in the grace of Dustin Martin, the Matthew Boardman and Arthur Jones of a different age.


Best players

Richmond: Martin, Cotchin, Vlastuin, Prestia, Caddy, Lambert, Rance

Geelong: Duncan, Scott Selwood, Dangerfield, Tuohy



Geelong: Motlop, Dangerfield, Parsons, Hawkins, Taylor

Richmond: Townsend 2, Caddy 2, Butler, Vlastuin, Edwards, Prestia, Grigg, Lambert, Castagna, Cotchin, Riewoldt


Umpires: Stevic, Nicholls, McInerney


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

About Patrick Emery

Patrick Emery was a perennial half-back flanker in his distant football playing days, with pretensions to ruck-rover. He sincerely hopes the drop kick will one day return to its rightful role as the most celebrated of footballing skills.


  1. I was there Patrick. You got it just right.

  2. ah, James. nice get!

  3. Patrick
    I will confess that early on, I was a bit like James’ parents with Boardman in my attitude towards Martin. I just didn’t trust that he’d be consistent and disciplined enough to do the hard yards needed to transform raw potential into what we see today. I’m more than happy to be eating humble pie!

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