Finals Week 1 – Qualifying Final: Richmond v Hawthorn: Dustin Martin, revisited

 

Kevin Bartlett on the Avenue of Legends before the game.

 

“What’s Clarkson got up his sleeve?”

 

The question drifts around the train carriages, the trams, the pubs and the bars of Melbourne. It’s Thursday night, September 6 – the opening night of finals.

 

The Hawthorn barrackers, drawn into the MCG like moths to a lightbulb, might’ve been salivating over an epic tactical stoush, of David pulling the slingshot on Goliath. They might’ve been dreaming of a repeat of Round 8, 2006, when the Terry Wallace-led Tigers played keepings off for four quarters to stun the top of the ladder Crows. They might’ve been hoping for 20 uncontested marks, not to J.Bowden, but to S.Burgoyne.

 

No doubt Alistair Clarkson checked the weather, probably days ago. Rain. Rain will make back-pocket plumbers of them all. This will be a slog, not a tactical stoush. Keep the ball in front, and for God’s sake, keep your feet!

 

There’s a different name on Tiger minds and Tiger tongues, and on the Richmond banner. Dusty – 200 games of him. He’s just primed for September, isn’t he?

 

Trent Cotchin heads to Tom Mitchell at the opening bounce. The ground is wet. The umpires will be throwing it up all night.

 

The opening stab at goal falls to Luke Breust – “He’s a dead-eye dick,” they cry. He misses.

 

Shane Edwards – that would be All-Australian Shane Edwards, he of slick hand and slick foot – finds Jason Castagna on the boundary line. He centres, acutely, unselfishly, perfectly, to the waiting arms of Kamdyn McIntosh, who goals.

 

This is not a night for the high-marking forwards, but Jack Riewoldt defies the slip and the slop to clunk a huge grab on the wing. His kick forward falls to the feet of … Rioli! He kicks as he’s thrown to his right by James Frawley. The finish, heading the other way, sneaks home.

 

It’s a sign of things to come. The sides with those little moments of brilliance, those moments of cleanliness, will be the victor.

 

The Hawks hit the contests and packs just as hard as Richmond, but can’t hit the board in the same manner. When Cotchin catches Shaun Burgoyne high atop the goal square, the man known as “Silk” inexplicably misses.

 

Four moments bring the quarter to its climax. Jaeger O’Meara catches Nick Vlaustin holding the ball on the flank, and gives him a little whack to let him now. Tempers flare on the terraces.

 

They flare further when Cotchin is caught holding the ball by Liam Shiels, and fifty-metres is paid against Dion Prestia for booting the Sherrin away. Shiels finishes, a good get in the conditions. The Hawks are within a kick.

 

They thrust forward again, and Jarryd Roughead is tackled in heavy traffic.

 

“Ball!”

 

“Holding him!”

 

The umpire rules for the latter. The Hawthorn skipper goals to put his side in front at quarter-time.

 

Bodies continue to fly at the footy in the second term – a game of hot potato, rather than one for the purists.

 

Two moments of brilliance define the quarter.

 

The first comes when Rioli gathers, 45 out, on the right half-forward flank. Blake Hardwick is corralling him to the boundary. Rioli glances up and sees open grass. There’s no one between him and the goals.

 

He doesn’t have time to run the maths on this one. He just knows, so he kicks the right-foot bending dribbler. The Sherrin is over the line by a metre when Jack Gunston reaches it.

 

More hot potato – and then, Dusty. He gathers, five metres inside the boundary, running full tilt. He slips Daniel Howe’s tackle, turns the ball in his hands, and sneaks a glance at the sticks. His chest is still facing the boundary when he kicks.

 

The crowd rides the kick. Surely not! It’s close!

In the pocket, Daniel Rioli’s arms are the first to go up. DUSTY! Tribal divisions slip away, just for a moment, as the whole MCG applauds.

 

There’s a sense now that the Tigers have that extra gear, those little flashes of brilliance. Luke Breust repeats Burgoyne’s miss. The Hawks have left a couple out there, and can scarcely afford to. At the half, it’s the Tigers by 14.

 

McIntosh opens the second half as he finished the first, dribbling through a goal – his third. Impey responds for the Hawks, just as you thought they might be in trouble. The mulleted head of Blake Hardwick saves a certain goal, running down Caddy with the goals beckoning. The drizzle continues as Dylan Grimes plucks a freakish one-hander on the wing.

 

Sensing the need for a fresh approach, Hawthorn start to kick caution into the night sky and the ball into the corridor. Sicily’s long, straight kick out is double-fisted back to whence it came by Nick Vlaustin. Prestia gathers, sizes them up, and hits his kick sweetly.

 

The lead, at 22 points, has to go one way or the other now.

 

Burgoyne saves another certain goal, tackling Rioli, who was headed into an open goal. But the Tigers refuse to be denied as the game opens up. Two late goals from Higgins and Edwards see the lead out to 37-points.

 

The crowd’s enthusiasm seeps away in the last quarter. Minds turn to work in the morning, the school drop off, the realisation that it isn’t Friday. The arrival of the junk time torpedo punt is as good a sign as any – this thing is done.

 

At the traffic lights on the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Punt Road, the occupants of a small terraced house light their barbeque, ready to sell snags for $2.50 to the evening footy crowd.

 

On the siren, the Richmond celebrations are joyous, but a touch subdued. There’s more to do, more to be done.

 

After the game, Alistair Clarkson calls the media a bunch of sheep, as he declares that systems, not tactics, win games. And on Swan St, a young boy with the number 4 on his yellow and black jumper takes a bounce. He twirls his footy in one hand, then the other, then feints left. He stops, and just in time! Not a tackler, but a Toyota Hilux. He bounces again, then kicks…

 

Sausage sizzlers on the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Punt Rd after the game.

 

Logjam at Richmond Station.

 

RICHMOND     2.2       5.7     10.13   13.17 (95)
HAWTHORN   2.3       3.5      5.8       9.10 (64)

 

GOALS
Richmond: McIntosh 3, Rioli 3, Caddy 2, Martin, Prestia, Higgins, Edwards, Graham
Hawthorn: Roughead 3, Shiels, Nash, Impey, Mitchell, Breust, Smith

 

BEST
Richmond: Martin, Prestia, Cotchin, Rioli, Lambert, Grimes, Grigg
Hawthorn: O’Meara, Mitchell, Shiels, Smith, Henderson, Sicily

 

INJURIES
Richmond: Rance (left foot)
Hawthorn: Ryan Schoenmakers (Achilles soreness) replaced in selected side by Daniel Howe, Hardwick (hip), Stratton (hamstring)

 

Reports: Nil

 

Umpires: Rosebury, Deboy, Ryan

 

Official crowd: 91,446 at the MCG

 

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About Jack Banister

Journalism student @ Melbourne Uni, Brunswick Hockey Club Men's Coach, tortured Tigers fan.

Comments

  1. Four points from this, Jack.
    1. The contrast in the “vibe” among TLSPRF last night compered with this week in 2017 is incredible. In 2017, the place went off as we finally got the twin monkeys of beating Geelong and winning a final off the back. Last night was so BAU it was almost comatose. One down, two to go.
    2. Nice little barb about All Australian Titch. Can’t believe that his selection copped so much flak.
    3. If Clarkson did give the media a whack, then good on him. I’ve never read so much hot air about tactics to bring down the Tigers and that Al is the tactical genius to do it. Two weeks of this exaggerated navel-gazing is probably the most compelling reason I can think of for abolishing the pre-finals bye.
    4. Glad you included the picture of the log-jam at Brunton Avenue post-game. I’ve only just got home! Metro’s deployment of barriers at Richmond Station rivals Ticketek’s on-sale arrangements for finals tickets!

  2. Peter warrington says:

    Go us!

  3. george smith says:

    No, no, no keep the bye, but put the Brownlow on that weekend! Gets it out of the way, it is a distraction for the 2 competing clubs, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves in GF week. Besides it it a home and away award, like the Coleman Medal.

    Not grumbling because every time Collingwood win it, we end up runner up, but just saying…

  4. As an unbiased observer, admire the tigers, but I dont really like watching them at all, same for Sydney and Melbourne, still love footy, but really not watchable from my perspective, bit ugly!!

  5. Rioli’s goal and then Dusty’s goal were worth a night sitting in a single-use plastic bag. Thursday night footy is not a good idea for people like me who get too excited to sleep. I ended up leaving work early on Friday for a nap and to watch a replay.

  6. Joe De Petro says:

    Great stuff, JB. Always love reading the thoughts of another member of the faithful

  7. Thanks all!

    Stainless – you’re right on the bye. So much time to think. The vibe was down. Felt routine. Strange. All eyes on the Prelim, now.

    Gill – Dad has watched the replay 5 times on my count. Or I’ve caught him with it on at least 5 times!

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