Grand Final – Adelaide v Richmond: The Little Things


Richmond v Adelaide
Saturday 30 September
Melbourne Cricket Ground


Much has been written of Richmond’s unlikely ascension to the premiership throne. Amongst the hyperbole and hubris can be found fascinating sociological and ethnographic observation. For me, three specific moments encapsulate Richmond’s season, and the glory of its unexpected victory.


Early in the third quarter, Richmond’s half-forward line. Jacob Townsend jostles for possession in a pack of players. Erstwhile sages of the game talk of winning the contested ball count. Townsend has the ball, then loses it. An Adelaide player, maybe a Crouch brother or Richard Douglas, purports to evacuate the pack with ball in hand. Townsend makes the second effort, and the Crows forward move is repressed.


Recruited from GWS at the end of 2015, Townsend is emblematic of Richmond’s dire 2016 season. He was brought as a hard-tackling midfielder, part of a tactical plan that would clear a path down the middle of the field, through which Richmond players would stream with pin-point passes to Riewoldt, Martin and Deledio. Townsend played only a handful of games. At best he was going to join a long list of supporting notes to the widely-debated proposition: Richmond Can’t Recruit.


But now he’s symbolic of Richmond’s miraculous 2017 renaissance. As a reward for consistent VFL effort, Townsend was named as the replacement for another mature-age recruit, Josh Caddy. Barely a month later, and with over a dozen goals to his belt, Townsend has become a critical link in Richmond’s stapled-together forward line. He hits hard, and often. When Townsend went the crucial second tackle, the game was in the balance. Coaches love that stuff. Players respect that stuff. And you can be sure Townsend’s effort was annotated in the minds of the people that counted.


Mid-way through the fourth quarter. The game is all but won for Richmond. Adelaide is watching a premiership fade from view; the skin of Richmond fans is red from frequent pinching to awake out of what must surely be a dream. The ball is deep in Richmond’s forward pocket. A ball-up is called. Sam Jacobs, one of Adelaide’s better players on the day, but lacking the support he desired and required, trots in for the bounce.


Throughout the year Richmond’s forward line has, superficially, seemed underdone. Riewoldt is the only genuine tall, Griffiths is injured and Vickery is lost on Glenferrie Road. Into this apparent void has stepped the mosquito fleet of small forwards: notably, Butler, Castagna, Lambert and Rioli. The umpire asks who Richmond is nominating for the contest. There’s a furtive exchange of glances from the Richmond players.


Bizarrely, it’s Daniel Rioli who presents. In the Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali incensed George Foreman fury when he began leading with a straight left, a tactic that suggested Ali bore Foreman absolutely no respect. Here, Jacobs is befuddled. Rioli jumps and makes a fist of the event. But it’s all symbolic: Richmond is so confident of winning it can nominate one of the smallest players on the field against the tallest ruckman. And again it’s the forward line that does the work. They can do anything, these guys.


Deep in time-on in the fourth quarter. The game is over. Richmond is going to win. Dan Butler takes a mark 40 metres out deep in the same pocket where Rioli practised his ruck skills. Butler has had a good day without being dominant. But like his fellow mosquito fleeters, he’s chased and tackled like there is no tomorrow. Which, figuratively, there isn’t. Butler walks back and kicks what South Australians would describe as a checkside punt. With a perfectly constructed parabolic arc, it splits the goal, a party trick from a Thursday night training session.


There were plenty of other moments in the game more memorable of highlight reels – Rance’s diving spoil, Bachar Houli’s running goal, Nick Vlastuin’s mark fading back into the pack against a careering Tex Walker. But sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most.


Richmond 16.12.108
Adelaide 8.12.60

Best –
(Rich) Houli, Rance, Martin, Lambert, Prestia, Edwards.
– (Adel) B. Crouch, Laird, Jacobs, M. Crouch, Sloane, Atkins.

Goals –
(Rich) Graham 3, Riewoldt 2, Townsend 2, Martin 2, Caddy, Houli, Grigg, Lambert, Castagna, Prestia, Butler.
– (Adel) Sloane 2, Walker 2, Betts, Greenwood, B. Crouch, Cameron.


VOTES. 3. B. Houli 2. D Martin. 1 A. Rance


More 2017 Grand Final coverage 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. steve todorovic says

    I loved your piece, Patrick. As a crusty old Tiger who still remembers Royce Hart’s mark in the final quarter of the 1967 GF, I thought you brilliantly summed up the things that made the team so strong this year. As you said, so many more also. Kane Lambert’s courageous mark in front of the members stand at the start of the last quarter and then his brilliantly weighted kick to Jack, who went on to kick the absolute sealer. Townsend again, in the 2nd quarter when he buried Matt Crouch over the boundary line with intent and was then happy to take on Brad as well. The skipper’s desperate lunge tackle on Douglas as he was about to kick the ball deep into the Crows forward line from the opening bounce of the 3rd quarter. We’ll have those beautiful memories for life. Thanks again for making us aware of them. Enjoy the next 12 months as a bloke whose team is the reigning premier and the benchmark of the competition!

  2. Peter Warrington says

    all these and more. Towna’s crunch on Crouch stands against their gang-heckle of Nank in the first quarter. one talks; one does…

    I watched Broad closely too. There were about 5 instances in the 3rd quarter where he got a hand on the ball or stifled the Crows’ clearance. small, massive wins.

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