Grand Final – Richmond v Geelong: Dynasties




So this is what a dynasty looks like.


In this moment, in our desire to break a game down, we pick at the edges, we find weaknesses in individuals, in teams, careers, if only to show how much we know. But as the years pile up, all that’s remembered is the gist. The stars, the results. The glory!


How much this team stood above others.


In the decades ahead, we’ll say we were there. We saw it, we barracked. We’ll paint pictures of mystique and wonder, like those before us did of Dyer, Melbourne of the 50s, Coleman, those that were there in ’70 when Jezza soared, starting the impossible.


The next generation will listen in awe.


We. Were. There.


All that’s left, in this moment, as the bourbons sink near midnight, is to break down the here-and-now. Then write up the stories.


The game started with water and bodies on the ground. Too wet for high markers, champions down, concussions and suss elbows.


With Richmond’s centre half back, the vastly underrated Nick Vlastuin out to a Dangerfield forearm in the first few minutes, Richmond got up briefly on adrenaline, but Geelong got 100% on top in the following chaos. Gaps appeared in the reshuffle. Geelong used them.


Scoreboard pressure can be everything.


Once behind, Richmond defenders stopped going for marks, players rushed disposals. The pressure was relentless. They were maybe three goals behind on what they would normally kick if confident. Their strength, their run from defence, was in tatters, slapping it to Stewart, mostly, uncontested, roaming the half back line, mopping up beautifully.


Richmond are a better team, well coached. Their forwards always running up and wide to the wings, leaving the middle free to counter attack. But the defenders have to be cool for that to happen.


With Nick down, it wasn’t. Geelong were 22 points up.


That was the window. The game. The Cats with their foot on Richmond’s throat. Totally.


Scoreboard pressure can panic the best teams in history, turn their game into a deck of cards, setting off a chain reaction of bad decisions and catch up footy that blows out a game entirely.


But, in that window, the Cats kicked point after point that could and should have been goals.


Goals that win premierships.


To this point, Dusty, like with his two Norms before tonight, had barely touched it. But even then, when he did, it was so damn crisp. God! He doesn’t swivel, he snaps around! His thigh strength superhuman. His core strength, feeding his balance, freakish.


Five minutes to go in the term, thanks mostly to little Baker, always clean, always running, the backline was starting to organise again. There was a sniff. And Dusty did the big Don’t Argue!


Some accumulate. For others, it’s about moment. Influence. Geelong had thrown the kitchen sink at Richmond, heart and soul, and Dusty used strength and speed to make space where there simply wasn’t, and kick a goal against traffic, that defied angles.


With one minute 20 seconds to go for Geelong to reach the safety of half time with a good buffer, Martin stepped up, stole the moment.


Then, 30 seconds later, he had anther shot, that didn’t even hit, but so what? The first was now no fluke. Geelong’s momentum was gone. The window gone.


Richmond started winning contests, either side of the break. Getting it out of their backline crisp enough for their taller forwards to make contests. Doing what they do – their zippy flankers and pockets running up ground and wide, making space, denying Geelong their strangling game of making you kick long to packs. Then turning and running onto the ball, creating numbers and they headed, full steam, into packs, towards goals.


There’s the scoreboard, and there’s knowing. There was only two points in it going into the last, but momentum is everything. The body language was telling. Before that, early in the third it was over.


Let’s get this done.


Danger versus Dusty. Both take games by the brass sack. Crush them. But this Grand Final said a lot about how the two play. Danger got more of it than Dusty in the first half, but delivered under pressure. Dusty, when he got it, used it. Used his strength to use it. Every time.


Balance matched by strength. Speed matched by skill. Mostly, his awareness of space. His ability to use his strength to crate two inches, three, no matter the direction, then find the angles or teammates to get it forward.


Force of will, in times and places that should have no place for it.


Norm Smith is not just an award. And worth far more than a Brownlow. You play to win a flag. The Grand Final is the game that counts; when you’re up against the best team, the best players, all trying as if their lives depended on it. As if there was no tomorrow, throwing their bodies at you.


That, is the ultimate test of a player.


How lucky are Richmond? Royce Hart, then this bloke. They must have known something. Number 4. The one club, the best two Grand Final performers in 60 years!


I’m skeptical of hype. Martin didn’t deserve Norm in ’17, Bachar did. But he brought the game home. Then in ’19, he did. Then this year.


Edwards was as relentless as he seems likeable. Baker kept Richmond in it, defensively brilliant, attacking for four quarters, even when they were down – the little bloke with the peacock strut, and more than enough mongrel to justify Mick Malthouse’s number.


Short linked beautifully.


But Dusty, that moment deep in the last he intercepted a handball surrounded by three cats, broke a tackle, pivoted and he snapped on the boundary, for an impossible goal, seeled the game. And won his third Norm Smith, indisputable! Remembered for all time.


In that moment he stepped into bloody folk law!


Richmond would not have won without him. Would have no dynasty. NO tide of history. He deserves that medal. He deserves it all. Every accolade.


Typical Grand Final, the outside players, so good in home and away, struggled. Cotchin, Rioli were all down, as were even more Catters. Lynch and Jack weren’t really there when the game was hot and slippery.


So much of Grand Finals is regrets. You build your life around football, they can, and do, destroy lives. Mitch Duncan stood to tides, made his piece of history.


Harry Taylor went out with his head high, a mistake or two, but spanking Lynch on a night not meant for tall forwards.


Sam Menegola tried to defy the tide, gave it everything. His team down, he ran back with the flight to take the most courageous mark you will see, only to destroy his teammate, knocking Simpson out cold.


I thought Stanley won the ruck in the first half, and got lots of clearing kicks from packs, but Nankervis’ game reflected Richmond’s. He wore him down, getting first hand on it, to rovers, time and again in the second half. Stood in Hawkins’ way time and again, getting solid, boundary-crossing fists on it. He bustled bumped, was a presence. A true game of character. A great win, from a ripper contest!


Hawkins was on players too tough for him to bully. There was no picking them up and throwing them out of the way. I loved that.


Bolton set up a few goals, got a ripper.


Grimes was out-coached by Geelong, his usual influence limited due to being kept away from the play. Only when Danger went looking for the ball deep in the last, at last, the All Aussie full back could attack as is his norm.


Jayden Short stepped up. He was great. Everywhere!


Danger had no influence thanks to Broad, who played the game of his life. Just brilliant. Sometime people look too hard as to why a champion didn’t fire. Sometimes the defender was simply better.


Guthrie started gangbusters, took a screamer, but his influence waned as Richmond started playing the game on their terms.


Rohan was a bit of a front-runner, unfortunately, like in his Sydney days.


Marlion Pickett was fascinating. He runs to the right spots, always, only to look a level below with his options and delivery. But he gets it. And his chase and tackle were second to none. He provided several of the game’s most vital rundowns. Two flags in 20 games, good on him! The fairytale continues!


Prestia shook off goal-kicking demons, and did so when needed most. Like Dusty, it was when he got his goals that was so huge. Vital.


Blicavs, you’re a gun. Tall, tough, fast, organised. But best forget this one, mate. Or use it for redemption.


Collectively, most of Richmond’s goals are ugly and brilliant. Traffic mired, snaps over shoulders. I can’t stress it enough, though, it starts with a clean half back line.


Geelong rely too much shitfights down the line, on the wing, with numbers that stay behind the ball. On Hawkins or Danger winning one-on-ones. Space for them inside the 50.


Liam Baker, you were that link, and instigator. That crisp touch. You’re my underdog of the game. By the length of the yard. But, when it only came down forward once in a horrible quarter, it was Dusty that did what only Dusty can. Belittled his opponent. Took Geelong’s 15 minute window, in seconds, stole it, demanded it, for his beloved Tigers.


Lastly, there was the Little Master. Gary Senior grown up right, Garry Jr. A champion. The player of his era, just as Dusty is the player of now. In the first five minutes he did his wing. They injected his shoulder enough to put a junkie to shame. But take it from me, you can stay out there, show courage, and still not be able to lift your arm. All the juice in the world won’t stop any impact feeling like knives.


Tearing old broken bone and muscle.


Ablett was in incredible pain, down an arm, suspect to the slightest bump, in a Grand Final, when players hit every contest like sledgehammers, with elbows, with bodies, with knees, and never once squibbed.


Every touch he got was as crisp as Martin’s. As crisp as himself, in his prime. The touch of a champion, out-and-out, but not nearly as numerous as they were in his glory.


Stood to tides? He stood to an avalanche. Went out in battered glory.


Character. It’s how some people reach greatness.


But the relentlessness of those touches was gone. It was definitely a good-bye.


Then, after speeches were made and medals given, with one team was running towards tinselled streamers, and Premiership cups photos, and the other sinking into sorrow, the cameras focused on Gazza, without him knowing. The tenderness and love he showed to his child, the way he gently touched his wife’s back while doing so… It was a perfect way to end a football career. A champion’s career.


I did not think, until that moment, I could respect him any more. Mate, you will be missed, Gary Jr.


Meanwhile, the carnival rolls on.


The game was a perfect hand-over. Dusty Martin is what most people will look back on. And righty so. You don’t get three times lucky. By then you just are. We saw an all time great turn a game, create 3 from 4.


Become an all time legend.


In the wash, for 2 ½ to 3 quarters it was a ripper Grand Final, if too slippery to be one for the ages, then blew out. Most of it will be forgotten, but that’s what happens with dynasties.


They crush their rivals.

Old Dog’s Votes (3am and several bourbons in)

5. Dusty

4. Edwards

3. The Tiger Army. Like or hate them, huge for the Game. Worth a few goals, always. A genuine force of nature.

2. Baker



RICHMOND     2.1     3.2     7.4     12.9     (81)
GEELONG        2.2     5.5     6.8     7.8     (50)


Martin 4, Prestia 2, Riewoldt 2, Castagna, Lambert, Lynch, McIntosh
Geelong: Menegola 2, Dangerfield, Duncan, Guthrie, Hawkins, Miers


Martin, Edwards, Baker, Nankervis, Short.
Geelong: Duncan, Stewart, Guthrie, Menegola, Selwood.


Vlastuin (concussion), Houli (calf)
Geelong: Ablett (shoulder), Simpson (concussion)


ISO Fans Gallery

Tiger fans take in the Grand Final, ISO style. (Pics supplied by Matt Zurbo).


Sophie McKenzie


Tom and Angus Harriot


Alistair McKenzie


Nicko Place and friend



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  1. Thanks for this Old Dog. It is always a highlight of the year. As bitter as that might be for readers who support the vanquished.

    I feel I have just read about the game I watched.

    That swarming Geelong second quarter was terrific – but those misses (I can think of three) were concerning.

    I didn’t read the end of the second quarter in the same way you did. The Dusty goal was massive. But I thought Richmond would have to respond to the challenge still. I think the change was still to come, and would the Cats respond.

    The big question for me at half time was whether Toby Nankervis could stand up against the triple ruck combo – Stanley around the ground, Hawk up forward,and Blicavs where required. And, bugger me, he did. I had Dusty 3,and Nankervis 2 but , like you, Old Dog I’m a sucker for ruckmen. B. Ottens so key in 2007-11. Toby was enormous too.

    Thank you for sitting up through the Otways night to pen this over a few bourbons. I hope it finds the audience it deserves.

    Congrats to the Tigers.

    And I too shed a tear at Gazza’s tenderness.


  2. Fantastic Matt. A brilliant analysis that covers just about every player and every aspect of the contest. Bourbon! Must remember that!

    Agree with just about everything here. Love your comments about Baker. He’s a ripper. I give more credit to Grimes than you do. He sacrificed his game to completely obliterate Rohan, although then, Rohan seems to make a habit of obliterating himself in finals!

    I’m with JTH about Martins goal before half time. It was a lifeline but no more. When he completely shanked a second attempt moments later I felt that Richmond were still deeply in the trough. The momentum shift came with the Riewoldt goal straight after the break. It was as though Geelong suddenly had a vision of the Lynch goal at the corresponding moment of last years Prelim And the mental demons returned.

    Commiserations Geelong. Clearly the second best team in 2020 and thoroughly deserving of a spot in the big one. Thank goodness for free agency – the gift that keeps on giving!

  3. Comprehensive and wise (as always) Matt. Geelong reminded me of Kingstown Town dashing 3 lengths clear at the top of the straight in the 1982 Melbourne Cup. A brilliant mile and a half champion weighed down by history. Richmond and Toby Nankervis the relentless grinding two miler Gurners Lane wearing them down in the last hundred metres.
    Watching Martin in the Port Prelim reminded me of the cliffhanger end to all those old Tarzan serials. Surrounded by tribes with poison arrows; dangling from the end of a rope – will our hero escape? Escape be damned – he’ll take out a half dozen of them; swing across the chasm and escape with the gold and the girl. Every bloody time. You couldn’t script him. Looks like a brute. Plays like Baryshnikov. Greatest big game player of all time. Sublime.
    Richmond are Dusty and the system. Hard to beat both.

  4. Thanks for sitting up to give us this, Matt. Commiserations to you John and all the Cats fans. Geelong brought the best out in the Tiges and I honestly feel this IS the best of our three wins, given all the circumstances.

    It’s a curious thing that a miss like Miers’ in the 2nd term seems bad at the time, and later takes on greater significance; that was the moment to snuff out the challenge. While Dusty’s wrong-bias punt to nowhere (he’s done it before, Bruce) seemed to just warrant a shrug from the great man, and in retrospect did not slow our resurgence at all.

  5. Marcus Holt says

    I didn’t want to read another post about Geelong losing/Richmond winning the Grand Final Matt but I admit, you have captured every subtle movement and nuance of the game and highlighted players and incidents I missed or ignored. The echo repeat of the 2019 PF was stunning, games of great consequence settled by being the better team in the half that matters. Credit to Richmond, too good, and Martin, peerless in Grand Finals.

  6. Thanks Matt for that incisive report. As a Richmond supporter we have witnessed an unlikely dynasty being built. A whole generation of Tiger supporters now expect that Grand Finals are routinely won and Dusty will win the Norm Smith Medal. It wasnt always like this!
    Between Royce and Dusty there was another Number 4 who was quite a player too (Geoff Raines who some argue was best afield in our 1980 Premiership with 36 touches- a little balding guy just pipped him that year with seven goals).

  7. Matt Zurbo says

    Dan, I was there, and yes he was. History does no justice to how great Raines was in his prime. Have written about him lots, and interviewed him for my footy book, too.

  8. Wonderful read Matt, enjoyed every lyric. In so many games in the last four years the Tiges have surged in the second half. I expected the same last night and was not disappointed.
    I’ll be adding a little banner to the Yellow & Black display on the front of my house –

  9. A very comprehensive reporting of the match, Matt. A really good read. To me, the game turned a few minutes in the third quarter when firstly Geelong had a free kick in the centre square but instead of kicking down the guts, handballed to a teammate under pressure. In a flash Richmond had the ball and it wasn’t long before they were another goal closer to the Cats. Shortly after another cross the ground kick was snapped up by a Richmond player. Result another easy goal to the Tigers.From then on it was all Richmond. I admit to being most disappointed for Ablett injuring his shoulder and not being able to give of his best. Congratulations to Richmond – they certainly came out firing after the long break. That Dusty Martin sure is a freak.

  10. Great report, Old Dog.
    I agree with everything you say.

  11. Matt Zurbo says

    Haha, nice one Smokie! Thanks all!!

  12. Its not a ‘DYNASTY’ – the term is just an American mangling of the English language. It is a Richmond ‘SUPREMACY’ ( the state or condition of being superior to all others ).

    A ‘dynasty’ is just a hereditary line of rulers of a country with no connotation of any particular competence at ‘ruling’.

    The ‘Richmond Supremacy’ is unambiguous while the ‘Richmond Dynasty’ suggests maybe a lot of ‘father-son’ picks in the Draft!!

    Here’s what ‘dynasties’ can produce:…ly-result-royal-familys-inbreeding-180973688/

    Currently in the period 2016-20 Richmond is supreme with both the most Premierships won (3) and the highest win percentage (67.95%). Richmond’s longest ‘supremacy’ has been 15 seasons from 1964 to 1978 where it had the highest win% (65.06%) and won the most Premierships (4).

    We are in a period of RICHMOND SUPREMACY! Got it? RICHMOND SUPREMACY! Spread it and take every opportunity to disabuse particularly dumb journalists of the ‘dynasty’ drivel.

  13. Fantastic re telling of a famous victory
    very comprehensive and informative ….and now that the dust has settled or should I say the mud is beginning to dry – yesterdays storm topped the rain we got on Saturday arvo before the big game.
    Its good to re read your account and give some clarity to the blurry nature of actually being at the ‘Gabba for my first ever Grand Final (and probably the last) given its normally super hard to get a ticket let alone go to Melbourne at that time of year
    just remember the D word is not DINE NEST TEEE

    its DUSTY !!!!!

  14. Cheers Old Dog, hope the bourbons went down a treat.

    Gaz going down was almost the denouement to a Shakespearean tragedy – I vividly remember 2014’s ill-fated tackle where he was set to win his third Brownlow (second on the trot) playing some of the most brilliant football the game has ever seen. The twists and turns since then (falling out with the Suns, the second coming of the son) couched against his past (enigma in the blood, no more brother to share the burden of a name). All resting on his busted shoulders.

  15. Matt Zurbo says

    Michael, good point lost in bitterness, mate. Ease up and people might listen.

    Jarrod, I love your comments mate. Thank you.

  16. Outstanding Matt. Tough day for Cats fans but also strangely uplifting to see the respect that the footy world holds for Gazza. And all class from the Tigers. Ablett’s road would have been immensely difficult. He’s carried himself extraordinarily well.

    Tigers too good. Far too Dusty for us.

  17. Old Dog – you know footy, I reckon.
    I watched that GF.
    And as is usual I have stayed away from media coverage because I don’t want to be told what to think.
    No Foxtel here. No superleague. No stats sheets.

    So when I come to your report I’m ready to wonder.
    And I feel that you’re spot on.
    I was a bit distracted during the game as I had an early morning Sunday shift to prepare for.
    But it all came down to *moments.*
    Like much of life does.
    That decision to turn up.
    That decision to say yes.
    That decision to risk it by creating something crazy.
    And that decision to stop and wait.

    So much of footy looks easy afterwards (like life).
    And so much is explained away after the event as if it was always going to happen.

    But what about those Cats?
    What about the role of chance?
    Injuries, appetite, family dramas, lucky jox and the weather.
    Tigers stood up in the big moments. Or maybe they were big moments because the tigers stood up.
    I don’t know.
    But anyway – well done tigers. Well done Old Dog.

  18. Shane Reid says

    Loved reading this Matt, thank you. What great writing about Dusty and his legacy, there was something seismic and timeless about him and his game for sure. Like you, I felt like I was watching history.

  19. Jam packed with end to end energy Matt. Dustys method of using his body is fascinating; something in the way he uses the moments he has, the way he plants his legs, weight held in thighs and then pivots without notice, darts.,
    Very moving scenes with Gary.

  20. Just one question Matt; did you polished off a bottle of bourbon after or before the Glenlivet?

    Agreed Tom, Jack & Daniel had matches they’d rather forget, but they kept their opponents honest all day.

    After the 37 years in the wilderness let’s take all the glory moments while they last, eh?

  21. Great read Matt, love your books you have put out, hope there is more

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