Grand Final – Richmond v Geelong: What an asterisk!



“Asterisk” – a symbol (*) used in text as a pointer to an annotation or footnote.


It’s Monday.  Nearly 48 hours have passed since the siren brought down the curtain to this unique season.  Simultaneously truncated and protracted, a year that began in ghostly silence ended with a glimpse of a dystopian future – a bewildering sound and lights show, interspersed with occasional outbreaks of football, set to the thumping beat of “Let’s Get Loud”.


At the time, I struggled to make sense of what I’d witnessed.  Like the season itself, the game was like a combination of Timeless Test and T20.  Richmond’s first half struggles were lengthy dental surgery, without anaesthetic.  Then, in a few manic moments, a 22-point deficit – huge in this ultra-low scoring season – was erased.  The torture kicked in again as the two sides resumed their arm wrestle.  Even as the Tigers kicked away early in the last quarter, their victory momentum was halted by a second lengthy delay for a sickening concussion to the unfortunate Sam Simpson.  The subsequent Geelong goal threatened a tense finale until sealers from Jack and Dusty triggered an avalanche of text messages and garbled congratulations over Zoom.  So 2020!


So, in the stormy sea of weirdness that made up season 2020 – empty stadiums, a two month lockdown, hubs, shortened games played to a fixture that was made up as we went along – the final result, another Richmond Premiership, is a safe harbour of predictable and hugely enjoyable normality.


As the dust (Dusty?) settled, Sunday morning Swan Street coffees downed and replay reverently viewed, the question re-entered my mind: is there an asterisk to be ascribed to Richmond’s Premiership?


Remember the asterisk? No sooner had the season begun with shortened games played in empty stadiums than the pundits pronounced. “Whatever the outcome, the 2020 Premier will forever be marked with an asterisk”. The implication was clear.  The achievement of the 2020 Premiers in such a compromised year couldn’t possibly compare with any normal Premiership.  As the competition was locked down and uncertainty prevailed about whether a season would even take place, no-one seriously challenged this view.


Only later, as games resumed and teams were forced to relocate into hubs, one or two wise heads, Damien Hardwick included, dared to suggest that this year’s feat might in fact be one of the greatest ever.  Admittedly, at the time, it was probably clever spin by Hardwick.  He could see the potential for disruption ahead.  Richmond’s early games after the resumption stank of rustiness and disconnection.  There could be no expectations that players would easily adapt to hub life.  It was smart to prepare the expectant Tiger faithful for disappointment early, and to offer a plausible excuse for it.  But he must have also figured that Richmond, of all teams, had the capacity and professionalism to adapt to the strange new circumstances and channel their experience of the adversity of 2019.  The other side of his message was: succeed in this situation, and it’s a double bonus.


My bias is obvious to all, but in answer to the question ‘is there an asterisk?’ I’ll venture a resounding ‘bloody oath there is’.  And here are a few footnotes to explain that asterisk.



1: Richmond’s achievement in 2020 is comparable, potentially superior, to 2019. Yes, all clubs had to deal with relocations, challenging fixtures etc, but Richmond had to take it on amidst a form slump, an untimely rash of injuries (Prestia, Nankervis, Astbury) and decisions by key players (Houli, Edwards) to remain in Melbourne for personal reasons.  Under the circumstances, as in 2019, we could easily have sacrificed our Premiership quest and made 2020 a “development” season.  But the Tigers did both, earning their top four finish in no small part because of the efforts of emerging players who were in the stands on Saturday night.  Aarts, Chol, Ross, Markov, Higgins, Egglomesse-Smith and others, take a bow



2: Clearly, life in the hub wasn’t all beer and skittles. The club had to deal with numerous “incidents” that were damaging to our “squeaky-clean” brand but, more importantly, were potentially very destabilising to the playing group.



3: Only now are we hearing stories like that of Dylan Grimes where there were clearly tough decisions about whether or not players could remain committed to such a long absence from their homes, families and businesses. The team’s ability to play through all this speaks volumes for their individual and collective grit.



4: Whatever the views about the standard of the regular season and the level of commitment by certain teams, there is no doubt that, come finals, the teams left standing were fair dinkum. The standard of the finals series bears testimony to that.



5: There can be no accusations of favourable fixturing in 2020. Richmond played the top two sides at their home grounds (these sides having the added benefit of being genuinely “at home”).  Our Preliminary Final win over Port Adelaide was one of the great finals of recent times and one of the best “on the road” victories.



6: Unlike our previous couple of Grand Finals, this year’s was played in absolutely neutral conditions. There can be no carping about an MCG finale played before thousands of rabid Tiger supporters.



7: Unlike our opponents in 2017 (a psychologically fragile flat-track bully) and 2019 (a team running on empty), Geelong is a top-quality adversary that has improved significantly on the version we narrowly beat in the 2019 Preliminary Final. Richmond was challenged in the Grand Final in a way it hasn’t been previously.  Yes, we probably wouldn’t have won it without Dusty, but to put our victory entirely down to him unfairly dismisses some super efforts from others, not to mention some pretty decent coaching.



8: The catastrophic opening to the game and the loss of Nick Vlastuin was an almighty hurdle to overcome. Whatever the lamentations about Ablett’s shoulder injury, he did remain on the field and made some important contributions to the Cats’ cause.  Vlastuin’s absence completely upended Richmond’s defensive structure and robbed us of our best intercept player.  Save for Martin, it’s hard to pick a player that Richmond could less afford to lose.



9: Speaking of Martin…yep…goes OK.


I had a hunch at the start of this bizarre year that the Flag would be won by a bunch of seasoned professionals.  And so it’s proven.  As I watched the Tigers’ after-party with the regulation rendition of the cliched “We are the Champions”, I thought of a more appropriate Queen anthem for this mighty team and for how they’ve helped us to battle through this extraordinary year.


Go Tiges!!


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, Short, Edwards, Prestia, Cotchin, Bolton
Geelong: Duncan, Stewart, Selwood, Menegola, Dahlhaus



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


Empty spaces, what are we living for?




The Dick Reynolds Gate – ‘Match Day’



Abandoned places, I guess we know the score, on and on
Does anybod
y know what we are looking for?




The Clock on the Silo



Another hero, another mindless crime
Behind the curtain, in the pantomime

Hold the line


Kelso St Cremorne



Does anybody want to take it anymore?



Gosch’s Paddock



The show must go on
The show must go on, yeah

Inside my heart is breaking
My makeup may be flaking
But my smile, still, stays on

Whatever happens, I’ll leave it all to chance
Another heartache, another failed romance, on and on
Does anybody know what we are living for?




Ticket Window, MCG



I guess I’m learning
I must be warmer now
I’ll soon be turning, round the corner now
Outside the dawn is breaking
But inside in the dark I’m aching to be free



Corner Hotel Carpark, ‘Grand Final Day’ 26 September


The show must go on
The show must go on
Inside my heart is breaking
My makeup may be flaking
But my smile, still, stays on


My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairy tales of yesterday, grow but never die


Home reno, Richmond-style



I can fly, my friends
The show must go on
The show must go on


I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
On with the show




Punt Road Oval, Saturday


I’ll top the bill


For Dusty to leave in the carpark


I’ll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on



Our trophy cabinet needs an extension!


On with the show
Show must go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on





The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE



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About Sam Steele

50 years a Richmond supporter. Enjoying a bounteous time after 37 years of drought. Should've been a farmer!


  1. Stainless – THAT IS JUST THE BEST!!

  2. Very creative Stainless, some iconic shots of places I hope we can all refamilarise ourselves with soon!

  3. Congrats, Stainless.

    No asterisk whatsoever from my point of view.
    Every team played every other team once. Every team suffered some sort of deprivation (yes, some more than others). But essentially, every team played under the same conditions. Any talk of an asterisk is a nonsense.

  4. Great piece Broz!
    Still coming to terms with what this team has been able to accomplish. While we’re no doubt got a generational player in Dusty, it’s the cohesion and unearthed diamonds in the rough stories I’m most proud of; Kane Lambert, Liam Baker, Jayden Short among plenty more.

    You can now add also to point #3 the family hardship that Short, the now premiership B&F winner had at the start of the year, it’s actually incredible. I can’t begin to imagine how I’d have coped being in his shoes, only to say that you’d want to be with the best support network available outside your family, and the current RFC is looking pretty damn close in my eyes (even with self-diagnosed tigs-myopia).

    I thought the two best sides and easily the two best organisations that managed and adapted to hub living made the granny, which is testament to everything that goes on behind the scenes. This culminated in the send off for Gaz, which I know if the shoe was on the other foot, Geelong would’ve done just as well.

    The photos just absolutely make it! Boy am I keen for 2021 already.

    Speaking of Gary Ablett Jr, over and out from “Stainless Jr.”

  5. Great round up Stainless. Love the Richmond imagery, that is something I have missed. I do agree there has been an eveness of conditions that the teams had to go through. Hub life would have been very challenging.

  6. In the eyes of the Victorian media, there would have been a large asterisk if it was won by a non-Victorian club. But it wasn’t, so there won’t be.

  7. The Stainless Steel Rar has done it again – an excellent read.

  8. Ben The Artist says

    Another thoroughly entertaining read as always.
    Asterisk or no, this was a season like no other. One for the history books in many ways. I’d say Dimma was right when he said this premiership would be a special one in spite of everything.

  9. Thanks everyone for indugling me in this garbled mix of triumph and melancholy. It’s been a mighty tough year for us Melburnians (and I’m one of the lucky ones). The footy has been one of the few distractions. It rarely reached great heights but it was there for us. Much of my recreation this winter has been limited to wandering the streets of “Struggletown”.
    Jarrod and Kate – Much of my recreation this winter was limited to wandering the streets of “Struggletown” and its surrounds. I didn’t intend to use the photos in this way, but as we finally emerged from our lockdown, it seemed right. The one I wasn’t allowed to use (thanks to AFL legalities) was of the Melbourne v Geelong match taken through the locked gates of the MCG on a chilly Sunday night. It’s an eerie image from the ten minutes of live footy I watched this year.
    Thanks Bones – Short’s story is amazing. I had no idea about his family situation until the B&F announcement. The Ablett send-off – all class. Like you, I can’t wait for season 2021. Hopefully we can be at the G together to see our back-to-back flags unfurled!
    Bucko – Most media noted that Port Adelaide and Brisbane were in the box seat to make the GF as the only clubs playing and living at home. I think their failure might speak to the weight of expectation on two relatively inexperienced teams, but I think it speaks more to the quality of the Victorian teams that knocked them off.
    Thanks Ben – have you cottoned onto the “Dimmasty” yet? :)

  10. Sam
    thanks for your fantastic piece
    love the renovation pic
    I really feel for you guys down beyond the Rio Grande in Mexico

    as someone who will never forget witnessing the great game that was the ultimate game of the season for any Tiger fan to see let alone see a hard one victory with such a tough comeback given as you state the Covid type football lead was huge in the context of the season’s games …
    So this was no ordinary season it was extraordinary
    I would question one thing
    even though it was a “neutral venue” – as per one of your points
    I need to take issue with it,
    the crowd was mainly yellow and black and the roar that emanated after each goal I will never forget!!! it would have done 90000+ at the G vs the Giants proud
    The people in the Blue and White Hoops were definitely in the minority

  11. Great pix Stainless. Summed it up perfectly.

    And I’m all for the asterisk. This was a season like no other.

    I’d jotted seven reasons why Richmond would win before the match.

    1) Tigers’ bottom six better – in fact The Tigers don’t have a bottom six. They have six minor role players.

    2) Not of Geelong’s making necessarily, but too much being made of the Geelong Story – Little Gazza’s last game, Danger’s 1st GF ……. Only those who have played at the Elite Level know whether the media pressure loads up on the players’ psyche, but The Dangerman’s game suggested it might.

    3) Richmond’s new-found clearance superiority. This has been building for several weeks, much to the relief of The Long Suffering Punt Road Faithful.

    4) If Danger has to go forward Geelong lose his contribution around the ground. This proved to be so. By the time the move was made Geelong had lost the momentum and were under siege.

    5) And finally, The Tigers have more X Factor players – Dusty – Thomas Lynch – Cotch – Jack – Bolton – Plus the real X factor is the RFC and its ability to adjust mentally to whatever is demanded of it to achieve victory. (Hence the asterisk)

    6) Conditions will be trying and the Tigers are more battle ready. ( It could be said) Geelong’s stepping stones to the Granny were misleading; The Pies played their GF in Perth and Brissy got a bit ahead of themselves after beating the Reigning Premiers.

    7) It will be won in the backlines* and Geelong will achieve the status of featuring in three of post-war Epic Grand Finals in three totally different eras – 1967 – 1989 and 2020.

    And who knows; we may have to face another asterisk year next year the way the rest of the world’s going.

    Interesting that the crowd was weighted towards The Tigers Richard The Club for all seasons? Was there the traditional booing whenever Patrick D went near the ball? I thought I heard a bit, but it didn’t come across as it usually does.

    One last swipe until the Long Dark Summer descends over the land. Can we please do away with the pre-finals bye?

    * Barry Richardson was strong on that too, so I was in good company.

  12. Thanks Richard. The “neutral venue” comment really is about the ongoing bleating about Richmond playing finals at the MCG. I think we’d outnumber Geelong supporters at any ground in Australia except the Cattery but we certainly seem to have strong support in Queensland. So good that the GF was played in front of a large and passionate crowd full stop.
    Wrap – all your points are well made and pretty much proved accurate.
    1. Spot on. The last game where we had a genuine “bottom six” was the 2017 GF and that group pretty much accounted for Adelaide on their own!
    2. True as it turned out. Dangerfield was subdued (see your point 4) and Ablett was winged. Parallels with Leigh Matthews departure in 1985 – a final hurrah in the Preliminary Final but blanketed by superior opposition in the GF.
    3. Yes. Credit to the coaching staff?
    4. Yes. Discredit to the coaching staff?
    5. The scary thing is to reflect on how many of our blokes (X factor players and others) played average or sub-par games and we still won comfortably.
    6. Agree. In retrospect our respective finals vs Port Adelaide were probably the best form guide.
    7. Agree but you must surely have had some concerns when Tigger went down? Don’t think we can quite put this game into the 1967 and 1989 category. Not that I’m complaining!
    Totally agree with you about the pre finals bye.

  13. Great article Stainless, the last 4 years have being surreal

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