Grand Final – Richmond v GWS: The stress-free life




Neutral football fans love watching close grand finals. Supporters of competing clubs aren’t so sure. They can die a thousand deaths en route to the final siren. Take the classic encounter between West  Coast and Collingwood in 2018. If ever I was in the situation of watching Richmond in a nail-biting Grand Final I would probably go to pieces.


I had a taste of it watching Richmond’s VFL team taking on Williamstown at Princes Park in their Grand Final.


It promised to be a pleasant afternoon watching the seconds wipe the floor with the tradies and part-timers from Hobson’s Bay. Early in the second quarter Richmond enjoyed a 31 to nil lead. But you can never underestimate the effectiveness of bigger bodied, more experienced campaigners taking on a team with a fair proportion of boys not long out of junior footy. The game turned into a heart stopper. Those Seagulls were good for more than pinching peoples’ chips along The Esplanade. Willie Wheeler had two opportunities in the last minute to win the flag for the Seagulls; firstly after a fortunate free kick paid down the field and then after marking a speculative kick into the forward zone. Richmond’s top of the table team lived dangerously throughout the finals series. A two-point win over Essendon in the qualifying final after trailing by 40 points at the final change and another come-from-behind win over Port Melbourne in the preliminary final.


Wheeler missed both shots and the Tigers somehow hung on to win by three points.


How will I cope in a similar situation in Richmond’s Grand Final clash with Greater Western Sydney?


We have a conflict of interest in our household. Our daughter’s boyfriend plays for GWS. For this reason I have a soft spot for the Giants. Their theme song makes me dance like a Cossack whenever I hear it. My wife asks me whether I would be happy for him to play in a premiership side should the Tigers go down in the title match. I reply that I would not be at all happy for him. Some other year, yes, but not this year against Richmond. My wife accuses me of being unduly one-eyed, a charge for which I have no defence.


My life is divided into pre and post 2019 Grand Final segments. I have tried to keep myself occupied to minimise endless ruminations on the fortunes of the Tigers. Yet I’m convinced that GWS has run its race and that the Tigers will win comfortably. The Giants have scrambled to two intense, emotional, energy-sapping wins by less than a goal over both Brisbane in the semi-final and Collingwood in the preliminary final. Such games take a toll. Davis can hardly walk and there is no way that Whitfield can be at his best after the recent surgery to remove his appendix. There has to be a letdown. I also believe that the outcome of the match against the Magpies was the best possible result for Richmond. Wary of how Collingwood can be brilliant on their day, I barracked for GWS as I watched on TV. When Cameron goaled early in the final term to put the Giants up by 32 points I knew they had the match in their keeping, but hoped that the Magpies would strike back with a late flurry and cause the Giants to stagger over the line. This is exactly what happened.


Having qualified for the Grand Final, the next bridge they need to cross is surely a bridge too far.


My earnest desire is for a one-sided, tension-free Grand Final in Richmond’s favour. My wife, my son and I all have tickets, but are seated in different sections of the stadium.


After the Tigers dominate proceedings early but fail to capitalise, Cameron boots the first goal for the Giants from just outside 50 after marking on the lead. Martin responds with Richmond’s opening major at the 24-minute mark, before Rioli adds another with a running shot on the siren. The Tigers are up by seven points.


To my unmitigated relief the Tigers begin to maul the visiting Giants in the second quarter. The Richmond brand of intense pressure and harassment of opposition ball carriers is carried out with devastating effectiveness. The Tigers run relentlessly and back their teammates. They are unstoppable and boot eleven unanswered goals from late in the first term until time-on in the third, totally obliterating the Giants. They lead by 35 points at half-time. Lynch converts five minutes into the third to take the advantage out to 42 points and I know the flag is ours. The match becomes a procession of thrilling Richmond moments. How could I have been anxious? The celebrations begin a long time before the clock ticks round to five o’clock.


My wish for a tension-free Grand Final has been fulfilled. I care nothing for the supporters of the non-competing clubs who are probably changing channels by now. I relax, roar my appreciation for each goal and applaud each act of Tigerish heroism. I even engage in a few stories from the dark years with the man next to me. To think that we would live to see the glory days return to Punt Road.


Jack Graham’s absence due to a collarbone injury is the hard luck story of the Grand Final. But it’s made possible the selection of Marlion Pickett as his replacement. What an astounding story of redemption for a young man with a difficult past. He has come from South Fremantle in the WAFL, to Richmond’s VFL team to making his debut in a winning AFL Grand Final team within the space of a single season. With his sublime skills, poise and coolness, Pickett makes a seamless transition to the big time.  There is an almighty roar when he goals after accepting a pass from Martin. Lynch is kept in check, but if he doesn’t get you then Riewoldt and Martin surely will. Jack fulfils the prophetic tone of both the Herald-Sun and Age cartoons by chopping down the beanstalk with the descending Giant. He boots five and Dusty adds four of his own. The Tigers prevail by an astonishing 89 points. That’s 12 wins in a row culminating in Richmond’s twelfth premiership. We laud the artistry of Houli, Prestia, Edwards, Vlaustin, Grimes, Short and Astbury. Dusty wins his second Norm Smith Medal, but the consummate team performance we witness is just as inspirational.


Players who didn’t appear today have placed their jumpers over their official uniforms and run onto the field to embrace their teammates. The speeches are delivered, the medals distributed the Cup presented and the players make their way around the boundary to share the moment with ecstatic fans.


We meet Mrs Green after the game by the Betty Cuthbert statue and embrace. My wife has ordered the deluxe gold foiled premiership poster online immediately after the siren sounded. We follow the multitude of jubilant fans to the Punt Road Oval where we meet other friends. We cross Punt Road where it meets Brunton Avenue. A crowd of revellers on the roof of the bicycle store at the intersection leads another rendition of We’re From Tigerland. A couple of tribesmen have removed a large advertising poster featuring Dusty from a wall somewhere. They hold it aloft like a banner and we march like the battalions of a victorious army returning with the spoils of war. We make our way along Stewart Street between the railway line and the old factories transformed into apartments. There are long lines outside the Corner Hotel. It’s so crowded at the intersection of Swan and Lennox Streets that it’s no longer possible to move. Parties spill out of the yellow and black festooned terrace houses onto the streets, with strangers shaking hands, high fiving and hugging each other.


Now it’s Sunday at Punt Road. I’m seated in the Jack Dyer Stand reading the reports in the newspaper and glancing up from time to time to watch the replay of the game on the big screen. Thousands are sitting on the grass in the spring sunshine. They relive the experience of yesterday and applaud each goal. We await the appearance of our VFL and AFL premiership teams on the balcony next to the stand.


While it’s not quite the emotion of that extraordinary, unexpected premiership of 2017, I can really grow accustomed to this feeling of relaxed contentment.



RICHMOND                                2.3     7.5     12.9     17.12     (114)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY     1.2     1.6     2.7     3.7     (25)


Riewoldt 5, Martin 4, Lynch 2, Rioli, Soldo, Pickett, Lambert, Bolton, Cotchin
Greater Western Sydney:
Cameron, Hopper, Himmelberg 


Richmond: Martin, Riewoldt, Prestia, Pickett, Edwards, Vlastuin, Houli
Greater Western Sydney:
Taranto, Shaw, Haynes, Hopper, Williams


15 –
Dustin Martin, Richmond – 33333
6 – Bachar Houli, Richmond – 222
4 – Marlion Pickett, Richmond – 211
3 – Jack Riewoldt, Richmond – 111
2 – Dion Prestia, Richmond – 2


Judges voting (3, 2, 1)
Alastair Lynch (Chair) – D. Martin, B. Houli, J. Riewoldt
Chris Johnson – D. Martin, D. Prestia, J. Riewoldt
Matthew Lloyd – D. Martin, B. Houli, M. Pickett
Bruce McAvaney – D. Martin, B. Houli, M. Pickett
Angela Pippos – D. Martin, M. Pickett, J. Riewoldt


Greater Western Sydney:


Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stevic, Ryan, Chamberlain

Official crowd: 100,014 at the MCG


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