Preliminary Final – Richmond v Geelong: They Say Nobody Watches the Same Game of Football




In some ways, the Geelong Richmond Semi was about Jack Graham. He popped his shoulder, it was a mess, ugly. Yet went down to the mechanics and had it vaguely banged back into place, then ran out again, finishing strong. A mirror of his team’s night. Guts.


But it wasn’t about Graham.


They say nobody watches the same game of football. But sometimes I don’t know which game I’ve watched.


Maybe this one was about the stars?


Between them, Dangerfield and Dusty Martin played a hell of a game of footy! One for the ages. Sure, Danger never man’s his opponent, and Dusty never seems to chase. Ever. But Danger’s first half was brilliant. Dusty’s second half was off planet! Not that much more stats, a few boot-slaps, but oozing force of will, dominating one-on-ones, and running wide. Involved in every key moment. For influence? Sensational.


People will give him the lollies, but people have short memories. Time and again they ignore four quarters.


Geelong were everywhere in the first half. Selwood kept pushing against time, logic, history. It just feels like in 50 years, there he’ll be, once again lining up with a new generation, leading them.


Other footballers play a game. Fantastically, powerfully, skilfully. But Selwood goes to battle.


Ablett was e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e! Swatting off the naysayers. Using every possession. Attacking relentlessly.


But the influence of both faded. The game wasn’t about them in the end, either.


Grimes didn’t take a single intercept mark. Cotchin got barely a sniff.


My heart went out to Stroppy Jack. I love him! Heart on sleave, a team man, a team player. Thrilling. But as one plant blooms, it takes the sun from another. He seemed to have, almost too completely, taken second fiddle to Lynch. Preferring to stay out of the hot spots, constantly slapping the ball on rather than seizing it (though it worked once), running far too close to the man on the mark, missing the most gettables. There was something more going on than the A1 job Tom Stewart and co. did on him.


Lynch played a killer. I couldn’t help but watch the Richmond mob. The working class, black and yellow and passionate to their core, cheering his marks, and wonder how many of them were calling for his head not so long ago?


No, Lynch was great, his work ethic was great, but so was the delivery. It came in waves, it came low and hard, it hit the right height, at the right time of his run. Unlike Geelong, who bombed long, the Richmond delivery was electric.


He played the Hawkins role, did it better. Yet this game wasn’t about him.


Not for me.


In a final where things were evens in the middle. Bachar Houli was every bit as important as Lynch, starting most attacks from the half back line. There, running when the game seemed gone, stemming floods, standing to onslaughts. There, leading the push back, still going when the roll became an unstoppable charge. Spoiling, tackling, time and again dropping into the hole, attacking through the middle, quick hands in packs, running… just running.


Bachar was gold. For four quarters he was the one constant. A small, skinny, unlikely big occasion expert. But it wasn’t about him. For me, the game I watched, there was one better.


Richmond’s smalls, their second level, were beyond brilliant. Everything.


Geelong strangled the game in the first half, bullied. They tackled and crashed, and put enormous pressure on. When Richmond kicked it forward, everything was Hail Marys. Straight to Cats defenders.


Three goals? Their lead should have been double. That’s when games are won and lost. Far more that the final minute. In the 2nd quarter, sliding door moments. Geelong should have buried them.


But they didn’t.


And, in the second half, Dion Prestia, Edwards, Castagna, Shia Bolton, and so on, and so on, figured out how to stand in tackles. They shrugged them off, they ran, they delivered with control.


They carried the ball. Usually, through the middle.


They invaded Geelong’s zones, cutting them to ribbons. Pushed back and charged forward, everything suddenly open. They were a team, one. A flood of small men with dark hair of every nationality. The same player.


None more so than Liam Baker. Good, but not brilliant stats, but for impact? There were none better. A little man with his chest out and Sharpie haircut, looking like he was plucked from loitering outside a Broady milk bar, smirking as he took on giants.


Yabbie Jeans always said, come finals, each team has its four or five superstars, it’s the team with the best bottom six players that will win it. And that’s why Richmond did.


Not so much their bottom six, but their ‘the rest’. Players like Liam. In the game I saw, they took them on, they ran through the middle, through the roar of the best, weirdest, most passionate, supporters on this planet. Pushed forward through a wall of madness.


They carried the ball, at insane speeds, into a Grand Final.



Old Dog’s Best

1. Baker

2. Lynch

3 Houli

4 Selwood

5 Stanley



RICHMOND     3.3     4.5     9.7      12.13 (85)
GEELONG        4.3     7.8     8.9        9.12 (66)

Richmond: Lynch 5, Martin 2, Castagna 2, Prestia 2, Lambert
Geelong: Kelly 3, Miers 2, Ablett, Narkle, Dangerfield, Henderson

Richmond: Lynch, Houli, Prestia, Martin, Edwards, Cotchin, Ellis
Geelong: Selwood, Stanley, Kelly, Dangerfield, O’Connor, Miers, Tuohy

Fans’ Best on Ground, in partnership with Google: Dustin Martin

Richmond: Graham (shoulder), Broad (concussion)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Nicholls, Chamberlain, Ryan

Official crowd: 94,423 at the MCG



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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  2. Matt, after half time, for Geelong, it was a CATASTROPHE.Dangerfield, Ablett and Selwood, the usual suspects, were nowhere near as prominent as in the first half – Selwood being the best of the 3. Lynch, Dusty and co were simply irresistible as the Tigers started to roar.

    As a neutral supporter I thoroughly enjoyed the contest and marveled at the way Richmond moved the ball. I think they’ll take a lot of beating in the Grand Final. I’m not sure whether it will be GWS or Collingwood and am really looking forward to the remaining 2 matches for season 2019.

  3. Was a cracker to watch as a neutral. Selwood and Stewart seemed the only Cats to stand up all game. Hawkins deserved his suspension but I kept thinking the Cats were a tall short. Henderson was ineffective, but it didn’t matter so long as the ball stayed locked in the Cats half. Drive it in and lock it in worked brilliantly to half time. Chris “Mensa” Scott changed all that by taking Dangerfield out of the midfield. Narkle and Blicavs had more turnovers than the Pancake Parlour. Blicavs was talked about as an All Australian key defender and he’s playing on a wing in finals. Talent squandered. Surely Taylor was a better bet forward. Great in the first half but overrun later.
    Cats showed Tigers are very beatable but you have to take them on and keep them on the back foot.

  4. Good call about Baker, Matt. smallest bloke out there but he’s beautifully balanced and good overhead. Several times he audaciously contested for marks with Geelong’s tallest. After being outpointed by Ablett early in the last I wondered if the pressure might be getting to him, but he scarcely put a foot wrong after that. Totally agree with the “bottom six” theory too and it was certainly a critical factor in our 2017 flag. Just not sure who our bottom six are right now?

  5. Always enjoy your perspective on the footy, Matt.

    Stainless, it’s a good sign when the bottom six aren’t obvious.


  6. Agree with Peter B about Blix. He dominated Lynch last time they played and he’s running around on a wing. When Lynch started kicking goals surely t was time for a move.
    I saw a different Gary A to you, Matt. He looked unphysical to me, and as if he was lamenting a second he will never get back.
    Agree about Houli. He should have a Norm Smith.
    Danger injured in the second half I suspect. His acceleration was on a par with JTH’s when there’s a light beer on the bar.

  7. PS Come on the Andre’s. (Any team named after a man who can drink 160odd cans in a sitting will fast build a culture to adore.)

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