Reflections on the 2019 Premiership



Every Grand Final has its enduring narrative. In 2018 it was all about the game itself, the sheer enormity of the contest overriding the significance of the result. Yes, Dom Sheed’s match-winning goal broke Collingwood hearts, but did the unaligned really care? More importantly, twelve months on, has that result had a significant impact on either club? Probably not. It was just a ripper game.


In 2017 and 2016, it was about the exorcism of long eras of futility and failure, as the winners broke their Premiership droughts. Interestingly, while the Bulldogs have made little mileage from their 2016 Flag and have settled back into mid-table mediocrity, Richmond used its triumph to grow bigger and stronger, culminating in yesterday’s Premiership.


So, once the dust settles from a non-event of a game and the romance of AFL debutant Marlion Pickett blind-turning, bouncing and goaling his way into Norm Smith calculations, what should we make of the 2019 Grand Final outcome?


First, let’s forget the game itself and focus on the entire season. Even before the ball was bounced yesterday, the last six months should have settled once and for all the mistruths about Richmond’s lack of depth and its ability to cope should any of its “big four” (plus Toby Nankervis) suffer injury. The Tigers lost Alex Rance in Round 1 for the season and were without the entire “big four” plus Bachar Houli and Jadyn Short for its remarkable win over Port Adelaide in Round 4. They managed without Cotchin, Riewoldt and Nankervis for large chunks of the year, finishing with a winning streak of 12, the club’s biggest in my lifetime. They were forced to use 39 players this season and still maintained a VFL side that went 19-2 over the year and also won the flag. The big win from this turbulent season, apart from the Premiership, is the confirmation that the Tigers have a list with depth and strength that will sustain them for several years to come. I hope that in time, the magnitude of what Richmond has achieved this year will be properly acknowledged.


I should emphasise that this narrative theme of “triumph over adversity” applies equally to GWS, notwithstanding yesterday’s result. GWS is a seriously good side that has been racked with injury and controversy throughout the year and was already running on empty in the last quarter of the Preliminary Final. I don’t see this result demoralising the Giants as Geelong’s 2007 thrashing did to Port Adelaide. They’ll be back.


The other legacy of the 2019 Grand Final result (which I’m enjoying immensely) is about lost opportunities. Collingwood, West Coast, Geelong and Brisbane probably would all have provided Richmond with a much sterner test than GWS offered yesterday. They should be kicking themselves at their failures to put themselves in the position to do so. Their collective blunders served up an opponent that was an easy kill for the Tigers…not that we’re complaining!


This leads to a final point about the D-word.  Grand Final thrashings invariably conjure up talk of the victors establishing a “dynasty”, and I must admit, some of that sort of talk was coming out of Punt Road today. The danger of such predictions is that they are usually based on the immediate recollections of the Grand Final, rather than a broader assessment of the whole competition. Across the entire season, Richmond’s wins were methodical and workmanlike. Thrashings were rare and good sides can trouble them. Yet the club and the list are in as sweet a spot as I’ve ever known. A calm assurance was palpable around Punt Road that this group knows it’s capable of more success.


I hope, to borrow a line from the Giants – “the other teams are quaking”!




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


Crowd: 100,014


About Sam Steele

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


  1. Ben The Artist says

    Well said. It is especially pleasing to think about just how much positivity this team encourages.

  2. Thanks Ben. In my haste to post this piece, I forgot to single out two selfless illustrations of the “triumph in adversity” theme. One was Shaun Grigg’s decision to retire, which allowed Richmond to recruit Marlion Pickett. The other was Jack Graham’s heroic performance last week without which it might have been Geelong celebrating today.

  3. Normal transmission has been resumed

  4. Stainless, at the Almanac GF lunch, The Wrap spoke about Richmond gaining the respect they deserved for what they’ve done.

    I reckon Saturday took care of that.

    And I reckon the Blues have been paying attention to what’s been going on at Punt Rd for a while now. Exhibit A being Cain Liddle. It’s yet to be determined if our execution is up to scratch.


  5. Sam
    Enjoyed the game and your comments.
    Pity it wasn’t Collingwood?

  6. Thanks all.

    JB – Round 1 next year is going to be absolutely massive. I have a very positive feeling about the ODNBs and it would be great to get some of that 60s and 70s finals nostalgia going. You remember the drill – Carlton beats Collingwood then Richmond beats Carlton!

    Thankyou Cousin. Beating Collingwood would have been particularly sweet. Unfortunately they were so busy arranging appointments with German doctors and queuing for Grand Final tickets they forgot that they had to qualify. Oh well, the City of Yarra was spared a civil war!

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