Round 23 – Richmond v St Kilda: How did we get here?

How did we get here? How did we get from autumn warmth with leaves changing colour to grey skies and bare branches bursting with blossom? How did we go from young players making nervous debuts in Round 1 to farewelling so many of the game’s greats here in Round 23? The question that puzzles me the most is: how, after a dismal 2016, did Richmond get from pre-season predictions of doom and gloom to a spot in the top four?

How did we get here so quickly? Looking back, the season has been a blur of highs and lows. My trusted footy tipping system failed spectacularly, but it did not matter. Games with momentum shifts and upset results made for interesting conversations at work on Monday mornings. And most importantly, 2017 is the year in which the sentiment of any given Sunday finally became true. Footy got interesting. I found myself watching games that ordinarily would have held little interest for me.

I get to the MCG in the usual way, on a train to Jolimont station. On this, the last day of the regular season, I’m excited but nervous. With the Giants losing to Geelong last night, a win today means the Tigers finish third on the ladder, but this being Richmond, anything is possible. We also have a score to settle. We have a 67 point loss to the Saints in Round 16 to atone for, but worryingly St Kilda have a champion – the great Nick Riewoldt – to farewell.

With the temperature struggling to get into double figures, the game begins. Soon after, the unexpected hero from last week – Jacob Townsend – kicks the first of the afternoon. The Tigers are controlling the game and have a steely resolve: there is a job to be done, and they are here to do it. An 18 point lead at quarter time is extended in the second quarter with the Tigers kicking five unanswered goals before the Saints manage to kick a couple. The usual suspects, Martin, Cotchin and Ellis, have plenty of the ball and goals are being shared among the players with Townsend kicking three and Grigg kicking two.

Surely, with a half time lead of 44 points, we can now relax. But nothing ever goes quite to plan. In the third quarter, the Saints lift and the Tigers drop their intensity. This is the stuff of nightmares. The Saints kick four goals to the Tigers’ one, bringing the margin back to 25 points at three-quarter time.

But this is not the Richmond who trip up at the final hurdle; this is the Richmond who re-set at three-quarter time and take control of the game. Dusty fires up, and he and Townsend kick goals early in the fourth quarter to get the Tigers back on track. With the game back on their terms, the predominately Tiger crowd roars with delight with each of the Tigers’ next five goals. Late in the quarter Dusty is cheered as he jogs to the interchange bench for a well-earner break. Such is the love for Dusty from the Tiger faithful that he could stop to tie his shoelaces and he’d be met with a standing ovation.

Despite the game being long over, St Kilda fans stay to the end. They have unfinished business. They have one last chance to say goodbye to a great of the game. Jack Riewoldt and Josh Bruce chair Nick Riewoldt off the ground to the cheers and applause of tens of thousands of well-wishers from both teams. And while it’s sad to see a champion retire, Tigers fans have next week (after the ridiculous bye week) to look forward to. We can’t lose an elimination final from third on the ladder.

Richmond       4.1       11.5       12.7       19.8      (122)

St Kilda          1.2         4.3         9.9       12.9        (81)

GOALS

Richmond: Townsend 5, Riewoldt 3, Grigg 3, Prestia 2, Martin 2, Butler 2, Graham, Cotchin

St Kilda: Gresham 5, Billings 2, Membrey 2, Bruce, Riewoldt, Longer

BEST

Richmond: Martin, Grigg, Townsend, Cotchin, Prestia, Vlastuin, Nankervis, Houli

St Kilda: Steele, Gresham, Billings, Sinclair, Ross, Dunstan

VOTES

3 Martin (Richmond); 2 Grigg (Richmond); 1 Townsend (Richmond)

Crowd: 69,104

About Gill

As a youngster, Gill thought that frequent Richmond premierships were assured, but in the many years since 1980 she realised her folly and distracted herself by crunching numbers at a university. The magnificence of the Tigers’ 2017 season has restored her faith in Richmond and all of humanity.

Comments

  1. When the Coach told us we hadn’t seen the best of this playing group, we stripped up against The Sainters Gill. and that well renowned blabbermouth, Graeme Cornes, told us we had got ahead of ourselves. And Dimma said it was our wake-up call. The Sleeping Tiger is awake, make no mistake.

    How did it happen in such a short time. I’ll give you two reasons: Neil Balme and Benny Gale. Benny’s got the administration humming – 72,515 members, and not a family pet amongst them – and Balmey has sorted out the Football Department. And the best thing is, it’s only going to get better down at Tigerland. As The Late Great Living Legend, Captain Blood, would say: Richmond are BIT..

  2. John Butler says:

    Without wanting to be pedantic (or a killjoy), Gil, a third placed team could lose an elimination final in the second week of finals. It is, however, impossible to finish ninth from third position.

    #silverlinings

    :)

  3. Hi John

    They’re called semi-finals in week two and preliminary finals in week three (and yes, I’m aware that losing a semi or a prelim means elimination from the final series). We’ve completely avoided the week one elimination final bogey by finishing third.

    Nine more sleeps!

  4. John Butler says:

    Odds on Tiges and GWS both winning?

    That would make prelim final weekend somewhat busy.

    :)

  5. With apologies to Arthur W. Upfield – Napoleon Gill – woman of two tribes?

  6. That would make preliminary final weekend so much fun. Lucky we’ve got the girls’ footy this weekend to get us through the ridiculous bye.

  7. the only downside was we couldn’t do this last year when the Cup was anyone’s. (you may all remember I scientifically predicted it in late 15. oh well, better late than never etc)

    and yes I think Balme has to take the credit for catalysing the potential that was obviously there.

  8. There’s a surge of confidence along Punt Road today as Dusty signs up to finish his playing career at Tigerland. Still TIOWAAT, but Self Belief is everything, and these 2017 Tigers have it in spades.

  9. @ Peter, anyone can win it this year too; that’s what makes it so exciting. Just look at how close the ladder positions were.

    @ Wrap, it’s like a perfect storm of the right things happening at the right time. Dusty’s my absolute favourite at the Tigers and the adoration of the fans for Dusty at the MCG last weekend was wonderful.

  10. The perfect storm Gill; I love it.

    Eat ’em alive Tigers.

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