Tigers go back to back
Richmond has overcome a 15-point half time deficit to claim their second premiership in as many seasons, defeating Geelong by 31 points in the 2020 AFL Grand Final at the Gabba on Saturday night.
The 12.9 (81) to 7.8 (50) triumph means the Tigers have won three flags in the past four seasons, solidifying their place in history as one of the greatest teams of the modern era, Dustin Martin winning the Norm Smith Medal to become the first player in history to win three best on ground medals in a Grand Final.
In a season like no other the first VFL/AFL Grand Final ever played outside of Victoria was also the first ever played at night, afternoon thunderstorms making conditions slippery by the opening bounce despite the rain clearing.
In a dramatic start to the match both sides suffered injuries to key players, Richmond defender Nick Vlaustin knocked out in a contest with Patrick Dangerfield that saw the Brownlow Medallist’s elbow collect Vlaustin high.
Just seconds later Gary Ablett hurt his left shoulder after being tackled by Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin, coming from the ground in pain with fears it could be his final moments on a football field, in what was his 357th and final AFL match.
Vlaustin was taken off on a stretcher to play no further part but Ablett bravely returned 15 minutes later with his shoulder strapped, severely hampered but still able to play a part for his side.
Tigers midfielder Dion Prestia kicked the opening goal of the game after Geelong did most of the early attacking, only able to register behinds through Tom Hawkins and Dangerfield.
A long bomb from Kamdyn McIntosh gave Richmond the first two goals of the match, before midfielders Cameron Guthrie and Mitch Duncan responded to give the Cats a one point lead at the first change.
They would take the momentum and run with it in the second stanza, dominating territory and possession in kicking the first three goals of the term.
Dangerfield slotted a goal from the left forward pocket, Sam Menegola had nerves of steel to complete a 40 metre set shot and when Tom Hawkins did likewise after some Ablett brilliance Geelong had kicked 5 goals in a row to lead by 22 points.
With Richmond in need of a spark and some scoreboard presence it was talisman Dustin Martin who inspired the Tigers, snapping a miraculous goal from 25 metres out moments before the half time siren to reduce the margin to 15 points at the half.
After a 28 minute half break for the half time entertainment it was Damien Hardwick’s men who sparked in to action, kicking the first two goals of the term through Jack Riewoldt and Jason Castagna.
Gryan Miers responded with a brilliant running goal but the momentum had swung the Tigers way, Kane Lambert reducing the margin to under a straight kick and Martin kicking another brilliant goal from 50 metres, bouncing the ball through to an open goal square to put his team in front.
Richmond led by 2 points at the last change and would charge away with the contest in the last, Dion Prestia with the opening goal of the term inside a minute.
Tom Lynch goaled from inside the goal square eight minutes later before Martin again bobbed up with a major to seemingly put the result beyond doubt.
Cats youngster Sam Simpson was knocked out in a brutal collision with teammate Sam Menegola inside the last ten minutes, Menegola converting the set shot having completed a strong mark in that particular contest.
There was no fightback though as the Tigers steadied, Riewoldt kicking his second after a quiet match before Martin put an exclamation mark on his best on ground effort, shrugging off Dangerfield and hooking a sensational goal from the left forward pocket, his fourth goal from his 21st disposal.
The eventual margin of 31 points wasn’t an accurate reflection on the closeness of the contest, Richmond’s experience telling as they kicked nine goals to two in the second half.
Martin saluted for his third Norm Smith to etch his name in to AFL history, the Tigers third premiership in fourth seasons having overcome every obstacle put in front of them, having spent more than 100 days away from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Shane Edwards had 27 disposals to lead all comers in the match, Jayden Short with 25 touches as both polled Norm Smith Medal votes.
Mitch Duncan was Geelong’s best player with 25 disposals and a goal, skipper Joel Selwood and defender Tom Stewart (21 disposals each) battling hard.
Ablett was given a guard of honour from both sides as he left an AFL ground for the last time, having played 19 seasons at the top level across Geelong and Gold Coast, with two premierships and two Brownlow Medals part of a glittering CV.
In front of 29,985 fans, the most remarkable season in AFL history ended with a familiar premier. It was Richmond’s 13th premiership, no doubt one of their most memorable.
IMAGE: The West Australian.