The Richmond Football Club is one step closer to the promised land after beating Great Western Sydney at the M.C.G on Saturday evening, a twilight fixture, thereby booking a place in the Grand Final against the Adelaide Crows on September 30th.
It’s been a long wait for the Tigers, 35 years to be exact since they last participated in the biggest game of the year, and although they will go into the match as underdogs, the sentiment of fans, except for those of Crow allegiance, will likely be in their favour. The vagaries of Grand final ticket allocation will, however, ensure that the overwhelmingly one-sided nature of the crowd on Preliminary final day, will not be repeated. It would be safe to say that never in the history of the game, has there been such an imbalance. Of the 94,258 people in attendance on Saturday, it is unlikely that there were more than a few thousand GWS supporters in the house.
If evidence was needed, the first goal of the game, at the twenty-six second mark, to Kane Lambert proved conclusive. After a free kick to Trent Cotchin and an explosive run by Dustin Martin to rove the ensuing pack and handball to the running Lambert, a decibel reading of close to 125 was recorded, according to the Channel Seven TV broadcast, which was equipped with the meter for just such a purpose. Apparently, that was akin to the sound of a jumbo jet taking off, and given the Tiger start, the comparison was appropriate. Just over one minute later the ball was again pumped into the Richmond forward line where Josh Caddy marked on the boundary and promptly pivoted around to register the second goal. The Tigers were off to a [jet] flyer.
With the crowd at fever pitch and so many of the Giants players unused to the M.C.G and the gravity of the occasion, they may well have dropped their bundle, but that was not what happened. Showing grit and determination to match their undoubted skill and dash, the lads from Western Sydney fought back and by half-way through the quarter had taken the lead. Two strong marks and goals by the promising Harrison Himmelberg, followed by a coast to coast effort capped off by captain Callan Ward saw the early Richmond momentum extinguished and the Giants reminding the Tiger crowd that every contest would be hard fought. For their part, the Tigers were intent on demonstrating their own commitment in the hardball stakes, as evidence by Himmelberg’s 'mouse' under the eye, and Dylan Shiel’s sore shoulder and general grogginess, courtesy of a heavy Cotchin bump (which, combined with another bump later in the quarter, saw Shiel sidelined after quarter time). The Cotchin bump, the most discussed moment of the day, was subsequently to come under scrutiny by the Match Review Panel, but fortunately for the Tiger skipper, was given the all clear to play next week.
While the Giants had dominated after those opening minutes but it was the Tigers that took their chances, and ended the quarter with a six-point break, with goals to Daniel Rioli from a free, and Jason Castagna, who was on the end of the series of passes. The scoreboard was slightly flattering to Richmond, and as the second quarter was underway it looked early that GWS was going to make amends. On the back of two missed opportunities from Castagna, the Giants struck twice, through a goal to Josh Kelly at the seven-minute mark and another to Callan Ward at thirteen. The lead of one goal was insignificant, but it was the way the Giants were playing that was most impressive. Better disposal efficiency and attack on the ball epitomized the Sydneysiders’ game, leaving the Tigers unable to register a major. But the yellow and black were still hanging in there, applying plenty of tackling pressure of their own, never allowing the more talented Giants the freedom of movement they needed. Reward finally came at twenty-one minutes when the elusive Rioli slammed home a long-range shot from 50 to get his team to parity. A couple more Richmond behinds rounded off the half giving the home team a one-point advantage. They had been fortunate to be in front at all, but one sensed there was plenty of run left in the legs for the second half.
The third quarter opened as the second ended, with both sides attacking the ball fiercely, but the Tigers seemed just that little more intent than their northern opponents. Richmond was also a little more adept at forcing the ball forward, whether by conventional means or otherwise—a tap here or there, a nudge, or a flick—whatever it took to gain momentum. No one does that better than a Rioli, and it was Daniel in this case that was prominent. He the first goal scorer of the half, from a powerful snap across the body while falling away close to the point post. The Tigers continued to surge forward and a wayward handball from Lambert (or was it directed?) found its way to Jacob Townsend streaming into the goal and the lead was stretched to 13 points. Only minutes later skipper Ward got one back against the flow, an airborne boot just flicking the ball millimetres from the line, the video reply confirming all was well.
Nineteen minutes into the third, the game was still on a knife-edge. Richmond led by seven points and had upped the ante pressure wise, but the Giants were well in it and showing no signs of caving in. Then all hell broke loose. Over the next fifteen minutes of a longish quarter, the Tigers ran rampant, slamming on four goals to zip, and in so doing went a long way to sealing it by the final break. The first of the quartet came from Rioli in another snap while falling away after a chain of handballs and kicks. The second came after a mark from Shane Edwards from a pinpoint pass from Jack Riewoldt, not influential to that stage, but a contributor nonetheless. The third and fourth were from the same boot, the irrepressible 'Dusty', who had been solid all day without dominating. But when something special was needed, he was there, in this case, a strong mark and snap on the point post, followed minutes later, just before the bell, by a wrestle in the goal square with Heath Shaw that saw the latter penalized for holding the great man’s jumper. It would be a long road back for the Giants.
The wisdom of letting Martin play for extended periods deep forward has certainly been paying off of late, and that fact was further reinforced only one minute into the final term. Running hard out from goal in a direct line for the ball, Martin took possession and in a split second changed direction to wrong-foot the pursing Phil Davis and slot, what was in effect, the sealer. With 90,000 fans roaring themselves hoarse, and a lead of thirty-seven points, nothing was going to prevent Richmond from a grand final berth, or at least that was what it seemed until two quick goals midway through the quarter to Himmelberg and Jon Patton.
There followed several tense minutes when Tiger fans started to have visions of great chokes earlier in the season. But they needn’t have worried. This was a cool Richmond outfit, ready to rise to the challenge, and that is exactly what they did. A long-range kick to advantage by Martin was marked by a running Riewoldt and from an uncomfortable-looking kick across the body booted the necessary goal, his first for the evening. Minutes later, Dan Butler skipped around several opponents to kick another. The little man finished off a solid day with the final major when he used his speed to skirt around Rory Loeb and slam home from point-blank range.
In what was a historic evening for the Richmond footy club, captain Cotchin really did lead from the front, again, to post his second 'best on ground' effort in two finals. Small forward Rioli was next best, with Martin and Rance both outstanding, while Nankervis and Lambert were also prominent. For GWS, skipper Ward was outstanding as usual, with Davis, Kelly, and Tomlinson all playing very solid games.
After the game, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said he was “…just rapt for the players, they've put in a power of work and to see them lift the intensity in that third quarter and then continue with the assault in the last, it was really pleasing”.
"Trent and his leaders stood up and took charge of the game and it was a really good result for our footy club…I thought we started to get better contest method around the ball (in the third quarter). GWS are very good inside the contest, they were probably beating us outside and that was probably a disappointing fact that we looked to adjust at half-time. Our guys did that a lot better.
"Our ball use inside 50 certainly improved in the second half and we were able to get some of those easy goals that we were trying to create. That probably happens when the pressure of the game starts to die away a little bit."
GWS coach Leon Cameron said that the “…first quarter and a half we definitely had it on our terms, we just needed to capitalise a bit more.”
"We wasted some opportunities and bombed the ball forward when we should have used the ball better, and put a bit more scoreboard pressure on.
"Then we were hanging on for dear life halfway through the third quarter and they opened it up, and in the end they deserved to win."
The scene is now set for that should be a classic encounter between the two in-form teams, each with their own strengths. The clash between the Adelaide forward line, and the Tiger back line, in particular, could hold the key. One novel feature of the game will be that no one team will hold the advantage when it comes to Grand final experience. For the first time since the inaugural V/AFL grand final in 1898, not one player on either side will have played on the biggest stage, until that is, the siren sounds at 2.30pm eastern standard time on Saturday. Bring it on!
Richmond: Rioli 4; Martin 3; Butler 2; Lambert, Caddy, Castagna, Townsend, Edwards, Riewoldt
Greater Western Sydney: Himmelberg 4; Ward 3; Kelly, Patton
BEST - AFL.COM.AU
Richmond: Cotchin, Rioli, Martin, Grimes, Rance, Lambert, Prestia
Greater Western Sydney: Ward, Kelly, Tomlinson, Scully, Davis, Himmelberg
BEST - THE AGE
Richmond: Rioli, Cotchin, Martin, Rance, Lambert, Nankervis
Greater Western Sydney: Ward, Davis, Scully, Kelly, Patton, Himmelberg
Greater Western Sydney: Dylan Shiel (concussion)
UMPIRES: Nicholls, Meredith, Ryan
TELEVISION BROADCAST: Seven Network
COMMENTATORS: Luke Darcy, Basil Zempilas, Matthew Richardson, Cameron Ling
|12||Astbury, David||9||4||4||13||0||0||0||3||1||4||26y 209d||84||8|
|35||Broad, Nathan||6||1||0||6||0||0||0||3||1||2||24y 161d||11||0|
|40||Butler, Dan||6||0||1||7||2||0||0||6||1||1||21y 112d||22||29|
|22||Caddy, Josh||9||5||7||16||1||1||0||0||0||1||24y 360d||116||96|
|46||Castagna, Jason||10||3||8||18||1||1||0||1||2||2||21y 73d||29||27|
|9||Cotchin, Trent||16||1||10||26||0||1||0||9||4||2||27y 169d||197||118|
|10||Edwards, Shane||9||4||10||19||1||1||0||2||0||0||28y 333d||206||140|
|5||Ellis, Brandon||6||3||6||12||0||0||0||2||0||1||24y 51d||134||46|
|34||Graham, Jack||8||4||6||14||0||0||0||5||3||2||19y 210d||4||2|
|6||Grigg, Shaun||8||2||8||16||0||0||0||1||2||2||29y 157d||191||92|
|2||Grimes, Dylan||5||2||6||11||0||1||0||4||0||1||26y 69d||103||3|
|14||Houli, Bachar||15||7||6||21||0||0||0||1||1||0||29y 134d||169||37|
|23||Lambert, Kane||10||2||13||23||1||0||0||2||0||0||25y 301d||51||27|
|4||Martin, Dustin||13||3||7||20||3||3||0||2||3||2||26y 89d||177||185|
|33||McIntosh, Kamdyn||8||2||7||15||0||1||0||5||0||0||23y 173d||52||10|
|25||Nankervis, Toby||11||5||2||13||0||0||27||5||1||1||23y 42d||35||14|
|3||Prestia, Dion||12||2||10||22||0||0||0||6||0||1||24y 346d||116||36|
|18||Rance, Alex||11||7||5||16||0||0||0||1||1||1||27y 349d||174||9|
|8||Riewoldt, Jack||6||2||2||8||1||0||1||2||0||2||28y 327d||224||535|
|17||Rioli, Daniel||9||5||5||14||4||0||0||6||4||1||20y 160d||42||38|
|21||Townsend, Jacob||7||1||3||10||1||1||0||5||2||1||24y 95d||36||18|
|1||Vlastuin, Nick||9||3||4||13||0||0||0||1||1||1||23y 157d||95||20|
|Greater Western Sydney||Match Stats||Career|
|3||Coniglio, Stephen||8||8||16||24||0||0||0||4||0||2||23y 282d||95||39|
|35||Corr, Aidan||4||2||3||7||0||0||0||2||0||0||23y 129d||59||1|
|1||Davis, Phil||6||8||7||13||0||0||0||2||1||1||27y 24d||121||6|
|24||de Boer, Matt||4||1||13||17||0||1||0||7||0||1||27y 197d||153||56|
|7||Deledio, Brett||8||5||3||11||0||0||0||4||2||2||30y 158d||250||187|
|4||Greene, Toby||6||3||13||19||0||1||0||2||2||1||23y 363d||117||123|
|19||Haynes, Nick||9||3||11||20||0||0||0||3||2||2||25y 128d||81||8|
|27||Himmelberg, Harry||8||3||2||10||4||1||0||2||4||0||21y 138d||16||9|
|2||Hopper, Jacob||7||4||20||27||0||0||0||4||1||4||20y 229d||23||9|
|17||Johnson, Steve||5||4||10||15||0||0||0||0||2||2||34y 81d||293||516|
|22||Kelly, Josh||15||4||13||28||1||1||0||8||1||2||22y 223d||84||53|
|37||Lobb, Rory||5||6||4||9||0||0||31||2||3||0||24y 226d||55||53|
|12||Patton, Jonathon||11||8||10||21||1||1||10||1||2||1||24y 126d||77||120|
|9||Scully, Tom||14||5||11||25||0||1||0||4||1||1||26y 131d||151||72|
|23||Shaw, Heath||17||6||5||22||0||0||0||1||0||1||31y 300d||262||39|
|5||Shiel, Dylan||4||0||3||7||0||1||0||0||1||0||24y 198d||112||58|
|14||Taranto, Tim||10||2||5||15||0||0||0||6||0||0||19y 238d||14||7|
|20||Tomlinson, Adam||16||7||10||26||0||0||0||5||4||1||24y 44d||91||19|
|8||Ward, Callan||18||3||7||25||3||1||0||6||1||1||27y 166d||192||99|
|6||Whitfield, Lachie||12||2||7||19||0||0||0||0||0||1||23y 67d||90||43|
|29||Williams, Zac||15||5||6||21||0||1||0||3||0||2||23y 3d||76||20|
|16||Wilson, Nathan||9||3||2||11||0||0||0||1||1||2||24y 259d||77||16|