1. THE AFL STILL CAN’T GET THE ENTERTAINMENT RIGHT

 

You have to wonder if the AFL have any clue about the song choices of their artists when they book them. I’m guessing these performers would be paid handsomely for their efforts, so you’d think it’s not too far a stretch to politely say, “OK guys, you can sing what you choose, but please try and give us songs that are upbeat so as to fire up the crowd.”

Clearly, in the case of the live performers at the Gabba preceding Wolfmother, that wasn’t the case. It was more a case of background music while eating your pre-game Four’n Twenty. Sure, Wolfmother brought the tone back up, and I wasn’t totally averse to the half-time show put on by Sheppard. Both of those performances had the required energy for the occasion, although I do often wonder if Wolfmother actually have any other songs in their repertoire besides Joker and the Thief.

However, as good as they were, it seems for many the damage was done. My experience working in the entertainment industry is that people seem to talk more about the weaker aspects of any given show and dismiss the better performances as what should be the standard on display. Even Mike Brady performing to an empty MCG was welcome but odd nonetheless. And what was with the slowed-down cover songs? For whatever reason, year in year out, when it comes to the big day’s entertainment, we just can’t seem to ever nail it.

 

  1. THAT WAS AS TOUGH AN OPENING AS YOU’LL EVER SEE

 

Within the first two minutes of the game, you had two players go off the ground with what appeared to be serious injuries. Nick Vlastuin ended up playing no further part after clashing with Dangerfield’s elbow in a contest. Some say that Patrick Dangerfield should face a sanction for the incident, but I’m not in that camp. It was two players going for the ball, and with Vlastuin courageously backing into the pack at full speed in his customary fashion, it was more a case of incidental contact which unfortunately knocked him flat on to his back and on to a stretcher. It’s certainly a disappointment for Vlastuin, but I just can’t see how there was intent to hurt when an instant earlier, the extended arm of Dangerfield had also spoiled the ball.

It was also heart in mouth stuff when Gary Ablett, playing his final game, went down in a tackle and was clutching his troublesome shoulder. He did manage to return to the field but was clearly hampered by the injury. I imagine the circumstances would’ve been very different if this happened earlier in the season. No doubt Ablett would’ve sat out the entire game in the hope of being right for future matches.

The same could be said for Nathan Broad who seemed quite dazed after a knock to the head. Most of us thought with the recent concussion policies he may have missed the rest of the game as well, but not only did he return, but he was one of Richmond’s best which suggests the current policy is potentially over-cautious? Unfortunately for Simpson of the Cats, his head knock in the final term ended his night early. The game was certainly played with ferocity.

 

  1. DUSTIN MARTIN – THAT IS ALL

 

Dusty, by his own lofty standards, would say he didn’t have his best season. He was definitely a solid contributor throughout the year, and had his usual moments of brilliance, but you could argue quite successfully he was not always at his best. However, when it’s finals time, this man goes to a level very few before him have ever done.

They say the mark of a great player is how well he plays in the big games, and if that’s the case, then this guy is the greatest of all time. Winning one Norm Smith medal is tough and two is incredibly rare. But winning three is seemingly impossible. Until now that is.

With the Tigers floundering in the second quarter trailing by 22 points, it appeared that the Cats had gained the ascendancy and the game was slipping away. Sensing the urgency, and right on cue, Dusty took back control of the game, singlehandedly scoring a goal and having a huge influence in switching the momentum back the Tigers way and getting them back to within a manageable 15 point deficit at half time.

From that point on, the Tigers smashed the Cats 61 to 15 in the second half, and Dusty continued to have a huge influence on the result, finishing with four crucial goals in a clear best on ground performance. I don’t think anybody watching the game had any doubt as to who would win the award once Dusty booted his third major in the final quarter. We are witnessing history here. If the Tigers can make another Grand Final in the following few seasons, you could almost back him in for a fourth Norm Smith medal.

 

  1. PATRICK DANGERFIELD HAD LITTLE INFLUENCE

 

I may not be an AFL coach, but am I allowed to question the decision of leaving your best midfielder playing as a forward for most of the night? At three-quarter time it was a no-brainer that Danger was going to start in the middle, but it seems as though he had missed getting his hands on the ball for much of the night and just couldn’t find a way to work himself back into the game during the final term.

In the second quarter after booting a nice goal and with things seemingly going the way of Geelong, one could think the plan of playing him as the dangerous forward we know he can be was working. However, when the game swung in the third quarter, often referred to as the premiership quarter, one could’ve almost been forgiven for wondering if he was still out there.

I’m aware that Geelong have a midfield that runs deep, with the likes of Selwood, Guthrie, Duncan and Menegola, but it still struck me as odd that Dangerfield had spent very little time in the middle, and when a player of his talent has had just eight possessions and a goal in the first three quarters, it’s clear you haven’t utilised one of your best assets. The last quarter was all Richmond once again, so it was no surprise he managed just 12 for the game which was his worst return for the year. The fact he was played forward for most of the night begs the question: Did he go into the game 100% fit?

 

  1. TIGERS HAD NOT COME BACK FROM A DEFICIT OF 20+ POINTS ALL YEAR

 

As someone who loves numbers and studies the game quite closely, I thought when Geelong got out to a 22 point lead that it was going to be hard for the Tigers to bridge that gap. You see, aside from the Round Two draw against Collingwood where the Tigers trailed at quarter time by 24 points and eventually drew level, in every other game, the Tigers never managed to win when trailing by a margin of more than three goals.

Whilst you could never write them off, I had my concerns. At that stage, the Cats were dominant and possibly should’ve led by more. I guess I forgot about the Dusty factor – silly me. It’s the best teams who will do the unthinkable and buck trends when it counts. You just have to love the way great players like Martin watch what’s going on during the game and decide that they’re not having it any more. Once a guy like him makes that decision, not only do his efforts lift, but the whole team joins in. So those early misses from the Cats will be something they will rue today. Despite the Dusty Martin show, I still think it could’ve been a different outcome if the Cats got out to a five-goal lead before half time. Martin sensed the urgency and got his team going again, but one wonders how much more pressure there would’ve been if it got out to a 30+ point margin – and in my humble opinion, it should’ve been.

 

The New ‘Family Club’

 

  1. AGE MIGHT’VE BEEN A FACTOR IN THIS RESULT

 

There’s a question mark over Geelong’s ageing list running out of steam. And it’s a fair point too, when you consider they had Ablett, Selwood, Henderson, Hawkins, Taylor, Dangerfield and Tuohy all in their 30’s with many more in their late 20’s. The Tigers, on the other hand, have just four in Houli, Riewoldt, Edwards and Cotchin. It certainly seemed as though the Cats were out on their feet, particularly late in the game when the Tigers roared away and eventually ran out winners by a comfortable 31 points.

As we all know, Gary Ablett Jr has called an end to his brilliant career. The speculation begins at this time of year as to who else may decide it’s time to hang up the boots. One of the obvious ones is Harry Taylor. At 34 years of age, the question has to be asked, however, he did one hell of a job keeping Tom Lynch to just one goal and just a handful of possessions. Some are even suggesting Jack Riewoldt, but while he’s had better seasons, I think the Lynch/Riewoldt combination is still working. I feel he should go on again, unless he’s had enough. It will be interesting if Geelong do feel the age profile of their list is a problem. That may mean some may be squeezed out against their will. Trade period will be fascinating.

 

  1. SHOULD INTERSTATE FINALS BE REGULAR?

 

Hear me out. It is a national competition, so it stands to reason that playing them all at the MCG seems a little weird, especially if there are interstate teams playing off. I’m a believer in home finals as the side finishing above should not have the disadvantage of being forced to play away from their home state.

I just think we need a more nuanced approach. This will no doubt anger the purists, but after a year like the one we’re experiencing right now, who knows what the future holds? That’s all I’m saying. I know it’s Melbourne’s showpiece, etc, and as a Melbournian I like that it’s here, but I’m not averse to the idea of the game being played interstate, although I do recognise the logistics of not knowing where the game will be played two weeks out is a nightmare in itself as well, although if the travel industry could come to the party, they could offer a solution – if COVID ever lets them.

 

  1. THE LAST TIME SOMEONE WON THE FLAG FROM FOURTH POSITION WAS 1992

 

Geelong winning the Grand Final would’ve been the first time in 28 years that anyone achieved that feat. Last time was West Coast way back in 1992 when they won their first of now four premierships in their short history. And in the second quarter, Geelong looked on track to bringing that record to light, although we all know how that ended. During the AFL-era, post 1990, it has only occurred that one time. Some may even see that, despite it coming with a double chance, finishing fourth seems almost bad luck.

I’ll explain. You see, Adelaide won their two premierships inexplicably from fifth position, and we all know what happened in 2016 when the Bulldogs surprised everyone and won from seventh. You’d think that winning from fourth with the double-chance would have occurred more than just once, and quite a few have made it through to the big day only to fall short. You’d think any side finishing in the Top Four would almost have an equal chance at the start of the finals, but it seems the Top Three have had a lot more success. Especially in the last decade, third has in fact won the most would you believe, including all of Richmond’s wins!

 

  1. I NOTICED MANY ARE AGAINST NIGHT GRAND FINALS

 

There are pros and cons either way for a Grand Final being played at night, but yesterday sure felt weird. With the game starting at 7:30, the rest of the day dragged on forever, and there was certainly no sense of the occasion during the daylight hours. Sure, restrictions didn’t help here in Victoria, but who doesn’t love it when your team wins the Grand Final and you can start your celebrations in the early hours of the evening? And let’s not forget families with young kids who can put their kids to bed at a reasonable hour when it’s played in the afternoon.

The only beneficiary of the game being played under lights are the entertainers who can no doubt get great effect from lighting and pyrotechnics. I get that and it certainly makes for better viewing, however, as has often been said, the centrepiece is the game. And, to be honest, if they’re going to serve up the same sort of music that was played in the pre-game show, that’s akin to a toilet break anyway. So the decision should only be based on the game itself which is the real entertainment, and not just for tradition’s sake, but also for all the other reasons I’ve mentioned. I sincerely hope it remains a 2:30 start for years to come.

 

EBOOK: RICHMOND TIGERS YEAR IN REVIEW 2020

 

  1. THERE’S NO ASTERISK NEXT TO RICHMOND

 

Many said with the shortened season that perhaps whoever was to take out this year’s premiership would have an asterisk next to their name, suggesting this season was incomplete and even posing a question on its legitimacy. I have a different view, actually.

Whilst there can be no doubt that the conditions that this season was played under were drastically altered and therefore unlike any we’ve seen, I’m a huge fan of the fact that each side played each other once in what was the first season since the inception of the AFL that was no longer lop-sided. I wouldn’t have any issue if future seasons were shortened to 17 games. It’s the only way to guarantee fairness across the board, although I recognise it probably won’t ever happen again.

But even more important than that is the fact that all you ever want from a competition is the best team ultimately winning, and that’s exactly what happened here. Whilst Brisbane and Port had very good years, there was always that little doubt on them as to whether or not they could go all the way. The reason for that is basically because of Richmond, who have been the best team for four years now despite stumbling in 2018.

So, if this result has gone as expected for many, then there can be no question of the legitimacy, nor should there ever be any consideration of an asterisk on 2020’s winner. Perhaps you could put one on the season itself for being so weirdly impacted by a pandemic.

 

2020 Mongrel AFL Grand Final Review – The Big Questions