After a night of wild celebration it’s still as surreal as it sounds. Richmond have won the AFL Premiership.
The Tigers ended a 37-year title hoodoo with a sensational 48-point victory over minor premiers Adelaide, aided by second- and third-quarter runs that yielded nine goals to one to put the game beyond doubt.
The triumph was even more remarkable for the fact that many of Richmond’s hierarchy, including coach Damien Hardwick, faced uncertain futures after a horrific 2016 season in which the Tigers finished 13th. In the end, despite a controversial pre-season which saw a farcical board challenge, the trade of Brett Deledio to Greater Western Sydney, and continued speculation over Dustin Martin’s contract, it was all worth it in the end.
Martin completed one of the all-time greatest individual seasons in the decider – taking out the Norm Smith Medal with a sensational 29-disposal, two-goal display.
It capped a season in which he collected the Brownlow Medal, the AFL Players Association MVP and a premiership medal. He also likely to take the Gary Ayres Medal as best finals’ player.
Richmond’s defensive pressure tells
Adelaide made the better start to the Grand Final, taking advantage of some Tiger nerves early on to kick four goals to two in the first quarter. Rory Sloane was influential, kicking two first quarter goals, while Rory Laird and Matt Crouch were winning plenty of the football. But Richmond’s renowned defensive pressure was evident on the wide expanses of the MCG, and the Tigers started asserting control in the second quarter, holding the Crows goalless while kicking four to give themselves a 9-point half-time lead.
The Tiger stars came to the fore in the third quarter. Shane Edwards set up opportunities for his fellow forwards, while Bachar Houli provided plenty of dash off half-back. Alex Rance was sensational as a defensive mainstay, curtailing the influence of the Crows’ Taylor Walker and Josh Jenkins. The Tigers’ five third-quarter goals set them up for victory, entering the final session with a 34-point lead.
It was the unlikeliest of heroes who helped Richmond kick clear of the Crows: Jack Graham, playing just his fifth game, kicked three goals – including two in the third – to crush the Crows’ spirit. The Tigers outworked the Crows all over the ground. They ran harder, showed more hunger for the ball and adapt perfectly to the Grand Final stage despite the Crows having – on paper – the superior side.
Five more goals in the final quarter ensured that the premiership would head to Punt Road for the first time since 1980.
In Swan Street, Tigers fans rocked on into the night as they celebrated their team and the premiership. – Michael Thompson
Richmond 2.3 6.4 11.8 16.12 (108)
Adelaide 4.2 4.7 5.10 8.12 (60)
Richmond: Graham 3, Martin 2, Riewoldt 2, Townsend 2, Prestia, Houli, Lambert, Grigg, Caddy, Castagna, Butler
Adelaide: Sloane 2, Walker 2, B. Crouch, Cameron, Greenwood, Betts
Photo: Jack Riewoldt joins Tigers fans to celebrate the end of the 37-year drought. AFL image from the Richmond Football Club’s website.