It comes as no surprise that the 2020 Grand Final was Gary Ablett's last game. There was very little fanfare and no major announcement, most likely due to the fact that almost everyone knew it was to be his last. There is little that can be said about the "Little Master" that has not already been said or written. At the end of the game, all the Richmond players lined up with the Cats to form a guard of honor for Ablett. However, there was much more to it than that.
There is no lack of finals experience for either Geelong or Richmond with both sides contesting for the better part of the last decade. However, this will be only the third time to two will square off against each other in a Grand Final. The first time was 1931 when the Cats thrashed the Tigers. The Tigers turned the tables in 1967 with a narrow nine point victory.
It was announced on July 20 that former Richmond player Shane Tuck passed away at the age of 38. The cause of death was not announced, but it has been reported that he struggled with depression for many years, including his playing career. A former Hawthorn great, who wished to remain anonymous, said those close to Shane as well as both Hawthorn and Richmond knew of his struggle with mental illness.
Tuck, son of former Hawthorn great Michael Tuck, and nephew of Gary Ablett Sr., was originally drafted by Hawthorn as a rookie in 2000,
A cool winter’s evening with virtually no breeze greeted the two teams that lead the way back for the competition onto the MCG after the long break due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no crowd allowed in the massive stadium save for a handful of officials and some artificial crowd cutouts behind the goals. The ground was slippery from a heavy dew. Pre-match saw both teams randomly spread around the center circle and ‘take a knee’ in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was almost 3 months ago that round 1 was completed and for players and fans of the game, the long wait was over.
Richmond won the toss and chose to kick to the city end. It was Collingwood who scored first when Taylor Adams roved a boundary throw-in and snapped on the run from 40m out. Tom Phillips followed up with a second for Collingwood with a set shot goal.
Richmond destroyed a hapless Greater Western Sydney Giants to win its 12th Premiership flag in style. The 89-point margin was a true reflection on the complete dominance the Tigers had over the Giants. A tight first quarter that promised a competitive match, but Richmond was having none of that. The fierce and determined Tigers took complete control after quarter time and strangled the Giants with the manic brand of football that has made Richmond the best team in the competition over the last three seasons.
The Giants had performed brilliantly to win two tight contests on the road, but when Richmond asked the question for the third time, Greater Western Sydney simply had nothing left to give. The Tigers were hungry for the contest, determined to avenge a 2018 season where they were the best team all season but fell short after going out in the Preliminary final.
There is an old adage in footy that a team has to lose a few finals to win one. it proved true for Richmond as they lost their first ever final in 1916 - a semi-final against Carlton. They then lost their first Grand Final to Collingwood in 1919. They lost again to Carlton in 1920 in a semi-final, but since there were only four teams eligible at that time, they were still through to the Grand Final which they won. They have since gone on to win another 10 premierships.
Round 22 was full of stories. There was heartbreak in Adelaide as the Crows and Power likely blew their chance at playing finals, but there were also two of the season’s greatest games played between four of the league’s best teams. Both of those incredible games were physical, skillful contests that came down to one kick for goal that separated the winners from the losers. Brisbane’s last gasp win over Geelong in front of a rampant Lions home crowd came courtesy of a potential “Mark of the Year” by Lincoln McCarthy who goaled for a one point win, while it was Richmond’s favorite rascal in Jack Riewoldt who snapped truly to give his Richmond team a meritorious win against a gallant West Coast Eagles on Sunday at the MCG. All four teams will no doubt play a big part in September.
Other big winners in a stunning round of footy were the Western Bulldogs who followed up 21 consecutive goals the previous week against Essendon with a dozen in a row against a disappointing Greater Western Sydney who let their home fans down.
The curse of the number one position on the AFANA AFL Power Poll has claimed another victim, with Geelong going down to Hawthorn at the MCG on Sunday afternoon. This leaves the Brisbane Lions as the hottest team in footy after their narrow victory over the Kangaroos, giving the Lions five wins in a row and top spot on the AFANA AFL Power Poll for the first time.
The Eagles move up one spot after a tight win against the Demons at Traeger Park in Alice Springs while Collingwood drop for the second week in a row after they were no match for a sensational Greater Western Sydney outfit, despite missing a handful of their best players.
Essendon continue to build with a meritorious road win against an ice cold Adelaide Crows, while Richmond also bolstered its top four hopes with a comfortable win at the MCG against Port Adelaide.
An extended round six kicked off with the unusual Wednesday night game that saw Richmond victorious by 43 points over the struggling Melbourne Demons. The Anzac Day battle between Collingwood and Essendon was a classic that ended with the Magpies hanging on to win by four points in controversial circumstances as the Bombers fell just short of pulling off a great comeback. Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Fremantle and the Giants took care of business as expected while Carlton almost pulled off back to back victories before succumbing by just five points to a frantic Hawthorn down in Tasmania.
Welcome to the first AFANA AFL Power Poll for 2019, and what a crazy couple of rounds of footy we have witnessed to kick off the season! If what we have seen so far is any indication, Aussie rules football fans are in for a crazy ride in 2019. Nothing should surprise us given the last three premiers have come from 8th, 13th and 6th on the ladder in the year prior to taking out the big one.