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.
GWS bucked the trend in 2016. As an expansion club, their first few years in the league were not good, with wooden spoons in 2012 and 2013. Enter Leon Cameron as senior coach in 2014, replacing inaugural coach Kevin Sheedy. Cameron had been an assistant under Sheedy and certainly would have learned a lot. In 2014, a 16th place finish was a small step in the right direction. The next year saw them rise even further with 11 wins and an 11th place finish in the standings. It was a coming of age in 2016 for the young Giants. Heading into round six, they had a 3-2 record. Few rated them against reigning premier Hawthorn, but they proceeded to demolish the Hawks by 11 goals. From there, they lost only four more games for the year and finished fourth in the standings.
They had to face cross-town rival and first place Sydney in a Qualifying Final. Again, they went in as underdogs against the seasoned Swans who had not missed a finals campaign since 2003. However, they pulled off a shock six goal win. Their joy was short-lived as the red hot Bulldogs defeated them in the Preliminary Final by a solitary goal. Many wondered what if Steve Johnson (who joined the Giants after being delisted by Geelong) had not been out suspended. Two years ago, 2017 was equally successful with another fourth place finish. They went up against eventual Grand Final loser Adelaide in a Qualifying Final and lost, but still had another chance against West Coast the following week, Like they did to Hawthorn the previous year, they completely dominated the Eagles with a comprehensive 69-point thumping. Again, they could not go one better, losing to eventual premier Richmond in the Preliminary Final.
In 2018, they slipped to seventh and had to face Sydney (sixth) again. Once more they prevailed, but again could not repeat the feat the next week against Collingwood in the Preliminary Final. Was that loss a spur for this year's thrilling Preliminary Final finish? How sweet it must have been for GWS to turn the tables. How closely have they scrutinized or will they scrutinize that loss to the Tigers in 2017?
Richmond will have few worries going into the Grand Final. They have been without star defender Alex Rance, who surely would have been assigned to Jeremy Cameron, nearly all season after he went down in the opener with a knee injury. Richmond, having won the 2017 premiership, has plenty of experienced players in their side. Dylan Grimes has stepped up in the absence of Rance to lead the defense. He has plenty of support from Brandon Ellis, Nathan Broad, Nick Vlastuin, David Astbury and the rebounding Bachar Houli. Which Giant will get the unenviable task of trying to stop Brownlow Medalist Dustin Martin in the midfield? Youngster Shai Bolton has the versatility to zip through the midfield and play as a small forward. The Tigers also have plenty of forward firepower in the likes of Jack Riewoldt, Tom Lynch, Dean Riioli, Jason Castagna and Josh Caddy. Geelong looked to have the Semi-Final in their keeping at half-time, but some rejigging by Coach Damian Hardwick saw the Tigers come back and over run the Cats in the second half.
Of course, the Giants are loaded with talent themselves or they would not be there on big stage. Cameron up forward with Lachie Whifield and Toby Green always lurking nearby when they are not pushing up the ground. Jeremy Finlayson has also had a fine season up forward. However, Heath Shaw, Matt de Boer, and Shane Mumford are the only players in the side with Grand Final experience. Shaw was a member of Collingwood's 2010 premiership team, Mumford played in Sydney's 2012 premiership and de Boer was with Fremantle when they lost to Hawthorn in 2013. Adam Tomlinson, Zac Williams, Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio, Aiden Kennedy, Jacob Hopper, Tim Taranto, Harry Himmelberg and Brett Deledio (injured) have been around for the highs and lows with the club. Deledio also played finals with Richmond before crossing to the Giants at the end of 2016.
No doubt those senior GWS players will have plenty of input for their teammates. The stout defending of the likes of Shaw, Davis, and Nick Haynes in the dying minutes against Collingwood would surely give them confidence against the Tigers. Can GWS buck the trend once more like they did in 2016 and bring home their first piece of silverware? It will take a solid effort against a side that Geelong Coach Chris Scott labeled as the best in 2019.
Source: theage.com.au, heraldsun.com.au, afl.com.au, AFL Record Season Guides
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 - 12:00 PM EDT