At half time in Friday night’s Preliminary Final against Geelong, Richmond looked to be in trouble. Just a year after failing badly in the same game against Collingwood despite being hot favorites, the Tigers trailed by 21 points and looked a shadow of the team that was riding a 10 game winning streak. Adding further doubt to any potential comeback was a shoulder injury to 2017 Premiership hero Jack Graham, plus collision injuries to Captain Trent Cotchin and star midfielder Dustin Martin that had slowed both players in the first half.
Geelong on the other hand was magnificent. The Cats were making a mockery of their label as underdogs, taking the game on and converting up forward despite missing key spearhead in Tom Hawkins through suspension. The half time scoreline seemed unlikely after the Tigers rallied in the back end of the first quarter.
The opening goal of the game went to Geelong legend Gary Ablett Jr., but then the Tigers took control with three consecutive goals through one from Dustin Martin and two to the best forward on the ground in Tiger Tom Lynch. From that point on, Richmond seemed a shadow of its former self. They missed targets, didn’t apply their usual manic pressure and seemed unsure. Geelong pounced. Tim Kelly, best afield in the first quarter, as he racked up possessions seemingly at will, goaled for Geelong to reduce the margin to just seven points. Two goals from the lively Gryan Miers gave the Cats the lead as the Tiger defense fumbled and struggled to hit their teammates by hand or foot. At quarter time, Geelong held a six point lead and with Jack Graham on the bench injured, Tiger fans were restless.
Geelong kicked the first goal of the second quarter when the term was only 20 seconds old, Miers and Kelly combining again to stretch the Geelong lead two goals. Richmond had chances to steady but missed gettable shots while the Cats continued to apply pressure. As the quarter wore on, Richmond started to break even in contested balls and finally hit the scoreboard through Jason Castagna after a string of five unanswered Geelong goals. With a 14 point lead and time running out in the second half, controversial umpire Ray Chamberlain paid a contentious free kick to Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield for a push that upon replay looked dubious. When Richmond captain Trent Cotchin seemed confused as to whom to give the ball to, a 50 meter penalty was awarded to Dangerfield, who easily goaled to stretch the half time Geelong lead to 21 points. Richmond looked in trouble.
The Tigers simply needed to hit the scoreboard first in the third quarter to get some momentum, and that is exactly what they did. Cotchin crash-tackled Geelong ruck man Rhys Stanley, the ball spilled to Josh Caddy, who fed Dion Prestia and in turn the in-form Tom Lynch up forward. Lynch kicked the goal for the third of his 5 goals and the margin was back to 15 points. Richmond had found its mojo and started to resemble the team that hadn't lost in nearly 3 months. The pressure was back, combined with midfield brilliance from Dion Prestia and the evergreen Shane Edwards, while Bachar Houli marshalled numerous attacks from the Tiger back line. For those in attendance, it was hard to believe Richmond was the same team that played so poorly in the first half. Whether it was the pre-finals bye and the week off after the Qualifying finals win that resulted in just two games in four weeks or something else, the effect on their game was obvious.
The five goals to one third quarter had Richmond holding sway by four points at three quarter time, but it was hard to see how the Cats could hold off Richmond such was the momentum they had snatched. The final term was frantic and Geelong did not concede easily, but once Richmond gets a taste of victory they were hard to stop. The Cats hung in with desperate effort and endeavor but at the 23 minute mark Dion Prestia’s long goal gave the Tigers an 18 point lead and spelt the end for Geelong.
The second half turnaround by Richmond was impressive, and speaks to the belief that Damien Hardwick’s men have created over the last three seasons. While the Tigers will most likely be without 2017 Premiership hero Jack Graham (dislocated shoulder) and dour defender Nathan Broad (concussion) in next week’s Grand Final, they will go into the biggest game of the year knowing their best is good enough to claim their second Premiership in three years.
Scoreboard: Richmond: 3.3 4.5 9.7 12.13 (85) Geelong: 4.3 7.8 8.9 9.12 (66) Best Players: Richmond: Lynch, Houli, Prestia, Martin, Edwards, Cotchin, Ellis Geelong: Kelly, Selwood, Dangerfield, O'Connor, Stanley, Miers, Tuohy
Article last changed on Sunday, September 22, 2019 - 2:40 PM EDT