Forget the ladder, 2020’s top two teams are facing off for the premiership. It’s going to be a thriller of the highest degree.
For the first, and you’d expect only time, the grand final has left the borders of its heartland.
Speaking of firsts, it’ll be under lights. An unfamiliar, new, and potentially better spectacle. Bring it on.
Last time they met
The Tigers got up 26 points at Metricon Stadium, 7.15.57 to 4.7.31, snapping Geelong’s six match winning streak with ease. Richmond kept Geelong to a lone goal over the opening three quarters, and their horrid goalkicking made the scoreboard much friendlier on blue and white eyes.
Jack Riewoldt kicked four goals, whilst Dustin Martin (19 disposals), Shai Bolton (18 disposals), and Jayden Short (16 disposals) were in the thick of the action.
Noah Balta held up against the might of eventual Coleman Medalist Tom Hawkins, keeping him to one goal in a match-up we’ll be seeing again this Saturday.
Geelong were simply underwhelming, and outplayed by the Tigers in every facet of the game. The match will however look very different this time around. Geelong were missing Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett, Gary Rohan, Sam Simpson, and Rhys Stanley. For Richmond, there was no Nathan Broad, Dion Prestia, Shane Edwards, or David Astbury.
Why Richmond can win
Two grand finals. Two premierships.
Not a bad track record. In fact, they’ve won seven of their last eight do-or-die finals. When their season’s on the line, teams don’t come cooler, calmer, or better.
The Tigers dismantled Geelong last time they met, so there’s no doubting their manic style.
A dynasty is on their doorstep, and they’re one win away from making it tangible. What more reason do you need?
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Why Geelong can win
The Cats didn’t turn up last time these sides met in round 17. That won’t happen twice.
This is a grand final, and the difference Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett will make is immeasurable.
Amidst immense scrutiny of their finals record, Geelong’s controlled brand has excelled over the last two weeks, starving both the Pies and Lions of the footy, and coming up with 68 and 40 point wins respectively.
Also five from five at the Gabba this year, with an average winning margin of 53.
Danger wants his first, Ablett wants a fairytale, and the rest want another. This team is hungry, and thrives on being doubted.
Players to watch
Key position match-ups at either end will be a feature of the clash. Noah Balta will get the job on Tom Hawkins again after keeping him to one goal earlier this year, and the classic battle of young vs old will be enthralling. At the other end, expect revelation Lachie Henderson to match-up on Jack Riewoldt. Jack kicked four last time they met, and curbing his influence will be key for the Cats.
The biggest task of Balta's career
Dan Rioli has been a quiet achiever of late, but delivered in the last two finals, and is nearing career best form. The name Rioli goes hand in hand with the big stage, don’t expect Dan to be an exception.
Two grand final appearances, two-time premiership player, is the impressive CV of most Richmond players. With two grand final appearances, two premierships, and two Norm Smith Medals, Dustin Martin took it one step further. The definition of a big-game player. He’s on the cusp of unchartered territory with a third Norm Smith beckoning, but even if he doesn’t take home the medal, you can count on Dusty to put on a show.
In last year’s grand final, Dusty floated forward and kicked four, he even kicked two in a low-scoring prelim last week. Darcy Byrne-Jones was a lightweight in a heavyweight battle, and didn’t have the size to compete. The same can’t be said for Jake Kolodjashnij, the man touted to be tasked with stopping Martin when he drifts forward. Whilst Dusty has more than muscle going for him, Kolodjashnij will be a tougher opponent, and him nullifying Martin’s scoreboard impact will go a long way to Geelong winning the game.
And of course, don’t forget about the usual culprits. Dangerfield, Selwood, and Ablett. The superstar, warrior, and little master. Why they’re must-watch doesn’t need an explanation. Pitted against Dustin Martin, Dion Prestia, and Trent Cotchin, we’ll be seeing two of the very best midfields go head-to-head.
What’s at stake?
Much more than a premiership.
Win or lose, the ramifications are monumental for either side.
Geelong need something to show for a decade at the top. Richmond need to turn a very impressive run into a dynasty.
They’re one game away from going back-to-back. Three in four years has a nice ring to it.
More than that, both sides have plenty to prove.
The Cats are too old, they crumble every September (or October), they say.
The Tigers only win because of their run at the ‘G, they couldn’t do it anywhere else, they say. There’ll never be another season like this. Never another opportunity to blow their one and only supposed blemish out of the water.
It’s Gary Ablett’s last game, how fitting would it be to end his career with a premiership where it all began?
Danger’s 30, and knows all too well grand finals don’t come around often. He has of course played in four losing prelims.
Before the season, Chris Scott believed that “with the greatest respect to Richmond, they’re not Hawthorn in the multiple premiership years in a row. I don’t think they’re Geelong, St Kilda or Collingwood through that sort of 2009/10 period either.” Time to walk the talk.
Losing isn’t an option, but it’ll be one team’s reality come Saturday night.
You’d usually make a case for passing the baton, the Tigers don’t have the drive to go around again. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Their bottomless pool of talent means there’s always hard-luck stories at this time of year, and out of that comes fringe players that want what their mates have so bad. Hunger.
Still, Richmond were pushed to the very end by port, whereas the Cats coasted past a spent Collingwood and sub-par Brisbane. In a season where they’ve spent countless months on the road, that could split the un-splitable.
Geelong by two, but it’s a flip of the coin.