The COVID-19 AFL Grand Final between defending premiers Richmond and Geelong at The Gabba on Saturday night will leave a historic legacy that will be long remembered.
Remarkably the Tigers go into the clash after having an incredible 110 days “on the road”, which is not phasing the side according to the team’s ever reliable captain Trent Cotchin.
“It has been difficult but we have been doing what we enjoy so that is a definite plus,” he says.
Equally incredible – with this being such a tumultuous year – is that after winning the 2017 and 2019 premierships Richmond is on target to fulfil a prediction made in 2010 by chief executive Brendon Gale that the club would have won three premierships by 2020.
Gale also forecast that the Tigers would have 100,000 members, which has been topped by 420.
Despite the pandemic and being forced to watch games, primarily on television, the Richmond supporters have had a very enjoyable season which can become even better after the victory over Port Adelaide, at Adelaide Oval, in the preliminary final.
Yet surprisingly, in review, the result did not come from a complete team effort.
Ruckman Toby Nankervis, who will go up against Geelong’s Rhys Stanley, lifted his game to an outstanding level.
As well as controlling the ruck duels Nankervis was able to secure crucial marks when they were really needed.
Dustin Martin, as he mostly is, was brilliant using his strength and speed to positive effect.
His early goal set the Tigers on the pathway to success and with two Norm Smith Medals to his credit it is proven that he can rise to the occasion in the season’s climax.
It seems likely that Zach Tuohy, who played a “blinder” against Brisbane will be allotted the duty of trying to combat Martin, which will be no easy task.
Cotchin, who like his Cats counterpart Joel Selwood, can be relied upon was another valued contributor against Port.
While Cotchin and Selwood will lock horns the most intriguing, and vital, encounters will be at the opposite ends of the ground.
Richmond’s Noah Balta will be pitted against the powerful Tom Hawkins and Tom Lynch will be trying to earn his chances, probably, against wily veteran Harry Taylor, who is believed to be playing for the last time.
In a style now adopted by other clubs Hawkins is being is being thrown into the ruck when play is in the forward area and his brute strength is enabling him to push his rivals around.
One of the beneficiaries of this has been Gary Ablett, who will be playing in his 357th and last match.
Although not winning as many possessions as earlier in his career Ablett’s kicking and handball remains superior and his two third quarter goals virtually sealed the Geelong win over Brisbane in their preliminary final.
Extraordinarily the Cats overcame the Lions with a team effort that was pretty much complete.
Even Gary Rohan was kicking goals and arguably the only player to not make a valued contribution was Luke Dahlhaus, but he is a trier and should put himself right back into the fray in the grand final.
Once the Cats were on their way to victory superstar Patrick Dangerfield, seemingly, began conserving himself for the encounter seven days later.
Surprisingly, considering his illustrious career, this will be Dangerfield’s first grand final appearance so he will going full steam ahead against the Tigers. Having adapted to the short Gabba ground he will certainly provide numerous scoring opportunities for his forwards from around the centre.
Others such as Brandan Parfitt, Mitch Duncan, Sam Menegola and Mark Blicavs are playing in fine style and rated highly against Brisbane and should do so again.
Taking all aspects of the confrontation into consideration it is impossible for anyone to confidently predict the outcome – particularly when umpiring decisions can have an unfair impact – so there is no selection.