So, Richmond did it. In hindsight, it seems it was inevitable. I even had that feeling last week, my head was saying the Crows were the better team, but the Tigers might be irresistible. And that’s pretty well how it turned out.
My reservations about Adelaide proved to be spot on to. Richmond stifled them, closing down their run and creativity. That was always going to be the crux of the contest, but there was a strong school of thought that the Crows skill and precision would overcome that. That was wrong.
Richmond turned it into a first-half arm wrestle, and that’s the one game style the Crows can’t play. They either win – handsomely – playing their style, or more rarely lose – comfortably – when it fails. They’re incapable of grinding out a victory, and so Richmond turned it into a grind.
I’ll get to Richmond, but I have to say that Adelaide was pathetic. There have been some one-sided grand final wins, but few losses have been as insipid as the Crows. They barely gave a yelp. They didn’t try anything, they didn’t fight back. They played without any physical presence and good players few and far between – and most of their big name players very poor.
To some degree that’s a failure of coaching. I think Pyke is a very clever coach, but he’s predominantly cerebral, if not scientific. When the science breaks down he seems at a loss. There appears no plan B, and no inspiration – surely when the game is slipping away you’d try something different? There’s no tomorrow: try something.
It’s true to some degree of the players too. I found their inaction and lack of initiative frustrating. Back in the day, someone would have turned around to start a fight, and there’s great value in it. To start with it shows an intent sadly lacking. Secondly, it’s an opportunity to disturb the pattern of the game and get some momentum. Finally, it might fire up the team.
There was very little on-field leadership, and when I heard that Crows players were arguing amongst themselves at halftime I knew it was pretty well game over. This game was over a long away before the end, even when the scores were closer.
As for Richmond, they played like men on a mission. It’s how they’ve played the whole final series. They carried the momentum from the previous finals and crushed the Crows with it. It was a hugely committed, disciplined effort. They hungered for it so much more.
As I said the other day, this is a great testament to Dimma. I was so happy for him. He’s a genuinely nice bloke but has been underrated when in fact he is very shrewd. This his reward for persistence and intelligence.
It was late in the game I realised I was barracking for Richmond. They deserved it, and that counts for so much for me. Footy is a game of effort as much as skill. Then I saw Benny Gale – a lovely, very smart bloke – in tears I was so happy for them. There is romance I sport, and this was a win for the romantics.
It reminded me of a truth I had overlooked. I was happy for Adelaide to win because they were inoffensive to me. I have a much greater emotional connection to the Tiges though because I have grown up with them in the comp, have been rivals with them and often times jousted with their rowdy supporters. There are limits to the connection. I have a similar history with other traditional clubs, but it doesn’t translate to support. Richmond is a big club, but I’ve never hated them – maybe it’s because they wore a sash too, or because they were never really a threat. But I dislike Collingwood, despise Carlton, and hate Hawthorn, and could never in a month of Sunday’s barrack for them.
Well done Tiges, you’ve made a lot of people happy.