The Tigers got around a 15-point halftime deficit with a nine-to-two dominant in the second half. Martin was the spark for Richmond and he was a richly deserving winner of his third medal Norm Smith, the only player to have won the best distance award on multiple occasions. Trent Cotchin is now crowned as Richmond’s first three-time premier captain and his trophy lifting was irritating for a gallant side from Geelong who had so much to play.
Gary Ablett’s famous 357-game career did not end with a third PM job, but with loss and a tight left shoulder. 200 by Joel Selwoode match as captain was in a losing grand final and his expectation of becoming the club’s first four-time prime minister continues. Patrick Dangerfield, after waiting 268 games for a grand final, loses on his first attempt.
All three have been influential at times in Geelong’s first grand final since 2011, the season after Ablett left for the Gold Coast. But the holy trinity is no more. Chris Scott’s coaching record since the flagship year of 2011, which included four losing preliminary finals, will continue to be questioned.
More than 40 millimeters of rain had hit Brisbane in the previous 24 hours, causing puddles to form on Gabba’s surface by mid-afternoon. By the time of the match the rain and thunderstorms had subsided. Fortunately, there would be no enactment of the AFL’s extreme weather policy that could have seen the game be stopped for up to an hour, or postponed entirely, if lightning strikes are identified within 10 km of the Stadium.
If the dark sky hanging over the Gabba gave the game a sense of foreboding, the omens were right. The game was barely a few minutes old when Nick Vlaustin was shot down by a stray elbow from Dangerfield to the head and Ablett fell into a tackle. The two left the field but only Ablett would return, his dislocated shoulder reappearing.
The long delay while Vlastuin was lying down seemed to have a calming effect on those who were still standing. Tom Hawkins and Dangerfield both made set shots they could normally convert, but the nerves quickly calmed down and Dion Prestia was left to throw the game’s first major. Kamdyn McIntosh followed moments later on the back of a trademark smoothball movement and the Tigers were on the move.
But the Cats were quick to assert themselves with goals against Cam Guthrie and Mitch Duncan, the latter a pearl who countered range and angle. With three minutes into the first quarter, play was stopped again – this time to face a pair of field invaders. Almost 35 minutes after the first siren – 10 minutes longer than the norm in 2020 – the opening quarter was finally over. Geelong leads by a point. Welcome to the AFL Grand Final at Gabba.
Driven by their good finish in the first term, Geelong started the second with determination. Dangerfield became a threat forward, converting one saved shot, missing another and almost set Gryan Miers up with a fantastic chase tackle. The Cats beat Richmond in their own game, maniacally tackling their 50 forward to such an effect that the ball rarely went through the other end.
Inefficiency threatened to be a problem for Geelong, but Sam Menegola and Tom Hawkins converted set shots to stop a three-behind streak, the latter set up by a scary handball from Ablett to free Selwood. Geelong’s stars were shining and it took an individual outburst from Martin to limit the Tigers’ deficit to 15 points at the main break.
The margin could have been greater, however. The Cats led virtually every key statistical area, but most tellingly, they limited Richmond to just nine points at halftime; the Tigers’ game average in 2020 is 70. Half-time was played under Geelong conditions. Richmond couldn’t get a hold of it. But it would be a game of two halves.
The Tigers started the third quarter as they needed it: with an early goal. Daniel Rioli and Jack Riewoldt hadn’t done much in the first half, but both were involved as the latter really started from a standstill. Jason Castagna followed soon after and suddenly Richmond was just three points behind. Miers’ goal in the race ended a three-game winning streak for Richmond, but goals against Kane Lambert and Martin mid-quarter confirmed that Richmond was not only back in the game, but now. in front of the dashboard. Geelong couldn’t capitalize on their good times; Ablett strolled intentionally like a deep forward but winced with every touch. In the last change, Richmond was two points off the mark after a four-goal tenure against a third.
That lead quickly grew to eight points when Prestia walked one out of the pocket in the first minute of the final quarter. Ablett was still receiving treatment; Dangerfield kept crushing packs, Selwood kept trying, but there was no doubt the tide had turned. Lynch’s first goal was the Tigers’ fourth in a row and there was a feeling of celebration about Martin’s third major moments later.
A sickening collision that saw Sam Simpson taken off the field epitomized the brutality of this contest. It also caused a long delay with seven minutes to go, after which Menegola scored an uplifting goal that raised Geelong’s hopes. But 16 points would be as close as Geelong. It was all of Richmond from there, Riewoldt adding injury insult with an exquisite goal from a tight angle in the dying minutes.
But the best was saved for last as top man on the pitch Martin smashed a ridiculously brilliant pocket goal in the dying rally. It was a moment that confirmed his greatness and that of his team.