The anticipation of AFL Grand Final day builds as thousands of fans descend on the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on that “One Day in September”. It’s a day where history is made, where legends are created and heroes become immortals. Traditionally played on the last Saturday of September, more recently 24 finals have been pushed out to October.
As the pre-match entertainment begins, the nervous energy builds amongst supporters in the stands as well as in the change rooms, where the players go through their final warm-up.
Everyone has a vested interest. The players who have trained, played, sweated, slept and breathed football for the majority of the year, and their coaches, who have a responsibility to their charges to ensure they bring home that cup and yearly bragging rights.
From the moment Chief Executive Officer Gillon McLachlan announced the AFL Premiership would be played at night for the first time in front of a crowd of 30,000 at the Gabba in Brisbane on the 24th October, 2020, you could feel the hearts of Melbourne sink into dispair.
Since 1945, The Grand Final had only been played away from the MCG once, when it took up temporary residence at Waverley Park in 1991, due to construction and improvements at the ‘G’.
They said, it never would leave Victoria, but try and explain that to this pandemic, that sweeps across our great nation. The coronavirus pandemic forced the AFL to move it’s final game outside of Melbourne for the first time in more than 120 years. The winner was the Gabba in Brisbane, but they weren’t the only contender. Perth, Adelaide and Sydney also threw their hat into the mix for the right to host one of the biggest games on our national sporting calendar.
There had been debate for some time over the possibility of holding a twilight match grand final night, and it was always met with a definite NO, but the Gabba, under lights, proved to the powers that be, that it can be done, and successfully. They have opened a pandora’s box now, and it will be interesting to see what transpires after 2020.
It seemed only fair that Queensland win the rights to host such an event, they did play host for most of the season. Teams from Western Australia and South Australia were the first to relocate, but with further Corona outbreaks in Victoria and NSW by June, they to were forced to venture north mid-season.
They promised a show that would rival Melbourne’s, and congratulations to Brisbane, as they held up their end of the bargain and didn’t disappoint the fans.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk: “We know it was a difficult decision, we acknowledge how important AFL is to Victorians, and we will host the final here with our utmost respect and Queensland will do its best to put on a show. This is a historic day for the AFL and Queensland as well. It’s a great win for Queensland and I am very honoured. This is a once in a life-time opportunity and we have no intention of letting anyone down”.
Richmond was shooting for a third premiership in four seasons, and it’s second successive. The cats, they were saying goodbye to a true legend in Gary Ablett Jnr who at the age of 36 decided to retire at the end of the season. It was back in 2019 Ablett conceded he was physically below his best during the finals. Twelve months on, Ablett reveals his son Levi has been diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease and that his wife’s mother was battling lung cancer and had passed away in August. With her husband in isolation for a large portion of the year, wife Jordan conceded that taking care of one year old Levi has taken its toll on her, and at times was very difficult, and both she and Gary are now looking forward to sharing the responsibility together of Levi’s wellbeing un-interrupted. Jordan went on to say, I’m just looking forward to having Gary home with us, it will be nice to make some good family memories together.
While the heavy rain all afternoon passed by the time of the opening bounce, it was clearly still quite slippery at the Gabba.
In the first half of the game, at one point the Tigers were trailing by as many as 22 points, but then came that Dustin Martin magic we all know very well. We might never know what Damien Hardwick said in those rooms at half time, but what ever it was, it kicked Richmond into fifth gear as they forged ahead to a 31 point victory. Ablett was hurt, it appeared to be his shoulder in the opening minutes of the game. Taken off for treatment he returned to play on clearly dealing with constant pain.
And what would a final be without bringing the game to a sudden halt thanks to the odd yobbo seeking his five minutes of fame. Not one idiot but two yesterday. The duo ran on from the Vulture Street end in the first quarter and were quickly apprehended by security guards.
When it was all over, and the Tigers had another Granny in the bag, as a mark of respect, the Richmond players gave Ablett a guard of honour back into the rooms before taking a well deserved lap of honour.
Damien Hardwick (Richmond Coach):
“This team … we started at the bottom of a mountain with everyone else, but to be the very last side on the top is an incredible journey,” he said.
“We have had an enormous amount of fun. We’ve had some incredible challenges and one thing I will say, when push comes to shove boys, you guys raise the bar.
“You’re an incredible side … And finally, to the Tiger Army both here and far, we thank you very much. Without you guys, we don’t exist. We play for you.”
Trent Cotchin (Richmond Captain):
“I grew up a Geelong supporter, what a dream come true to play with you in a grand final, I have been envious since arriving a long time ago. It’s a credit to you the way you continue to show up, perform every year,” he said.
“To our Richmond fans here, back home, and all across Australia, it never ceases to amaze me just how proud and loud you are. Wherever we are you show up in massive numbers, you give your all and we are so grateful for your support.”
And finally to top the night off, Dustin Martin wins his third Norm Smith Medal.
Dustin Martin (Brownlow Medalist, Norm Smith Medalist and Jersey Number 4 holder):
“First of all, I would just like to thank Geelong for an awesome game. You’re an awesome club. Well done to Gaz on your unbelievable career. To the AFL, Toyota, the government [thanks], last but not least, the Richmond footy club. Let’s go!” MARTIN HAS FOUR
Joel Selwood (Captain Geelong Football Club) on the loss
“Firstly, to Damien [Hardwick] and Trent [Cotchin], you guys just too good again for the Richmond Football Club, we will stay in envy of what you guys are doing right now and we have just got to chase them. To our members and supporters, we can’t thank you enough for the support.”
“There’s a little bald bloke over there [Ablett], we just want to say we love you and we thank you for what you’ve done for the game.”
COMMISERATIONS TO GEELONG, YOU PLAYED A HELL OF A GAME
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE RICHMOND FOOTBALL CLUB
GRAND FINAL WINNERS
Oh, we’re from Tiger land,
A fighting fury, we’re from Tiger land,
In any weather you will see us with a grin,
Risking head and shin,
If we’re behind then never mind,
We’ll fight and fight and win.
For we’re from Tiger land,
We’ll never weaken ’til the final siren’s gone.
Like the Tigers of old,
We’re strong and we’re bold.
For we’re from Tiger (yellow and black),
For we’re from Tiger land!