They were made to work every step of the way but by the time the siren blew on Friday night’s preliminary final, the Tigers were able to exorcise the demons of their upset defeat 12 months earlier. Trailing at half time, it required a strong second half but Richmond was up to the challenge kicking eight of the last 10 goals of the match.
What did we learn from the night that saw Richmond qualify for their second premiership decider in three years?
Tom Lynch might be recruit of the year
Coach Damien Hardwick was effusive post match about how influential Tom Lynch was on the Tigers fortunes as they struggled with injury early in the season. As important as this period might have been, it is in big games that reputations are built and on that count, Lynch has more than held his own.
Against the Cats he was the main focal point for his team, with fellow tall Jack Riewoldt almost completely unsighted until the final stages of the match. His five goals on Preliminary Final night were worth their weight in gold in helping the Tigers to another Grand Final. Now with 61 goals for the season, he well and truly sits in the recruit of the year conversation.
Hawkins Suspension Costly
Tom Hawkins brain fade in the Semi Final which saw him unavailable for selection this week might have cost his team a place in the Grand Final. The Cats were in the ascendancy at the beginning of the second quarter with the ball almost exclusively at their end of the ground.
Despite this, they failed to capitalise on this dominance and squandered countless opportunities on their way to a three goal to one quarter. Given it took eight of the last ten goals for Richmond to win the match, this wastefulness was pivotal in the result. You can rest assured it, and what difference Hawkins might have had, will be the subject of much conversation when the Cats convene for Mad Monday rather than commence preparations for the Grand Final.
Worse pain to come for Graham?
Jack Graham showed immense courage in returning to the field after dislocating his shoulder early on Friday night . While the pain he endured to finish the game would have been immense, it will pale in significance to that he will feel if it prevents him from playing in the Grand Final.
If it does, his story will join the already long list of heartbreaking tales of players to have missed the biggest game of the season. If Richmond were to be successful once again next Saturday, it will once again raise the question of whether ‘Premiership Player’ status should apply only to the 22 who take the field for the last game of a long campaign.
Minor Premiers not good enough when it matters
For the third time in four years the Cats have fallen at the penultimate stage despite finishing top two. It continues a sorry history in September for the Cats who despite winning 69.7% of home and away matches since their 2011 Premiership, have won just 26.6% of their finals during this period.
Chris Scott might have been wrong
While his was gracious in his praise of Richmond post game, Chris Scott’s pre-game opinions might follow him for some time. While they may have been designed as a psychological boost for his team, his thoughts that Richmond had not improved in the last 12 months will certainly be replayed the next few times the two teams play.
Richmond enter the Grand Final on the back one of the hottest streaks in recent times. Even allowing for the contest his team gave them on Friday night, with the Tigers winning streak now at 11 it is hard to find an argument to back up Scott’s pregame claims.
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