Euphoric scenes as Tigers end 37-year wait

Battered by powerful waves of yellow-and-black pressure and passion, the lid came off and the AFL premiership cup came back to Punt Rd after a 37-year wait.


The grand final is synonymous with scenes: be it among the capacity crowd, on the streets of Melbourne or in the middle of a heaving MCG.

Saturday was no different.

If you want proof of how much football clubs mean to their constituents, watch footage of club icon Matthew Richardson and long-suffering members cry tears of joy during Saturday’s fourth quarter.

Watch Trent Cotchin, the captain who became the face of Richmond’s recent meek elimination-final surrenders when he opted to kick into the wind against Port Adelaide in 2014, celebrate the 48-point win over Adelaide.

Listen to Damien Hardwick, the coach whose supposed incompetence had plenty of pundits calling for a sacking after last year’s 13th-placed finish, speak from the heart about his team’s transformation from hopeless to heroes.

Listen to Dustin Martin, who became the first footballer to win the Brownlow and North Smith medals in one season, scream the words “YELLOW AND BLACK” in a predictably short acceptance speech.

Richardson, enlisted by the league to hand Richmond’s 11th premiership cup over to Hardwick, was among so many of the 100,021-strong crowd to have invested so much in the Tigers.

Their reward was a barnstorming triumph over the minor premiers, who took an early 13-point lead then were harassed into submission.

The Tiger Army were out in force but the league’s grand-final ticketing policy stopped plenty from storming the MCG.

It meant the roar wasn’t as loud as last week’s preliminary final, with fans instead setting up camp a torpedo punt away at the club’s spiritual home of Punt Rd Oval.

If you grant AFL the status of religion, as some supporters do, then you might look for miracles and omens on the most holy day of its calendar.

Especially when you’re a cynical Richmond fan, having built a well-founded fear of abject failure and false dawns since the 1982 grand final.

That stretch had featured so little resilience but so much rudderless football and regular heartbreak; so many rage-worthy random blunders, regrettable draft choices, repetitive jokes about finishing ninth on the ladder.

No more – finally they are the Tigers of old, strong and bold.

Nick Vlastuin could have become part of grand-final folklore for all the wrong reasons when he watched the Sherrin inexplicably slip through his hands and quickly onto the boot of Eddie Betts.

It meant the Crows had the opening two goals of the contest, and all the momentum, but Vlastuin didn’t drop his head.

Jack Riewoldt, the subject of trade speculation this time last year, missed Richmond’s first three chances to kick goals but didn’t drop his bundle. He laid a team-high seven tackles.

Richmond rallied. The Crows capitulated.

And suddenly, everything the hosts touched started turning to gold. Even Connor Menadue, running the halftime 100m sprint, saluted in 11.39 seconds and had time to turn and do his best Usain Bolt impersonation.