5 Lessons Learned – AFL Grand Final

1. Dusty = GOAT

He’s at least the GOAT when it comes to finals, when it matters the most.

With four freak goals and 21 disposals to his name, Dustin Martin played a vital if not the most important role in Richmond’s second-half comeback.

When Richmond needed something to get back into the game, Dusty went into beast mode and boy did he deliver.

He also won his third Norm Smith Medal – the first player in the history of the VFL/AFL to ever achieve it.

Along with the Norm Smith, Dusty won the AFL Coaches Association Gary Ayres Award with 28 votes after polling in all three of Richmond’s finals wins against the Saints, Port and the Cats.

But when it comes to the big stage – no one delivers quite like Dustin Martin.

With the Tigers winning three flags in four years, Dusty has been the best player on the ground all three times.

In fact, you can easily makethe case that winning three Norm Smith Medals is a harder and greater achievement than winning three Coleman or Brownlow medals.

You need to be the best on the ground in the biggest and most important game of the year to achieve it and Dusty has done just that.

Only Gary Ayres, Andrew McLeod and Luke Hodge can lay claim to two Norm Smiths, and Dusty now has three.

If anything, Dusty’s third Norm Smith was, without doubt, his finest performance and greater than his phenomenal efforts in 2017 and 2019.

21 disposals – 10 of them contested, four clearances, three tackles and four of the best Grand Final goals you will ever see.

Dustin Martin is already a Richmond Football Club immortal.

He’s not just in the conversation with the likes of Jack Titus, Jack Dyer, Francis Bourke, Royce Hart and Kevin Bartlett, he leads it.

And as for the game itself, even fellow GOAT Leigh Matthews isn’t offended that Dusty is a comparison.

To live in the time of Dustin Martin is something not just Richmond fans, but football fans will tell their grandkids they saw him play.

2. It’s a Richmond Dynasty and It’s Not Over Yet

Richmond CEO Brendon Gale’s interview on Footy Classified will be used as a study of ambition and aspiration for many years to come.

Gale’s strong and bold statement that by 2020 – Richmond would have 0 debt, 75,000 members and 3 premierships by the year 2020 was laughed at, especially given the situation the Richmond Football Club was in 10 years ago

Since then, with a few bumps on the road, the Tigers have become a mighty club both on and off the field.

If you had said after Richmond’s 113 point loss to the Sydney Swans in Round 23, 2016 that the Tigers would go on to win three out of the next four premierships not even the most optimistic of punters would take the 1000-1 odds on offer.

Now Richmond has set the standard for every club in Australian and world sport that wants to aspire for success, no matter where they are positioned.

2017 was an emotional drought-breaking triumph, 2018 was a character-building setback, 2019 was vindication and 2020 took the Tigers to greatness.

Richmond is not only the best team of the past four seasons, history will judge them as one of the greatest.

Is third flag in four years the last of this dynasty?

We don’t think so.

The Tigers open the betting for the 2021 premiership as the clear $4.50 favourites.

3. The AFL Grand Final will Never be Played with a Red Sherrin Ever Again.

There had been speculation about a night Grand Final since the mid-1990s and the events of 2020 resulted in the final game of the year being played under lights at the Gabba of all places.

The Gabba Grand Final is truly once in a lifetime, but perhaps the night Grand Final isn’t?

In the aftermath of Saturday night, the issue of the timeslot for the biggest game of the year remains highly contentious.

Those advocating for the night Grand Final to be a permanent fixture have a good case – the entertainment looked better, the sense of a big prime time event and the fact more people could watch it – with record TV ratings.

However, traditionalists hated it saying waiting around all day for the game left them anxious, the game started and finished way too late – especially for the oldies and kiddies and that the game is the star attraction, not the entertainment.

Don’t be surprised if the AFL meets people halfway and a twilight – 4:45/5 pm start is on the cards for the 2021 decider when the Grand Final (touch wood) returns home to the MCG.

4. AFL Season 2020 is Quite the Accomplishment

The fact the AFL and its clubs completed an 18 round season, finals series and the grand final is quite the accomplishment.

With all the unprecedented obstacles, restrictions and more spanners thrown into the works than anyone can imagine, Gill and his team at AFL House have to be commended for pulling off AFL season 2020.

A special mention should go to Queensland for hosting the majority of games and clubs this season, as the Gabba and Metricon Stadium became football’s temporary homes.

The season also gave our friends in Victoria something to get them by and a great distraction for what has been a horrible time that anyone not living there cannot imagine.

2020 will go down as one of the most amazing seasons in the history of the game and that’s beyond anything that happened on the field.

There’s no asterisk for this season, anyone involved will remember it and every team that participated was part of a year that was truly remarkable.

5. There’s Always Next Year…

As is standard for these days, people are talking trades either before or after the Grand Final.

The likes of big clubs such as Essendon and Carlton having no success for a long time, has the trade period becoming a chance for their fans to have some hope into the future.

We’ll all have the inside word on who’s going where from a bloke who knows a guy who’s sister works in the media department at a club who’ll be calling into Trade Radio

Brisbane and Port Adelaide will spend the offseason pondering a season wasted.

St Kilda, Collingwood, Western Bulldogs and West Coast can look to their finals performances and aspire for an even better season than just a finals appearance.

Which teams will drop out of this years final eight and replace them in 2021? Melbourne, Carlton or even the Gold Coast Suns?

Are the Giants in crisis?

Do you dare completely write off the likes of Sydney and Hawthorn?

Is it all doom and gloom for North and the Crows?

As for Geelong, a pre-season contemplating what might have been in the Grand Final is always hard but even the prospect of Jeremy Cameron joining them in 2021 will get the Cats faithful up and about.

Geelong will have broken hearts, but they are going nowhere.

The Cats have been a super club for the good part of 15 years and there’s no reason why they won’t be in the mix again in 2021.

Special extra lesson

6. Farewell to Jnr as Tigers give Classy Farewell

It’s that much used cliche in footy and sporting circles “You gotta hand it to ’em”

That is very much the case for Richmond, who in one of the great gestures of sportmanship put their premiership medals aside and formed a guard of honour for Gary Ablett Jnr in his final game.

For many of us reading this article, we’ve been blessed to witness both Senior and Junior of the Gary Ablett variety and while it wasn’t a fairytale finish for “the little master” everyone is grateful for having seen him play.

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