The Richmond fairytale is finally complete, as the Tigers beat the Adelaide Crows by 48 points at the MCG to break a 37-year premiership drought. Jack Graham was the surprise X-factor, kicking three goals in only his fifth game of AFL football, as the Tigers powered away from the Crows in the second half to win 16.12 (108) to 8.12 (60). The Tigers’ last grand final appearance had been in a 1982 loss to Carlton, and their last flag win was in 1980 when they crushed Collingwood.
But the party started early at the MCG as the roars of 70-80,000 Tigers fans at the ground lifted several levels, with their team leading by 34 points at three quarter-time on the way to a famous victory.
For Dustin Martin, the week ended on a perfect note, with the Brownlow medallist becoming the first player to add a Norm Smith medal for best-on-ground to the league’s best-and-fairest. He had 29 disposals and two goals, marshalling the Yellow and Black to a brilliant flag-winning performance.
Damien Hardwick must still be pinching himself. Three consecutive elimination final defeats and a failure to make the top eight defined his previous four years in charge at Punt Road. He headed into 2017 under enormous pressure and with the dubious record of most games coached in history without a finals win (157). Sacking him at the end of 2016 would have been the easy option. But credit to his club’s board, they resisted a board challenge, stuck with Hardwick and surrounded him with quality new support staff such as Blake Caracella, Justin Leppitsch and Neil Balme to deliver Richmond their 11th flag and complete the biggest 12-month turnaround in VFL/AFL history (13th to first).