Richmond have staked a claim to being the greatest AFL team of the 21st century and ruined retiring Geelong champion Gary Ablett’s farewell with a 31-point win in the historic night grand final.
The 12.9 (81) to 7.8 (50) victory at the Gabba on Saturday night gives the Tigers their third flag in four seasons—matching the famed Brisbane, Geelong and Hawthorn dynasties of the past two decades with a trio of triumphs.
Dustin Martin cemented his legend status by claiming an unprecedented third Norm Smith Medal, starring with 21 disposals and four goals as best afield in front of a restricted crowd of 29,767.
Devoted Richmond fan and women’s tennis world No.1 Ash Barty presented the premiership cup to coach Damien Hardwick and captain Trent Cotchin.
“I’m super proud. It’s been an incredible year,” Cotchin said.
“I mean, first and foremost credit to Geelong, they challenged us, but credit to our boys, they just continued to show the resilience that we know they can.”
It is Richmond’s 13th flag, drawing them level with Hawthorn and now only three behind leaders Essendon and Carlton (16 each).
The Tigers’ win came after they and Geelong both spent more than 100 days in interstate hubs, having left locked-down Victoria in July to carry on with the pandemic-affected season.
“We’ve spoken a lot about the journey and we effectively celebrate it,” Cotchin said.
“We came out here however many days ago it was ... treating it like an adventure and it’s been one hell of an adventure.
“To finish off with this is just simply outstanding and I couldn’t be more proud of our whole organisation.”
There was carnage in an explosive opening to the decider as Ablett (shoulder) and Nick Vlastuin (concussion) were hurt in the first five minutes.
Ablett—playing his 357th and final AFL match—suffered a suspected fracture to his left shoulder in a tackle from Cotchin and was hindered throughout the night.
Tigers defender Vlastuin copped an accidental elbow to the head from Patrick Dangerfield and lay motionless for several minutes before being driven off the field on the medicab.
Two ground invaders held up play for about a minute soon after.
The Tigers kicked the opening two goals but the Cats dominated the midfield battle for most of the first half and opened up a 22-point lead before the main break with Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie and Tom Stewart all influential.
But they managed just one of the next nine goals as Martin, who kicked a crucial goal in the shadows of half-time to cut the margin to 15 points, and Shane Edwards, who had 27 disposals and nine clearances, took it upon themselves to lift Richmond.
Geelong coach Chris Scott admitted missed opportunities to extend the second-quarter lead would “eat away” at his side for some time.
“If there’s a dignified way to go down, it’s going down against the best,” Scott said.
“We knew we had to play really well to get over them and it looked for decent parts of the game as if we were good enough, but in the end, they were just too good.”
Jack Riewoldt and Dion Prestia finished with two goals each and Martin put the exclamation mark on the win when he stealthily intercepted a Rhys Stanley handpass, shrugged off a Dangerfield tackle and snapped his fourth major from the boundary in the dying stages.
Dangerfield started forward and shifted into the midfield when the Cats needed a spark in the second half, but finished with just 12 disposals in his first grand final appearance.
Geelong midfielder Sam Simpson was taken off on the medicab after a huge collision with teammate Sam Menegola late in the match.