Richmond VFL secured a home final and a second successive minor premiership after withstanding a determined Northern Blues outfit, skating to a 44-point win.
Richmond and the Blues had the privilege of strutting their stuff on the hallowed turf of the MCG as a curtain-raiser to the AFL clash.
The Tigers dominated the early going with a seven-goal opening term, setting up a 19.14 (128) to 12.12 (84) win.
The Northern Blues’ finals hopes hinged on victory over the ladder-leaders and Richmond was fully aware of the type of intensity the Blues were going to bring in their kit bag.
The Blues won the first centre clearance and had the first shot on goal but thereafter Richmond dominated.
It started with Jake Aarts, as the dynamic forward shuffled his opponent out of the way to mark strongly - more impressive than the mark was his set-shot from infront of the Members’ Stand.
Aarts would finish the quarter with two goals and a direct goal assist as he unselfishly handed the ball off to Connor Menadue in the goalsquare, highlighting the love and connection this group shares.
Jacob Townsend was another who enjoyed being back out on the ‘G, as he too jagged two opening-quarter majors.
Townsend’s contested marking, be it through the midfield or up forward, is such a prized possession and shines like a beacon at VFL level.
Aarts and Townsend combined for 31 disposals, 10 marks and four goals in the first half, and ended the game with six goals apiece, sharing best-on-ground honours.
The Tigers were offensively irresistible and defensively imperious in the opening quarter, slotting seven goals to one and opening up a 37-point lead by the first break.
The Blues, stinging from their first quarter performance, started the second term strongly, kicking the first two goals in quick succession and had the Tigers on the hop.
Callum Moore has had to watch on from the stands since injuring his ankle in the side’s round five win over Williamstown.
Moore sat out the first quarter against the Blues, and then ignited his side in the second.
With the ball bubbling around inside 50, Moore ripped it from congestion and snapped truly from 20 metres out and was instantly mauled by his teammates.
The returning key-forward kicked another for the quarter after trapping a Blues’ defender inside 50, drawing the free kick and nailing his set-shot from the paint of 50.
Young onballer, Luke English added his name to the goalkicker’s list after sharking the ball off a forward 50 stoppage and snapping truly.
Budding key-forward, Ben Miller also took his tally to two goals in the first half after being awarded a free-kick in a marking duel and nailing the resulting set-shot.
Richmond held a comfortable 50-point lead at half-time but had to know that the Blues would come out with a “nothing to lose” attitude in the second half—and they did just that.
Townsend got the ball rolling with a goal early in the third term, making it three for the game, as he looked forever threatening inside 50.
Northern hit back with a goal before Connor Menadue went on a slicing run through the heart of the ‘G to set-up Moore, who waltzed into the open goal, kicking his third.
The Blues then kicked four of the next five goals as they swung the momentum back in their favour.
The Tigers weren’t as sharp or as clean as they were when entering forward 50 earlier, and at times the Blues punished the home side’s shallow entries.
With the frenetic nature in which the game was being played, the three-quarter-time margin of 37 points was not insurmountable and Richmond would need to lift its rating in the final term to secure victory.
Quick goals to English and Ivan Soldo early in the last quarter stretched the Tigers’ lead back out to 50 points as the building Tiger Army found its voice.
Both sides then went goal-for-goal for the remainder of the quarter, as the game opened up a little more than the Tigers would have liked.
As good teams do, however, Richmond adapted to the style of the game and always had an answer for whatever the Blues slung at it.
Marlion Pickett started down back this week, showcasing his versatility, and looked up to the task.
Pickett was lighting with his hands and his ability to sweat on the turnover and pounce is a trait that would no doubt appeal to the hearts of the Tiger hierarchy.
The silky West Australian was then thrown into the midfield in the second half and showed the potential of a seemingly bottomless trick bag.
RICHMOND 7.3 11.7 14.10 19.14 (128)
BLUES 1.2 3.5 8.9 12.12 (84)
Richmond: Moore (4), Aarts (3), Townsend (3), Miller (2), English (2), Ballard, Balta, Menadue, Naish, Soldo
Northern: De Konning (2), Johnson (2), Silvagni (2), Stocker (2), Hill, Lobbe, O’Dwyer, Polson