It was the opening minute of the final term and Richmond surged inside 50 with a wave of pressure. Dustin Martin was stationed in the goalsquare opposed to Aidan Corr and he had room to go to work as Dan Butler's kick along the ground came towards him. With his back to goal as he collected the ball, the superstar Tiger shimmied left and Corr took the bait. Next he exploded to the right and left his man in his wake, turning towards goal and kicking a magnificent goal on the outside of his right boot at the Punt Road end of the MCG. It was a moment of sheer power and skill combined, showcasing Martin at his unstoppable best. He turned to the crowd and celebrated in trademark fashion with his tongue out and one finger waving in the air, knowing the Tigers were surely into a Grand Final.
Who made it happen?
The Richmond small forwards. Daniel Rioli created the first contest by flying for a mark and bringing the ball to ground. He backed up with another tackling effort as the ball made its way forward, as did Butler and key forward Jack Riewoldt. Together they forced the ball to spill and a quick handball from Shane Edwards found Butler, who kicked quickly and intelligently to the space in front of Martin. Coach Damien Hardwick also had a role. He stationed Martin at full forward, giving the powerful midfielder the chance to isolate his opponent around goal.
What did it mean?
It meant a 35-year absence from the Grand Final was over. The margin was 37 points and it would have taken a record comeback for the Giants to get home. They tried, and kicked back-to-back goals 10 minutes later, but Martin's goal put the result beyond doubt. It was also Martin's third straight goal either side of three-quarter time. In a preliminary final, with history beckoning, Martin delivered and showed he is made for the September stage. If more evidence was needed, it was a moment that added to his case as the best player in the game.
Any cameo performers?
Captain Trent Cotchin had a team-high 513m gained on Saturday and was a mighty contributor. In the build-up to Martin's moment he juggled a contested mark on the boundary line and pumped the ball inside 50 for the fourth time. His ability to win crucial contests all day kept the pressure on GWS and the ball surging forward for his team. His kick forward was one of 26 possessions (17 contested) and he had team-high clearances (seven) and tackles (nine).
How did they call it?
"Kicked forward. Two on one, Dusty, Dusty, DUSTY!" – Basil Zempilas, Channel Seven
"There is nothing he can't do, Dusty Martin, absolutely nothing. Three goals in a row, he's unstoppable." - Luke Darcy, Channel Seven
And the fans went ...
Into party mode. They were jumping, dancing and hugging in the stands as the reality sank in that their team was off to the Grand Final. The crowd of 94,258 needed some reassurance at three-quarter time, despite the Tigers' 31-point lead, and a goal in the opening minute of the final term delivered it.
The Tiger Army in full voice as their Grand Final dream is realised. Picture: Michael Willson, AFL Photos
What they said
Richmond vice-captain Alex Rance: "I've almost come to expect it now. It's the way he plays, he's a beast. He knows when to stand up, he's a man, and he's a super player … he does things that people can't even dream of."
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick: "It was enormous. He went forward and that's the great thing about great players, I've got a chess piece there that I can move at various stages. I thought he was really important in the second half when we needed him to be a presence up forward and he created those chances for us."
Will they play it in 20 years time?
It won't be an iconic moment in 20 years time, but it will sit comfortably among the highlights when telling the story of Martin and the Tigers' remarkable season. Fans won't soon forget the feeling that washed over the MCG when it was kicked, either. It was a moment that captured Martin's remarkable ability to insert himself into the game when needed. He has done it all season and now he has done it in a preliminary final. Can he do it once more on the biggest stage of all?