120 minutes. That’s how long it took for Richmond to overcome Williamstown by three points to secure the 2019 VFL premiership in the most dramatic fashion.
The Seagulls fought to the death, hitting the post twice in the dying stages as the nerves of both armies were jangling around Ikon Park.
In an arm-wrestle, it was the Tigers who held their nerve, grinding their way to a 8.10 (58) to 7.13 (55) Grand Final win.
"An azure wave, streaked with vertical white lines, rises up and up — and, somehow — up higher, until it dwarfs a red tower and row of silhouetted onlookers in the foreground." - Rafi Letzer, Planet Earth, 14 August 2018
Big wave surfers from across the globe stand make the pilgrimage to Nazaré, Portugal, stand on the shore and stare at a 24-metre high wall of water hurtling straight towards them.
They get towed into a moving mountain and must somehow stay calm, composed and clear-minded to the task at hand to simply survive.
For Richmond, Williamstown was a wave and when the Seagulls were hitting the Tigers with every ounce of their being, moving the ball from defensive 50 to forward 50 would have felt like swimming across Bass Strait.
The Tigers have been so diligent at staying present in the moment, sticking to the process and remaining connected for the full 120 minutes of each game.
The last quarter was littered with moments, Riley Collier-Dawkins’ goal, Steve Morris' hangers, Dan Butler’s slick hands to Jacob Townsend who goaled, Noah Balta’s rundown tackle.
The Tigers went nearly an hour without kicking a goal as Williamstown made its tilt.
In the end, however, Richmond’s want, trust and heart, blended with its system, carried it to the ultimate glory.
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Marlion Pickett’s imperious finals series was capped off by being awarded the Norm Goss Medal for best afield.
When Richmond needed him most, Pickett answered the call.
Pickett’s ability to not have his vision or decision-making clouded by the chaos shone like a beacon, as he glided across the Ikon Park turf.
The silky midfielder was stiff and sturdy over the ball. He pierced through the eye of a needle to slot the opening goal of the game.
VFL senior coach, Craig McRae, has been the forefather of connection, and it’s been Richmond’s competitive advantage for most of his tenure.
The bedrock of Richmond’s surge to the Grand Final has been its defensive superiority, and that was on display from the get-go.
The Tigers won the territory battle. Richmond continually pumped the ball inside-50, putting Williamstown’s defenders under siege.
With one goal on the board at the 20-minute mark and the Seagulls scoreless, the margin didn’t reflect Richmond’s dominance.
Jacob Ballard then kick-started a string of goals for the Tigers.
After Pickett crawled over a trio of Seagulls to extract the ball from congestion, the Tigers shared the ball by hand, finishing with Ballard, who steadied and goaled on the run from just inside the arc.
Patrick Naish then found himself free inside 50, marked and kicked truly which was quickly followed by a similar set-shot from Jacob Townsend.
The Tigers’ led by 28 points at quarter-time.
90 minutes to go.
Williamstown, smarting from its first-quarter performance, lifted its pressure rating and started to swing the momentum in its favour.
The Tigers missed opportunities going inside 50, which allowed the Seagulls to gain control of the ball and march it up the field.
Williamstown got in the face of Richmond, forcing the Tigers to rush their disposals, missing shots on goal they would usually nail.
Pickett laid six tackles by half-time. Townsend and Butler combined for 10 tackles for the half also, with the pair energetic, alert and assertive both defensively and offensively.
The Seagulls slotted two goals and held Richmond goalless in the second term, the Tigers holding a 16-point lead at half-time.
60 minutes to go.
Williamstown repeated the dose in the third term, antagonising and irritating the Tigers and stifling their ball movement by controlling the air.
The Tigers went nearly an hour without kicking a goal as its back-half brothers acted like a dam wall.
Richmond needed a goal and up stood Riley Collier-Dawkins.
The young bull looked more like a colt hurtling down the Flemington straight when he gathered a loose ball in the corridor and goalled on the run—the Tiger Army awoke.
The margin was 14 points with 30 minutes left in the 2019 season. Most of the script had been written, with one act to go.
As the Seagulls took control of the skies, Callum Coleman-Jones exerted his aerial influence and arrested back the momentum for the Tigers.
The Tigers simply held firm against the towering swell and will enjoy the fruits that a premiership brings.