Destruction Tour: How the Tigers eviscerated the rest of the AFL and everything we thought we knew

Richmond. 6am Sunday morning. The first day of October. The streets are bare, the light is grey, the sun about to rise. An empty Punt Road Oval is to the right, Melbourne’s largest church behind it.

Coming up to Richmond Station, Punt Road gets a little less vacant. There still aren’t any cars or people, but the pavement is covered in rubbish. Turning onto Swan Street, there’s more and more of it, paper and plastic turning to glass around the Precinct Hotel.

Two teenage girls walk along the sidewalk in short dresses, tired faces telling of a long night. They struggle along in heels, grinning and blowing smoke, the blankets around their shoulders and faint daylight suggesting that home, finally, is next.

The rest of Richmond is subsided carnage, something between an inoffensive warzone and the remnants of a sloppy high school party. Close your eyes and it’s impossible not to see the night before, the scarfed maniacs jumping on cars, clumsily climbing on top of roofs, and just generally being loud, stupid and marvellous.

The scene of this smiling crime, perpetrated by the fans, is not unlike the one their team left across the road. The Richmond players were the battering feet on the pavement, the Crows a helpless Swan Street.

But it wasn’t just Adelaide that Richmond reduced to rubble – it was the rest of the AFL. The Tigers’ run to the flag was one of the most incredible, unlikely and comprehensively dominant in football history. In their wake, all that was left were empty streets and floating trash.

Often it’s easy to get so caught up in the football that we forget the bigger picture. It’s also easy to do the opposite. The 2017 Tigers will be remembered as the team that erased 37 years of woe, a group that provided a profound emotional catharsis to one of Australian sport’s most tortured fan-bases. But the story takes the football a little out of focus – and it’s the football that makes these Tigers so improbable. Richmond didn’t just exorcise demons – they unleashed football hell on everyone they faced.

They are not last year’s Bulldogs. This was not a fairytale – it was much too brutal. Too clinical, too punishing, and, more than anything – too foregone. Fairytales are narratives – they require suspense. The Tigers were too good for suspense.

What is so breathtaking is not the fact that they won – it’s that they never came close to losing. We kept on waiting for ‘Richmond’ to surface, for them to finally blow it, to feel history, to become themselves. But they never did, and then it became clear:

‘Richmond’ is dead. The Tigers are here.

It’s halfway through the fourth quarter of the Grand Final. The Tigers lead is 87-54 and what seemed impossible has begun to feel inevitable. On the far wing, Taylor Walker, so often a figure of power, swagger and chest-protruding confidence, kicks the ball forward with a look of hopeless anguish. His strut has been broken.

Taylor Walker Adelaide Crows AFL Grand Final 2017

The Grand Final loss leaves the Crow captain a broken man

Eddie Betts takes a spectacular mark inside 50. But like so many of his teammates on the day, he loses his composure. He needlessly plays on and handballs to Charlie Cameron, seemingly unaware that Shane Edwards is right on Cameron’s trail. All day the world has been too fast for the Crows, an unhappy, unending montage of black and yellow blurs.

Cameron is in Edwards’ grasp before he has a chance to think. The tackle rotates Cameron so that his back is turned to goal. He frees his arm for a moment, but in that split second he sees no teammate, only Tigers. By the time Betts reappears running past it’s too late. Edwards secures his grasp and knocks the ball from Cameron’s hands to the ground. As he falls meekly to the turf, frail and desperate, Cameron looks in the umpire’s direction, a confused cry for help. Holding the ball.

Edwards takes the free kick and drives the ball long and wide. Jack Riewoldt doesn’t win the contest with Daniel Talia in the air but he brings the ball to ground, creates separation from Talia, wins possession and booms a kick forward.

Daniel Rioli chases the ball inside 50, outnumbered three to one. He wins the ball and somehow escapes Luke Brown in a playground tussle so furious it breaks Rioli’s foot. Jake Lever is next and Rioli can’t shake his tackle. Lever has him, except he doesn’t. Rioli contorts his body to perform a strange, frantic bicycle kick while still in Lever’s grasp, twisting desperately on his broken foot, managing to somehow propel the ball forward 15 metres towards the pocket. Jacob Townsend follows it, a Crow hot on his tail, and ushers it out across the line.

The ball is locked inside Richmond’s 50 at the MCG. It’s locked in there again, where it seems destined to be, and for much of the Grand Final, the preliminary final and qualifying final, it seems never to have left.


The Tigers did not kick a goal from this particular forward thrust. The Crows hacked the ball out of defence, briefly broke into space and then ran out of ideas at half forward. As they did all day, they reached a point where they could only see Tiger jumpers, and then they did something silly.

Richmond repelled that drive forward with a counter-attack that led to a Bachar Houli set shot. He missed. But then from the kick in David Mackay chipped it short to Jacob Townsend, directly in front of goal. Had Townsend not taken the mark, Jack Riewoldt might have. What Mackay saw, who knows – it were as though the Tigers were so in his head that they were literally all he could see.

This passage is the essence of Richmond. Their victories were not predicated on highlight reel moments or devastating blitzes – short timeframes where they’d blow the game open. Instead, their dominance was gradual but ever-present and, more than anything, unrelenting. Every game was an arm-wrestle that they always held a slight but undeniable advantage in, slowly wearing the opponent down. And then, after the opponent’s will was broken, the body quickly gave way.

Townsend’s goal, his second for the day and the one that put to rest the tiniest shreds of doubt over the result, was built on a tackle, a forward bringing the ball to ground, a scrubbed kick to the boundary, a maintaining of defensive shape, a clearance, a missed shot at goal, an intercept mark and then, finally, a goal. This is how Richmond operated. Their beauty was in the grind – it was in the knowledge that wherever the ball was, whatever the state of play, they were always just a little bit harder than the opposition, and a little bit smarter.

In the Grand Final, it felt like every bounce, every ricochet, every blind kick forward was going in Richmond’s favour. But then, as it kept happening, you began to realise that this wasn’t luck. When you play with fury and structure, these things inevitably break your way over time. Richmond’s premiership was, ultimately, built on endurance – the club’s willingness to stay the course, from board level decision-making down to Kane Lambert’s gut running.

Their beauty was in the grind – it was in the knowledge that wherever the ball was, whatever the state of play, they were always just a little bit harder than the opposition, and a little bit smarter.

It was a flag that came as a result of a series of small moments – perhaps as long a series of small moments as any flag has been built upon. But when you sit back and view the small moments in their entirety – the David Astbury intercept marks, the desperate Dion Prestia clearances, the Shane Edwards tackles – what you see, incredibly, is the most dominant finals run that any football team has had since 2000.


Richmond won all three of its finals by at least six goals, crushing all three remaining members of the top four. In each final they kicked ten goals in the second half – their opponent never kicked more than four.

What was most remarkable is that at no stage in any final did they ever really look like losing. The only time alarm bells rang – and the ringing was faint – was in the first half of the preliminary final, where GWS played the game on its own terms. It was the only stretch where Richmond lost its identity, allowing GWS to play the game out in open space. But even so, most teams – even historically great teams – will have entire finals where they lose themselves then have to eke out a result at the death. The closest the Tigers ever came to capitulation was a slightly nervous opening half where they took a lead to the main break before winning by six goals. The completeness of their dominance was absurd.

So too, though, was Adelaide’s leading up to the Grand Final. But on the big day, Adelaide walked into the exam room armed simply with an expensive pen and visions of exquisite handwriting. The Tigers brought neck tattoos and a baseball bat. And they had a nicer pen too.

The Grand Final wasn’t just a battering – it was an evisceration. It was physical and mental, the Tigers tearing down Adelaide’s resistance until there was nothing left, only Charlie Cameron captured and standing helpless in Shane Edwards’ grasp under the twilight sun as Richmond fans roared in celebrating all the prisoners their men had taken.

On the big day, Adelaide walked into the exam room armed simply with an expensive pen and visions of exquisite handwriting. The Tigers brought neck tattoos and a baseball bat.

Some Grand Finals are decided in the opening moments. When Jarryd Roughead crushed Dan Hannebery at the start of the 2014 Grand Final, you could tell it was over. Likewise Heath Shaw smothering Nick Riewoldt in the 2010 Replay. The Crows, though, got the jump. They had the perfect start, booting the first two goals while Jack Riewoldt kicked three behinds. They weathered a Richmond storm and then finished the first quarter with a flurry, goals at the top of the square to Rory Sloane and Hugh Greenwood opening up a healthy Adelaide lead. The game was going as so many had envisioned it – Richmond controlling territory but being wasteful with their disposal, while the Crows were clinical with fewer opportunities going the other way.

But then all that stopped. And all that was left was Richmond controlling territory. It wasn’t so much that Adelaide stopped scoring – it was that they never looked like scoring. There was no rued lost moment – no Nat Fyfe missed set shots, no Jack Darling dropped marks. There was just Richmond, and then more of them.

Adelaide’s deterioration was slow but undeniable. They started with swagger and ended with disorientation. By the close, Paul Seedsman was opting to handball to 50/50 contests in defence, Andy Otten had disappeared from the face of the Earth, and Josh Jenkins was the most broken of them all. And yet, unlike Port Adelaide in 2007 or West Coast in 2015, it didn’t feel like the result was pre-ordained from the first bounce. Adelaide did not start this game in their own heads, defeated as they walked out. Richmond did this to them. They took the alleged best team in the competition and flattened their bodies and then their spirit. They turned determined men into hapless occupiers of air. It was, in a crushing way, beautiful.


Comparisons to the Bulldogs are inevitable. But Richmond’s story is so much more improbable. The Bulldogs were euphoric; the Tigers are nonsensical. The Bulldogs made you feel better about the world; the Tigers make you feel like the world no longer makes sense and things need to be investigated. It felt as though the Bulldogs’ history was driving them at every moment towards the flag – throughout Richmond’s finals campaign their history felt like a paper plane they were tossing into the bin. Where the Dogs story came with its own heart-warming, immediate closure, the Tigers make you want to open your laptop and study past midnight where all these no-name players came from, what are their heights and weights, did Kamdyn McIntosh and Jason Castagna really just win a premiership?

Richmond finished 13th last season and appeared to get worse over the offseason. Their coach had been in place for seven years, all their stars were established, and one had just fled to Western Sydney, to go somewhere he could actually contend for a flag. A mini-era of semi-contention – three finals campaigns, zero finals victories – had come to a soundless end. A rebuild was likely in order. And the rebuild did happen. It took one summer.

Richmond’s journey from 2016 to 2017 is a magnificent football lesson that will likely go unlearned. Fans will look at Richmond’s list and then look at their own and think that they can win the flag next year. They’ll think that they’re only a player or two away – if we just slot Tom Rockliff in here, and Jake Lever in there, then… But does it ever go that way?

At the end of last season, the Tigers lost Brett Deledio, Ty Vickery, Troy Chaplin, Chris Yarran and pick six in the draft, and gained Dion Prestia, Toby Nankervis and Josh Caddy. At the time, on paper, would anyone have considered that a meaningful upgrade for 2017?

The enduring legacy of these Tigers, perhaps, will be that ‘on paper’ is almost meaningless. Football goes beyond a depth of game-breaking, rounded elite talent. The Tigers are proof of that. You look at their list and beyond the top four there are no All-Australian candidates, and no one you would consider a top 50 player in the competition. Maybe not a top 75 player. But what’s more valuable? Josh Kelly, Jonathon Patton, Toby Greene, Tom Scully and a wealth of blue-chip talent, or total buy-in from 22 players to a game plan and having not a single one of them be a defensive liability? Your Dylan Shiel caveats notwithstanding, we saw the answer.

Richmond has forced us to redefine how we conceive of ‘talented’. Our scouting eye is naturally lazy. A player like Daniel Menzel is undeniably ‘talented’ because he fits the classical mould that so few Richmond players do: skillful, elegant and dynamic. We don’t think of players like Kane Lambert, Kamdyn McIntosh and Jacob Townsend as uniquely talented, because what they do is so utterly distant from the Menzels of the world. But just because their strengths are not easily understood by a Danish person watching an AFL clip on YouTube for the first time, that doesn’t make them any less talented. It’s a talent to run as Lambert does, further and more gut-wrenchingly than anyone else. It’s a talent to be as mean and relentless as McIntosh is, an incurable itch for opponents. And it’s a talent to lay a tackle like the one Townsend laid on Matt Crouch early in the Grand Final, which lifted his entire team like no expertly dribbled goal from the boundary ever could.

The Tigers had talent. They had droves of it. They built a team in the image of three specific talents: speed, physicality and determination. Then they had buy-in, and that gave them connectivity. And connectivity is the one thing that all the great teams share. The 2012-15 Hawks might have been made special by their foot skills, the 2010-11 Magpies by their forward pressure, the 2007-11 Cats by their free-flowing corridor ball movement, but ultimately, they were all special for the same reason: whatever they did well, they did together and in perfect unison. The Tigers, for whatever they weren’t, were clearly united – by far the most united in the competition. They hunted the ball in harmony and spread from the contest in perfect synchrony once they got it. Other teams had better individuals – no team had a better collective.

You look at the names on Richmond’s list and beyond the first four there is nothing that screams out greatness. But then you watched the unheralded names take the field and all you saw was greatness. There is ‘whole greater than the sum of its part’ and then there are the 2017 Tigers. By the end it was comical and, ultimately, believable – the best teams in our land were going to be sent to destruction by the hands of Jack Graham, Jacob Townsend and Nathan Broad. It’s hard to know what’s more surprising – that these were the destroyers, or that by the time it was all over there was no shame in being destroyed by them.

Jack Graham Richmond Tigers AFL Grand Final 2017

Jack Graham becomes a premiership player, just five games into his career

Those three – and Jason Castagna, Kamdyn McIntosh, Dan Butler, Shaun Grigg, Kane Lambert and David Astbury, among others – were undervalued by the public because we didn’t know them or we thought we knew them. None of these players were first-round picks for Richmond, and only McIntosh went as early as the second round. They didn’t have pedigree, but that didn’t mean they were lacking talent. Or class, for that matter. As the smoothest, most efficient team in the game collapsed in a heap at one end in the Grand Final, at the other Grigg, Lambert, Graham, Butler and Castagna were finishing as cleanly as Jason Akermanis and Matthew Lloyd might hope to. These five combined for eight shots at goal in the Grand Final. The result: eight goals, no behinds.

These players, the nameless Tigers whose names will now be known for decades, were able to thrive because they were put in positions where they could best succeed. All their strengths were accentuated, all their weaknesses obscured into irrelevance. There was a sense that Adelaide’s team-wide advantage in foot skills might be decisive in the Grand Final. Midway through the second quarter it became clear this wasn’t going to be Adelaide’s avenue to victory. Richmond’s pressure was always such that you could never be your best self by foot. And when the Tigers drove forward themselves, so often it was Dustin Martin and Bachar Houli, exquisite users and decision makers, penetrating the defence, which, you couldn’t help but feel, must have been by design.

The Tigers on-field operation never seemed hierarchical though. Martin inevitably possesses a certain aura and football gravitas – around his teammates and all other life forms – but other Tigers never seemed to defer to him out of necessity or responsibility, not the way that Gold Coast players do for Gary Ablett. They fed Martin because he was the guernsey to feed, not because he was Dustin Martin. And Martin fed the ball right back to whoever was in best position, the most perfect link in an otherworldly food chain of football altruism.

Every single Richmond player was empowered. They didn’t play like they needed to target Riewoldt every time forward, always transition through Alex Rance or give backwards handballs to Dustin Martin because these are big name players and big name players get the ball. They trusted one another, whoever it was, and every time that a teammate succeeded – which by the end of three successive six-plus-goal finals victories was quite a lot – the trust grew greater. By the end, that trust and connection were so unbreakable that the Crows were left in a million little pieces.


Cohesion, though, is only oil. It needs magic to set it alight. Most premiers have eight or nine magicians. The Tigers only needed four.

Jack Riewoldt seems perpetually unhappy on the football field. When he is elated, his teeth only become more gritted. It’s not hard to envision him as a tragic figure, chasing something unreachable, forever in need, the type of player who is destined to kick three first quarter behinds in a losing Grand Final. But Riewoldt, whose presence and impact were merely functional the week prior, gripped his destiny against Adelaide, strangling it and the game into something else. He combined the best elements of his younger days with those of his more seasoned. He was explosive and electric, taking hangers and slotting goals, by far the most forceful and present forward on the day.

But he also sacrificed, content to be a link and a pillar, not a focus and main attraction. He crashed packs and brought the ball to ground for Richmond’s smalls to dominate. He demanded defensive attention whenever the ball was in his vicinity, the threat of his magic enough to worry defenders that he might win the game. In the past he might have indeed tried to use that magic to win the game himself – and he’s so talented that he might have succeeded. But he played the percentages, always did the team thing, sacrificed so others could prosper, and as a result he got a performance with The Killers to go with his Colemans.

Jack Riewoldt The Killers

Jack Riewoldt’s Killer cameo is written into football folklore

Trent Cotchin, you suspect, would not be caught dead with The Killers. Exactly why, it’s hard to know, but almost certainly because he’s: a) far too cool or b) not nearly cool enough, with no in between. Cotchin is Richmond’s greatest enigma, which is ironic, because he’s also, arguably, their most consistent and reliable performer. He has lived many football lives, from incandescent phenom and potential saviour to weary, battered disappointment to, finally, inspirational captain and lifeblood of his team.

After a long, difficult journey, Cotchin has finally reached his destination. There is no more confused captain who kicked into the wind against Port Adelaide, man who had nine touches against North Melbourne. There is only a Brownlow medallist and premiership captain, and a player worthy of both those honours, a champion who launched himself at every contest this year like his life and honour depended on it and lifted his team with every bruise suffered and inflicted. Everyone will have their own defining image of Richmond’s finals series. But perhaps the most enduring is that of Cotchin attacking the ball and the man with furious intent, a maniac unleashed, his perfect haircut and suit dissolved in lava, the only remains a beast with one plan.

If Cotchin is fire, Alex Rance is ice. The best defender of his generation by an accelerating stretch, Rance is, in a lot of ways, the most impossible player in the AFL. How can one man be everywhere all the time? Livewire forwards kick goals from geometrically divine angles and powerful midfielders burst through and past packs of elite athletes like they are nothing but glorified air. But the defender who absorbs it all, who can see the future and crush the opponent’s present, is perhaps football’s most inspired creature. That is Rance, who was the most vivid symbol of the Crows’ plight. Every time they went forward, he was there, looming ominously. At times it feels like his mass consumes the entire 50, through the ethereal, borderline suspicious combination of his size, pace, vision, courage, decision-making and overall genius. In the modern game, where defensive structure and playmaking is so decisive, there are credible arguments to be made that Rance is the best player in football.

If not for his teammate.

The Tigers are so much more than Dustin Martin. They are Dylan Grimes – reliable to the point of cliché, a man who has never looked like losing a contest, and if he does, you suddenly feel confused and afraid. They are Bachar Houli – no longer the most underrated player in the AFL, because how could you be after you played the game of your life in the Grand Final, a steady beat to all his movements, so smooth, poised and composed, a cauldron of pressure doing nothing to lift the temperature of the ice water in his veins.

They are Shane Edwards – perhaps the new most underrated player in the AFL, a late-era Luke Ball type with more explosive menace, a ferocious tackler and a delicate, expert in-close wizard by hand. They are Josh Caddy and Toby Nankervis – the type of recruits that win you premierships, hardened players that colour in the sketched outline of a contender.

They are Nick Vlastuin and Brandon Ellis – the heartbeats of any great team, the brave corporals in defence who lift their teammates with every collision absorbed and dealt. They are Kamdyn McIntosh – a punchline for so long, who somehow shared midfields in finals at the MCG with the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Josh Kelly and Rory Sloane, and not for a moment looked like he didn’t belong. They are Daniel Rioli – the spark whose preliminary final was as good as any Norm Smith his relatives might have.

Daniel Rioli Shaun Grigg

Daniel Rioli isn’t the first player in his family to taste premiership success

But more than anything, they are Dustin Martin. The qualifying final was his, the preliminary final was his, the Grand Final was… probably Bachar Houli’s, Shane Edwards’ or Alex Rance’s, but it was Martin’s too. And then the competition was his, and the city as well.

Martin is not the best player the game has ever seen, but when you watch him you question how anyone could play it better. He is a beast-freak and a world-class violinist, someone who makes brutality look delicate and finesse look cruel. The sight of his wide, powerful frame accelerating through the middle of the MCG, purposeful, upright, arrogant and wonderful, is surely the game’s most perfect image. The endpoint of those runs, though, is rarely obvious, rarely cinematic. It’s always so much better.

In the past, Martin was exquisite but uneven, too young to know how to control or harness all of his powers. He tried check-siding goals from 50 when there were free teammates waiting, tried taking players on when a lateral handball was the play. But he learnt. He didn’t have to – he was at a level of quality where refinement would never be a survival instinct. He could have remained raw and still been a top ten player in the game. But he got smarter and he got fitter. He was already a freak – then he slowly became a professor.

Watching the gears of Martin’s mind is every bit as enthralling as watching him fend men off into oblivion. The fend-offs are popcorn – the processing of situations is There Will Be Blood. As that perfect image moves, as Martin drives himself forward through the middle of the ground, the straightness of his torso somehow mimicking the sharp angles of his haircut, you can see him crafting a new masterpiece.

His first instinct is always altruistic. He wants to feed the ball to a teammate, but he knows that his body is so powerful that he can always defer that moment until later. That, really, is the beauty of Martin – that his body allows the genius of his mind to reach its maximum potential. Want to imagine the things that Scott Pendlebury could do in traffic emboldened by the knowledge that no man can bring him down? You don’t have to anymore.

As that perfect image moves, as Martin drives himself forward through the middle of the ground, the straightness of his torso somehow mimicking the sharp angles of his haircut, you can see him crafting a new masterpiece.

How Martin finishes these sequences is what football is all about. Passing up a good shot at goal for a great one. Weighting a ball perfectly in front of a forward’s lead that only begins as the ball is already airborne. Slicing a pass so low and sharp that you can almost feel the blades of its flight making the air bleed.

Martin just had the most decorated season possible, and right now, he sits atop a peak that perhaps only Michael Voss, Chris Judd and Gary Ablett Jr have reached this century. Martin, though, is somehow more special than any of them, more fascinating. Voss and Judd were so professional and polished, and Ablett has always been a little weird. Compare them to Martin, who just gave the most painful and authentic Brownlow medal speech you will see. He is not a brand or a sculpted ambassador – he is a guy who dropped out of school at 14, hates talking in front of people and just happens to be the best football player in the country.

On field, he was a force powerful enough to take a knife to Richmond’s fatalism. The gap between he and Rance is smaller than the hype suggests, but in 30 years, when we see highlight montages of the end of Richmond’s premiership drought, the screen will always flash to Martin, as it did when the siren went in the Grand Final. He will be the player forever most associated with this flag, the way Tony Shaw is with 1990, Leo Barry with 2005, Marcus Bontempelli with 2016. Unlike those players, though, Martin didn’t just rise to the absolute pinnacle in September. He spent the whole season there – September was just life continuing as it was.

It’s a testament to Martin that he was able to get himself there, but also a testament to his club. One suspects that had Martin been drafted by Brisbane, or a couple years later by Gold Coast, he would still be unfulfilled potential, on his second club by now, someone’s reclamation project. Richmond’s infrastructure, though, was strong enough to deal with Martin’s complexities and allow him to realise his ideal football self.

This premiership, ultimately, is about that infrastructure. It’s about staying the course and having a plan. Last year Damien Hardwick was a dead man walking, someone whose coaching future existed on the same plane as Justin Leppitsch and Nathan Buckley. Peggy O’Neal, Brendon Gale and the club believed enough in Hardwick and stuck with him. They saw, like he did, that this Richmond team wasn’t one that had run its course like most figured. It was one that had made finals three years in a row then simply had one bad year. A renovation was in order, not a demolition.

Hardwick has always been one of the game’s most likeable coaches, articulate, candid and, in an almost odd way, exceedingly warm. His genuineness makes it easy to doubt him – deep down, we always suspect that nice guys will finish closer to last than first. He doesn’t carry the obvious, archetypal coaching gravitas of an Alastair Clarkson, Ross Lyon or Luke Beveridge – he’s too honest, too accommodating. But behind what appears to be an exceptionally decent person is an extraordinarily capable coach. Beveridge’s achievement last year was the finest coaching accomplishment in decades. That title lasted only 12 months.

What Hardwick has done, and overcome in the process, is a football marvel of historical proportions. No one has ever done more with less.

This flag is a testament to the power of coaching, to the possibility of a cohesive collective having the strength and force to tear down more talented individuals. It is a realisation of sport’s greatest, most seminal story.

Written by Jay Croucher.

Jay Croucher has been a Roar expert since 2015, specialising in Australian Rules Football, American Football and NBA. From MSG in New York to the MCG in Melbourne, Jay has spent his adult life travelling the world, indulging in sport and approaching it from the angle of history and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter @CroucherJD

Comments (115)

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  • tibor nagy (big four sticks) said | October 10th 2017 @ 6:46am

    It was clear that we were going to be premiers, yet the doubters in the media were exalting a bunch of front runners from Adelaide. Defense wins finals and we the number one defensive team in the competition. We were number one for pressure acts, and number one for locking the ball inside our forward 50. We played as a team. We also beat those teams who beat us first time around when we played them again. Hopefully all the doubters will believe us when we say Richmond will go back to back. We are carving out a dynasty. It’s Tiger time folks!

  • Milo said | October 10th 2017 @ 7:41am

    Cotchin: ‘ the man with furious intent, a maniac unleashed, his perfect haircut and suit dissolved in lava, the only remains a beast with one plan…’ Martin: ‘ He is a beast-freak and a world-class violinist, someone who makes brutality look delicate and finesse look cruel.’ And: ‘ Slicing a pass so low and sharp that you can almost feel the blades of its flight making the air bleed. ‘

    That’s mighty fine writing Jay. Enjoyable and entertaining, expressive, emotional and powerful. Something to savour as a success-starved Tiger supporter. Thank you.

    • JamesH said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:21am

      “…hardened players that colour in the sketched outline of a contender.”

      This is possibly the best line I have ever read in a sports article. Just wow.

  • The Ghost said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:22am

    In years to come people will talk about the Richmond era. We will make Hawthorn look second rate.

    • andyl12 said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:36am

      What are the odds on a threepeat? Or a fourpeat?

      • Milo said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:34am

        Andyl12 – at least give us another week to bask before taking the p155 !!!

      • Rich said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:53am

        I think the term you seek is, as yet, not in existence. But my suggestion would be a “four-roar”.😬😬😬😬😬

        • Robert W said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:21pm

          Surely any four flag stretch of the future, impossible as it seems, will see its side christened with the same moniker of the team that last accomplished the feat – The Machine – and to achieve it will be to “run the Machine”.

      • Ken Wilson said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:48pm

        Back to back; threepeat and a QUADPOD!

        • Philby said | October 11th 2017 @ 10:27pm

          Tige five?

    • Jono C said | October 10th 2017 @ 6:14pm

      Might want to wait until at least the second flag in a row before you get too high and mighty, jesus.

      • Benjamin said | October 15th 2017 @ 6:51pm

        For Richmond, could it be anything other than Ninemond?

  • AdelaideDocker said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:23am

    Phenomenal.

    Staggeringly good writing, Jay.

  • truetigerfan said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:57am

    Awesome piece, Jay. This old Tiger has been lost for words . . . you’ve said it all! Carna Tigers! Eat ’em Alive!

  • Will Sinclair said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:01am

    Absolutely brilliant stuff – thank you for putting that together.

    #GoTiges

  • Kerry Colgrave said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:06am

    God you can write a article.
    This brought tears to my eyes and i felt like i was back there in P 9 seat 7 just watching these ruthless boys destroy the opposition

  • David of Canberra said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:41am

    beautiful writing, well done

  • Slane said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:44am

    Great article Jay. Cheers.

  • schaefer said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:51am

    A simply stunning read Jay, well done!
    As an avid Crows supporter I watched this game with increasing disbelief. There was lots of questions. Why can’t we find space? How can they keep this pressure up for so long? Why aren’t they getting tired? Who are these players?
    Your article provided the answers. Especially the main one. How did it happen?
    As you said, on paper this never should have happened and not many Crows’ fans even factored in a result like that. As good a summary of a footy game as I’ve read!
    Whilst it was ugly footy for much of the game and didn’t showcase the skills expected from two top sides, it was a lesson in teamwork, desire and a game plan using what skills you have. Hats of to Hardwick and congratulations Tigers and their supporters.

    • Craig said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:15pm

      Respect schaefer

  • Sean Carter said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:58am

    I’m a Tigers supporter, so naturally I’m biased, but that has to be one of the best pieces on sport that I have ever read

    • Sue McClureJP said | October 11th 2017 @ 8:58am

      I agree 100%!

  • Craig S Tyle said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:18am

    Wonderful article — the perfect coda to a fantastic season.

  • Birdman said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:24am

    A touch too much hyperbole Jay, but even I got swept up and now firmly believe that the tigers are on the brink of a dynasty that will leave the competition in its wake and every other club bereft of hope for the next decade at least.

    I’m in shock and awe of what is to come….

    • Birdman said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:03am

      …nah, not really….

      🙂

      • Milo said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:15am

        Exactly.

        Clearly the Hawks have taken a couple of years off to reset and regroup. No doubt from next year normal service will be resumed and they will storm into the ’20s with the next four in a row…

        • Birdman said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:42am

          that would be nice, Milo but I suspect it will be someone else’s turn.

          I’m not ruling out back to back for the Tiges but there are plenty of contenders.

          As long as it’s not the Swans or Cats…

          • Milo said | October 10th 2017 @ 12:08pm

            Who knows Birdman … all jokes aside could we have a threepeat of surprises if a Melbourne or a StKilda can get up? Will be another interesting season either way.

            Im just happy I saw another premiership in my lifetime. Something I never expected and to be there and then share it with my sons is amazing. Articles like Jay’s (well actually no-one’s written anything like it for the Tiges) help you enjoy that great feeling.

            • Birdman said | October 10th 2017 @ 12:38pm

              yes mate, there’s not much that beats celebrating a flag with your offspring…it’s a beautiful thing indeed.

    • Chancho said | October 11th 2017 @ 2:52am

      Hey Birdman, I sort of feel the same… I still don’t know how to judge this Premiership in the context of what was an unusual and unpredictable season. Adelaide were ther form team all season long, and they had a more convincing finals campaign, they just had a bad day at the office which unfortunately coincided with Grand Final day. Replay that game another 10 times Crows win 7-8 of them.

      As with the Dogs last year, to me it’s more to do with the drama of claiming a flag after the long wait that causes the hyperbole.

      • Birdman said | October 11th 2017 @ 8:58am

        Chanco, there’s plenty of reasons for the hype and Jay’s done a brilliant job of weaving those into his article but for me it’s the team that hits finals in good shape, plays a brand that surpasses the opponent’s pressure/skills, rides its luck (there’s always a bit of luck involved), and has genuine belief as a group that usually salutes.

        The Tiges had all of that this year although most of the footy public didn’t see it until they actually won it. It’s a great story for sure.

      • AndrewT said | October 11th 2017 @ 10:19am

        Chanco it is folly to believe the Crows would have won 7-8 out of 10 replays, I doubt they would have won 1 or 2. They could not go with Richmond over 4 quarters and that was always going to be what it took. Beating up teams at Adelaide Oval doesn’t prepare you for the MCG on Grand Final Day. Geelong & GWS found out that before the Crows did but the lesson was the same.

        • Antonio said | October 13th 2017 @ 1:19pm

          Birdman ‘most of the footy public didn’t see it until they actually won it’, spot on. Andrew T, also spot on. Adelaide were over-hyped, largely because people just couldn’t digest, and for legit reasons, that the Tiges were a contender. Adelaide folded like a deck of cards a few times last season, and also finished a mere half a win above us! And finally, DUSTY.

  • Jamie Janides said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:30am

    Great article, sums it up perfectly

  • Margotdeepa Slater-Oliphant said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:31am

    My late father ate, breathed and lived his beloved Tiges. He was there for the last one.

    I know from somewhere above he is looking down and I can hear his roar. Thank you from him.

  • Antonio said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:35am

    not a bad piece. Couple of beefs, on the ins and outs and that nobody thought we’d improved the list, I did, and I wasn’t on my Pat Malone, also you forgot we got a first round pick in ’17 too. On there being not much class outside our top 4 players, D. Rioli is obvious. D. Prestia was recruited as a gun, and after a slow start due to injury, proved to be one. S. Edwards has always been considered classy, but inconsistent. D. Grimes was in dispatches for AA selection this year, as was D. Astbury late. As for your language, ‘nothing outside top 4 that screams greatness’ apart from Rioli, maybe so, but that is true for any premiership side.

  • Kevan Brimfield said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:37am

    Spectacular article Jay.Best I’ve read on the Roar. You should write a book on AFL with an emphasis on Richmond,I’m sure it would be well received.
    Thanks again.

  • Crocker's Folly said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:55am

    Incredible piece

  • Ryan Buckland said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:26am

    Outstanding Jay, but I expect nothing less. Another seminal piece.

  • Geoff Parkes said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:49am

    Just wonderful Jay – congratulations on producing such a stirring, evocative piece.

    We’re still pinching ourselves in my house at the result, but this helps make it all real!

  • Peter Gazzola said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:56am

    Great article….a true acknowledgement of what the Tigers have achieved. Enjoyed reading it immensely.

  • Jon boy said | October 10th 2017 @ 12:01pm

    Well done to tigers could not beat Freo at home beat weagles at home (not hard) Illegally Knocked out Shiel,beat a ordinary GWS. Full of Adrenalin on the day beat the team that was far the best all year who had a big day off.Take nothing away from them.BIG chance crash next year

    • Birdman said | October 10th 2017 @ 12:07pm

      sounds like someone had a few lobsters on the granny and backed the wrong team…

    • Antonio said | October 10th 2017 @ 12:21pm

      They weren’t the standout best team all year. Its a Myth. Flogged by Melbourne and North, and only finished half a game above us. Flaky away from home. Every flag side in history has lost a few games to middling sides.

    • DeanM said | October 10th 2017 @ 1:47pm

      By far and away the best that the Crows ended up with 1 less win in total for the season? Sounds to me like not alot separated any of the top 4 teams.

    • TigerTragic said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:21pm

      You can only beat what is in front of you. We made sides look ordinary because of their belief in each other.
      If the Crows couldn’t get up for the biggest day of the year then too bad. This from the side that has been the byword in folding up and mental disintegration.

  • The Big Red V said | October 10th 2017 @ 12:27pm

    If this is not the best article written on The Roar, it’s in the Grand Final – and leading by 40 points with a minute to go….!!

    Fantastic writing overall and despite a bit of hyperbole (who would write an article on The Roar these days without it), a very decriptive piece that takes you back to simply being there on the day.

  • Rob said | October 10th 2017 @ 1:24pm

    Wow. What a beautiful love letter to the greatest team this year.

    Your article encapsulates much that this Grand Final won was built upon, which only Tigers supporters seem to understand.

    Yes, playing all your games at the MCG helps. Yes, have “no injuries” helps. But you need everything to go right to win a Grand Final. And then you need a team playing like a team.

    I still wonder how Rance was at the drop of every one of Adelaide’s F50 entries. Or maybe it just felt like it.

  • Stephen McCole said | October 10th 2017 @ 2:25pm

    That article was written so beautifully it wasn’t the opinion of a one eyed tiger supporter.
    It was the true feeling of a perfectly objective bystander looking at the raw emotion of a grand final victory.
    Enjoyed the read very much.

    • Jon boy said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:09pm

      Yes it was well written, who does Jay Support.??

      • Slane said | October 10th 2017 @ 5:23pm

        The Pies.

    • Valerie Adams said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:54pm

      Well summed up and very true. The Tiger army new how good they were this year, we had some wonderful wins a few very close losses and two huge losses. We beat Geelong equally as good as Adelaide did so was on a par going into final. We really played under the radar all season and nobody was prepared to back us other the the Tigers themselves. Go Tiges love you one and all.

  • Derek Green said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:38pm

    Great article, perhaps the best post-GF read out there. Well done

  • Josh Elliott said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:41pm

    I really hope I get to read one of these from you on North Melbourne some day Jay.

  • Valerie Adams said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:55pm

    Well summed up and very true. The Tiger army new how good they were this year, we had some wonderful wins a few very close losses and two huge losses. We beat Geelong equally as good as Adelaide did so was on a par going into final. We really played under the radar all season and nobody was prepared to back us other the the Tigers themselves. Go Tiges love you one and all.

  • Bev Kivell said | October 10th 2017 @ 3:59pm

    Absolutely brilliant…I have read a lot of our Mighty Tigers win, but this was the BEST….Well done Jay…

  • Jimmy G said | October 10th 2017 @ 5:16pm

    Great article, but Richmond supporters (despite our ever present delusions) had a quiet confidence about this year. Prestia, Caddy, Edwards, Astbury, Grimes, Vlastuin, Ellis, and Rioli are all much better than they are given credit for . Edwards is the most creative and damaging handballer in the AFL, Grimes, Astbury and Vlastuin (this year) could slot into any backline, ditto Prestia and Caddy when at their best in the midfield. Rioli tore a prelim final to shreds in his second season. This is a good team, more hardened and mature than the dogs of last year. Their age profile is right in the premiership window If they can keep the players I’ve mentioned plus the big 4, they should be in a good position for the next few years.

  • Ben said | October 10th 2017 @ 5:29pm

    Loved this article Jay. Brilliant. You have an in-depth knowledge of the underrated tigers such as kane lambert. I agree with everything you wrote. Well done!

  • Vickie van Heuzen said | October 10th 2017 @ 5:32pm

    A remarkable piece of writing, I couldn’t stop reading. How clever. Thank you and as a Tiger supporter you summed up what was the most amazing year ever and highlighted how fantastic the team was

  • Deb said | October 10th 2017 @ 6:14pm

    Fantastic artical Jay. Beautifully written!! Sports journalism at its best.

  • stevjam said | October 10th 2017 @ 6:36pm

    Great article, these brilliant long form pieces are really something that sets The Roar apart..

  • Micky said | October 10th 2017 @ 6:37pm

    Loved this article mate. Easily the best ive read to do with the AFL ive read all year. It’s filled me with passion and love for my club.. GO Tiges

  • Swannies said | October 10th 2017 @ 6:53pm

    Tigers were awesome on the big day and have finally earnt everyone’s respect. They are going to be in the top 4 again next year and will be unbeatable at the G. Well done Richmond!!!

  • J.Leckey said | October 10th 2017 @ 7:21pm

    What a great read that i believe sums it all up perfectly. Well done….almost brought a tear to the eye, if i had any left ! Go Tigers !

  • hairy fat man said | October 10th 2017 @ 7:40pm

    More propaganda from Melbourne’s hopelessly biased media. I hope non-Victorian teams win the next five premierships, at least.

  • Willem Aerts said | October 10th 2017 @ 7:43pm

    That would have to be the most articulate and total insight to a beleaguered team I have ever read. Thank you for your comments. I have never given up on the Tigers and appreciate your candid words.thank you.

  • Angelo Sirianni said | October 10th 2017 @ 7:45pm

    This is a brilliant article and puts in word the emotions of the year and frankly being a tiger. It actually makes it feel even more real that the Tigers are premiers. It seems appropriate that it is about Richmond.

  • Gary said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:26pm

    What an insightful and articulate article.

  • Adam said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:34pm

    What a brilliant article.
    It is the finest football article I have ever read!!!

  • Steve Cole said | October 10th 2017 @ 8:59pm

    Amazing story to read. You should be proud to publish this. Go Tiges.

  • Simon Allanby said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:07pm

    Brilliant article; not because I am a Richmond fan, but because of the well written content.

  • John Kincade said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:11pm

    Great article – from a different persoective

  • Philby said | October 10th 2017 @ 9:17pm

    Thank God, and finally – a Tigers article on the Roar not riven with negativity and backhanded compliments…

    Enough of that. Thanks Jay – great article, beautifully written.

  • Micky said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:05pm

    gbg

  • CC said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:07pm

    Brilliant read, and evocative writing. Really dig deeper than most of the standard journo fare, and rightly pinpointed the heart of the 2017 Tigers team.
    Kudos Jay, fantastic article!

  • Alan Howell said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:24pm

    Perhaps one of the most emotive and astute articles I have ever read. Bravo.

  • Simon said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:41pm

    Brilliant. Captures so well what this premiership means. Have you made this available to the club? Every Tiger supporter should read this.

  • Richard Lew said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:49pm

    Sensational article. Thanks

  • Andrew Taylor said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:52pm

    Probably the most forensic & at the same time entertaining piece of journalism I have read in a long, long time.

  • D Hardwick said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:00pm

    The most impressive article………

  • darren bowers said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:02pm

    brilliant!

  • Craig Baxter said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:18pm

    Love the article..very well written… congrats

  • Mick_Lions said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:21pm

    Dear Jay,
    What a marvelous story you have scripted.
    I am completely enraptured by your prose and gifted craft. You have not only captured the true essence of Richmond’s accomplishments, you have delivered it in a fashion that defines their culture and substance.
    Thank you very much for sharing such a wonderous article on a defining moment in Australian sport.
    Muchos Cudos

  • Psula said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:27pm

    What a brilliant article. It was well written and very good reading.

  • Paul D said | October 11th 2017 @ 12:23am

    Jay, first the dogs story now this one – you keep writing articles like this and they’re going to become as iconic a part of the grand final as the Herald Sun cartoons.

    Great stuff

  • Craig Jenner said | October 11th 2017 @ 3:09am

    All I can say and will say is this and feel free to sing along loud and proud.

    Well we’re from Tigerland, a fighting fury we’re from Tigerland.
    In any weather you will see us with a grin……
    All you true Tigers supporters know the rest…
    Sing it every day..

  • Dianne O'Donnell said | October 11th 2017 @ 9:14am

    What a fantastic piece of journalism. I have to admit I’m a long time Tigers supporter but your story was captivating. Really loved it!

  • Drew said | October 11th 2017 @ 2:24pm

    Makes me want to go home and put it on again. Up to viewing number 10 or 11 now, and still sending shivers. Terrific writing Jay.

  • Steve said | October 11th 2017 @ 4:34pm

    Describes the tigers of 2017 perfectly. A1 article Jay

  • Louis Blitsas said | October 11th 2017 @ 10:00pm

    Needs to be placed in the Tiger Museum.

  • Damian said | October 12th 2017 @ 12:04am

    Brilliant jay croucher you deserve a pulitzer prize for this article thanks mate

  • VB said | October 12th 2017 @ 12:09am

    The stars aligned for the Tigers in 2017, and everything fell strategically into place, like a perfect cascading waterfall, a gushing torrent of water that washed away years of pain and frustration for the Yellow and Black faithful. Well done Tigers…the Tigers of new! Well done Jay – this was a brilliantly constructed article. I had goosebumps reading it. Simply awesome.

  • Alex said | October 12th 2017 @ 8:10am

    This is the best story on the AFL this year.

  • Vicki McGregor said | October 12th 2017 @ 2:11pm

    An excellent portrayal of the 2017 Tigers! A great read …. especially for some of the Richmond family who are currently living overseas and not receiving an articulate summary from us mere mortals, of the truly great year of the Tiger!

    Thank you Jay Croucher!

  • Goatmaster said | October 12th 2017 @ 2:51pm

    Great article- some wonderful writing and descriptive of bits of play such that you can remember/picture them- truly that must be the holy grail of descriptive writing

    Suspect Richmond might find next year tough- celebrations plus a taxing year short pre-season but you have to tip your hat to them superb performance throughout the year and finals

  • SamT said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:36pm

    This is the best football article I have read in a very long time. It is truly written by someone who understands the game; the analysis of the stages of Cotchin’s career is incredibly apt.

    This unique, considered and well researched piece shines brightly among a AFL media landscape completely barren of intelligent thoughts.

    This piece has a real Lee Jenkins / Zach Lowe feel to it. I strongly agree with the Rance sentiments – and all opinions for that matter within the piece.

    Well done, incredibly impressed.

  • Inches said | October 12th 2017 @ 9:46pm

    Awesome piece Jay. So many articles written today seem to simply recount the action and not provide much insight. This took football insight to new level. It should be the epilogue of the Tiger faithful bible.

  • Jon said | October 13th 2017 @ 12:47am

    Wow Jay you have nailed every element of a truly extraordinary Premiership.
    Great read.
    You have captured the reasons why Tiger fans have reacted how they have.
    The sweetest flag of all for the biggest sporting club in this country bar none.
    Swan st on September 30th said it all.

  • AndyFNQ said | October 13th 2017 @ 1:05pm

    “Martin just had the most decorated season possible, and right now, he sits atop a peak that perhaps only Michael Voss, Chris Judd and Gary Ablett Jr have reached this century.”

    Hird was better than Voss

  • Amanda said | October 13th 2017 @ 1:22pm

    What a great read, brought back some of the emotion of the day and made me proud that someone else can see in our Tigers what the Tiger Army have known, that the win belongs to the whole club
    Go Tiges !

  • Martin Lewis said | October 13th 2017 @ 5:07pm

    The AFL is the cause of this “Premier’ Disturbance.
    GWS and GCS had exclusivity in drafting when they started. which is unlike the previous ‘new’ state sides to enter the comp. All of the other afl sides inability to gain access to quality picks has leveled the competition at the moment. Things will be normal again soon.

  • Bill Maz said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:16pm

    Beautiful summation Jay, you captured in words what the tiger army witnessed. For me it was the buy in all players had, after torching Geelong in the qualifying final i was convinced we were good enough to go all the way, history made in an emphatic way.
    i look forward to season 2018, alas many barbeques between now and then….

  • TGT said | October 13th 2017 @ 10:14pm

    Brilliant article, well done Jay, thank you

  • Josh p said | October 14th 2017 @ 12:00am

    U gotta love that no one gave us a shot. We showed them. U don’t need super stars to be the greatest. U just need a champion team. Not a team of champions.

  • Anthony said | October 14th 2017 @ 7:50am

    Sheer quality, well done Jay

  • Steve Angus said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:23am

    This would have to be the best article that I have read about the grand final. The author has absolutely nailed it. Clear and concise and extremely accurate in my opinion. It was a team effort and the author has made sure to mention all players and how well they played. I believe the author must be a true Tiger supporter

    • Harry Grosomanidis said | October 14th 2017 @ 11:20am

      This Ricmond Flag along with the Doggies Premiership is a testament to the Human Spirit.
      Its a lesson to us all.Ignore the external negativity and be the best you can be.

  • Jim karalis said | October 14th 2017 @ 11:36am

    Excellent read 10/10.
    Read it 10 times so far.
    I drive tour hides and I gave. Passengers an extra half hour at one of the stops so 8 could read it again and again.

  • Jim karalis said | October 14th 2017 @ 11:38am

    I meant tour buses lol.
    Go the Mighty Tigers

  • Bev Kivell said | October 14th 2017 @ 3:11pm

    This is brilliant….the best I have read…

  • Rob said | October 15th 2017 @ 3:04pm

    Absolutely brilliant. A perfect summary of a wonderful season and an exceptional TEAM.

  • John said | October 15th 2017 @ 6:30pm

    This is great piece that helped me make sense of the last few weeks.

  • Richard said | October 16th 2017 @ 9:38pm

    Outstanding Article Jay. I thought good journalism had gone the way of Carlton.

    Seriously though. really well written

  • Robert said | October 17th 2017 @ 6:11pm

    Speechless laughs tears then just humble. Great read

  • ChriswAp said | October 17th 2017 @ 9:53pm

    test soft