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How long can heartache of a Grand Final defeat last for?

Roar Guru
23rd March, 2010
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Tom Harley of Geelong and Nick Riewoldt of St Kilda hold up the Premiership Cup during the 2009 Toyota AFL Grand Final Parade. Slattery Images

That St Kilda superstar Nick Riewoldt cried after last year’s Grand Final loss to Geelong is nothing surprising. He wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last, losing player to display their emotions so publicly on football’s biggest day.

Remember Mick Malthouse and Paul Licuria after Collingwood’s loss to the Brisbane Lions in 2002? It showed us how much football means. These guys may be on large wages (in the opinion of many), but they play for team success.

Half of Riewoldt’s teammates were in the same frame of mind after last year’s narrow 12-point loss, and most, if not all, of them would have shed a tear behind closed doors.

Riewoldt revealed last week that he received help from a psychologist to assist in the recovery process after the painful defeat.

He says he still thinks about the lost opportunity every day. The months of hard work, it seems, all amount to nothing after a loss in the season-decider.

Riewoldt’s coach Ross Lyon, though, wants to remove the day from his memory bank. He says he has forgotten about it, and his focus is on this season.

But is that possible? Can you ever forget? Especially given the case of St.Kilda, which has won just one flag – in 1966 – in its history.

We should applaud Riewoldt for his honesty in an era where players often hide plenty. Grand Final day often provides us with our only chance to see their true emotions, as they are released from the AFL cacoon.

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Tom Hafey knows a thing or two about finals football. He coached Richmond to four premierships and is fifth on the all-time list for games coached (he also coached Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney).

Hafey once said that it is the players who wipe a Grand Final loss much quicker than the coach. In his opinion, the loss stays with the coach for almost a lifetime, while the players forget about the lost chance quickly.

So, if Riewoldt is still thinking about the loss each day, how is his coach travelling? I suspect he hasn’t forgotten about the events of last season.

His team finished on top of the ladder, but missed the ultimate prize. Surely, it’s impossible to simply forget about it when that is what you work so hard over summer, and during the season, to achieve – a chance to win a premiership.

There is nothing wrong with reflecting on the lost opportunity. In the Saints’ case, it can act as a motivating force for this year’s campaign – similar to Geelong, which righted the wrongs of its 2008 loss last year.

The Saints will forget about last season’s loss if they can go one step further this year. Anything less, and that pain will remain for some.