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Brett Deledio and Ryan Griffen: crossing to nowhere

Brett Deledio will retire at the end of 2019. (Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
18th March, 2018
8

Brett Deledio, formerly of Richmond and now with the GWS Giants, was naturally upset that he left Richmond and they won the premiership that same year.

In a recent interview, Deledio said that he should have been a better mate to his ex-Richmond teammates. He feels bad about taking a few days to compose himself before sending them messages congratulating them for winning the 2017 premiership.

He has also been quoted as going to the Taronga Zoo on grand final day with his family instead of watching Richmond play Adelaide. The article finished with him delivering an immortal quote, “You tell me one person who could have foreseen the Tigers winning the flag and I’d call them an absolute bullshitt artist.”

I similarly boycotted two grand finals by going to the Royal Melbourne Show in the 1990s. One was in 1999 because the Blues had already played their ‘grand final’ by beating Essendon and everyone knew the real one would be nothing special.

Brett Deledio GWS Giants AFL 2017

(Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The other, in 1997, was the same reason Deledio boycotted 2017: because the result of the Crows vs Bulldogs preliminary final was unbearable. Grand final day at the Show made for an interesting atmosphere. Some stall holders had portable TVs and we’d find out about the match in segments, from St Kilda breaking in the second quarter to the dumbstruck horror of seeing Adelaide edging the lead in the third quarter the next time we checked.

Both Deledio and Ryan Griffen left basket case Melbourne-based clubs in the Western Bulldogs and Richmond to try winning a far more probable premiership with the upcoming Greater Western Sydney club. By stunning coincidence both were improbably then defeated by their former clubs on the rebound in a preliminary final. Poetic justice? A personal tragedy?

I’ve rewatched the Richmond vs GWS preliminary final and on the few times Deledio got the ball the stadium gave him pantomime boos. In a realpolitik way it was understandable, but for an outsider like me it was terrible. Sports careers are not forever. He made a choice and it completely blew up in his face.

All this talk about loyalty, and who are we kidding? It is far easier to be loyal to say, Hawthorn, a club with coherent plans that advances fast. It is conversely thankless to be Lenny Hayes or Chris Grant, being loyal to clubs whose premiership odds have historically been minimal. Your reward is pithy September TV slogans telling you that ‘you can’t be a champion unless you win a premiership’. Thanks, Robert Walls.

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Ryan Griffen GWS Giants AFL

(AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Griffen’s task was thankless. The Bulldogs from 2012 to 2014 were shocking. Management was not all that.

Players leave but the fans stay forever. It perhaps hurt more because GWS seemed like the easy way out to a cheap premiership.

I went to Griffen’s first match for GWS against the Bulldogs in Round 9, 2015. Thankfully we gave GWS a smackdown. But when Griffen took a late shot at goal the stadium rocked with scorn. He scored the goal. I didn’t care about them booing Callum Ward in the same match, but Griffen gave us the best years of his career. He didn’t deserve it.

My family used to tip Richmond matches purely on whether Deledio was playing that day or not. But the lesson of this decade is obvious: Geelong won the year after Gary Ablett left, Luke Hodge sealed the amazing story of the Lance Frankly-Swans-Hawks grand final with a kiss in 2014, the Dogs won without their captain and Richmond won the flag without their talisman.

Once you’ve become a champion team, no single player is indispensable.