The coaching staff involved in assembling this team should take a bow.
In spring 2010, Tom Lynch was walking along a Gold Coast beach with Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy – a trio of teenagers preparing to start their AFL lives with the Suns.
Nearly nine years later, all three were on the field as Richmond qualified for their second grand final in three years, and Lynch couldn’t help but enjoy the moment.
“We’ve taken different roads to get here and it was pretty fun on the weekend,” Lynch told reporters on Monday.
“Dion kicked it to me a few times and I gave him one back, so that was pretty special to be playing alongside them in a prelim.
“Obviously especially Dion – I played six years up at Gold Coast with him.”
While Prestia and Caddy experienced premiership glory in 2017, the last time Lynch was involved on the last day of September was as a 17-year-old supporting Collingwood in 2010 – or as Lynch puts it: “the last day I was a Collingwood fan.”
A few short months later, Lynch was drafted to the Suns – and eight years on, Richmond would beat Collingwood for his signature as a free agent.
It didn’t take him long to settle in, either.
“He’s just a lad, he’s just one of the boys,” teammate Brandon Ellis told AAP.
“He’ll never miss (a chance) to go out with the boys – whether it’s lunch or coffee or to one of the boys’ houses.
“He’s been fantastic this year. He’s fit in really well and he’s just such a good player, isn’t he?”
A former Gold Coast captain, Lynch has led at Richmond too, albeit without the burden of an official title.
“He’s brought a lot of his leadership but mostly he’s just fit in so well with all the boys and we love his company around the club,” forward Jason Castagna told AAP.
“He’s such good fun and he brings a lot of banter and that. So he’s just great to be out there with.”
Knee surgery left Lynch without a pre-season and admittedly “scratchy” in the early weeks of 2019.
He was twice held goalless and had single-digit disposal numbers in nine of the first 12 games – stats that saw him draw some criticism.
“You’d be lying if you said you didn’t hear it – the critics and things like that,” Lynch said.
“But as I’ve said quite a number of times, I’ve spoken to Dimma (coach Damien Hardwick) and Mini (assistant Andrew McQualter) and the guys at the footy club.
“You really value their opinion … and they were really supportive and said ‘you’re playing a role for the team and you’re bringing others into it and we’re really happy with you – we know you can perform better but we’re really happy with how you’re going.'”
Lynch was always going to take time and built form in the second half of the year – incredibly playing every game to finish the home and away season with 54 goals.
But it was on the biggest stage so far – preliminary final weekend against Geelong – where he well and truly delivered.
Lynch booted five goals, took eight marks – including four contested – and hauled his team over the line.
“He was unbelievable,” Castagna said.
“I was getting to his feet all night and he didn’t really let many drop.
“So I was starved a few times of some crumbs but I was obviously rapt that he was marking it and he played a terrific game.”
For Lynch, the second final of his career proved a defining one.
“It just shows the character he is,” Ellis said.
“Nothing really much fazes him, he just goes out there – he knows what he has to do for the team and Dimma’s always said that Lynchy’s best footy is going to be in the second half of the year because he missed most of pre-season.
“I know he copped a bit of crap this year from the media and everyone because he probably wasnt performing to the way that he had been at the Suns in previous years.
“But he’s been awesome this second half of the year and he was huge on the weekend and obviously huge for us against the Lions. So just one more to go, Lynchy.”