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Houli: Brisbane loss was a gift for Richmond

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18th October, 2020
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Bachar Houli has labelled Richmond’s qualifying-final loss a “gift”, admitting there were moments in 2020 when he doubted whether he would contest yet another grand final.

Every AFL player has made sacrifices of some description to ensure the show went on amid a COVID-19 outbreak that brought Melbourne to a halt.

Few have ridden the highs and low as much as Houli, who waited until June 11 to play his first game of the year because a calf injury preceded the competition-wide stoppage.

The 32-year-old stayed home when the Tigers relocated to a Queensland hub in July, welcoming his third child then revealing his mother was in intensive care after contracting coronavirus.

Houli returned in Round 13 and hasn’t looked back since, playing every game as Richmond advanced to their third grand final in four consecutive years.

“It’s been such a different journey,” the rebounding defender told AAP as he soaked up a dramatic preliminary-final win over Port Adelaide.

“It’s been one hell of a journey … something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. Regardless of whether we win or lose next week, it’s definitely been a very proud moment for our football club.

“There was the first COVID stop, then the birth of my child forced me to stay back. I’m so grateful I was able to travel to Queensland with my family.

“To be quite honest, yes (there were doubts about reaching the grand final) at times … but it felt like if we got into a top-four position then anything can happen.”

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The Tigers slipped to ninth on the ladder eight rounds, while they were in sixth spot after 12 rounds of the condensed season.

Houli’s team, having banked qualifying-final wins in 2017, 2018 and 2019, suffered an upset loss to Brisbane in week one of this year’s finals series.

The veteran suggested taking the hard road to this year’s premiership decider had proved beneficial.

“We’ve bounced back really well from adversity or losses. We know where we go wrong in certain games and feel like they’re small fixes,” Houli said.

“Sometimes you need that little hiccup. You treat it as a gift, because it gets you to reset and focus on the job for longer.

“The loss we had to Brisbane was a gift in a way.”

© AAP