The AFL and its predecessor, the VFL, have always been a rich source of exasperating characters. It would rival politics or a Fox News station.
It’s an all-Victorian affair for the 2020 AFL grand final, with both the Richmond Tigers and the Geelong Cats having their own narratives coming in.
Richmond are fighting for their third premiership in four years and looking to cement their dominance in recent times. After falling short against the Brisbane Lions in the first week of the finals they took care of St Kilda and ground out a tough game against Port Adelaide.
The Tigers have never really given a true reason to doubt them. In 2020 they’ve essentially faced every top team and defeated them. They struggled against the Power the most this season and so may have got past their most difficult hurdle in the preliminary finals.
Their championship experience and credentials mixed with their talent makes them an extremely tough team to beat. They will be the favourites to win the flag again in 2020 and have earnt that perception.
But don’t count out Geelong.
The Cats will be coming into the grand final from a different perspective. Firstly, it’s been nine years since they last participated in the grand final. In those nine seasons they were eliminated four times in the preliminary finals, falling just short of the big dance. Many opportunities have been squandered, and you’d have to expect that this veteran team will battle to the very last second.
This could very well be the last and best opportunity for Geelong’s veteran core to win the premiership together. Gary Ablett Jr, Joel Selwood, Harry Taylor, Tom Hawkins, Patrick Dangerfield, Zach Tuohy and Lachie Henderson are all over 30 years of age. They are so vital to the make-up of the squad, but you would have to think that changes are coming and an opportunity for a grand final appearance will be difficult to replicate with this group.
The stage is set between these two sides with some mouth-watering match-ups. You have Patrick Dangerfield versus Dustin Martin, Joel Selwood versus Trent Cotchin and Tom Hawkins versus Tom Lynch. Both teams have their superstars, but who will ultimately lead their squad over the line?
Geelong are a well-rounded side who have skilled and versatile players to adapt to any situation. Their midfield with Cameron Guthrie and Sam Menegola is always active with disposals, and they’ve got young stud Brandan Parfitt, who is elite at pressuring the ball with his tackles.
Geelong will most likely be looking to keep possession and hold onto the ball, trying to isolate Hawkins deep. If the Cats try to play long and bomb it forward, you expect Nick Vlaustin and Dylan Grimes to defuse the situation easily.
Who will be the X factor who can turn the game upside down? There are so many quality players across the park who can make a difference. Kane Lambert, Jack Riewoldt and Dion Prestia are pivotal for Richmond. Meanwhile, Mitch Duncan, Gryan Miers and Luke Dahlhaus are all key contributors apart from the obvious names.
The main key to the game should come down to whether Geelong can limit Richmond from pushing the ball forward. The Tigers with Jayden Short, Dustin Martin and Shai Bolton lead the team in gaining metres and thus allow Richmond to dominate inside 50s.
Overall, you would expect Richmond to find a way to come out on top. But the grizzled veterans of Geelong do so many things well and will need to thwart Richmond’s game plans. This should be a thriller of a game.