Wow, we finally made it.
It has been over seven months since the 2020 AFL season kicked off and we have finally reached the final game of the season.
There were times this season when some of us thought we wouldn’t see the end. We thought that our 18 teams would be playing in empty stadiums.
But we just kept on going.
The competition was agile and continuously rose to meet the demands of state lockdowns, restrictions and the coronavirus.
On Saturday, Richmond and Geelong will face off in the final game of the 2020 season and one team will be crowned premiers in a year truly like no other.
Before I dive deep into the game, it’s important to acknowledge the incredible efforts of both teams, who have played just about the entire season away from Victoria.
They have spent over 100 days living in Queensland’s hubs, some players without family and loved ones by their sides. The resilience to pull through and remain standing at the final stage is an outstanding effort.
Now, about that game. In the past, I have been hesitant to trust Geelong because of their inability to get past the preliminary final stage.
The Cats finished on top of the AFL ladder last season and it shouldn’t have been a surprise that they would be around about the same mark again in 2020.
But they had made three preliminary finals in the past four seasons and had not won once.
Saturday night changed everything about how we perceive Geelong and how they may perceive themselves.
Now that they have jumped over that hurdle and made it to the grand final stage, will they start to believe in their abilities enough to get the job done?
It certainly will have an impact.
In 2020, Geelong have been the best and most consistent side. They have an incredibly tight and well-organised defensive unit.
They boast the best key forward in the game, who didn’t play in the 2019 prelim, the last time these two teams met in a final.
Amusingly, some thought Tom Hawkins was a chance to miss Saturday’s grand final after he trained away from the group earlier this week.
It was believed he had common cold-like symptoms but he put those rumours to rest when he re-joined main training by the middle of the week.
And when the Cats are on, they’re well and truly on.
Geelong have dominated so many games from start to finish this season, including their semi-final and preliminary final matches against Collingwood and Brisbane.
On Saturday night against the Lions, Geelong won by just 40 points. I say ‘just’ because if it wasn’t for inaccuracy in front of goals, the margin could’ve easily exceeded ten goals.
Geelong had 15 more scoring shots. You only have to look that far to see it was a total landslide.
The Cats look an even better side than the one that finished on top of the AFL ladder in 2019.
It’s the reason I am tipping them to win the 2020 premiership.
But there is one thing that always sticks out in my mind when it comes to Richmond that makes me hesitant to tip against them.
The way the Tigers play on a knife’s edge is scarily good.
They have moments when they completely adapt to the demands of any game – whether it suits them or not – and they play out of their skins to bring it back in their favour.
That happened against Port Adelaide last Friday night. Port controlled large portions of the play, but couldn’t find enough pathways to goal.
In that time, Richmond kept coming. They made the most of their opportunities and when the game rose to the next level, they stepped up with it and left Port Adelaide in their wake.
Over the past three seasons we have seen this Richmond team transform into a force. They have transformed into an all-conquering unit that could go down in history as one of the best ever.
They are one win away from standing alongside the Brisbane team of the early 2000s, the Geelong team from 2007-2011 and Alastair Clarkson’s Hawks, who won three consecutive flags in 2013, ’14 and ’15.
I just think Saturday will be Geelong’s day.
Of all the crazy story lines leading into the grand final (and in 2020, there have been plenty), all of the brilliant individual performances that are set to come, all the highs, lows and drama that will unfold, there is one story that stands out from the rest.
On Saturday night, we will watch Gary Ablett Jr play for the 357th and final time.
The little master has confirmed he will be hanging up the boots at the end of 2020 and earlier this year he told the media he has had “no second thoughts” on that decision.
He will go down as one of the greatest of all time and I know Richmond fans will hate to hear me (and just about everyone) say this, but wouldn’t a premiership be a fitting farewell?
Speaking of farewell, it’s just about time to bid farewell to the 2020 season. I can’t decide if I am sad or glad to see the end of this roller-coaster year.
It has taken me the majority of the year to wrap my head around what has happened and that we actually managed to make it work.
One thing is for certain: all supporters – not just Richmond and Geelong fans – will remember 2020 and all its craziness for as long as we live.
That’s my grand final forecast. What’s yours?