The 2020 grand finalists have been decided and it’s none other than Richmond and Geelong. All season Richmond and Geelong have been the premiership favourites but going into their respective preliminary finals they were the underdogs. Making the grand final is a real credit to the hard work and determination of both of these Victorian teams who have had an immensely difficult season. Both teams have been in a Queensland hub since July, playing away from Victoria, living away from friends and family and the comforts that come with it. Nonetheless, they have persevered and pushed themselves to earn a spot on the big stage. With one hand each comfortably on the premiership cup, it’s not going to be an easy win for either side. The reigning premiers will be looking to reclaim their title, while the Cats will want to dethrone the Tigers and claim their first flag in nine years.
In what will be a highly anticipated match up, there is very little separating Richmond and Geelong. The Tigers and Cats both have an elite squad, possess powerful key forward targets, have significant midfield depth, many star players with match-winning qualities and plenty of finals experience in their list. But Richmond and Geelong have contrastingly different styles of ball movement, so the question is: who has the winning formula? Their run to the grand final has been quite similar, a loss in their qualifying final, then a very convincing win in their semi-final. However, their preliminaries were vastly different. Richmond had a much more difficult win in their preliminary final, compared to the Cats. The Tigers beat Port Adelaide by only six points in what was a tightly contested match until the final siren, while the Cats beat Brisbane by a flattering 40 points after absolutely dominating in the second half. The Tigers, however, were forced to play their preliminary final at the Adelaide Oval and then fly back to Queensland, while the Cats did not have to travel and played at the Gabba. This might be the only disadvantage the Tigers have, after all they do get an extra day’s rest before the grand final, having played on Friday night.
Richmond’s composure in big moments is pivotal and their ability to switch gears and showcase versatility depending on their opponents is what makes them such a quality side. Richmond play a fast brand of footy and rely on winning stoppages to move the ball quickly into the forward line. Their ball winners like Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin (who will be looking to claim his third Norm Smith Medal in as many years) will be important for the Tigers. It takes a special type of team to win two premierships’ in a row and three in four years, but Richmond have what it takes. The Tigers will need to replicate their most recent encounter with the Cats and create chaos by applying pressure to Geelong’s precise and composed ball movement, if they can do that and perform well it will inevitably lead to a win. The likes of Shai Bolton and Daniel Rioli were instrumental in their win over the Power. Their speed and run through the middle of the ground allowed the Tigers to move the ball and score with speed. If these players are on, then so are the Tigers.
Geelong’s defensive structure is hard to beat and one of the best if not the best in the league. Their game style relies on maintaining possession of the ball in order to drive the ball forward, however, at times in their loses, this caution is what has led to their demise. Geelong applied so much pressure to the Lions in its victory on Saturday night, and stopped repeated entries from the Lions into the Cats’ defence. This immense and continual pressure will also be crucial if they want to beat Richmond. Geelong have a very tall line-up and will use this to their advantage to try and stop Richmond’s big men in Toby Nankervis, Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt from having an impact on the game. But for Geelong to win they will need to rely on winning clearances and stopping Richmond’s run and carry. Geelong have not made a grand final since 2011, where they beat Collingwood. However, they have six experienced players in Tom Hawkins, Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett, Harry Taylor, Mitch Duncan and Luke Dahlhaus who have all played in at least one winning grand final. While this will be advantageous, as has been the topic of discussion in recent years, Geelong struggle to win finals, so will the grand final put an end to the conversation of the Cats’ finals woes and buck the trend? I would like to say yes, but I think Richmond just might have more courage and tenacity to outplay the Cats.
The last time these two sides met Richmond ran away with the win, beating Geelong by 26 points at Metricon Stadium in round 17. While their grand final will also be in Queensland but at the Gabba, it’s hard to go past Richmond for the flag. Richmond’s only loss this year at the Gabba was against the Lions in the qualifying final, while Geelong are unbeaten at the Gabba this year. Richmond should win their third flag in four years.