Fair and square: 2020’s most fitting footy finale

In a year of unfairness and inequity in football, this will be the fairest and most even grand final in modern history. It will also be a grand final defined by what there is not, more than what there is.

There will not be a home ground advantage. There will not be a heavily partisan crowd. There will be no lopsided travel for one team – these two suffer the same disadvantage. Both have been away for three months, living out of state, out of suitcases, out of hubs.

Crunch time: Joel Selwood is tackled by Tiger Dion Prestia during last year’s preliminary final against Richmond.Credit:Getty Images

Richmond’s last two premierships were played against non-Victorian teams and, of course, on the MCG.

Both teams lost in the first week of finals so both are now set to play their fourth in a row. Neither has had a week off. Both teams had to fly to Adelaide to play.

Not since Sydney and West Coast played in successive grand finals has there been a decider with anything like this neutrality.

No team has an edge in grand finals at night. This is the first one.

Eye of the Tiger: Richmond’s Marlion Pickett is into his second AFL premiership decider.Credit:Getty Images

There is mercifully no one in a hyperbaric chamber marathon. There is no Barry Hall, Trent Cotchin MRO/tribunal/appeals board/supreme court drama.

And, sadly, there is no romantic team to borrow for the finals – no Western Bulldogs, no St Kilda, no drought breaker – who can engage the agnostic.

In fact most of the rest of the football world is tired of the success of both teams and would quite like them both to lose. The neutral follower has quickly rediscovered their dislike for the hubris of Richmond fans once they re-emerged after a dormant 30 years. (Tiger fans, and fans of any team to be fair, rightly enough could not care less what the rest of the football world thinks.)

The closest this game gets to sentimentality is to farewell Gary Ablett. The idea that the last game of one of the greatest players ever could be in a premiership victory is the definition of going out on a high.

Cooking with Gaz: The farewell tour marches on for Geelong veteran Gary Ablett.Credit:Glenn Hunt/The Age

It is a game where recent history offers only scant guidance for what might happen. Yes, Richmond won comfortably last time – Geelong kicked only one goal in three quarters – but that game was not at the Gabba but at Metricon Stadium, a ground the Tigers prefer, and the Cats were coming off a five-day break compared to Richmond’s nine.

Perhaps the most likely indicator of future performance from that game was that Dylan Grimes was the best player on the ground. Grimes doesn’t have bad games so we can assume that to be a constant for this week.

Significantly, the home-and- away season form of clubs in this peculiar year has been an unreliable guide to what will happen in the finals. Richmond beat Brisbane in the season and lost in the qualifying final; Collingwood were belted by the Eagles in season and shocked them in finals; ditto Port and Richmond and Geelong and Port flipping results from season to post-season.

If we reach back to last year Cats spearhead Tom Hawkins, an All-Australian in 2020, did not play when Richmond beat the Cats by 19 points in the preliminary final.

History thus offers little for us in this context. Consequently we will be witness to a game of rare evenness that will be defined, and most likely decided, by what separates the teams. What defines the teams in style and make-up is what will define the contest.

Richmond play a chaotic, fast-paced game where claiming territory is more important than keeping possession. Geelong, by contrast, play a game predicated on strength not speed, of winning the ball and not giving it back. They play a game of ownership of the ball and careful use of it to find a way to goal.


Would Joe Daniher have been the difference for Brisbane on Saturday night? He certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

On the ball: Lachie Henderson in action for Geelong during their preliminary final win over Brisbane.Credit:Getty Images

Lachie Henderson, 30, was cut from the Cats’ primary list and re-rookied last year. He has been influential for Geelong in this finals series.


Chris Fagan, like his fellow coaching elder Brett Ratten, displayed his class and perspective immediately after the Lions’ finals exit.

He was more mindful of the many people in football and elsewhere who have lost jobs – not games – this year.

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