Oct 26, 2020
The Monday Knee Jerk Reaction: AFL Grand Final 2020
On a Monday, you want irrational reaction. You want emotion to trump reason.
What you really want is idiotic hysteria.
You’ve come to the right place.
Richmond (81) v Geelong (50)
Well, that was a lot of effort to end up exactly where we were last year, Richmond Premiers and Dustin Martin the Norm Smith Medallist.
In an odd year, it was an odd Grand Final. To start with, we had our first night Grand Final, which made the day feel like the longest day ever.
It was like waking up on Christmas Day and then being told you can’t open your presents until tonight.
My problems with a night Grand Final could fill numerous columns but the main one is there was nothing wrong with a day Grand Final.
The build-up was just long enough, families could enjoy it without the kids going completely nuts and you had heaps of time to celebrate afterwards.
It seems the two arguments for a night Grand Final are better TV ratings, which given all off Melbourne was in lockdown, weren’t that high, and that it will be a better spectacle.
If that’s the argument, it’s not enough.
For a first go at it, it didn’t work. The pre-game entertainment felt like a teenager in their room after their first breakup had chosen it.
After a moving Welcome to Country, we shifted into the musical component.
I was all for giving young Australian bands a platform, I’m not really one to be stuck in the past, music-wise, but why get them to then perform covers? And slow-paced ones at that?
Thelma Plum, Zaachariaha Fielding (Electric Fields) and Jeremy Marou (Busby Marou) started off singing Paul Kelly's From Little Things Big Things Grow, which was fine but given Paul Kelly performed last year, I’m not sure why they couldn’t showcase some of their own music.
At this point, I thought this was a one-off cover, but soon we’d discover that the Grand Final entertainment was more Sunday afternoon at the pub with a cover band than a showcase for fresh Aussie talent.
“Hey, let’s showcase young Aussie talent by getting them to play old Aussie talent.”
Mike Brady then performed at an empty MCG, which turned out to be even more depressing than I thought it would be when it was announced.
The day was already bad enough, not being able to spend it with people, and this was pouring more salt in the wound than Phil Gould produced in last night’s NRL Grand Final.
My heart had genuinely hurt all day, and it wasn’t the fact that the game was at the Gabba, I actually don’t mind the Grand Final moving around, it was the complete lack of human interaction on a day when it is actually fun to have such a thing.
Cub Sport then took the stage and played Powderfinger’s These Days, which only highlighted that Powderfinger was not there. I mean, at least cover a Meatloaf song for some humour.
DMAs followed that and in what was the strangest choice of the day, aside from Chris Scott leaving Patrick Dangerfield at full-forward, they played Cher's Believe.
Sure, when I think footy, I think Cher’s Believe, but then this was a toned-down version that seemed to throw down the gauntlet to us at home to stay awake.
And yes, I know it was a popular Triple J Like A Version song. But read the room, this is a footy game, you want to get excited, not melancholy.
Melancholy is for after the game when you realise there’s no more footy for six months.
If they’d then followed this up with something more upbeat it might have been saved, but they then performed Criminals, which made me reach a new low emotionally in a year of new lows.
If the pre-game entertainment was supposed to capture the feeling of 2020 it absolutely nailed it.
It was left to Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale to save things, and he went a fair bit towards doing so, it was a performance fitting of a big event like a Grand Final, and the AFL got to use their fireworks which they are so obsessed with.
Tim McCallum then did a good job on the National Anthem, which is technically also a cover.
Then sometime around what felt like midnight, we got actual footy.
The first quarter was as bizarre as the year, Nick Vlastuin carelessly ran into Patrick Dangerfield’s elbow and was knocked out, never to return.
Then Gary Ablett injured his shoulder in a Trent Cotchin tackle, but managed to heal himself off the ground and return later but much diminished.
Not long after Bachar Houli injured his calf but played the rest of the game. If I stub my toe I get back in bed for the rest of the day, so this was impressive.
Then, as if enough hadn’t happened, we had a couple of idiots run onto the field, to apparently promote their Instagram account, another sign of all that’s wrong with the world, not that we needed more of those.
The second quarter was all about the Cats, who threw everything at the Tigers.
Some straighter goal-kicking could have seen the lead blow out to more than the 22 points it reached, but it seemed at times the Tigers were a spent force.
That was of course until Dustin Martin bobbed up with a snap that gave the Tigers some much-needed hope.
Dusty gets raved about so much it’s sometimes hard to separate the hype from the reality, but when it came to turning this game around, there he was time and again.
If he plays a few more Grand Finals like this, I’m willing to consider revising my firmly held belief that the Demons were right to draft Tom Scully and Jack Trengove ahead of him.
Halftime saw Sheppard perform and they really nailed the energy you need to bring to a performance.
The AFL needed it to be good, their whole sales pitch for a night Grand Final is that there will be better entertainment, I’m just not sure this was enough to disrupt a day that already works so well. Plus, isn’t half time for kicking the footy and cooking a BBQ?
Where the second quarter was all the Cats, the third saw the Tigers underline their superiority in recent years.
Suddenly, it was the Tigers running all over the Cats, who looked like they had punched themselves out in the second quarter.
With the Cats now getting smashed in the midfield, it made you wonder why Patrick Dangerfield was down at full-forward, on his way to 12 possessions.
Dangerfield’s goalkicking isn’t exactly a strength anyway, but he’s a fairly handy midfielder though and while I’m no coaching mastermind, he could have been useful. Perhaps he injured his elbow when Vlastuin targeted it so brutally.
The question entering the fourth quarter, was could the Cats turn it around as Richmond had in the third? It turned out they couldn’t, a rare time regional Victoria has not done better than metro Melbourne this year.
It was an astounding performance by the Tigers after losing Vlastuin early on and soaking up all that pressure in the second quarter.
In many ways, it felt like a regulation Tigers Premiership (it’s strange to be able to write that). Martin, Short, Edwards, Prestia, Cotchin, Bolton all stood up and the only thing missing was Alex Rance floating the idea that he was considering retiring.
The game almost reached the heights of a classic Grand Final, but in the end, Geelong looked tired, where Richmond looked like one of the great sides of all time.
It really is astounding that Richmond has gone from being the laughingstock of the competition to one of the best teams in history.
It’s like if the Channel Seven commentary team started making sense.
It does support the view that about four years ago the world accidentally moved onto an alternate timeline.
Some would say this victory has an asterisk next to it, I wouldn’t say that unless I’m talking to a Richmond supporter.
In the end, Richmond was simply too good, they’ve won too much for this year’s victory to be questioned.
In a touching moment, Gary Ablett was given a guard of honour, an emotional moment, proving once and for all, it’s the game that’s the entertainment and it’s more entertaining than all the flashing lights and pyrotechnics in the world.
It brings to a close the strangest season on record. Let us never speak of it again.
On a final note, thanks for everyone’s support this year, it has been hard here in Melbourne, but so many of you have come on as supporters, giving me you’re hard-earned and it has made all the difference.
I would have had to stop without it, that’s how tough things have gotten down here.
It also cheered me up so much to know people value all this nonsense, at my lowest, all the support, the nice comments and the grammar corrections have been more appreciated than you could possibly know.
I’ll keep the writing up in the offseason so if you are still interested in becoming a supporter it would be much appreciated. Find out more here: https://titusoreily.com/support-titus
My book is almost about to come out to, I’m really proud of this one, and I can’t wait for you to all read it, you can pre-order it here: Cheat: The Not-so-subtle Art of Conning Your Way to Sporting Glory