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Why Richmond couldn’t get its fairytale ending




In the other hemisphere, a divided nation was being brought together for the first time in what felt like an eternity. The whole of the United States rallied around an ageing African-American female tennis-playing god who was trying to write one last fairytale in New York.

Serena Williams came up against Anett Kontaveit, the Estonian second seed in the second round of the US Open. Kontaveit is 26 years old – 14 years Serena’s junior – and smack dab in her prime. She plays a full schedule. She was primed to destroy the living legend in one last ignominious loss.

Beyond that, Williams was given rapturous applause as she left the court after her first-round victory at Flushing Meadows against Danka Kovinic. It was the kind of applause normally reserved for an ageing legend for whom the fairytale wasn’t written, but the crowds are appreciative nonetheless.

Even though Serena had won, the applause at the end of the first-round victory signified that they knew – we all knew – that Serena couldn’t beat Kontaveit and that those present at that first-round match had witnessed Serena’s final triumph. It would be her last win at her home grand slam and on the tour.

Then it wasn’t. She gets to continue her fairytale.

We aren’t all that lucky.

What made Serena’s win special was that it was rare. The Tigers’ loss to the Lions is proof of that.

The game had all the makings of a fairytale for Richmond. It was a back-and-forth game the type of which you seldom see in modern football. It was two teams whose strengths were forward of centre, not behind. And both teams played to those strengths.

But as a Tigers fan, that doesn’t matter to me so much in terms of the fairytale. What mattered were the moments.

There is nothing better in professional sport, as proven by Serena, than a great athlete or team making one last improbable run. If it wasn’t going to be this year, the ageing stars in the Richmond side have probably played in their last premiership. It’ll be the kids who lead us to the next one. But the ageing stars wanted to show that they had one last premiership dash in them.

Jack Riewoldt kicked two goals in the final term that I truly believed he had no business kicking, just from a distance perspective. Focussing on the distance alone though would be to ignore the ridiculous angle from which he kicked. He squeezed everything out of himself tonight.

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Shane Edwards, in what turned out to be his last game, had a chase-down tackle with about five minutes to go – though it felt like there were five minutes to go for half an hour.

Dustin Martin kicked the third goal of the game, and as he started to work into the game, his cleanliness around the ball began to show. He was clearly underdone, but he’s still class.

Tom Lynch was in such fine form it felt like every time he got two hands to the ball he was marking it, and every time he marked it he kicked a goal. Until he didn’t.

Trent Cotchin played one of the best games of his career. As I sit on my couch in silence, thinking about the game, the other performance that sits up there with this one from Cotchin was the one against Sydney in Round 23 to cap off Richmond’s nine-game streak to storm into the finals. There are others, but those are the two in my mind right now.

My point is that the old guys were going to take us home one last time, and it was going to be magical. They were going to take us into next week, against all the odds, and give us a fighting chance against whoever was next even without Dion Prestia – clearly Richmond’s best midfielder.

We were going to get to continue to write our fairytale. But we don’t all get that lucky.

The season ended as it went. Richmond beat Richmond.

The goal review issue aside – and it is a big aside and an enormous issue that the AFL has – Joe Daniher was the only Brisbane player in the square at the end of the game, and he kicked the goal. All five of the Richmond players around him failed to stay goalside of him; not one thought to stay on the line as Zac Bailey’s ball was touched.

The Tigers were torched by Lachie Neale around the ball and proceeded to do nothing about it. I understand that The system trumps all, but at a certain point can we not just think about sitting someone on him even just as a cooler, if not an outright tagger?

Marlion Pickett went to him at the end, but it was too little too late. It’s like living on a tectonic line and not having any earthquake sensors because you don’t want to live in fear – admirable in one sense but stupid in every single other sense.

Finally, some of the kids played their worst games for the year. Josh Gibcus had the fumbles and for almost the first time this year looked out of place. Ditto for Noah Cumberland. I don’t say that to be harsh, I just say it because I have eyes. They will be far better for the experience; it is a difficult place to play in a first final. I’m not writing their career obituaries. They’re going to be really good players, they just weren’t tonight.

But that is my point. Richmond played six games this season decided by six points or less and won none of them.

Richmond beat Richmond again.

Like I have said throughout, fairytales are make-believe. Sport, though, is one of the only real-world realms that can make a sceptical public believe truly in the power of myth, legend and fantasy.

I believed in a fairytale on Thursday tonight.

But we don’t all get a fairytale finish.





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