Marlion Pickett, the 27-year-old first-gamer, made a lovely, and old-fashioned, blind turn, and one felt for perhaps the only time during the match a quiet murmur in the chest that normally belongs to such occasions. Later he would add to this by scoring, though by that time the game was without tension, and even that sentiment was fading into yellow and black.
Beyond this, everything was fodder for a Richmond party, an easily imagined debauch, beer drunk from shoes, or whatever else one does now to demonstrate absolute victory.
Tiger fans had the luxury for the entire second half of wondering whose turn it might be to next get involved, or to score for fun.
For a brief moment the Tiger army tried but could barely muster the negative juice required to boo Toby Greene, such was the slant and warmth of their day. Any other bitterness remained unused, and aside from a few halfhearted remarks about umpires, there was only back clapping and singing in the stands.
For the Giants no moment materialised beyond the initial pre-game hope of an upset, a hope lost, it turned out, to the grim reality of Richmond’s power.
Despite kicking the first goal of the match, the Giants seemed very early to recede into an idea that the day was never likely to be theirs. It is impossible to play before so many eyes and not also see what the audience sees from the stands, namely that nothing the Giants did was going to help.
Once the Giants recognised this in each other they jammed up, a long way from the end, and it gave Richmond the spring afternoon they deserved, alighting the field and one another with hard and enterprising style. With every turn the ground seem to broaden for Richmond’s ball carriers and small forwards. Castagna, Pickett, Prestia, Edwards, Rioli, Houli, Vlastuin, and naturally Martin, all grew smiles you could see from the third tier.
Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt were indomitable, and on already thick legs seemed to become more stable as the afternoon unfurled. Martin is a force of confidence, a complete player that knows how good he is, and that every other player is going to have a problem stopping him. When a player of his physicality knows how good is he, you will have hard a time making him forget it.
The Giants could do nothing to distract Martin from himself, and his swagger seemed to embolden the rest of Richmond to join him.
Martin’s snap goal from the pocket with a Giant’s player hanging from his legs might have been the day’s most discouraging sight for the Giants, who would have known for certain in that instant that the choice to win or lose was no longer theirs to make.
Martin, fairly awarded the North Smith medal, is a classic big-game player, and perhaps if you were to isolate an observation about Richmond’s day he is the best man to use. He loomed as the biggest threat to an even contest, and it was he more than anyone who buried the Giants’ dreams. One had to feel for Heath Shaw, left to stand alone with Martin, a losing position on a losing day.
The Giants had two opposing forward line stars in Greene and Jeremy Cameron, and it was with some relief to this observer that it was those two players who conspired in the most illustrative play of the Giants’ day. Having made a brilliant collect on the wing, Greene passed the ball to Cameron who, instead of turning quickly to his teammates’ advantage, delayed the ball and passed it back to Greene, who wasted no time in passing it back to Cameron for no advantage.
While this was happening the Tigers were jogging into the Giants’ territory, and by the time Cameron eventually kicked the ball from his original position, Richmond outnumbered GWS two to one and marked the long ball easily. Such was the Giants’ state of defeat at that point that team’s two most attacking players decided, it seemed, to delay Richmond’s next goal rather than to try and score one of their own.
The Giants’ cheer squad has a single drummer, whose assignment it is to beat when goals are scored. He struck once in the first quarter, and not for a second time until near the end of the third, by which time, with the game lost, he seemed to strike it out of a sense of duty, with no passion.
Richmond stamped their feet to a different beat all year, and for the second time in three seasons did not have to doubt they are the best team in the league.
Timothy Boyle is a sports columnist with The Sunday Age