Manic pressure and a stunning streak of seven unanswered goals saw Richmond end a 37-year premiership drought with a 48-point triumph over Adelaide at the MCG on Saturday.
More than 100,000 fans – many of them long-suffering Tiger faithful – piled into the famous venue and witnessed a Richmond performance for the ages, as they fought from behind to post a stirring 16.12 (108) to 8.12 (60) victory.
Richmond entered September with just two finals wins since 1982, the year of its last Grand Final appearance, but capped off a perfect month – defined by unrelenting pressure – with a win inspired by Dustin Martin, who added a Norm Smith Medal to his Brownlow success earlier this week.
Martin had 29 disposals, 21 of them contested, and added two goals to be voted best afield, while Bachar Houli (25 disposals, 11 marks, one goal) and defender Alex Rance also played key roles in Richmond’s victory.
Fifth-gamer Jack Graham, still a teenager, kicked three crucial goals for the Tigers, who surged back into the match with four unanswered goals before half-time.
That helped the Tigers to a nine-point lead at the main break, and a five-goal-to-one third quarter ensured the last term was a victory party for Damien Hardwick’s Tigers.
Brothers Matt Crouch (37 disposals) and Brad Crouch (29 disposals) were handy for Adelaide, while Rory Sloane – who had 21 disposals and kicked two goals – was particularly good in the first half for the Crows.
But the day belonged to the Tigers, who capped a remarkable season with a victory that reduced their fans, players and staff to tears of joy.
“It’s a dream come true,” Martin told the Seven Network afterwards.
“Best thing in the world.”
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick, who was under major pressure to keep his job last year, said his players were “simply outstanding”.
“I have never seen a side like you,” he said.
“You are unique. I love watching you play. You are an incredible team. That is now a premiership team.”
The intensity was ferocious in the early stages and the Crows started brighter, with Sloane and Eddie Betts goaling in the first five minutes to delight the visitors.
A trio of Jack Riewoldt behinds only made Richmond fans more nervous, but the Tigers worked their way back into the contest and nudged in front after Josh Caddy and Houli kicked truly.
They did not convert their dominance on the scoreboard, though, and the Crows pounced with two late goals to lead by 11 points at the first change.
But that was as good as things got for the Crows, as the sun faded and the rain began to fall early in the second term.
A Riewoldt snap – which somehow snuck through after sloppy defensive organisation from the Crows – triggered what would be a seven-goal burst as Adelaide repeatedly turned the ball over.
Jacob Townsend, Graham and Martin added majors before half-time and the pause – highlighted by a Grand Final sprint victory to Richmond’s Connor Menadue – did little to halt the Tiger momentum.
Graham announced himself with his second goal three minutes into the third quarter, and Shaun Grigg added to it before a clever Kane Lambert snap extended Richmond’s lead to 28 points.
Try as they might, Adelaide couldn’t work themselves back into the contest, consistently thwarted – either by their own poor skill or Richmond’s harassment.
Graham’s third goal – and a Castagna major – saw Richmond lead by 34 points at the final change, a margin they extended in the last term, even if the Crows managed three consolation goals.
Tiger spearhead Jack Riewoldt said the win typified Richmond.
“It’s unbelievable. This is what our football club is about heart and soul,” he said.
“We are not the most talented side. We are some good players but we got the guys that play their roles. I feel like I’m in a dream.”
ADELAIDE 4.1 4.7 5.10 8.12 (60)
RICHMOND 2.3 6.4 11.8 16.12 (108)
Adelaide: Sloane 2, Walker 2, Betts, Greenwood, B. Crouch, Cameron
Richmond: Graham 3, Townsend 2, Martin 2, Caddy, Houli, Riewoldt, Grigg, Lambert, Castagna, Riewoldt, Prestia, Butler
Adelaide: M. Crouch, Jacobs, B. Crouch, Sloane, Laird
Richmond: Martin, Rance, Houli, Astbury, Prestia, Edwards, Graham, Grimes