Published on September 22, 2019 5:42 pm

Tigers win VFL flag in classic decider

Richmond won its first Hard Yakka / Totally Workwear VFL premiership of the modern era with a dramatic three-point triumph over Williamstown in Sunday’s classic ‘Love the Game’ Grand Final.

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Seagulls veteran Willie Wheeler had two set shots at goal in the game’s final minutes to put his team in front for the first time in the match but hit the post on both occasions.

As a result, the Tigers are in line to complete a VFL/AFL flag double in 2019 after weathering Williamstown’s fierce late challenge to prevail 8.10 (58) to 7.13 (55) at Ikon Park in front of 13,165 fans.

 

Richmond dominated the opening stages of a tense and often spiteful contest, building a 31-point lead early in the second term before the Seagulls had even scored. Williamstown fought back to keep the Tigers goalless for almost two whole quarters during the middle part of the match but couldn’t complete the comeback.

VFL Coach of the Year Craig McRae’s Richmond outfit staged successful late comebacks of its own in two previous finals, and by thwarting this attempt against them, the Tigers converted their 2019 minor premiership into VFL flag success after failing to do so last year. They also made up for a heartbreaking loss to Port Melbourne in their only previous Grand Final appearance in 2017.

Richmond’s AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft selection Marlion Pickett was awarded the Norm Goss Medal for best-on-ground after winning an equal-team-high 20 disposals, laying a game-high nine tackles and booting the first goal of the match.

Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (20 disposals), Dan Butler (17 and seven tackles), Riley Collier-Dawkins (15 and two goals), Callum Coleman-Jones (14 and seven marks) and Jacob Townsend (11 and two goals) were other AFL-listed Tigers to put in strong performances ahead of the club’s AFL Grand Final clash with GWS this Saturday.

Richmond VFL captain Steve Morris was consistently inspirational in the back half, while fellow VFL-listed defenders Hugh Beasley and Dan Coffield were also crucial in holding off the charge of the Seagulls.

 

Senior coach Andy Collins’ group barely missed out on securing Williamstown’s 17th VFL/VFA premiership, with eight players who appeared in the club’s most recent flag victory in 2015 unable to help guide their team home on Sunday.

Wheeler was one of those players and, despite his late misses at goal, proved important against the Tigers with 19 touches and eight tackles. Mitch Hibberd (game-high 24 disposals), skipper Adam Marcon (18 and seven tackles) and Nick Mellington (18) – the chief instigator of plenty of niggle – were also prominent in the midfield for the Seagulls, while Nick Ebinger (17 and nine marks) continued his break-out finals series.

Richmond could have almost put the match away in the opening stanza, generating 24 inside-50s to two but struggling to break through Williamstown’s stout defence for much of the term. Pickett scored after four minutes of play, but the Tigers only really took full advantage of their dominance late in the quarter with three majors in the space of five minutes.

Leigh Masters finally put the Seagulls on the board with a goal five minutes into the second term as they began to limit the flood of Richmond forward-line entries and improved their composure with ball in hand in tricky, windy conditions. Williamstown seemed to truly snatch the momentum of a pressure-packed battle after half-time but its scoring struggles meant the Tigers still went into the final stanza with a 14-point buffer.

A relative goal-scoring feast then ensued, with seven total majors kicked in the fourth quarter after the teams had managed only eight combined through the first three terms. Collier-Dawkins looked to have made the task too difficult for the Seagulls when he nailed his second classy goal on the run to restore Richmond’s lead to 13 points after 10 minutes of play, but there were more twists in the tale against an opponent that wouldn’t lay down.

Goals to Joel Ottavi and Ben Kennedy either side of an Oleg Markov major meant Williamstown only trailed by five points with little over four minutes remaining. Arguably the most dramatic moments of the season were to come, as Wheeler received two opportunities in the final two minutes of the contest but heartbreakingly hit the woodwork twice. The Seagulls registered six of the last seven scoring shots for the game, but inaccuracy hampered their chances of glory, managing only 2.4 in their late drive for the lead.

The Tigers always kept their noses in front, riding a mixture of desperate defence and missed opportunities from Williamstown to emerge with their first VFA/VFL premiership since 1905.

 

 

RICHMOND   4.4   4.8   5.10   8.10 (58)

WILLIAMSTOWN   0.0   2.4   3.8   7.13 (55)

 

Goals

Richmond: J. Townsend 2, R. Collier-Dawkins 2, M. Pickett, J. Ballard, P. Naish, O. Markov

Williamstown: L. Masters, B. Myers, N. Rodda, W. Wheeler, J. Pickess, J. Ottavi, B. Kennedy

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