Shattered AFL coach’s classy mid-grand final act revealed

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has revealed a “class act” by Cats counterpart Chris Scott’s mid-Grand Final upon realising another Tigers premiership had been secured.

A long-range goal from gun wingman Sam Menegola just after the midway point of the fourth quarter reduced the margin to under three goals and gave Geelong faint hope of a late comeback.

However the Tigers regained control of the game for the next 10 minutes, culminating in a superb set-shot goal from star forward Jack Riewoldt that essentially sealed a Richmond victory with 1.43 on the clock.

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Hardwick, though, was still in game mode post-goal and keen to contain his emotions before the final siren sounded.

But speaking on ‘One Night in Brisbane’ – a 90-minute feature on Grand Final night 2020 to air on Fox Footy at 7.30pm (AEDT) on Thursday evening – Hardwick revealed Scott classily walked in to the Tigers’ coaches box after Riewoldt’s set-shot to concede defeat and congratulate staff on a third flag in four seasons.

“As a coach you never really know (when you’ve truly won a game). But what I will say is after (Riewoldt’s) goal, Chris Scott came into our coaches’ box and congratulated us, which was incredible,” Hardwick told Fox Footy’s ‘One Night in Brisbane’.

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“I think the assistants had packed up at this stage, but I’m still going: ‘Listen you blokes, we’re still — Oh Chris!’ He just congratulated us and said ‘great game’.

“It was such a class act by such a classy guy, really.”

Hardwick said the final-minute feeling of knowing the Tigers had secured their third flag in four years after trailing the Cats at half-time – compared to the year prior when their second premiership was assured from midway through the third quarter – was more satisfying.

The Tigers coach even declared the 2020 triumph as a better achievement than the 2017 and 2019 flags.

Damien Hardwick and Chris Scott the day before the game. Picture: Michael WillsonSource:Getty Images

“This is a really, really tough thing to say, but I think this is our best Grand Final win,” Hardwick said.

“I look at it as one of the hardest, most challenging years we’ll ever go through and it was such a fantastic effort by our players and our club overall to walk away with, what I think is going to be, one of the hardest trophies ever to win.”

A Richmond victory appeared unlikely towards the end of the second quarter when Coleman Medallist Tom Hawkins gave Geelong a healthy 22-point lead.

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Tigers superstar Dustin Martin, who’d eventually claim a third Norm Smith Medal, kicked a stunning and crucial goal just before half-time to reduce the margin to 15 points.

But with Nick Vlastuin (concussion) out for the rest of the game and Bachar Houli (torn calf) playing injured, Hardwick admitted he had concerns.

Asked if there were any flecks of doubt in his mind at half-time, despite knowing the quality and premiership experience his side had, Hardwick said with a laugh: “Absolutely.

“I was really worried about Bachar as well. I remember speaking to him on the phone saying ‘Listen mate, I need Allah on our side today, we need to get back on the field’ – and he laughed and got back on.

AFL: Richmond champion Jack Riewoldt addresses how the side has been affected by Damien Hardwick’s private life and what impact it will have on the 2021 season….

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“Bachar’s just one of those guys. I mean that calf, he’s still struggling with that and probably won’t get up for Round 1 because of it.”

Riewoldt added: “You definitely had doubts going through your head … when you’ve been successful for a long time, inevitably you sometimes think ‘is the end coming’?

“It was like: ‘I feel like I’ve got the tools and I feel like we’ve got the tools to actually just keep beating it away and knowing that it’s there – and inevitably it will come at some point – but that wasn’t the time.’”

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During the Fox Footy program, Riewoldt fired an ominous warning to the rest of the AFL, declaring Martin could be even better in 2021.

Martin’s four-goal, 21-disposal Grand Final performance capped off a colossal 2020 finals series, which also saw him lead the Tigers to a semi-final victory over St Kilda then a preliminary final win over Port Adelaide.

Riewoldt said Martin had the potential to become a more influential player this year.

“I’m really proud of who he’s become – the growth in him as a person and a mate, I couldn’t be more proud of what he’s done and it’s reflective on who we’re going to see going forward as well,” he said.

Richmond’s Dustin Martin kicked four goals in the 2020 AFL Grand Final. Picture: Sarah ReedSource:News Corp Australia

“I think we’re going to see a much more mature player – the sky really is the limit.

“I know he values how important he is from a vice-captain, from a captain, from the coach on how much we lean on him. I think he’s starting to get a bit of a grasp on how important he is, not only as a player but as a cultural figure from Richmond.”

Riewoldt also said it was Martin who calmed the side’s nerves when it trailed by 22 points, firstly with his brilliant goal just prior to the half-time siren then for rallying the team at the main break.

“This bloke, he’s not known as a leader outside of the footy club but he was the one who grabbed everyone and said ‘we’re right in this, we’re right up to our eyeballs in this game’ and we could feel the momentum shift back our way.

“It’s so phenomenal what he does in big games and we’re bloody lucky to have him.”

Hardwick added: “You look at all of his four goals on Grand Final day, each one surpassed the other. They were just incredible. You look back at that Grand Final and just shake your head at his performance.”

‘One Night in Brisbane’ — a Fox Footy 2020 Grand Final feature, Thursday at 7.30pm (AEDT) on Fox Footy

Originally published asLosing coach’s incredible mid-grand final act

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