Trent Cotchin and Damien Hardwick hold up the premiership cup. Pic: AAP
Trent Cotchin and Damien Hardwick hold up the premiership cup. Pic: AAP

Malthouse: How Dimma tied Giants hands

Publicly their personas couldn't be any different.

Damien Hardwick is jovial, gregarious, emotional, passionate, mindful, relaxed and deliberate. A proud father figure, and his players love him.

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Leon Cameron is reserved, intense, focused, logical, rational, direct and calm. A teacher, and his students listen and obey.

They are both highly competitive. Of course. You need to be, to be a grand final coach.

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Damien Hardwick urges his troops on after the national anthem. Pic: AAP
Damien Hardwick urges his troops on after the national anthem. Pic: AAP

 

Hardwick has stayed true to his approach beyond the 2017 premiership for another tilt. His is a systems-based structure, all about connection, and each team member playing for one another.

Cameron has withstood immense pressure and scrutiny to arrive here, still level-headed. He spruiks "brand" and structure, and it's all about the given roles.

Yesterday, when the first ball was bounced, the public personas were dropped.

Each coach stepped into a tunnel, like blinkers on a racehorse they narrowed their focus to the immediate. The past was forgotten, the future too far ahead to get caught up.

They freed up their minds to be present, able to respond and react to the events unfolding in front of them. The cards would be dealt time and again, and in each instant they would need to be ready to play their best hand. There isn't time to over-think it. There is too much at stake to under-think it.

It didn't matter that this was Hardwick's second grand final as coach, and Leon Cameron's first. GWS has played in plenty of finals in the past four years and last week's preliminary final was in a far more-hostile environment than that of a reasonably neutral grand final crowd.

 

Dustin Martin fends off Tim Taranto in the first term. Pic: AAP
Dustin Martin fends off Tim Taranto in the first term. Pic: AAP

 

It was game time and that was the only thing that mattered.

For all the pre-game hype, Matt de Boer was on Dustin Martin for just five minutes before Hardwick moved his star to deep full forward where he was met by Sam Taylor and, later, experienced defender Heath Shaw.

The Giants were very evident in holding a player behind the ball, while the Tigers did it less evidently in the first quarter.

Commentators called it "unfriendly' and "unsociable" football, but it was ferocious footy at its best. Tackling from both teams was frenetic and made it hard to score but easy to turn the ball over.

We know Richmond wears its opposition down, so GWS needed to build a big lead, quickly, in an attempt to break the Tigers early with its high pressure football, because in its fourth straight final it would be hard to maintain.

Earlier than halfway through the second term it was clear the intensity of the first quarter had already taken its toll on the Giants.

 

Giant Josh Kelly wasn’t able to enjoy too much space. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Giant Josh Kelly wasn’t able to enjoy too much space. Picture. Phil Hillyard

They were left trying to tackle, trying to go hard at the ball, trying to get their own game going, and falling short.

The Tigers, on the other hand, swarmed and spread and had total control, the gap between the opponents becoming more obvious.

Shaw remained on Martin even as the Tiger roamed between the goalsquare and up to the centre square in general play; de Boer got on top of Dion Prestia, and Jack Riewoldt stayed on the move to beat Phil Davis in the one-on-one contest.

The Giants' structure, usually so patient and direct, was a rabble with overuse, and by the time Riewoldt kicked his third just before the main break, Richmond's lead was out to 35 points.

Jeremy Cameron, Jeremy Finlayson and Harry Himmelberg were not only goalless for the quarter, but entirely out of the game as the Tigers' loose man in defence became a major factor, leaving the GWS forwards outnumbered 2-to-1 in every contest.

Like rearranging chairs on the Titanic, Cameron was left with his hands tied behind his back in a coaching nightmare.

GWS had to win the stoppages, it needed to get its hands back on the ball and move it on its own terms again.

 

Giants coach Leon Cameron speaks to Adam Kennedy at three-quarter time, but the game was gone. Pic: AAP
Giants coach Leon Cameron speaks to Adam Kennedy at three-quarter time, but the game was gone. Pic: AAP

 

It's OK to take chances, but they have to be calculated chances. Haphazard play leads to a haphazard result.

The Tigers, full of confidence and energy, held firm in their game plan. Quick movement, multiple scoring opportunities, sharing the ball around and most importantly, being smart in defence. With its extra defender Richmond cut off the Giants' lateral ball movement.

Every time GWS gained any momentum, the Tigers' structure stood up, stopping the Giants' spread by being first to the space, and denying any foray into the forward line.

When Tom Lynch kicked true five minutes into the third quarter they had scored five goals from forced turnovers. Crazy turnovers. The epitome of frustration for one coach, satisfaction and belief in a system for the other.

When debutant Marlion Pickett added to the lead every Richmond player ran to congratulate him in a show of true cohesion and team.

The Tigers' were disciplined, hard and consistent. They stuck to their structure for the entire game and set the intensity benchmark at the outset.

 

Dusty pours Gatorade over two-time premiership coach Hardwick. Pic: Michael Klein.
Dusty pours Gatorade over two-time premiership coach Hardwick. Pic: Michael Klein.

 

The Giants, failing to arrest the dominance of the loose defender, were out on their feet and

failed to keep up. Travel can be a factor in a loss, but it's not an excuse for a thumping.

GWS uncharacteristically gave the ball up far too often, even when it was free from Tiger harassment. It was a grand final lesson they'll never forget.

The final quarter was just a formality.

For the Tigers, and Hardwick, it was elation and relief and testament to a team that plays as one, and a coach who holds it together.

For the Giants it becomes indescribable disappointment. For Cameron, a range of emotions. One that will stay with him forever. Heartbreak.

 

News Corp Australia


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