Jack Riewoldt celebrates with Dustin Martin on the siren. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Jack Riewoldt celebrates with Dustin Martin on the siren. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Robinson: Tigers’ epic end to soap opera season

This was Showtime from Richmond.

It was the Dusty Show

The Jack Show.

And the Marlion Show.

Dustin Martin won his second Norm Smith Medal, underlining his big-game status and arguably the mantle as the best player in the AFL.

Jack Riewoldt was under fierce heat for poor form and kicked three goals in the second quarter to open up the game before finishing with five for the match.

And then there was Marlion.

Boy oh boy, what can you say about Marlion Pickett?

His story reeks of The Natural, the famed and mysterious baseballer who was found, who was lost to the sport and who returned to the field of his dreams.

The 27-year-old father of four spent two years in prison, then rebuilt his life, and then, seven years later on a perfect spring day in far-off Melbourne, wrote himself into football folklore.

Not for being a premiership player.

For being the most remarkable story since … since … maybe ever.

At the siren, his kids embraced near the interchange bench and then bounced out to find dad.

One day, they'll understand the enormity of what had just played out.

 

Marlion Pickett sidesteps Giant Sam Reid. Picture: AAP
Marlion Pickett sidesteps Giant Sam Reid. Picture: AAP

 

 

Pickett had 11 disposals in the first half and four score involvements, the second most for the Tigers behind Martin.

At the end, his stats sheet read 22 touches and nine score involvements, one more than Martin.

But football is about moments more than stats lines and storylines.

In the second quarter, where Richmond kicked five goals, Pickett played like a 200-gamer and not a first-gamer and, in doing so, rewarded coach Damien Hardwick.

His signature move was a blind turn in the middle of the MCG.

They are rare events in modern football, the blind turn.

Players are asked to stick to process and game style, to give the first and best option and to bring in teammates by handball.

But Pickett is not your conventional footballer.

How can he be?

He only arrived at the Tigers mid-season because Shaun Grigg retired.

He only played for the first time in the VFL last month.

He only got selected for his first senior game on Thursday night.

The moment came and went with a wow.

He blind turned a Giants player, a ghost, and he was a ghost, because for one fleeting moment he was ready to tackle Pickett, and the next he was clamouring for space.

 

Marlion Pickett is mobbed by Richmond teammates after kicking his first AFL goal. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Marlion Pickett is mobbed by Richmond teammates after kicking his first AFL goal. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

His next wow moment, and probably the moment of the game, came in the third quarter when the romp was in full swing.

Martin was the supporting cast this time. Instead of kicking for goal form 55m, he kicked to Pickett who was 40m from goal.

When his kick was true, Pickett was set upon by every teammate on the ground

It was the smash 'em-out-of-the-park moment.

The match itself involved a sloppy first quarter, a break-open second quarter and a tip-toe through the tulips in the second half.

The final score was 17.12 (114) to 3.7 (25).

The best team in the competition of the past three seasons now has two flags to show for it.

Overall, it was their 12th and one of their most emphatic.

The Tigers pulped Collingwood in 1980 by 81 points.

Against the Giants, it was 89 points.

 

Dustin Martin evades Phil Davis. Picture: Mark Stewart
Dustin Martin evades Phil Davis. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

It was season of travails.

From mid-season adversity grew aspiration and inspiration.

The best defender in the game Alex Rance played one game. Riewoldt only 13. Captain Trent Cotchin 14 and ruckman Toby Nankervis 12.

They introduced Sydney Stack and Liam Baker and, of course, Pickett and signed Tommy Lynch.

The season was in the wilderness near they bye break.

They lost to North Melbourne, Geelong and Adelaide in Rounds 11-13 before marking on a run of 12 consecutive victories.

A season staring with fragility - they were 7-6 after the Crows loss - and then a strength of character took hold.

Boom recruit Lynch kicked two goals, but was far more dangerous than that.

He was recruited from the Suns, where he gave eight years of his career, before wanting to play for a big team in front of big crowds.

He might be the new general at the Tigers, but he will never dethrone the king.

Martin was imperious. He kicked four goals and had 22 touches and the roar for him when he was announced as the winner of the Norm Smith only rivalled that of the roar for Pickett's goal in the third quarter.

But those two roars were beaten when Pickett was announced to get his medal. It was tingles stuff.

As for Dusty, two Norm Smiths, hey? What a career. What a player.

 

 

Tom Lynch gets a hug from Dustin Martin after kicking a goal. Picture: Getty Images
Tom Lynch gets a hug from Dustin Martin after kicking a goal. Picture: Getty Images

 

The Giants would be proud on one hand and shattered on the other.

The evidence is strong they may have played their Grand Final against Collngwood the previous week.

In doing so they won many admirers.

But the Grand Final would have stung them.

Only two team since 1961 had managed one goal in a first half of a Grand Final - St Kilda in 2010 and Fremantle in 2013 - and they would only manage three goals for the game.

Should Phil Davis have played? What happened to Jeremy Finlayson other than he was David Astbury-ed, and Josh Kelly and Lachie Whitfield, two of the best players, were two of their worst players.

The positive is they are much, much more than big, big sound, they are a revolution on western Sydney.

Their problem is they came up against a rampant and hostile opposition, a team with many stories to tell.

 

 

News Corp Australia


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