Richmond run away with premiership, leave flapping Crows in their wake

It was only fitting that this most remarkable and unexpected of AFL seasons finished with a remarkable and unexpected grand final.

Richmond ended their 37-year premiership drought with a comprehensive 48-point win over the more-fancied Adelaide before a crowd of 100,021.

Richmond won this match with the uncompromising and tenacious play that has been the hallmark of their season.

The Tigers' tackling pressure and selflessness was the key to the victory, but so was the way that every man played his role, including some unforeseen match-winners.

Bachar Houli, hitherto regarded as something of a flighty back flanker prone to doing his best work on the outside, was superb for the Tigers, including in the clinches.

During the third quarter alone he won a two-on-one contest against Crows hard nits Rory Sloane and Taylor Walker, his clearing kick forcing the ball out of bounds, and sat under a floating kick on the southern wing to take an intercept mark in front of the leading Walker.

Richmond's most damaging forward was fifth-gamer Jack Graham, at 19 the youngest man on the field. He showed icy composure to convert three set shots during a 25 minute stretch either side of half time.

Shane Edwards, something of a forgotten X-factor, was a key contributor when the game was set up in the second quarter, with eight creative and penetrating disposals.

Of course the usual suspects played a role as well. Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin was influential, although the unrelenting attention directed towards him by the Crows meant that 21 of his 28 disposals were contested and he rarely had the chance to burst clear and fully hurt the opposition.

He still managed to effectively ice the result with a juggled mark, play on and snap late in the final quarter which extended the lead to 53 points and sent the Tigers' fans into a rendition of the club theme song.

What should not be underestimated is the way the Tigers kept Adelaide to their lowest score of the year, and completely nullified a team that looked to have as potent an attack as seen in recent years.

Again, the cornerstone was All Australian captain Alex Rance, who not only variously nullified Crows skipper Walker and the dangerous Josh Jenkins, but was so effective at taking intercept marks that Adelaide coach on Pyke was forced to shift Andy Ottens on to him as a defensive forward and drag him back towards goal.

The Crows began the match brightly, with two goals inside the first five minutes. In response, Jack Riewoldt tried to getting the Tigers going, taking a spectacular pack mark six minutes in. He pushed his set shot wide and followed up with another two misses, meaning the Tigers' first three scores were Riewoldt behinds.

Having been edged in the opening term, the Tigers dragged themselves back into the contest with four unanswered goals in the second quarter.

The first came after Rance effected a desperate diving spoil to deny Taylor Walker on the lead at centre half forward. The ball was swept to the other end of the MCG, where Riewoldt ended up with a set shot on an acute angle. His snap fell short, but the Crows uncharacteristically allowed it to bounce on the line for a goal, with Jake Kelly's late lunge ruled ineffective by a score review.

Richmond finished the half with three late goals – including a 25-metre set shot to Martin after he marked one-out against Luke Brown at full-forward – to go into the long break nine points up and with a mental edge.

The Tigers then kicked five of the six goals in the third quarter to effectively put the result beyond doubt, setting up a feel-good premiership to rival that of the Bulldogs in 2016