Thrilling matches, tense finals, huge marks and a series of unforgettable storylines made the 2019 AFL season one to remember.
The evenness of the AFL’s top bracket of sides was shown by the fact just one win separated Geelong, who finished first, and the fifth-placed West Coast, while Greater Western Sydney went from sixth to reach the grand final after a stunning September run.
It was Richmond who would ultimately win the premiership, their second in three years, Damien Hardwick’s side finishing the season full of momentum.
A new campaign brings fresh hope for all 18 clubs, though, and our 2019 season reviews take a look at what went right, what went wrong, each side’s best players and how every club can improve.
The next team in the spotlight is Richmond.
- Ladder position: Third
- Eventual finish: Premiers
- Home and away win-loss ratio: 16-6
- Home and away percentage: 113.7
Richmond Football Club AFL 2019 Season Performance Review
Richmond timed their run to perfection in 2019, winning their last 12 games of the season to claim another premiership triumph. It did not appear so rosy after Round 13, when Richmond dropped their third match in a row. At that point, Richmond had won seven and lost six, but the mid-season bye helped them re-group and led to a simply stunning finish to the season. The Tigers won their qualifying final by 47 points in Brisbane and backed it up with a 19-point success against Geelong in their preliminary final. Richmond’s strong end to 2019 culminated in an 89-point thrashing of Greater Western Sydney in the Grand Final.
It is impossible to look beyond the Grand Final, Richmond at their scintillating best on the biggest day on the calendar. Five unanswered goals in the second quarter set up Richmond’s big win and they did not hold back after the break, turning a 35-point advantage into a thrashing of almost 15 goals. The Tigers had winners on every line but Dustin Martin, who gathered 22 disposals and booted four goals, won the Norm Smith Medal for best afield for the second time in his career.
North Melbourne finished 12th but they showed Richmond up in the second half of a Round 11 clash at Docklands. The Kangaroos kicked nine goals to three after the break in what was a surprising 37-point win, Ben Brown kicking five goals for the victors. Bachar Houli played a lone hand on that day for the Tigers, winning 38 disposals, and successive defeats to Geelong and Adelaide in the next two weeks created serious doubt about Richmond’s premiership chances – doubt that was quashed emphatically over the next three months.
The best and fairest
Dion Prestia took home the Jack Dyer Medal for 2019, his consistency across all 25 matches recognised with a deserved victory. Shane Edwards finished second, with defenders Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin finishing third and fourth respectively. Both were outstanding in the injury-enforced absence of Alex Rance. Tom Lynch was fifth, with Martin two votes adrift in sixth.
It is intriguing to compare the results from Richmond’s best and fairest to the Brownlow Medal votes. Martin was clearly Richmond’s best vote winner at the Brownlow, getting 23 to finish in a tie for sixth. He was ineligible to win the award due to suspension but produced a series of typically eye-catching performances to win a chunk of votes. Houli was equal 32nd with 11 votes, while Prestia got eight votes to finish in a share of 46th. No other Tiger polled more than six votes and fascinatingly, Edwards did not poll one vote.
It is rare to see the premiers with just two players in the final All-Australian side, with Grimes and Houli the only Tigers winning selection. Both were clearly among the competition’s premier backmen in 2019, but Martin and Prestia – both named in the 40-man squad – missed out.
The goal kickers
Lynch proved his worth in 2019, kicking 63 goals from 25 matches – a terrific tally given he had an interrupted pre-season. Lynch’s marking and accuracy around goal was critical in Richmond’s late charge and he also played a critical role in the regular absence of forward star Jack Riewoldt. Riewoldt played just 13 matches in 2019 due to injury, kicking 24 goals. Martin went forward at regular intervals and finished with 32 goals in 2019, while Jason Castagna added 27.28.
The reason to be hopeful
There is more than one! If Rance and Riewoldt, as expected, play more football in 2020, it is hard to see the Tigers failing to improve. That is scary for the 17 other sides in the competition, particularly given Richmond’s imposing MCG record. One would not be surprised to see Martin string together a more consistent 2020, too. The Tigers should be challenging at the business end of September again and won the VFL Grand Final in 2019, meaning depth is not an issue.