I wrote a post preceding both the AFL and NRL Grand Finals describing the importance of mindset, to the players and coaches, in both the lead up and the match itself. I signed off by saying that the mentally toughest team in each final most certainly will win.
In the AFL Grand Final in front of 100,021 fans, the Richmond Tigers were by far the mentally stronger and this played out in their crushing win over the Adelaide Crows by 48 points. The Tigers adapted better to the occasion and from mid way through the second quarter won pretty much every contest that mattered and pulled away to win emphatically.
Looking on, as a neutral Sydney Swans fanatic, there were two standout themes to the Richmond performance – a positive resilient culture and their match day plan and routine.
The last time Richmond won the flag was in 1980. It has been a long time since then, hoping and waiting. Last season they finished 13th on the ladder and there were signs that time could be up for the Board, the Coach and some of the senior players. In hindsight that may have been the making of the 2017 season as the Board, the coaching staff, the players and the fans stayed tight and together. There were, no doubt, many tough and honest reflections and conversations but they fought back with a common bond and purpose.
Even in this match they were behind after a jittery start as Adelaide scored the first two goals and led 11 points at the break. But again they stayed together, supportive and united, and fought back hard to win the match.
On the half time TV coverage, Matthew Richardson, himself a fomer Richmond player and legend, observed that the Adelaide players were bitching and moaning at each other on the field which gave the Tigers players an additional mental boost. Adelaide’s players were uncharacteristically selfish and their body language was that of a beaten side which soon played out.
After the final siren I listened to the onground interviews with the players and to a man that commented that the win was due to all the players at the club including those “in suits not playing today”, all the coaches and supporters. The resilient and supportive culture shone through, and I think, has been front and central to their success.
The other stand out was that Richmond played as they have all year with their high intensity pressure system. They did what they normally do, week in week out. This looked like just another game on just another weekend. It is much easier to build confidence and momentum in a match if you are playing to your normal routine and to the game plan you are familiar with. Focus on the process and the result will come.
In contrast Adelaide looked as if they had just met each other on the bus to the ground and were trying to make it up as they went along. The emotion of the occasion destroyed their routine. They were neither resilient nor confident. Unlike the Tigers they weren’t mentally tough at all.