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Five talking points: Richmond v St Kilda

Nathan Schmook  August 27, 2017 6:25 PM

Highlights: Richmond v St Kilda The Tigers and Saints clash in round 23

1. Dusty has the answers
Richmond was being asked some difficult questions through the third quarter and the match was far from settled early in the fourth with the margin cut to 24 points. The Tigers needed a hero, and Dustin Martin was the man. First, he gathered the ball in tight, exploded away and kicked a 40m banana goal. One minute later he was fending off opponents to set up Jacob Townsend for the goal that built an unassailable six-goal break. He ran off to the biggest roar of the day, which could only be interpreted as a declaration of love from the Tiger Army. Martin often ran off the back of the square on Sunday, and his clearances numbers (three) were down as a result, but his impact was immense. He finished with 36 possessions, seven inside 50s and two goals.    

2. A champion says goodbye
While the Saints would have been disappointed with their efforts, the result was quickly forgotten as Nick Riewoldt was carried from the MCG by cousin Jack and teammate Josh Bruce in a special moment on Sunday evening. Riewoldt, whose incredible career will see him finish with a record 2944 marks, was carried through a guard of honour made up of both teams and past teammates from his 17 seasons at St Kilda. "Clearly there's some sadness at it being the end, but it's still something pretty special to be a part of and I'm so fortunate to have been a part of it," he told Channel Seven. The champion forward received a text message from fellow retiree Bob Murphy on Saturday morning assuring him the sun comes up the following day, but he admitted his love for the game would leave him with a tough itch to scratch. Likewise, for supporters, it will be strange to no longer have the courageous and tireless forward to watch on a weekend.   

3. A finals brand
The Tigers have secured a top-four finish and they'll go into a qualifying final against Geelong playing a brand of football that brings success in September. The first half was the Tigers at their best. They hit the Saints with an irresistible wave of pressure from the opening bounce, forcing turnovers and running in waves on the counter-attack. At half-time they led the tackle count 44-29, using that pressure as a catalyst for a 44-point lead. Perhaps the biggest complement you can pay Richmond is that they enter finals with an easily identifiable brand. That was not the case when they finished in the top eight from 2013-15.

4. The Tiger Army is rallying
Sunday's crowd of 69,104 was the biggest ever between Richmond and St Kilda in a home-and-away match at the MCG, trailing only the 71,488 that turned up at Waverley in 1998 to see these teams play. The Tiger Army is sensing something special, with the team finishing in the top four for the first time since 2001, and they were in full voice on Sunday afternoon. Richmond also broke last year's membership record of 72,403, going into the finals with an army of 73,505 behind them. That could be significant in two weeks when they meet Geelong, presumably at the MCG, playing on their home deck as the lower ranked team. It is a dream position for Damien Hardwick's group and expect more records to tumble through September.   

5. A finals fairytale
Of the eight Tigers who lined up on Sunday without finals' experience, Jacob Townsend's story has been the most unlikely. The former Greater Western Sydney midfielder toiled in the VFL all year until earning a call-up in round 22 and booting six goals against Fremantle. With Josh Caddy waiting to return after the pre-finals bye, and no other key injuries, Townsend needed to back that up to hold his spot, and he delivered another five goals. He is a wildcard in September. The other Tigers who played on Sunday without finals experience are Dion Prestia, Dan Butler, Oleg Markov, Jack Graham, Daniel Rioli, Nathan Broad and Jason Castagna.