TRENT Cotchin has made the startling admission he was considering relinquishing the Richmond captaincy if things did not go to plan this year, as teammate Dustin Martin capped off a season of individual brilliance with his second consecutive best and fairest award.
Cotchin, who is now a premiership captain after the Tigers’ eight-goal win over Adelaide in the Grand Final on Saturday, was speaking at the club's Jack Dyer medal function on Monday evening.
"I remember sitting with my wife after last year and telling her, 'I'll give this captaincy thing one more year, and if it doesn't go well, we bomb out again or don't get it right, well then we'll see if someone else can do the job'," Cotchin said.
Cotchin always believed in Tiger destiny
"It's funny how fickle life can be.
"In some ways, 2016 (when the club missed the finals and finished 13th) may have been a blessing dressed up as a nightmare in disguise."
It was a tighter than expected result, with Martin claiming his second Jack Dyer medal with 89 votes from key defender Alex Rance (80 votes), with half-forward/midfielder Kane Lambert (76) a surprise third after a career-best season.
Cotchin (73) and injury-prone defender Dylan Grimes (69), who played every game this season, rounded out the top five.
Every player is assigned 0-5 votes by the coaching group following each match, including finals.
Martin's career-best year came while he was under intense scrutiny about his playing future at Richmond, finally announcing he had signed a seven-year contract at the Tigers just days before the team's qualifying final win over Geelong.
He played a season football legend Leigh Matthews labelled one of the greatest ever, finishing with a Brownlow Medal, a Norm Smith Medal, the AFLCA player of the year and the AFLPA player of the year.
Asked how his weekend had been, the ever-understated Martin simply said "good".
"I was talking to a few of the boys and we were pinching ourselves that we won the premiership this year," Martin said.
"It's been an awesome year and we all deserve it.
"I just love getting out there with all the boys, playing footy and you don't have to think about all the other crap in your life for those two hours, you just get out there and play footy like I've loved since I was five or six."
He said he wouldn't be celebrating this weekend any differently to how he has "carried on" in off-seasons past.
Martin also paid tribute to Emma Murray, Richmond's mindfulness coach, for helping him with meditation through a stressful year.
The 26-year-old played every game in 2017, averaging 30 disposals and 1.5 goals a match.
In a premiership year he was the team's greatest asset, winning the unwinnable contests with his extraordinary strength and almost impossible to bring down once in full flight.
Martin becomes the 16th Richmond player to be a two-time Jack Dyer medallist, and the sixth Tiger to be named club best-and-fairest in a Brownlow medal winning-year. The last to do so was Cotchin in 2012.
Rance had to, on occasion, cope with the added pressure of a rarely-seen tag on a defender this season, such was the esteem opposition held him in.
He often benefited from the strong defensive work of fellow talls David Astbury and Dylan Grimes, who allowed Rance to roam free and intercept at will.
Rance was also given the honour of being named All Australian captain after earning his fourth consecutive All Australian fullback honours. He was ranked first in the competition for intercepts and one-percenters.
The importance of Richmond's so-called "role-players" in its premiership triumph was highlighted by Lambert's third-place finish.
In just his third season, the 25-year-old former VFL star played every game except round one, and his speed, endurance and footy smarts saw him rarely have a quiet match.
He averaged 21 disposals and kicked 13 goals this year.
2017 Jack Dyer Medal top ten
1st Dustin Martin, 89 votes
2nd Alex Rance, 80 votes
3rd Kane Lambert, 76 votes
4th Trent Cotchin, 73 votes
5th Dylan Grimes, 69 votes
6th Shaun Grigg, 58 votes
7th Jack Riewoldt, 57 votes
= 8th Bachar Houli, 56 votes
= 8th Dan Butler, 56 votes
10th Dion Prestia, 52 votes
Premiership celebrations continued for Richmond at Crown Palladium, a day after the players were triumphantly presented to the adoring Tiger army at Punt Road Oval.
There were standing ovations all round as Cotchin, coach Damien Hardwick and retiring favourite Ivan Maric took to the stage to rapturous applause.
An emotional Astbury spoke glowingly of Maric and the intangible impression the spiritual leader would leave on the club.
At one stage, a "Richo" chant floated throughout the room, echoing what was heard on Grand Final day when Matthew Richardson presented the cup.
Cotchin mentioned in his speech the importance this season of being childlike – not childish – and simply enjoying playing football and spending time with teammates.
The whole playing squad was presented one by one straight afterwards, with vice-captains Rance and Jack Riewoldt carrying the premiership cup, silly grins on their faces and fist-pumping the air, demonstrating Cotchin's point beautifully.
Martin fittingly drew the loudest applause, but he was closely followed by Daniel Rioli (still struggling on crutches after his ankle injury sustained on Saturday) and Grand Final hero Bachar Houli.
Young forward Dan Butler won the Bill Cosgrove-Harry Jenkins best first-year player award, after making his debut this season in his third year on Richmond's list.
Shane Edwards won the David Mandie Community award for his work with Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander youth.
A husky Jack Riewoldt won his eighth consecutive Michael Roach medal as the club's leading goal-kicker with 54 goals.
In a highly entertaining speech, he said he didn't care about breaking through the 500-goal barrier earlier in the season, as he was now a premiership player.
"And to all the Tiger fans out there, I am your Mr Brightside," Riewoldt finished with.
He later led the crowd in yet another rendition of the song, which is fast becoming the fans' anthem of this premiership.
Grimes won the Francis Bourke award for a player who espouses the club's values.
Martin also picked up another accolade on Monday, winning the AFLCA Gary Ayres award for player of the finals.
He finished with 25 out of a possible 30 votes from his three finals, 10 ahead of the second-placed Cotchin.
Dusty's dream year:
Norm Smith Medal
AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year
AFL Coaches Association Player of the Finals Series
AFL Players Association Player of the Year