Having dominated the second quarter but not been able to get the upper hand on the scoreboard, the Tigers finally broke ahead when Jack Graham booted the first of his three goals at the 25-minute mark of the term. It put the Tigers four points ahead and was reward for their effort. But what happened next really got the ball rolling for Richmond on its way to a groundbreaking premiership.
At the next centre clearance, the ball bobbled out of the pack before Richmond midfielder Dion Prestia gathered it and quickly slammed it onto his boot. That's the Tigers' style: they get it into their attacking 50 as fast as possible, which allows for an element of chaos to their forward entries and also disrupts any defensive mechanisms of opposing sides.
This time the right man was waiting for the ball. Dustin Martin was there, locked in a one-on-one battle with Crows defender Luke Brown. But Martin is almost unstoppable when isolated – actually, nearly unstoppable all the time – and he maneuvered his way to the front of the contest and took the grab. His converted goal put his side 10 points ahead just before half-time and they were never headed thereafter.
Who made it happen?
Prestia got the ball rolling, so to speak, and it was one of 27 disposals for the former Gold Coast midfielder. He took some time to get going for the Tigers in his first season at the club, but his end to the year, particularly his finals series, has shown why the Tigers gave up draft pick No.6 (and other things in a complicated deal) to land him last year.
That being said, the real hero in this moment was Martin, and not least because he won a battle of strength. The Brownlow medallist was smart enough to see that Adelaide defender Kyle Hartigan was on the interchange bench after Graham's goal, so pushed himself forward to create a mismatch on Brown. Hartigan had been manning Martin deep in the first term. That takes a special footy mind to be able to sum things up, spot an opening and then execute on it.
We shouldn't be surprised because everything Martin touched this year turned to gold, and it was one of two majors Martin kicked from 29 disposals on his way to winning the Norm Smith Medal.
What did it mean?
Firstly, it gave Richmond the confidence boost that winning the flag was actually possible. And secondly, it gave them the scoreboard advantage that they had worked so hard for and deserved after a second term of unrelenting pressure. At the time it felt like a big moment of the match and on reflection that was true.
After the 26-year-old's goal, the Tigers came out following the half-time break and booted 10 goals to the Crows' four, and played with the manic pressure and intensity that typified their style all year. Martin's goal started the run and Adelaide's rot.
Any cameo performers?
No, this was a Prestia-to-Martin moment. But even in itself that meant plenty. Prestia's arrival at Punt Road has allowed Martin to spend more time deep in attack this year, seeing him boot a career-high tally of 37 goals for the season. That included three majors in last week's preliminary final win as well.
What they said?
"It's good because you can just kick it anywhere and he gets there. There was some big moments in the game where we stepped up and you just have to take your moment when it comes and I feel we probably did it more than Adelaide today," – Dion Prestia.
How did they call it?
"He's got it, the champ's got it… he's had a very good first half and this would top it off. He's got it, they've kicked away," – Bruce McAvaney, Channel Seven
"Dusty wanted body contact early and then just protected the space," – Wayne Carey, Channel Seven
And the fans went ...
…mad, like they had been for every big moment of the clash. But it was clear Martin's goal meant a little more to them than any other to that stage. After 37 years of disappointment, you couldn't begrudge Richmond supporters being a little nervy in their first Grand Final since 1982. But Martin's goal made them sit a touch more comfortably during half-time before party time started after the main break.
Will they play it in 20 years' time?
It wasn't a high mark or anything spectacular that will sit alongside the best marks in the pantheon of Grand Final moments, but it was a vital piece of play that truly kickstarted the Tigers on their way to a famous premiership triumph.
Martin was already a hero to Tigers fans before Saturday: he has a chant dedicated to him, he had a mural painted of him on a corner store in Richmond this week following his Brownlow victory, he has a 'mini' version of himself as part of the NAB promotions, and his tattoos and hardly-seen-in-the-media persona make him a football identity for the ages.
A premiership was the fitting end to what has been an incredible season for Martin, the game's best player and now a Tigers premiership icon. You get the feeling Richmond supporters will be playing the tape of this one for a very long time.
Dustin Martin celebrates the crucial goal. Picture: AFL Photos