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Why Richmond and Lynch are a match made in heaven

Lynch launches Tigers into Grand Final Tom Lynch dominated the preliminary final with five goals

THIS is why Richmond wanted Tom Lynch, and it is equally why Lynch wanted the Tigers.

Lynch, having been starved of success in his first eight seasons at Gold Coast, was desperate to arrive at a club ready for premiership success when he became a free agent last year.

He wanted big crowds, he wanted to feature deep in September and wanted to experience the intensity of playing for one of the competition's biggest clubs at the MCG.

Richmond wanted a successor for Jack Riewoldt, a key forward who could take over the reins as the club's spearhead in coming years, one who could reshape their forward half for now and make an impact straight away. With Lynch four years Riewoldt's junior, this was a goalkicking succession plan. 

On Friday night, in the Tigers' tense preliminary final against Geelong, Lynch stood up to the demands thrust upon him, in more ways than one. Put simply, the Tigers can thank their boom recruit for their progression to next week's Grand Final as they saluted by 19 points.

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In the second final of his career, Lynch was the key figure early. He proved too smart and agile for opponent Harry Taylor on the lead, and got away twice.

By quarter-time, Lynch had two goals next to his name and was the dominant tall on the ground, but Geelong was on top.

The Cats had further stretched their lead in the second term, as Geelong powered to a 21-point break at half-time.

It was Lynch who got the Tigers rolling after the main break, though, capitalising on a brilliant Trent Cotchin tackle to kick a goal in the opening minute of the third term.

There were no lingering demons in Lynch's mind from last year's shock preliminary final loss to Collingwood – he had just finished his final season at the Suns by then. Richmond needed an impetus and Lynch provided it.  

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But his key moment was to come. The Tigers' rapid running game started to sweep up Geelong, but they needed to take advantage of their momentum. Lynch seized his chance.

With the ball kicked deep into the Tigers' forward line, Lynch battled three Geelong opponents at the top of the goalsquare to mark.

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The grab sent the dominant Richmond crowd into raptures, but it was also their fourth straight goal to open the third term and it put the Tigers ahead late in the third quarter. They wouldn't relinquish the lead thereafter. 

Lynch's power of running didn't stop there.

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The 26-year-old continued to outwork his Cats opponents, finding space in the forward half. It led to his fifth goal midway through the final quarter, sealing his status as the best on ground, and all but sending his team through to the premiership decider. 

Lynch finished with 19 disposals and 10 marks (four contested), plus he had three score assists.

The performance had extra meaning given the little influence Riewoldt had on proceedings.

PLAYER RATINGS Every Tiger rated from the preliminary final

Riewoldt had an odd night, finding only six disposals for the night (he had nearly as many knock-ons, one of which resulted in a goal to Dustin Martin). He kicked three behinds, celebrated one as a goal before being notified it hit the post, and struggled to get going. It was fortunate for the Tigers that Lynch was in full flight.

It's a performance that has been in the making for Lynch, whose rise has – not coincidentally – mirrored that of the Tigers in the second half of the season.

Lynch managed just one goal between rounds 5-7, including his only two goalless games of the season. But in the Tigers' past 11 games – all wins – Lynch has kicked 33 goals, taking his season tally to 61. That's only five goals off his career-best tally of 66, which came for the Suns in 2016.

PLAYER RATINGS Every Cat rated from the preliminary final

Clubs pay plenty for key forwards, and Richmond will be doing that for the duration of Lynch's seven-year deal, with the contract tipped to be nearing the $1 million mark a season.

But key forwards win games, and often big games in the finals are shaped by the talls. Just last year, Richmond was on the receiving end of it, as an American Pie ran riot.

But Lynch made sure his side would not taste such disappointment again. His partnership with Richmond is a match made in yellow and black heaven.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs