Watching Richmond star Brett Deledio’s brilliant goalkicking blitz in the first quarter of last Friday night’s blockbuster clash with Hawthorn at the MCG, my mind wandered back 42 years, to the 1973 Grand Final.
It was Richmond versus Carlton back then, with the Tigers seeking revenge for the shock loss they had suffered at the hands of their arch rival in the previous year’s premiership-decider.
In the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the momentous occasion, Tiger star Kevin Sheedy stepped up superbly from the outset, to provide the impetus for a memorable Yellow and Black triumph.
Sheedy, formerly a tough, uncompromising back pocket, had developed into one of the best ruck-rovers in the competition.
But on Grand Final day, 1973, it was Sheedy’s ability to hit the scoreboard that proved so decisive . . .
He kicked all of Richmond’s three goals in the opening term to seize the crucial early initiative for the Tigers, who ended up leading by nine points at the first change (3.5 to 2.2).
On the back of Sheedy’s superb first-quarter showing, Richmond would go on to win by 30 points and claim what was its eighth league premiership at the time.
Last Friday night, of course, wasn’t a Grand Final, nor a final for that matter. It was, however, still an extremely important game for the Tigers to test themselves against the competition’s pacesetter of the past few years.
With Deledio channeling Sheedy’s ’73 Grand Final fantastic flying start, Richmond was able to gain the early ascendancy over its highly-fancied opponents, and then go on to record a stirring 18-point win.
Deledio, in his role across half-forward, placed the Hawk backs under intense pressure from the opening bounce. He chased, harassed, tackled, and used his elite speed, combined with excellent foot skills and clever football brain, to cause considerable scoreboard damage to the reigning premiers in the first term.
By quarter-time of the contest, only three goals all-up had been kicked – and Deledio had them all.
He would score another goal before the end of the night, to finish with four, which was his best return in a match since the final home-and-away round of the 2008 season (when he booted four v Melbourne).
Deledio has certainly had many games where he’s finished with a lot more than the 18 disposals he picked up against Hawthorn.
But the impact he had on the outcome of Friday night’s low-scoring encounter, due to his four goals, seven score involvements, six tackles, and the constant spark he provided the Tigers with, was profound.
“He’s just so dangerous,” hard-running Richmond midfielder Shaun Grigg told Triple M.
“He’s got both the attributes . . . he’s a really small, fast, nippy player, but then he’s a great overhead mark as well.
“So he’s a really tough match-up . . .
“He’s playing really well.”