Paul Amy, Port Phillip Leader - Full article - Click here

MORE than a year on, Craig McRae remembers the loss acutely. It was accompanied by the beating of drums on the Frankston hill.

The Brisbane premiership star was three games into his role as Richmond’s VFL coach when the Tigers were toppled by the Dolphins.

It was Round 3 of 2016. Frankston failed to win a match in 2015; its most recent success had been in July, 2014.

“We did it!’’ timekeeper Michael Robinson fizzed on social media after the Dollies came from 29 points down at quarter time to win by 13.

McRae regards the match as a pivotal moment in Richmond’s rise in the VFL.

From defeat emerged a resolve to get better.

“It was their (Frankston’s) first win in, I’m not sure how long,’’ McRae was saying at the VFL grand final press conference at Carlton on Wednesday.

Richmond Coach Craig McRae says his side’s lost to Frankston in round three last year was a turning point. Picture: David Crosling

“I do remember that game vividly. It changed our culture. I remember the siren went and, you can imagine down at Frankston, the drums were beating and everyone’s going nuts …. and our guys went to ground and laid on the ground and it looked like we’d actually lost a grand final.

“It made me realise this group needs to build its own self-worth and understand it was a loss. It wasn’t a grand final loss and we’ve still got life in us.

“So it was a real opportunity and an experience that we went through that I’ve got no doubt started to make some shifts in how we behave, acting like winners when we lose.’’

By the end of the 2016 season Richmond had split its season at 9-9. Significantly, it won its last six matches.

This year the Tigers pushed into the top eight for the first time since cutting ties with Coburg at the end of the 2014, and bursts of goals were the bedrock of their victories over Casey Demons in the qualifying final and, last Saturday, Box Hill Hawks in the preliminary final.

The Tigers can score quickly. They can defend grimly. Form is on their side. And many fans are by their side.

Luck is also with them; there is hardly an injury at Tigerland and the selectors can choose up to 20 AFL players for the VFL decider.

Sam Darley after the win over Casey in the qualifying final. Picture: Graham Denholm

“To be honest, for most of the year we’ve only had about 11 or 12 AFL players,’’ McRae said.

“We’re in a fortunate position at the moment with 19 available, actually 20 available this week, so the professionalism is there.’’

McRae was often spectacular around goals in the fabulous Brisbane teams for which he played 195 games.

But he’s been a steadying presence at Punt Rd as Richmond has shaken a reputation for being flaky, which came from modest 2014-15 seasons.

“He’s an unbelievable coach, but I think Craig’s two greatest strengths are his people management and how he is with us as people — he invests in us not just as footballers but people outside of the club — and then he coaches players to their strengths,’’ captain Sam Darley said of the coach whose heads spins to “Fly’’.

“I guess, as a kid, you get drafted or go through any sort of elite systems, you’re always told what you can’t do or things that you need to improve on.

‘Fly’s’ big message for us is, you’re here for a reason, you can play, it might be someone’s kick or their attack on the footy, and I guess he encourages us and puts us in positions to those (strengths).’’

McRae said Richmond had focused on “creating high standards’’, bringing in players with “the endeavour or the motivation to be hungry to improve’’ and developing “a real connection between the AFL and the VFL’’.

In Sunday’s grand final at Etihad Stadium, the Tigers meet Port Melbourne, which is playing its fourth decider under former Hawthorn champion and Geelong and Adelaide coach Gary Ayres.

Ayres is in his tenth year with the historic Borough, who on the eve of the season had cause to celebrate a Sam Newman putt on The Footy Show.

Port had revealed a loss of $300,000 at the AGM. Ayres said it had led to suggestions the club might not be able to field a team in 2017.

Gary Ayres is in his tenth season as coach of The Borough. Picture: Lawrence Pinder

Because of his friendship with the legendary Borough spearhead Fred Cook, Newman offered to help with a membership drive. The putt was a gimmick but earned Port $10,000, which as Ayres said is better than a boot up the backside.

The players and coaching staff were asked to take pay cuts. As a compromise they decided to forego their match payments for Round 1.

Captain Toby Pinwill said the club’s shaky financial position had more galvanised than demoralised the players.

“We thought, this is a real opportunity to show how much we’re behind the club and together as a group,’’ he said.

“Often from adversity you get your best growth and that was certainly the case early in the year.’’

Ayres agreed. “They’ve taken it as a positive rather than a negative. That’s been a real strength of the group this year … we’ve overcome a fair bit …. we’ve got some momentum out of it as well.’’

Pinwill played his 200th senior game for Port late in the season and is one of the few VFL players whose reputation extends beyond the competition.


Toby Pinwill after the win over Williamstown. Picture: Michael Dodge

Some of it comes from his liking for a scrap. Infamy fell on him some years ago when he was red-carded out of a final for being reported twice in a quarter.

Two weeks ago in the semi-final he did a beeline for Bulldog Tom Boyd, tangling with a group of Footscray players at quarter time (and he is a diehard Western Bulldogs supporter!). The VFL wasn’t amused.

But he has the finesse to match his fire and desire. Pinwill was best-afield in the grand final in 2011. As he’s often cracked to his mates, only good players win the Norm Goss Medal.

The Borough were bounced out of an elimination final last year but despite their financial woes recruited ex-St Kilda pair Eli Templeton and Brodie Murdoch and former Carlton flanker Dillon Viojo-Rainbow.

Robin Nahas returned from the AFL and Williamstown premiership players Dylan Conway and Anthony Anastasio crossed the bridge after feeling unwanted by the Towners.

The newcomers have blended with stalwarts Pinwill, Chris Cain, Sam Dwyer, Hugh Sandilands, Tom O’Sullivan, Jordan Lisle and Damian Mascitti.

The grand final teams met once this season, in Round 3, when Port achieved a 30-point victory at North Port Oval.

Sunday’s match at Etihad will start at 3pm.

It will be preceded by the VFL Women’s grand final between Diamond Creek and Darebin Falcons at 12pm and followed by the TAC Cup decider between Geelong Falcons and Sandringham Dragons at 7.35pm.



Aside from the obvious issues with talent base and ground conditions, it was also very hard to replicate game styles 10 years ago because of rule differences between the VFL and AFL. I'm thinking of the 'kick backwards' rules in particular.

It wasn't really, Melbourne and Sandringham did it very successfully. Ground conditions were perfect during the drought and the talent level was high in the competition, it was just many AFL teams hadn't figured out the benefits of investing in their VFL team.

Watching Hawthorn and Geelongbenefit from having strong VFL set ups finally twigged the rest of the competition, along with the increase in resources available due to TV rights.

Well... what can I say?

I actually posted a reply on this thread, but for whatever reason I must have lost it.


In a word. Unbelievable!

I parked not far from the ground midway through the women's Grand Final and was surprised I was lucky to get a park.  A steady trickle of Richmond supporters walked past and I thought we might be in for a huge crowd!

I then wandered down to the Mail Exchange Hotel to find the place very empty for a match day.  I remember going there last year and it was packed. So I had my suspicions that the crowd wouldn't be setting any records.

I was genuinely surprised.  I thought with the Tiges win at the MCG the night before, they would champing at the bit to get down and watch a Richmond match where, for AFL supporters that had a Grand Final this coming week, would essentially be a stress free game.  I was way off.

The crowd of 18,000 was pretty disappointing to be honest.

I walked around to Bay 14 and along the concourse there people decked out in Port Melbourne colours everywhere.  I thought Borough fans did a sensational job of getting to the game, and in particular in the area I was sitting the atmosphere was incredible.  I'm not sure how much noise we were actually making but from where I was, it was bloody loud!

The loss of Khan Haretuku from last week was huge.  I thought we could probably cover the loss of one of the smalls, but Haretuku was a match winner against Williamstown the week before.  He is a key poistion forward that marks everything in sight and can ruck as well.  But Waddell did a mighty job against the Richmond talls.

I felt that the game almost got away from us on several occasions.  In fact I think Richmond kicked the first goal (and sometimes two) for all four quarters.  The quick start at the beginning of the game, the two in the last quarter, Port turning the ball over from a kick out... I thought we had run our race.  Often when a side hits the lead late in the game after trailing all day, the opposition fight back.  Port Melbourne in my eyes must have been exhausted from the running / chain of handballs, whereas Richmond looked to move the ball quckly, kicking long to marking contests in the forward line.

And the kick after the siren?  Well that nearly killed me.  I had to force myself to watch, and off the boot he connected alright and my heart sank, only for it to drift away.

I have only had a chance to watch that last quarter on TV and the game deserved the 250K viewers it got.  What an epic finish.


I'll post up a couple of photos from back at the rooms.  I had to leave around 11pm but was fantastic day and a credit to everyone involved in this season both on and off-field.  What a mighty effort!


Good point, Paul - the game plan certainly worked for Sandringham.

We look forward to seeing something similarly exciting at Kars Street next year.

I also was expecting a bigger crowd and one around about 25,000. Crowd was a lot lower than what I was expecting however it was the biggest crowd port has played in front of this century and biggest port crowd in 35 years !! I think the split would have been something like 12 k Richmond and 5 k Port. Hard to judge but their would have been other Port fans in other areas as well - you see heaps get annimated behind the goals towards the end for example.


Khan was a big loss I agree - and a player that we must hold onto for as long as possible. Looking forward to next year we need to hold onto as many of these players as possible. The next challenge is player retention. I spoke to Khan and told him that he is as much a part of this as anybody else and although tough on him to miss out should hold his head high. He sounded appreciative.

I think most Port fans felt the same way about the game getting away from us and being over. For me that point came after they scored the 1st 2 in the last quarter I was like "ah here we go again another port loss - so thats 93, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2017 for only 1 win - yeah great". I was pleasantly suprised to be mistaken and Port with Port finding a way to not hit the canvas and stay in there.


The kick on the siren was iincredible - as it left the boot yuo could hear the Richmond fans chear and you thought "its not is it, its not going through the sticks ..." but then it faded away - crowd on that side of the ground went quiet and it was pandemonium in Isles 13 and 14. Hugs all round, High 5's, people just about in tears, fans absolutely ecstatic !!!


If I could bottle the feeling that the Port fans were feeling in Isle 13 and 14 10 seconds after the last kick of the day and then sell it, a Million bucks wouldn't be enough.


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Grand Final stats leaders:
Damian Mascitti Port Melbourne 22
Reece Conca Richmond 19
Sam Lloyd Richmond 18
Jayden Short Richmond 17
Robin Nahas Port Melbourne 16

Toby Pinwill Port Melbourne 24
Sam Lloyd Richmond 17
Shannen Lange Port Melbourne 15
Mitch Wooffindin Port Melbourne 15
Tom O’Sullivan Port Melbourne 14

Dillon Viojo-Rainbow Port Melbourne 9
Jayden Short Richmond 8
Sam Lloyd Richmond 7
Brody Mihocek Port Melbourne 7
Robin Nahas Port Melbourne 7

Toby Pinwill Port Melbourne 10
Sam Lloyd Richmond 9
Tyson Stengle Richmond 8
Corey Ellis Richmond 7
Ryan Garthwaite Richmond 6

Shaun Hampson Richmond 40
Ivan Maric Richmond 21
Lachlan Waddell Port Melbourne 14
Scott Clarke Port Melbourne 2
Mabior Chol Richmond 1

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Northport (or anybody else that knows) how do I change my signature on this forum ? The information contained in my signature is incorect !!!!!!!!!!! Thanks.

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Mega , go to the bottom of the page and change your theme to 'Four Seasons'. This skin has a line near the top of the page with access to your account. You can change your signature there.