It was comfortably the most controversial column of my career.
The day after a grand final is a time to celebrate everything that is wonderful and worthy about the team that lifted the cup, so thousands of Richmond fans were furious when I wrote about why the Tigers’ 2017 grand final was bad for footy. Hundreds let me know about it personally.
RELATED: Richmond’s win troubling for AFL
Footy fans are always pretty quick to let you know when they think you get it wrong.
A 2014 piece about why Tom Boyd’s $7 million contract was the worst in AFL history was reposted over and over again by Bulldogs fans when he played exceptionally well in the 2016 grand final.
So forgive me for revisiting some of the themes of the aforementioned Richmond article.
I had a range of takes after the Tigers belted the Crows, some of which I’d like to have back but others that have continued to cross my mind over the past two and a bit seasons.
The 2017 decider was a contrast in styles. On one side you had Adelaide, which had led the league in scoring for two seasons.
On the other you had the Tigers, who had been convinced during the 2017 pre-season after several finals failures that defence could be fun.
They perfected it during that finals series holding the Cats to 40 points, the Giants to 67 and the Crows to 60, conceding less than two goals per quarter.
After their triumph I wrote: “It’s a little overblown but coaches often look to the reigning premier when deciding what additions to make to their game plan over summer.
“What’s the lesson from the Tigers? Surround a few stars with a bunch of battlers and just pressure the bejesus out of the opposition.
“There’s nothing wrong with contested ball remaining king but a Crows win would have been a win for attacking, high-scoring footy. Instead the grinders won out.”
Obviously, the Tigers can’t be held solely responsible for the way footy has trended in recent years. The Bulldogs actually started it in 2016 when they rode the 12th worst attack in the competition in the minor round to a breakthrough premiership with a similar pressure-based game plan.
But Richmond, which proved its approach by adding a second flag last year, has rammed home a new reality for the AFL: You don’t need a great attack to win it all.
And that’s why each summer there’s less focus on finding one.
After a weekend where coaches Alastair Clarkson and Chris Scott set the agenda on the diminishing spectacle of the game, one response has been to suggest it’s best to let footy correct itself and not meddle with the rules further.
But are we sure the game is going to be OK?
Longtime opposition analyst and smart footy mind Rob Harding pointed out this week there were outcries about the state of the game at other times in history, including 2005 when the Swans bored the hell out of us.
But it was only two years after the Swans’ 2005 flag the Cats unleashed one of the most potent offences of all-time and averaged 118 points per game on their way to the premiership.
We’ve now gone four seasons where teams that didn’t have top four attacks in the minor round went on to win the grand final and we’ve not seen that in a long time, if ever.
Before 2016 — outside of the times Sydney won — you had to have a top four attack to win the flag.
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Defenders of today’s game believe critics want footy to look like the 1989 grand final but that’s just not the case.
We don’t even need to go back as far as 1999, when the Kangaroos won the premiership with the league’s 10th worst defence.
It’s only been the past four years where the action has deteriorated and that’s why a Crows’ win was so important that day. They could have been the Geelong of 2007 or the Hawks of 2013 that corrected footy when it needed it most.
Now we’re left hoping a team like the Lions can do the job instead of the rule changers.
WHERE THE PREMIER RANKED IN POINTS FOR
2019 — Richmond (6th)
2018 — West Coast (5th)
2017 — Richmond (8th)
2016 — Western Bulldogs (12th)
2015 — Hawthorn (1st)
2014 — Hawthorn (1st)
2013 — Hawthorn (1st)
2012 — Sydney (5th)
2011 — Geelong (2nd)
2010 — Collingwood (2nd)
2009 — Geelong (2nd)
2008 — Hawthorn (3rd)
2007 — Geelong (1st)
2006 — West Coast (4th)
2005 — Sydney (14th)
2004 — Port Adelaide (3rd)
2003 — Brisbane Lions (2nd)
2002 — Brisbane Lions (1st)
2001 — Brisbane Lions (2nd)
2000 — Essendon (1st)
1999 — North Melbourne (1st)
WHERE TOP RANKED ATTACK FINISHED
2019 — Brisbane (lost semi-final)
2018 — Melbourne (lost preliminary final)
2017 — Adelaide (lost grand final)
2016 — Adelaide (lost semi-final)