It's time for the AFL to hand out premiership medals for all contributors

Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze is the first to admit that his 1999 NBA championship ring has a funny story attached to it.

"Insurance", he described himself, as the star-studded San Antonio Spurs squad he was a part of featured headline acts Tim Duncan, David Robinson and current Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Gaze didn't see a minute of action during the 1999 NBA Finals and was actually inactive throughout the Spurs' entire playoff run. But he was still crucial to San Antonio's success and was rightly awarded a championship ring.

But while there's a distinct culture of team success in other codes in other countries, the AFL's policy on handing out premiership medallions is far stricter: you must be part of the 22 to take the field on Grand Final day to make the cut.

Famously, then-Western Bulldogs skipper Bob Murphy missed out on an elusive medal in 2016 when he was cruelly struck down by a ruptured ACL in Round 3. Had he played basketball for San Antonio in 1999, for instance, he would have been given a ring. But because he played footy for the Dogs, he received nothing.

Richmond's Friday night preliminary final win over Geelong once again gave us reason to consider that the AFL should also fittingly reward all those who contributed to premiership glory - not just those present on the biggest day of the year.

Late in the first quarter of the Tigers' 19-point victory, Jack Graham suffered a gruesome dislocated shoulder - one which had him in such pain that he couldn't stand up straight in the aftermath. He ran straight down the race, so out of it that he inadvertently exited the ground through Geelong's interchange gates instead of his own.

Miraculously, Graham managed to return in the second and was vital in allowing the Tigers extra rotations. He also contributed a handful of tackles and three touches in a tense final term.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick swelled with pride when talking about Graham in his post-match press conference, but admitted his place in Richmond's final 22 for the last Saturday in September was far from a guarantee, after reports surfaced his shoulder popped out a further three times in the change rooms after the match.

"Jack Graham, we would have packed him at half time [if we could]," Hardwick said. "Where it ends up with Jack, I don't know ... but that effort was simply incredible."

It's not only Graham who is in grave danger of missing out on the ultimate success, teammate and fellow 2017 premiership player Nathan Broad was concussed in an ugly double blow which resulted in him having to be helped from the ground. He didn't return.

In an effort to spoil a ball heading for dangerous Cats forward Gryan Miers, Broad leapt for the ball and his head was unintentionally collected by a teammate's hip and then again by an errant knee.

Broad, who has been a crucial piece of Richmond's surge up the ladder in 2019 may be another to miss the Grand Final. Throughout the home-and-away season we saw players held back a week after copping hits nowhere near as significant as what Broad felt.

The Tigers, naturally, will do their utmost to ensure Broad has every opportunity to run onto the MCG on Saturday afternoon, but if the club and the AFL are serious about treating head knocks and concussion with the respect it deserves, Broad shouldn't suit up.

Harsh? Perhaps. In line with the treatment of concussion that we've seen so far in 2019? Absolutely.

But Broad has played 23 games for the Tigers in 2019, and Graham 16. Others likely to miss out if the Tigers win are Sydney Stack (17 games), Mabior Chol (nine), Ryan Garthwaite (seven) and Jack Ross (seven).

It's fair to say they've made pivotal contributions to Richmond's on-field fortunes this year, and would be wholly deserving of a premiership medallion - should the Tigers come away with a win on Saturday afternoon.

To argue against that would be cruel, but as it stands the AFL is only minting 22 premiership medallions. Meaning if Broad, Graham, or anyone else succumbs to injury or omission, they'll miss out on the ultimate prize and a place in history.