In the lead-up to Saturday's AFL Grand Final, in the ESPN Footytips AFL podcast, Christian Joly from Champion Data painted a clear picture of where the game would be won and lost.
Richmond and Greater Western Sydney could not have made it to the last Saturday in September with more opposing game styles. Going into the game, Richmond had generated 65.5 percent of all scores from turnovers --- a testament to their pressure and harassment when the ball is in the other side's hands --- while the Giants ranked 18th in the same category, converting turnovers into scores just 51 percent of the time.
Meanwhile, the Giants were beasts at the contest. They ranked No. 1 for scores from clearances in 2019, generating a staggering 45 percent of their scores at the contest, while the Tigers were 18th in the same stat, scoring just 31 percent of their scores from clearances.
Many would have thought that leading into a Grand Final, it might be the contested ball winners with the upper hand but what ensued from 2.30pm at the MCG was masterful by the Tigers and coach Damien Hardwick.
The Tigers bullied the Giants at the contest, taking away the means by which they've been so prolific and free-scoring throughout the season. The Tigers finished +3 in clearances, +3 in centre clearances and broke even around the ground.
In last week's preliminary final, the Giants roved magnificently to the Magpie ruckman Brodie Grundy and maintained their dominance in the clinches (finishing +19 in clearances and +2 in the middle of the ground), but the Tigers, led by Dion Prestia, Trent Cotchin and first-gamer(!) Marlion Pickett, were able to get first use of the football for the Tigers and send the ball careering forward.
It's little wonder the Tigers finished with 14 marks inside 50 to GWS' four. It's no surprise they also smashed the Giants in the inside 50 count 59-41.
So instead of just relying on their own style of play, the Tigers expertly and systematically broke down the Giants' strengths while playing to their own.
And while at first glance the Tigers employed their patented and frenetic run-and-handball style of football -- they were far and away the No. 1 team for handball metres gained in 2019 -- they also tweaked their game to suit the big occasion.
For clarity, handball metres gained includes metres run before dishing the ball off by hand.
According to Champion Data, in the Grand Final, Richmond posted their highest metres gained differential for the year (+1212 metres), but it wasn't on the back of their Tiger Tidal Wave, moreso their kicking; the Tigers finished +825 metres gained from the boot - far and away their biggest differential for the year. Their +390 metres gained from handballs was, while impressive, just their 10th biggest differential for the year.
Having said that, the Tigers gained 3.7 metres per handball, their sixth highest average this season - but tellingly, five of the top six returns in that stat came in Round 17 or later, showing the Tigers weren't going to play the same, predictable footy at the back end of the year.
Richmond were also keen to possess the ball a lot more than they have throughout the year, with Saturday's win topping the list for most overall marks in a Grand Final (since Champion Data started recording the stat in 2002). The 220 marks taken on Saturday eclipses the 216 taken in 2008 when Hawthorn shocked the Cats, and was 37 more than the 2018 finale, despite West Coast winning the flag while employing their patented kick-mark style of play.
Boiling it down, Richmond not only played their frenetic, running style of game, they took the Giants' strengths -- and what secured Leon Cameron's men a famous preliminary final victory -- and used them to their own advantage.
The Tigers aren't a one trick pony, and with arguably the greatest defender of the modern era to return to the lineup next season, they'll have their eyes firmly set on Brisbane, Geelong and the Hawks to enter the conversation of being the best team of the modern era.