Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch with the 2020 AFL premiership cup. Picture: Sarah Reed
Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch with the 2020 AFL premiership cup. Picture: Sarah Reed

Mitch Robinson: Why I was wrong about Tom Lynch

Tom Lynch, I was wrong.

You don't think you are a good player, you bloody are.

The Grand Final wasn't a big night for tall forwards and everybody loves to hate a villain, and I confess to trying to get under your skin from time to time.

But I can tell you first-hand the Richmond faithful have your back, and now you've got two premiership medals. PS: stop messaging me now Tiger army, enjoy the win.

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Of course, Dustin Martin was the hero on the big stage - again. The TV cameras caught Dusty coming off to change his boots a couple of times in the first half, which might have looked strange to fans at home. But I doubt he was going for long stops, I might be wrong but it's a personal thing for him to have the right boots on. My fiance Emma has painted boots for him and if he's not feeling it, he'll change things up, even switching between Nike and Puma mid-game. Whatever he did, it worked.

This bloke deserves his own award. Brett Ratten once told me great players are born in finals footy, I always yearned to have that opportunity to play in a Grand Final and we were close this year. Leigh Matthews' quote sums it up: "Dusty is the only player I don't get insulted being compared to."

A word, too, on Gary Ablett Jr. I often get asked who was the hardest player I've played on or tagged in a game, I would have to say it's this bloke, the little magician. Out of all the traits you talk about when you mention his name in a sentence, you can now add courageous. All the cortisone in the world wouldn't help him get through Saturday night's game, but a Grand Final in your last outing, that courageous effort will now be added to your resume.

The first eight minutes of the Grand Final summed up what a crazy year it has been.

Our Round 1 game against Hawthorn was the weirdest game I've ever played in. In the last quarter Hawthorn players were talking about having another Mad Monday and we were like, 'What are they talking about?'. We found out after the game Gillon McLachlan had postponed the season.

So we did a full pre-season, played one game, then had another 10-week pre-season, following the exact same program. We were training our arses off but the hardest thing was not actually knowing if we were going to be playing again, so that's were the mental demons can get you.

Then when the season resumed the worst-case scenario happened - a player tested positive for COVID-19.

I'm part of the AFL Players Association delegates group and during the shutdown we were talking about how do we support that player, whoever it was, because we knew he would be eaten alive.

In the end it was a bit surreal. We thought if a player tested positive and it went through a club the season would be over, but he had another test and it came back negative and even now I'm not sure if he actually had it or not.

It was an incredibly hard, strange season for all the players.

Even though the Lions weren't in iso hubs we were doing everything in self-isolation.

Mitch Robinson trains in isolation at Giffin Park in Brisbane during the AFL shutdown.
Mitch Robinson trains in isolation at Giffin Park in Brisbane during the AFL shutdown.


As soon as we found out about COVID our footy manager David Noble went through all the protocols and we believed the most professional team and the healthiest list would win the Grand Final, so that's what we wanted to be. A special shout out to Mitch Hahn, who was the Lions NEAFL coach at the start of the year, turned protocols compliance officer. Amazing effort.

When the season resumed we trained in small groups and positions like the forward line and midfield were split up so the potential starting 22 weren't training together, but if anything happened it would only be a select few who were affected.

We had to stay in Sydney for three weeks and during the footy frenzy we only found out who we were going to be playing a few days before. But probably the weirdest thing was seeing other teams playing at the Gabba. That was so bizarre to see a game like Richmond versus Gold Coast at the Gabba and watching it at home on TV.

In saying this, I believe the 2020 fixture was probably the fairest it has been in my 12-year playing career, with every team playing each other once.

 

The Lions leave an empty MCG after their Round 1 loss to Hawthorn.
The Lions leave an empty MCG after their Round 1 loss to Hawthorn.

I doubt the AFL CEO has ever had a more important year. We are the first to criticise the AFL at the drop of a hat, but some genuine positive feedback is thoroughly deserved - Gil, well done.

To all the footy fans out there, without you guys we don't have a game to celebrate and we experienced that this year. For everyone struggling all over Australia, be strong - we'll get through it. Lions fans, we are disappointed, but we don't lose, we learn. I can't wait to get back into training with our boys and give 2021 a real crack!

Mitch Robinson gets into the Tigers in the qualifying final.
Mitch Robinson gets into the Tigers in the qualifying final.

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