IF you’d mentioned first-year draftee Jack Graham and fringe Giant-turned-Tiger Jacob Townsend can be premiership gamers in the beginning of the 12 months, you might need been locked up.
Graham – the youngest participant on the bottom – shutout Adelaide star Rory Sloane within the second half whereas Townsend nullified intercept star Jake Lever.
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No one might deny Dustin Martin the Norm Smith Medal however the unheralded Graham left a mark on the decider that may by no means be forgotten with 16 touches, three targets and a complete blanketing of Sloane within the second hour.
Graham, taken with choose 53 in final 12 months’s nationwide draft, didn’t debut till Round 22 and has now performed extra finals than home-and-away video games.
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Graham’s is a fairytale chapter in a fairytale story.
“The boys have been getting into me, I’ve played more finals than home-and-away games and I’ve won more premierships than games I’ve lost,” Graham mentioned.
“You’ve got to acknowledge the luck, but there’s been a lot of hard work as well.”
Graham grew up within the Adelaide suburb of Tea Tree Gully idolising Sloane and worshipping the Crows.
Sloane kicked the primary aim of the Grand Final, adopted up with a second not lengthy after and likewise had 15 touches and 5 clearances at half-time.
At the primary break Graham was tapped on the shoulder by assistant coach Blake Caracella.
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“He said: ‘We want you to run with Rory. Don’t shut him down completely, focus on your offence as well’,” Graham mentioned.
“I was like ‘Hell, I’m going to be running with my idol here’, but it was amazing.”
“I almost felt bad. I respect Rory so much and he’s an amazing player, but the team wanted me to play that role and that’s what I had to do,” Graham mentioned.
“It was nearly annoying since you don’t wish to shut him down and be a prick of a factor, nevertheless it was my job.
“I’ve modelled my recreation off him for the final three or 4 years after which to be operating subsequent to him was wonderful.
“I used to be primarily attempting to push him below. I’m not a extremely bodily man, I didn’t wish to bash him or something, as a result of I respect him a lot, however simply annoy him slightly bit.”
When Graham’s third aim sailed via at a raucous Punt Road finish of the MCG, Mark Ricciuto mentioned on Triple M: “This is unbelievable. Could he win a Norm Smith?”
He didn’t, nevertheless it didn’t matter one bit.
While Graham is simply beginning out on his profession Tiger teammate Townsend doesn’t hesitate to confess he thought his AFL profession was over two months in the past.
He was “battling away” in Richmond’s VFL facet and with out a contract for season 2018, a brand new job as a carpenter loomed.
In Round 22, he was thrown a lifeline, constant VFL type rewarded by choice in opposition to Fremantle.
He kicked six targets that day as a defensive ahead and 5 weeks on grew to become an unlikely premiership participant for the Tigers.
“I was playing twos and thought I was done, my career was over. And here I am,” Townsend mentioned.
“To play 5 video games all and win a flag, I’m misplaced for phrases.
“Obviously it’s been 12 months and month and this flag simply tops all of it off.”
Sent to Crows’ interceptor Jake Lever in one other defensive ahead position, Townsend nullified the star Crows’ influence within the air with spectacular physique work and made probably the most of his personal alternatives with two targets from eight disposals.
The tally sees the previous Greater Western Sydney midfielder end the 12 months with 16.2 from simply 32 kicks in 5 gorgeous senior video games.
“I obviously had a job again, just go out there and try and stop his (Lever’s) influence,” Townsend mentioned.
“I’m undecided if I did that nicely or not however I don’t actually care as a result of we gained the flag.
“I’ve by no means been probably the most gifted participant on the market and I financial institution on the hardness and the toughness a bit.
“I haven’t actually been a ahead (prior to now), I’ve been extra of an inside-mid position so I simply go on the market and attempt to do my greatest and it paid off.”