Lynch saves Tigers in biggest game of career
THIS was what he came for.
When Tom Lynch chose Richmond, this was the night he dreamt of.
Friday night, preliminary final, 94,000-plus going off their heads at the MCG and a bag of five goals.
It was everything he wasn't going to get at Gold Coast - and he was everything the Tigers had hoped he would be.
On a night when Jack Riewoldt - for so long the lone tall target - was quiet, Lynch was the saviour.
And the seven-year recruit was worth every cent.
Last year the Tigers were brought undone in a preliminary final by shock matchwinner Mason Cox, who marched to the beat of "USA, USA" chants.
This time there was just a deafening roar for each of Lynch's heroics - and there were plenty.
His haul of 5.1 was accompanied by 19 disposals, 10 marks - four contested - and 12 score involvements.
"Words can't describe it right now," Lynch told Fox Footy.
"We've got a massive week, It's every kid's dream to get there on grand final day. I'm just so stoked for the team for us to get through ... there's nothing better than playing at the MCG in front of that massive crowd in a final."
Lynch was the one who had kept the Tigers in the game when the rampaging Cats led by 21 points at half-time.
And Lynch was the one who went on a rampage when Richmond made their move with the first five goals of the third quarter.
All this after a nasty PCL injury meant his preseason was non-existent.
Now, Lynch could face the team he snubbed - Collingwood - in next week's grand final.
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said Lynch had enjoyed an "unbelievable" season.
"If we didn't have Tom we wouldn't be sitting here today," Hardwick said.
"He is unbelievable. If we go back to the start of the year and the significant adversity we probably had, he helped us get through that really difficult period - we didn't have Jack (Riewoldt) and a lot of our leaders.
"We stood 7-6 at the bye and to see the impact he has had, his contested marking was incredible tonight.
"He is worth his weight in gold and he is only going to get better, which is a great thing for us.
"He had no preseason this year and if you had of said to me he's going to play every single game I would have been shocked."
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It's the biggest roller-coaster since the St Kilda side of 1969 and right now Geelong would be as sick as any kid at a theme park.
A blazing first half the year gave way to an up-and-down second, with a win/loss sequence that just wouldn't quit.
That's a fourth straight preliminary final exit for the Cats and as consistent as they have been reaching the final four since 2007, this is a monkey that isn't leaving the back anytime soon.
First, Jack Graham dislocated his right shoulder early in the game and disappeared downstairs for a large chunk of the first quarter.
While he was down there, Dustin Martin appeared to cop a corkie to his left leg, was on and off the ground and didn't look comfortable. Difficult to remember a game where he kicked it as poorly.
Skipper Trent Cotchin was hobbled by a lower leg knock just before halftime and limped into the main break - literally.
Then Nathan Broad was ruled out early in the last term with concussion after copping a friendly-fire blow to the head just before three-quarter time.
RAZOR CUTS DEEP
Some goals just feel like they're worth more - and Patrick Dangerfield's in the shadows of half-time was one of them.
Dangerfield was paid a free kick by Ray Chamberlain for being pushed by Nick Vlastuin in a marking contest.
But as Dangerfield walked backwards to size up a shot from outside 50m, Bachar Houli thought it was his free and called for Cotchin to pass him the ball.
Cotchin obliged and "Razor" paid the 50m. Danger goalled to give the Cats a 21-point lead at half-time.
It was a huge moment.
Is it the end?
The question is now more pertinent than ever.
After two poor finals, Ablett kicked the first goal of the game and came to life somewhat against the Tigers.
But the facts are he's 35 and his second half of the season was far quieter than his first. He had 26 goals from his first 13 games and only eight from his next 11 and again failed to make the distance with a set shot from 50m.
We want to remember the very best at their best, don't we?
RICHMOND 3.3 4.5 9.7 12.13 (85)
GEELONG 4.3 7.8 8.9 9.12 (66)
Richmond: Lynch 5, Martin 2, Castagna 2, Prestia 2, Lambert
Geelong: Kelly 3, Miers 2, Ablett, Narkle, Dangerfield, Henderson
Richmond: Lynch, Houli, Prestia, Martin, Soldo, Edwards, Grimes
Geelong: Kelly, Selwood, Miers, Dangerfield, Guthrie, Tuohy, Stanley
Richmond: Graham (shoulder), Broad (concussion)
Umpires: Nicholls, Chamberlain, Ryan
Official crowd: 94,423 at the MCG
SAM EDMUND'S VOTES
3 - Tom Lynch (Rich)
2 - Bachar Houli (Rich)
1 - Tim Kelly (Geel)