GF Heroes & Villains: Pickett's stunning debut; Giant gamble backfires

It was the tale of two gamblers; the Giants backed injured stars Lachie Whitfield and Phil Davis to perform, while the Tigers rolled the dice on a first-game in the big dance. It worked to perfection for Richmond and backfired for GWS. Oh, and a bloke called Dusty was pretty good, too.

Here are Saturday's Heroes & Villains.


Marlion Pickett: By now we all know the story of Marlion Pickett. And we all know that rolling the dice on selections in Grand Finals is fraught with danger - just ask Leon Cameron and, to a lesser extent, Lachie Whitfield and Phil Davis.

But the Tigers' decision to bring in first-gamer Pickett paid immediate and rich dividends on the biggest day of the football calendar. His influence on the game was perhaps third to only Norm Smith Medal winner Dustin Martin and spearhead Jack Riewoldt.

To half time Pickett had amassed 22 touches, three inside 50s, four score involvements and one of the most audacious blind turns you'll ever see -- in the middle of the MCG, no less! -- but it was the intangibles which really helped the Tigers push forward with an unstoppable wave of momentum.

He finished with 22 disposals, eight inside 50s and a goal.

Admittedly, all indications out of Richmond were that Pickett would have played sooner if not for a broken finger he sustained just before he was selected by the Tigers in the mid-season draft. It just so happened Richmond were forced into a change when Jack Graham dislocated his shoulder in the preliminary final.

And to think he wouldn't even have been selected by the Tigers had Shaun Grigg not selflessly called time on his career midway through the year!

As for Pickett? One game, one Grand Final win, one Richmond life membership. Not bhed.

Dustin Martin: If Martin wasn't there already, he's launched himself into rarefied air with a dominant performance in the 2019 Grand Final.

He joins Gary Ayers, Luke Hodge and Andrew McLeod as the only men to have ever won two Norm Smith Medals. His 22-disposal, four goal effort was almost otherworldly, and reminded everyone why he's one of the best players in the game.

His versatility in both the midfield and in the forward line is unmatched throughout the league, and after GWS stopper Matt de Boer went to him at the opening centre bounce, Martin took it upon himself to move forward to shake the tag.

In addition to his four goals, he tallied a further two goal assists, while he also treated fans to a signature 'don't argue' in the midst of a Tiger mauling. He is one of just seven players to have booted 4+ goals and had 20+ disposals in a Grand Final.

Love him or hate him, just soak him in while you can, because Martin is a once-in-a-lifetime talent who you suspect won't stay stick around in the industry once he hangs up the boots.


Giant gambles backfire badly: Sometimes you've gotta know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em.

Ahead of Saturday's decider the big storylines were whether injured Giants Steven Coniglio, Lachie Whitfield and Phil Davis would be risked, and who would come in for Richmond after Jack Graham's untimely shoulder injury.

Coniglio's brave fight to play his first game since Round 17 was aborted on Wednesday, while Richmond produced one of the great AFL shocks in selecting Marlion Pickett to make his debut on the biggest stage of all - a decision that can only be described as a spectacularly successful gamble.

The Giants' decision to recall Whitfield only a week or so after appendix surgery appeared a no-brainer, but the silky-skilled former No. 1 draft pick was a shadow of his usual self, unable to offer meaningful drive, instead committing numerous turnovers when the game was still there to be won.

At times, it appeared he was unwilling to kick on his natural right foot, which resulted in mistake after mistake as GWS wilted against Richmond's heat.

Davis, too, was nowhere near his best after he was selected despite copping calf, back, shoulder and finger issues in the preliminary final victory.

Vision of a proppy-looking Davis enduring pre-game fitness tests in the rooms and on the ground before the opening bounce was a huge sign he wasn't fully fit and so it proved, with the GWS captain's lack of run and spring allowing Richmond's tall timber to fire.

Making the decision to play him even more questionable was the superb preliminary final form of fellow key defender Lachie Keeffe, who was dropped for the big one.

It would have been a huge call for the GWS selection committee to rule out either of the club's stars but perhaps it would have made more sense considering how poorly they performed.

Oh no, Jeremy: Jeremy Finlayson will have nightmares all summer -- possibly until he gets a chance to atone in another Grand Final -- after his horror show on Saturday.

Finlayson, 23, has been one of this year's success stories after being switched from defence to attack over the offseason, booting 44 goals to be one of the Giants' most dangerous options in attack.

But against Richmond, he was nowhere to be seen. Just one sorry disposal (which was a turnover), one tackle, one mark, no score involvements, and a paltry 26m gained.

There's no way around it - Finlayson's performance was horrendous, as he was stifled by Richmond's water-tight defence, with Bachar Houli, Dylan Grimes, Nick Vlastuin, David Astbury and Nathan Broad all superb.

Finlayson wasn't helped by the Giants' midfield mauling; the Tigers won the disposal, inside 50, contested possession and clearance count. But one possession in a Grand Final is just about as low as it gets in a football sense.

The beauty of sport though is most athletes get a chance to atone after a bad day, and hopefully Finlayson can look to another young key forward who redeemed himself after freezing on Grand Final day - West Coast's Jack Darling, who spilt a sitter of a mark at a crucial stage in the 2015 Grand Final against Hawthorn.

After copping immense criticism for that moment, Darling has since emerged as one of the league's most impressive key forwards so hopefully Finlayson can rebound in similar fashion.