A tri­umph over tragedy

Mercury (Hobart) - - FOOTY FEVER -

ASMANIA will fea­ture heav­ily in to­day’s AFL Grand Fi­nal, a day which prom­ises a fairy­tale for both teams — one which has not won a flag since 1980, the other still re­cov­er­ing from the death of its coach Phil Walsh in 2015. Both are tales of tri­umph over tragedy. For Rich­mond, a legacy of be­ing oh-so-close, but never quite mak­ing it. Of gen­er­at­ing hope but fall­ing at the fi­nal hur­dle. Of sup­port­ers be­ing too of­ten re­ferred to as “long suf­fer­ing”.

Of tears and tantrums and mem­bers tear­ing up their cards.

For the Crows, it is a study in how to stay close and re­build when the odds seem al­most in­sur­mount­able.

The tragic death of Walsh rocked the footy world but the depth of feel­ing in Ade­laide was some­thing else. It shocked the city to its core and the tremors are still be­ing felt to this day.

And be­yond this, the game boils down to a story of two Tas­ma­nian lads — Jack Riewoldt and Hugh Green­wood.

For Riewoldt, it would be the ul­ti­mate achieve­ment — a tes­ta­ment to a player who was of­ten ac­cused of be­ing self­ish and im­ma­ture, but is now one of his team’s el­der states­men; a player who has been in­stru­men­tal in the re­birth of his footy club; and a man who has re­built his pub­lic image.

As Mark Robin­son writes in to­day’s pa­per: “Where once he wanted to be the best player, he now thrives on be­ing the best team­mate.

“Where once he was ac­cused of be­ing self­ish, he prob­a­bly now is the most self­less player in the team.”

And be­yond this, the game boils down to a story of two Tas­ma­nian lads — Jack Riewoldt and Hugh Green­wood

And it would be a re­mark­able achieve­ment for an in­di­vid­ual who, along with his tight-knit fam­ily, has en­dured the heartache of losing cousin Mad­die to can­cer, and then chan­nelled that grief into the MRV (Mad­die Riewoldt’s Vi­sion) char­ity and Mad­die’s March. No doubt, she will not be far from his thoughts to­day.

Then we have Hugh Green­wood, the baby-faced bas­ket­baller-cum-foot­baller, who has be­come an in­te­gral part of the Crows’ im­pos­ing line-up, im­press­ing with his speed, courage, silky skills and poise un­der pres­sure.

Two years ago, Green­wood made the bold move to turn his back on an NBL con­tract with the Perth Wild­cats to join the Crows.

It has been a re­mark­able jour­ney, made the more so by his mum An­dree’s on­go­ing fight with sec­ondary breast can­cer. It is some­thing he thinks about be­fore ev­ery game. “I just do a lit­tle prayer be­fore each game and be­fore bed, more of a thank-you thing, ob­vi­ously I’ve gone through a few tough times be­fore with mum and be­ing away from home,” he told sports writer Reece Homfray re­cently.

So to­day we wish the Tigers and the Crows the best in what is a fit­ting book­end to one of the clos­est sea­sons on record.

Both teams have over­come enor­mous hard­ship to be stand­ing where they are to­day.

Win, lose or, dare we say it, draw, it is a tes­ta­ment to courage, re­silience, per­se­ver­ance and, in the very spe­cial cases of two of our lo­cal lads, the power of fam­ily.

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