Ahead of the AFL grand final, Hardwick and Scott reflect on a turbulent 2020 season

On the eve of the AFL grand final, coaches of both participating teams have taken time to reflect on an incredible 2020 season.

Both Richmond coach Damien Hardwick and Geelong coach Chris Scott have seen their teams face unique challenges on and off the field this year, including having to spend months away from home in AFL hubs.

Hardwick says he never doubted his club’s culture during a rocky campaign that has left them one win away from a third AFL premiership in four seasons.

The Tigers endured one of the biggest scandals of the 2020 season when young players Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones were banished from Queensland in disgrace last month for breaking return-to-play protocols.

Further hurdles included allegations of inappropriate touching among teammates during the post-win song, staging controversies involving Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin, who were both cleared, and heat on Tom Lynch for a series of incidents that brought about match review officer scrutiny.

But the Tigers have held up on-field and find themselves narrow favourites to beat Geelong in the two sides’ first grand final meeting in more than half a century.

Both teams are almost at full strength despite the tough season schedule and are likely to go in unchanged after winning their last two matches on the rebound from qualifying final defeats.

“The one thing we pride ourselves on is our culture and how we cope as an organisation,” Hardwick said.

“The one thing you can always say is your organisation is really defined by those bumps.

“It’s easy when the road is smooth and you can just sit there above the water, but you learn a lot about yourself and a lot about your people when times are tough.

“We went to work, we were disappointed, we accepted responsibility, but we learnt from it along the way.”

Richmond's Trent Cotchin and Geelong's Joel Selwood smile while holding up the AFL premiership cup from either sideRichmond's Trent Cotchin and Geelong's Joel Selwood smile while holding up the AFL premiership cup from either side
Richmond captain Trent Cotchin and Geelong captain Joel Selwood with the premiership cup.(AAP: Darren England)

Both Richmond and Geelong have spent well over 100 days based in interstate hubs to complete the season in the face of unprecedented challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Cats left Victoria for Sydney in July before a three-week stint in Perth on the way to Queensland, where they have been based on the Gold Coast.

Several Geelong and Richmond players with families are sharing accommodation at Royal Pines, while the bulk of their travelling parties are based in separate hubs a few kilometres away.

“It was very, very difficult to predict when we jumped on a plane for Sydney over 100 days ago that we were still going to be away from home in time for the grand final,” Cats coach Chris Scott said.

“The teams and the players and the people that have just put one step in front of the other, have tended to be the ones that have sort of kept everything in perspective the best.”

Richmond were due to travel to Brisbane on Friday night as they treat the grand final as an away match, while Geelong will make the one-hour journey on game day.

ABC/AAP