Please give us a Tigers v Pies grand final
IF there was ever a dress rehearsal for September, this was it.
And Richmond? They're anything but daunted by being centre stage.
The buzz was evident as the sun bathed the MCG and almost 90,000 packed the stands.
You could have been forgiven for thinking it was finals. Of course, it wasn't - yet - but this was an afternoon that was a window to six weeks' time.
The football gods don't always come to the party, but in this case the hype that gripped Melbourne this week was lived up to in reality as Richmond held off Collingwood by 28 points in an enthralling bout of heavyweights.
It really did have it all.
"F--- knows why the AFL wanna change the rules," Pies great and Brownlow medallist Dane Swan mused on Twitter.
It was surely a contest that should spark similar suggestions that the game isn't broken.
It's one of the most expansive grounds in the land, but there was no room to breathe on the MCG as the Tigers upped their trademark tension and clamped down on Collingwood. Hard.
It's been wondered whether Richmond is capable of maintaining this pressure - that it has to tire them sometime. But the Tigers are anything but flagging.
For the most part on Saturday, however, the reigning premier was delivered a rare challenge - especially at the MCG.
The Tigers took the points after again piling on the final-quarter pain and remain the competition's hunted, but it was Collingwood's ability to remain relentless in the face of that pressure and stay well and truly with the Tigers that proved most impressive.
Gun Pies pair Jordan De Goey (foot) and Adam Treloar (hamstrings), the Pies hope, will be back for September.
Defender Jeremy Howe - who went to Jack Riewoldt early and is vital in the absence of Lynden Dunn - was out for the majority of the day too, after an errant knee from teammate Darcy Moore to the forehead left him concussed.
There are fears too that Matt Scharenberg might have suffered another heartbreaking knee injury.
There's excuses on hand if coach Nathan Buckley wants them. These are key players to say the least.
They may have fallen just short, but these Pies mean business and 11 months after Buckley's re-signing they are a force to be reckoned with if they can learn to withstand late surges like that of the Tigers.
Richmond star Dustin Martin knows there is a longer game in play.
Levi Greenwood had the job to run with the Tiger - and Dusty didn't like it but shrugged off the niggle as the Pies' stopper desperately tried to lure him in, to deliver yet another Dusty-like showing .
His teammate Jack Higgins should prepare a speech for Brownlow night after his ball-drop-around-the-goalpost and snap, which is sure to have him top of the list for goal of the year honours.
Talk about clever.
It might have been a dress rehearsal, but expect these two sides to be star players come show time as they vie for top billing.
3 Brodie Grundy
2 David Astbury
1 Shane Edwards
RICHMOND: Astbury, Edwards, Cotchin, Prestia, Short, Martin, Higgins
COLLINGWOOD: Grundy, Pendlebury, Thomas, Moore, Phillips, Greenwood
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