A FAMILIAR face will be waiting for Shaun Grigg at the MCG on Saturday afternoon.
When the Richmond midfielder lines up for the national anthem, he’ll eye Adelaide ruckman Sam Jacobs — a friend, now a foe. For two hours, at least.
Grigg was drafted to Carlton from North Ballarat with Pick 19 in the 2006 national draft. A couple of days later, Jacobs joined from Woodville West-Torrens in the rookie draft.
The pair struck an immediate bond and soon moved in together.
They became close friends and were housemates during their entire four-year stint at Princes Park.
However, in 2010, they would both go their separate ways.
Grigg left for Richmond in search of more senior opportunities, while Jacobs opted for a move back home to his native Adelaide. They were traded 24 hours apart.
“We’re still very close mates and we speak all the time,” Grigg tells foxfooty.com.au.
“It’ll be interesting this week, coming up against the big fella.”
But yet the bonds don’t end there for Grigg.
He lists several mentors during his time at both Carlton and Richmond who he credits for his development into the player he is today. Most prominently, however, Grigg names David Teague — once a development coach at Carlton, now a highly rated assistant at Adelaide.
Having built such a tight friendship with both at the Blues, it was no surprise to Grigg when Jacobs was one of the first people to reach out after Saturday evening’s preliminary final victory.
“He just congratulated us on the win and said he was looking forward to the week,” Grigg says.
“We just wished each other luck. We spoke about how weird it was that one of us would be a premiership player.”
Indeed, a premiership looked a long way off during their time at Carlton. But it perhaps looked an even more distant possibility at Richmond a year ago.
Having finished 13th on the ladder following a disappointing 8-14 campaign, the pressure was dialled up on every aspect of the club after a series of heavy defeats.
Damien Hardwick’s job was on the line, a board coup was in the offing and questions were arising over the quality and the depth within the playing group.
However, one of the most experienced Tigers at the club, Grigg never lost faith.
“I knew that our best footy was good enough,” he says.
“We’d played finals before that. We’d had a bad year, but I did see glimpses of the talent coming through.
“I always knew we had the talent there. But still, to be playing in a grand final is pretty remarkable.”
If belief has played a big part in Richmond’s success this season, then the first five games were critical to that.
Having won all five, a togetherness was created within the playing group as attitudes changed and belief was built that this squad and this system were good enough to compete.
Coincidentally, its first loss came against Adelaide the very next week to the hefty tune of 76 points. That was followed by three more defeats, all of which came by under a goal.
It would have been easy for the Tigers to fall into old habits, as perceptions of a ‘new team’ faded and even a new word — Richmondy — was added to footy fans’ vernacular.
Yet, as they have shown throughout this finals series, this was a new team. Spurred on by the footy they had played in that opening five weeks, they won 12 of their next 15 to qualify for the big dance.
“Throughout the year we realised,” Grigg says.
“Our start to the season really showed that with the way we were going to play, we were going to be hard to beat if we could bring it for long enough.
“Going into the season there’s a bit of the unknown, especially after last year. But to win those first five games, it was a big step in the right direction in terms of our belief and confidence.”
Now, Grigg is determined to sing the Richmond song one last time on Saturday afternoon.
But he’s not the only one in the family hoping to hear that famous ‘yellow and black’ bellowed out again.
His three-year-old boy, Sonny, has grown up a Tiger. And like most of the club’s faithful, already has a favourite tune.
“He loves it,” Grigg laughs.
“When we’re driving in the car together, he always tells me I have to put on the Tigers song.
“We’ve got to play that at least once for him. He knows all the words, so hopefully we can sing it one more time this year.”
The fourth most experienced player on Richmond’s list, Grigg will savour every moment on Saturday afternoon.
Having played 148 games for the club — and a further 43 for Carlton — he knows all too well the feeling of missing out. Now, he’s determined to make the most of this opportunity.
“I’ve played in the finals, but never progressed this far,” Grigg says.
“I’ve always been envious, sitting back and watching the grand final and dreaming about it. I’ve always been hoping and wishing it was me out there.
“It’s been a long time coming, so I’m going to enjoy it.”