Marlion Pickett will make his AFL debut in Saturday's grand final.
Marlion Pickett will make his AFL debut in Saturday's grand final.

Tigers drop grand final selection bomb

RICHMOND have confirmed an AFL grand final bombshell with mid-season draft recruit Marlion Pickett named in their side.

It will be Pickett's first ever game in the AFL, making it a stunning turn of events for the star who was picked up halfway through the year.

The Tigers broke the news on their website with a brief statement.

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"Richmond midfielder Marlion Pickett will make his AFL debut for the Tigers in Saturday's 2019 AFL grand final," the message read.

"Pickett, 27, will replace injured midfielder, Jack Graham who was ruled out this week with a shoulder dislocation."

Pickett will become the first player in 67 years - since Keith Batchelor for Collingwood in 1952 - to make his debut in a VFL/AFL grand final.

He's the first Tigers player since Bill James in 1920 to debut. It was James' only game in the VFL, with the then 20-year-old kicking a key goal in the victory.

Pickett replaces Graham after he failed to overcome a shoulder injury in the preliminary final against Geelong.

Graham dislocated his shoulder in the first quarter of the match, but bravely played out the match with heavy strapping on the injury.

But the Tigers officially ruled the onballer out on Tuesday.

The Tigers confirmed the risk of re-dislocation was too great for Graham to play in the premiership decider on Saturday.

Plenty of strapping helped Graham in the prelim but the injury cost him a spot in the decider.
Plenty of strapping helped Graham in the prelim but the injury cost him a spot in the decider.

The 21-year-old Graham is already a premiership player, having kicked three goals in the 2017 AFL Grand Final.

Pickett was named best on ground for the VFL grand final last week after guiding the Tigers to the lower grade crown.

Triple-premiership player and Richmond assistant coach Justin Leppitsch regardless of who comes into the side, the Tigers will have to roll with the punches in the grand final against GWS, who he describes as setting the benchmark for physicality.

The Giants have played a bruising brand of footy during a highly-impressive run to their maiden premiership decider.

Their supremacy at the coalface was notable in a classic preliminary final victory over Collingwood at the MCG, where they withstood a frantic late comeback to emerge four-point winners.

Leon Cameron's men have also played on the edge, led by ruckman Shane Mumford and combative star Toby Greene.

But Leppitsch, who played in Brisbane's 2001-03 premiership trifecta, is confident the Tigers have the strength of character to absorb anything thrown at them.

Marlion Pickett with his medal for best on ground during the VFL Grand Final.
Marlion Pickett with his medal for best on ground during the VFL Grand Final.

"I think one thing this group has more than any other team I've faced is resilience," Leppitsch said on Thursday.

"You're just going to have to be there to the end to beat the Tigers and I think everyone knows that.

"I couldn't imagine Shane Mumford deciding this is the game he's going to take the foot off the pedal.

"We know that's coming, it's just about how we absorb that and are able to overcome that. And when it's our turn, get the game on our terms."

The Tigers will start favourites to claim their second flag in three years at the MCG, where GWS have managed just four wins from 19 games.

Leppitsch said Pickett "adds a bit more X-factor" which put him ahead of Jack Ross and Kamdyn McIntosh for the position in the squad.

Pickett was brought to Richmond on the back of the mid-season rookie draft, where the Tigers selected him with the 13th pick out of the WAFL.

Geelong's Tim Kelly backed Pickett to do the job.

"It is unbelievable and to be honest he is one of those guys that I know for a fact it wouldn't faze him debuting in a grand final," Kelly said.

"He is a big-time player; he is built for the big games; I know for a fact it wouldn't faze him and I know for a fact that he will perform in it.

"He is an unbelievable athlete; he is an unbelievable footballer; his talent that what he has and what he brings to a football team is second to none, I know that for a fact.

Pickett was unfazed at Tigers training.
Pickett was unfazed at Tigers training.

But not all agree with the call.

Hawthorn premiership defender Campbell Brown said earlier in the week he wouldn't have called Pickett in for the fairytale debut.

"I wouldn't be bringing in Pickett, as good as he was," Brown said.

"He was the best man on the ground, but it was not like he had an absolute blinder.

"I wouldn't bring in a player to play his first AFL game in a grand final irrespective of him being 27 years of age and having a lot of experience.

"I would bring in Jacob Townsend as a defensive forward to play finger in the back on Nick Haynes and just terrorise him. He is hard, he's tough, he can take a mark above his head.

"Jacob Townsend can kick a goal, we have already seen that, he can take a mark and he is tough and that's what wins grand finals."

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