Deniliquin footballer Sam Lloyd has put his best foot forward to live out a childhood dream of walking out onto the MCG in front of close to 100,000 supporters on AFL Grand Final day.
The 27 year-old Richmond midfielder stood up on the big stage in the VFL grand final, collecting 35 disposals on his way to a Norm Goss Medal for best afield in the Tigers’ heart-breaking four point loss to Port Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
It was a complete performance by Lloyd with 10 clearances, nine tackles, seven marks, along with two goal assists in the final term.
While winning the medal was a huge honour for the former Deni Ram, he said it was hard to look past the disappointment of the loss.
‘‘I was surprised when my name got called out (as best on ground) ... I’d trade it in any day for a premiership medallion,’’ he said.
The Tigers started the match in red-hot fashion, with speedster Shai Bolton kicking two goals within a minute of each other early in the quarter.
The Borough replied about five minutes later with their first goal of the game, before another goal to each side closed out the quarter, giving Richmond a seven point lead at the first break.
It was a tight arm wrestle in the second term, with both sides strong in defence and not allowing the other an easy avenue to goal.
It took 10 minutes for either side to register a major, with Port Melbourne forward Eli Templeton kicking the only goal for the term, the Tigers keeping their noses in front by one point at half time.
Richmond came out of the blocks in the third, with Connor Menadue opting to soccer the ball off the deck on a tight angle to score the first goal of the term after just 20 seconds.
The Borough then took the lead for the first time since the three minute mark of the first term, with back-to-back goals to be in front by five points.
The lead would change three more times in the term, with Ben Griffiths kicking his second goal to give his side a two point buffer heading into the last.
Lloyd played a key role in the last term, with a beautiful run down tackle and holding the ball call going in his favour. He kicked from just inside the 50m line, sending the ball flying over the goal umpire’s head for a major at the two minute mark of the term.
One minute later the Tiges would goal again, with Ben Lennon giving his side a 14 point lead over the Borough.
A goal to Port Melbourne two minutes later brought the margin back to eight points, before Lloyd would again play an important role in another Tiger goal.
During a kick-in by the Borough, Lloyd honed in on his opponent, spoiling the ball straight to teammate Shaun Mannagh, who snapped an impressive goal.
After the Borough kicked another goal, Lloyd would again be involved in another Tigers goal, with a beautiful kick inside 50 to Griffiths, who marked uncontested 10m out on a slight angle.
Port Melbourne dug deep in the final few minutes of the game, kicking three goals in the space of five minutes to pinch the lead by five points.
Richmond weren’t through though, managing to work the ball to Lennon in the dying stages of the match to set up a shot after the final siren.
Kicking from just inside the centre square, Lennon’s shot was off-line, carrying the distance to go through for a behind, with the Borough victorious by four points.
Final score, Port Melbourne 11.8 (74) to Richmond 10.10 (70).
Lloyd’s concentration quickly moved to Richmond’s AFL side following the game, still hopeful of gaining selection in the last day of September.
‘‘My fitness levels have really improved the last couple of years and I’ve pinch-hit at times through the middle and if I got the opportunity (to play in the senior grand final), I’m sure I could do something in there,’’ he said.