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Players’ Voice — Ivan Maric

Grand Finals are a rare thing to be a part of and it’s fair to say I didn’t expect the two teams I represented over my AFL career to be squaring off on the last day in September.

You don’t spend seven years at a footy club without forming strong relationships with the people there, so my ties to Adelaide will always be strong — especially with the few who remain from my time as a Crow.

I’m a Tiger through and through nowadays, but I must admit, when I saw a few of the old coaches in the Adelaide rooms after the win on the weekend and witnessing the joy on their faces revived that emotional connection — I was so happy for them.

There are a couple at the Crows who’d I’m especially happy for. Richard Douglas and Taylor Walker are two guys I have close relationships with and fellow ruckman Sam Jacobs is another friend.

One I really feel for is Scott Thompson, who will probably miss out this weekend.

Scott’s played in three losing Preliminary Finals but will miss out on the Grand Final experience. I’m in a similar position so I understand what he’s going through.

But he’s been around for so long, played 300 games and led by example so well throughout his entire journey. You see the premiership fairy tales but there’s a lot more stories of the game being cruel to some players.

That’s the game though and I’m okay with how everything has panned out.

Contrary to what you might expect, I’m actually enjoying training this week. It’s easy to embrace the nicer weather and I’m fit and injury free so I’ve been supporting my teammates as I have been all year.

It’s exciting to be a part of the club at this time of year. The playing group understands how big it is but, strangely, we don’t feel the pressure once we walk inside the footy club.

Pardon the cliché but it almost feels like a normal week when we’re at the club, while we still understand the enormity of the situation.

You can’t afford to go about it any differently, which is what we’ve been doing so far. We’ve handled it a lot better than other finals campaigns I’ve been involved in.

I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot recently and racking my brain to work out why we’re handling the pressure so much better this time around — I can’t really figure it out.

We’ve spent a lot of time working on our resilience and dealing with external noise throughout the whole year. We’re staying focused on what really matters which is getting better each day — maybe that’s been the key to it all.

We’ve learnt so much from recent experiences, whether it be the indifferent 2016 or previous poor finals performances. We had to go through those to get to this moment.

I’ve been to one Grand Final beforehand and I can’t wait to experience the atmosphere. Richmond fans have been patient for a long time so they’ll be as excited as ever.

I’ve thought a little bit about what it might be like on Saturday but, as far as the game is concerned, I’ll be busy focusing on helping out Toby Nankervis and providing support to him from the coach’s box.

I think the game will be a close one. The Crows play tall but they’ve got quality smaller players, whereas we play really small and have that high-pressure game. It’s going to be pretty close for a lot of the game.

The way it’s gone in the last few weeks is we’ve maintained that level of pressure for longer than the opposition. The Crows will take a lot more to break down — maybe the full four quarters.

But I’m looking forward to seeing how our midfield goes against there’s. The Adelaide midfield is hard-working and blue collar but so is ours and that’s the way we like it.

The battle between the two midfield groups will be good to watch.

The crowd may be another factor because it’s a powerful weapon for us. But the Crows have travelled well all year and their fans often make the journey over as well — it won’t as one-sided as it was on the weekend.

I’m not sure how I’ll react after the game and it’ll be dependent on the result.

So far the most difficult period to deal with has been going down to the rooms after a win and watching everyone enjoying themselves, you can’t help but want to be a part of it.

Unfortunately, not everyone will be a winner this weekend. I’ll be happy for either side but witnessing a Tiger victory would be the perfect end to my playing career, even if I’m not out on the field.