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AFL grand final: Richmond's surge to the summit leaves Tigers dad with mountain of a dilemma

Guy Stayner with his son Zack in the stands with a crowded MCG in the background.
Guy Stayner with his son Zack and the preliminary final where the Tigers beat GWS.

ABC News: Guy Stayner

The moment you tell your 16-year-old son you are taking him on the trip of a lifetime lives with you forever.

In May, I sent him a text message: "Doing anything on Tuesday, 19th of September?"

"I'm not sure why I would be," Zack replied.

"Good. You can fly to Nepal with me."

"Awesome!"

Then a second later he articulated the one thought that had been bothering me.

I then committed the cardinal sin of parenting — I made a promise I couldn't keep.

"I promise it will be worth it," I told him. It's a message that has haunted me every weekend for the past four months.

Guy Stayner shakes Kevin Bartlett in front of a Richmond banner in 1983.
Guy Stayner met Richmond champion Kevin Bartlett at his 400th game in 1983.

Supplied: Guy Stayner

We both knew there was one scenario where it wouldn't be worth it. But what were the odds that this year Richmond would make the grand final?

Surely 2017 would not be the first year since 1982 for the Tigers to really roar?

Despite showing obvious improvement when winning the first five games of the season, Richmond promptly lost the next four.

It was on the back of this four-game losing streak that I confirmed the booking with the airline, with the tour operator and with my son.

We would be hiking to Everest Base Camp. A father-son trip creating unforgettable memories, inspired by holidays taken with my own father. As the trip had to take place during school holidays, our schedule would have us arriving at Base Camp on September 30 — AFL grand final day.

After paying for the flights and tour, Richmond would win 12 of the next 15 games.

The Tigers never really looked like a grand final team during the regular season, but kept grinding out victories and had a chance to finish top four.

Two things bothered me about missing the September action: the competition was incredibly even (it seemed any team could win the flag) and last year the Bulldogs proved where there is life, there is hope in the AFL's ultimate September fairytale.

Maybe, just maybe, Richmond had a chance.

My perception of the Tigers changed during the first final against Geelong. All my hopes and fears were confirmed in that game. Richmond was good. In fact, the Tigers looked like the real deal and could challenge for the premiership.

Dustin Martin, Daniel Rioli and Jason Castagna celebrate as a trio
Dustin Martin, Daniel Rioli and Jason Castagna of the Tigers celebrate a goal during Saturday's preliminary final.

AAP: Julian Smith

Zack and I watched the game from different locations. As soon as the match finished, he once again read my mind and texted.

"Can we cancel the trip?"

I loved the victory over Geelong but, like Zack, felt hollow at the thought this was where our 2017 Tiger odyssey ended.

When Zack was a little boy, I spent many an hour consoling him after yet another insipid Tiger performance. I would counsel him on the virtues of standing by your team.

"You never know when a club will turn it around. Failure can turn to success very quickly. Changing teams to chase success can only lead to Pyrrhic victories."

And prophetically:

My 2017 expectations of Richmond were so low, is it possible 2017 could be the Tigers' greatest victory?

Tuesday, September 19 came and went and we weren't on a plane.

Zack and I are still on the father-son trip of a lifetime, but we have changed our destination. We were born to be in Melbourne this September.

It is a decision that has already paid a handsome dividend. We have watched history. We have never seen the MCG like Saturday, and post-match we breathed in the euphoria of the Swan Street after-party.

Together, we watched a Richmond player top the Brownlow Medal count for the first time in 46 years (yep, there was one Tiger drought even longer than Richmond's premiership drought).

We have already shared memories together that will last two lifetimes.

My son and I are no longer going to Base Camp. We have set our sights higher.

We are now aiming for the pinnacle — to see a Richmond premiership.

Everest can wait.

The grand final can't, and Zack and I have waited long enough.