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Tom Lynch's status as public enemy No.1 at Adelaide Oval was laid bare as Richmond stormed into yet another grand final, but the key forward appeared to win over one local after the win.
Lynch was met with a chorus of boos whenever he went near the ball - or even appeared on the ground's big screen - as the Tigers secured a six-point victory over Port Adelaide on Friday night.
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On-field barbs and physical scrimmages in the preliminary final also hinted at a sub-plot that bubbled to the surface on match eve, when Port star Hamish Hartlett claimed "plenty of people out there ... would like to see" Lynch's season end.
Hartlett and Power fans went home disappointed, especially when the ball landed in Lynch's lap as the final siren sounded.
The boos continued.
Even while conducting a post-match interview with Channel Seven, Lynch was left in no doubt where he stood with the locals.
"I'm copping it here a little bit. You can please repeat that? I just had a Bundy and Coke on me," the 27-year-old said.
Lynch scuttled into the rooms after the interview, but not before stopping to try to console one heartbroken young Port supporter in tears.
Tom Lynch had a drink thrown at him before his post-game interview pic.twitter.com/B1WGi8U1Yh
— 7AFL (@7AFL) October 16, 2020
Fans on social media found the Port Adelaide supporter’s act distasteful, with many throwing their support behind Lynch despite admitting to criticising the Tiger’s on-field behaviour in the past.
Lynch controversially escaped suspensions over a number of striking incidents earlier in the season, leading to some accusations of him taking his tactics to throw off the opposition too far.
Nonetheless, many said it was a crass overreaction to throw a drink on him.
As someone who's made his share of Tom Lynch jokes this season, I think this is a better reflection of him as a person than anything that happens on a footy field. https://t.co/13cocbM7xF
— Scott Dooley (@scottdools) October 16, 2020
I’ve been as critical as anyone of Tom Lynch’s actions on the field this season but this is fantastic from him.
This is more like the Lynch I covered at the Suns than the one who’s been acting like a fool during games lately #AFL pic.twitter.com/oO09HjyMrU
— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) October 16, 2020
I think Tom Lynch marking the ball on the siren to get into another Grand Final is called the last laugh. But what a game. Port amazing, just the last man standing stuff.
— Jon Ralph (@RalphyHeraldSun) October 16, 2020
There is no need for that, there has to be a winner in every game. Tonight it was Richmond, every team goes through it every year. NO ONE deserves that, no matter who they play for.
— Dean Thexton (@thecko34) October 16, 2020
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The key forward booted one goal in slippery conditions, giving away four free kicks and missing a golden chance to nail a set shot early in the fourth quarter.
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick, whose decision to shift Lynch behind the ball in the final 90 seconds proved pivotal, described Hartlett's pre-match sledge as "good fun, good theatre".
"Tom feeds off that stuff," Hardwick said.
"It was no worry to us, Tom or anything like that. It just creates a more volatile environment.
"It (the booing) is all part of the theatre.
"Tom's a big boy. He can handle it. He's a wonderful player, one of the better players in the competition.
"It's water off a duck's back."
Lynch has been a talking point for much of 2020, most notably when labelled a "wanker" by Mitch Robinson during one of the Brisbane veteran's live gaming sessions on Twitch, while a series of off-the-ball incidents have attracted criticism.
"Some of those incidents have been harshly judged. He's been probably maligned a little bit for that," Hardwick said.
"But he understands it. He accepts it. He gets on with it. That's what we love about him."
Hardwick last week described Lynch's kneeing incident in the Tigers' semi-final win as "minuscule" and the match review panel agreed, issuing a fine of $A750.
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