AFL Round 14 – Richmond v St Kilda: Just Your Average 10-Goal Tiger Win

Essendon won on Thursday night in an exciting finish. They overcame the Eagles with Captain Jobe Watson playing some inspirational football. Watson was booed by the crowd after admitting taking a banned substance during the 2012 season. Whatever one may think of the doping situation, Essendon’s win was an example of a team bonding together to win against a perceived common enemy. It was a win borne from emotion and determination.

I joined my brother and parents on a temperate winter Sunday evening at the MCG to watch Richmond take on St Kilda in the final game of the round. The mood in the crowd seemed in direct contrast to the turbulent congregation at Subiaco Oval on Thursday night. While many more people attended the game, the collective mood seemed to be pensive and thoughtful rather than baying and brooding.

The Saints surprised the Tigers by kicking the first couple of goals of the game. Mid-way through the term and the Tiger faithful remained that – faithful. After many years of disappointment and false hope, the Tigers appear to be playing football that results in wins and the style also appears sustainable. A player who typifies this transformation is Tyrone Vickery. The talented young Vickery showed much potential, but was inconsistent and occasionally frustrating. The version that took two strong marks across half-back to halt the St Kilda charge is increasingly reliable and trustworthy. By quarter’s end, Vickery’s Tigers were in front.

As Richmond established their dominance on the game, the crowd became silenced. The once rabid Tiger army happily sat back in peace and watched their players perform. I don’t recall being at a game with over 50,000 people where I could hear the players on the field call to each other. A collision between three players caused an audible slap of skin. The zenith of the silence came when Tiger Captain Trent Cotchin clapped his hands together to distract his opponent from taking a mark. Cotchin’s ruse was unsuccessful but the sound of his clap clearly reached the top deck of the Olympic Stand.

During the middle two quarters the Tigers were clearly on top. Each time a St Kilda player took possession, a swarm of players wearing yellow and black buzzed around to upset the player into turning the ball over. The swarming Bumblebees then slickly handballed the football around to elude the chasing Saints before kicking forward.

A thoroughly pleasing aspect of the game was the lack of reliance on ‘stars’. Although Cotchin had one of his better games in recent weeks, it was players such as Shane Edwards, Reece Conca, Matthew White and Daniel Jackson that moved the ball easily through the middle. Jackson had a day out collecting over 20 possessions and slotting three goals. His third was brilliant. Jackson received a handball from the hard-running Dustin Martin and stood still allowing a couple of Saints to slide by. Faced with one remaining Saint, Jackson stood and waited before arching his back and slipping by to kick truly from 50m. The Richmond crowd cheered and clapped proudly, as though we expected nothing less.

The Saints are facing some tough times. Three of their better players in Nick dal Santo, Nick Riewoldt and Ben McEvoy played well but could not influence the game in any meaningful manner. The oft-maligned Justin Koschitzke was thoroughly beaten by Alex Rance, and did not do his reputation too many favours. A Tiger supporter hardened by 30 years of mediocrity almost felt sorry for the Saint. It is the fleet of mid-range players that differentiate good teams from not-so-good teams. St Kilda’s showed that after some years near the top, they now belong in the not-so-good category.

The crowd around us watched on. No less than three punters in our immediate vicinity kept score by marking their Footy Records. It gave me some cause for thought. I wondered if they ever found that errors were being made by the myriad of people employed to do just that. Some banter between equally one-eyed fans of each side made me a touch anxious. Would their loud complaining about the bad luck their respective teams were being subjected to by the umpires descend into something more sinister? It didn’t, but the Tiger crowd became more generous to the Saints as victory became increasingly assured.

By three-quarter time, the Tigers held a 56-point advantage. Nathan Foley was playing his best game in years adding some more icing to the tasty Richmond cake. Vickery continued to take some strong grabs, earning praise from some people near us and ire from others.

The only concern, as the Tigers continued with their complete display in the final quarter, was full-forward Jack Riewoldt. Other than an empty handball column, Riewoldt’s problem was his kicking for goal. Three times in the final stanza, Riewoldt missed very gettable shots. He kicked three goals over the course of the day. When he kicked his first, a man near me commented that it was great to have a reliable kick for goal at full-forward, unlike the days of Matthew Richardson. As a huge Richo fan, I had to bite my tongue. When Riewoldt missed a set shot from less than 20m, he was again compared to Richo, this time less favourably but more equitably.

We sung the song when the siren sounded on the 64-point win. The huge yell of “yellow and black” that used to be screamed with intoxicating vigour after the rare wins was more subdued. The 2013 Tigers seem to be more mature. Two weeks in a row with little fanfare and few tense moments, the Tigers have put away opponents to underline their improvement. Unlike the Bombers who seem to be riding the crest of a wave that is sure to crash, the Tigers are quietly and clinically improving. While I don’t expect that beating St Kilda mid-season results in a premiership in 2013, Richmond’s premiership chances in the next few seasons appear to be improving.

Comments

  1. Liam

    What an eeirie summation, it is almost as though you were sitting nearby.

    I also found the quiet of the crowd strange, the song sung with less gusto and also heard Cotchin’s clapping.

    I didn’t think we played great footy, but it is games like this we have to win by 10 goals if we want to be taken seriously, play finals and boost our percentage seeing other potential challengers for tehe last few top 8 spots may falter.

    It was all quite strange, a very big crowd, irritating time for a game and just getting the job done.

    I fear for the Saints. Having invested so much and blooded so few in the Lyon years when they went so close, they’ll run the risk of being like the Aussie team losing Marsh, Chappell and Lilliee, or more recetly Huss and Punter at the end of this or next year. They rely on too few who have served them well but are at the wrong end of their career, and the next batch, whilst brave, aren’t up to it.

    Still nervous, but the next few weeks will calm my nerves I hope

    Sean

  2. Hey Sean,

    Thanks for the comment, interesting that you had an similar experience last night!

    Although the crowd wasn’t as raucous as years gone by, I enjoyed the game for exactly what you said. We didn’t play great footy but we still won by 10 goals. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that these are the games we have to bank if we are a serious contender. I guess that was why it was so pleasing to me.

    St Kilda are in real trouble. Good analogy with the Aussie cricket team. Losing Goddard probably accelerated the decline. And in the next few years Hayes, Riewoldt, and even dal Santo must decline and/or retire. I remember Leigh Matthews saying that when he left both Collingwood and Brisbane, he left behind an exhausted playing group. Ross Lyon’s game style, although undeniably successful, must also take its toll on the players’ physical and mental well-being. Perhaps what we are now seeing is a group who are spent and struggling to see a way out of the gloom?

    If we continue to play the way we are, the next few weeks should calm your nerves. But I should remember, we are Richmond and anything can happen!

    Cheers,

    Liam

  3. The Wrap says:

    If Jack had kicked straight it might have looked better on the scoreboard. We sit on the paint on the members’ side at the Punt Road End. He missed five any full forward worth his salt would gave nailed. The last three even Richo would have nailed.

    Maybe the crowd wasn’t as boisterous at the final siren as it could have been, but it wasn’t Essendon or Carlton, was it? Or a trophy, like say Geelong or Hawthorn. I for one felt a bit uncomfortable dancing on St Kilda’s grave. Wait till we square the ledger with Freo. That’ll be worth an encore.

  4. The crowd would definitely be more boisterous if we took a scalp, but I still found it pleasing we comfortably won a game we were expected to win. There was a time when being a Richmond supporter was a rollercoaster ride – as recently as last year we beat both Grand Finalists but lost to Gold Coast. I much prefer this version where we quietly put away sides we should and get rowdy and pumped up for the bigger teams. I’m definitely not concerned that the crowd was quiet. There was no need, we expected to win comfortably and we did.

    Jack was troubling, especially because he is usually such a good kick for goal!

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