Round 3 – Richmond v West Coast: Lids and a Jenga Tower Bound To Fall
I had a problem last week trying to match Tupperware lids to the correct containers – Tupperware Tetris, if you will. It was tiresome and full of trial and error. By the end, my cupboard was a Mecca of organisation.
On Saturday night, after the Tigers had knocked off West Coast, I glanced into the cupboard again. The lids were stacked perfectly and ordered by size. The lids weren’t on their containers, though.
In 1995, Richmond beat Hawthorn by a straight kick at Waverley Park in Round 3 to go 3-0.
Paul Keating was PM, Messrs Butler, Castagna and Rioli weren’t born, Qantas had only just been privatised and I was a plump, year-old baby living it up on Jennifer Street, Frankston.
That was twenty-two years ago (super number that).
I’d like to take those well-stacked lids in my cupboard and stick them in a few different places. Most of them involve media commentators who picked us to finish 14th (better than 9th, to be fair). We weren’t a sexy prospect, like St Kilda or Melbourne. History would suggest faith in Richmond is misguided.
But the positive signs were there.
First, recent history. We finished 5th, 8th and 5th across three seasons prior to last year, missing the top four in 2015 by a win (which went begging with a Bachar Houli brain fade against Freo). We’ve won our share of footy games and while we’re not a powerhouse, we’re also not a sack of potatoes.
Then there’s the trio of recruits, so obviously selected to cover holes in our list.
- Our ruck stocks since Maric’s decline have been dire. Hello there, Toby.
- Our best player, Dustin Martin, spent too much of last year getting cheapies across half-back. No more of that. Hello, Dion. Dustin, just trot down to the forward line, would you? Thanks, champ.
- Deledio off to GWS. Jump aboard, Josh.
Richmond’s best off-season recruiting since we were last 3-0 wasn’t expected to alter our fortunes much.
And we recruited more than just players. A new ensemble of assistant coaches below Damien Hardwick, including Justin Leppitsch, have clearly made a difference, as has Neale Balme.
We needed to change our game style because slow and steady wasn’t winning us the race (sorry, Aesop). We brought in the personnel to do it and then we bloody did it. We’re now an aggressive, tackle-loving team of corridor-using Tigers. Sustainable and ferocious. Like the Tigers of old, dare I say it.
There’s a greater spread of contributors, too. Martin and Cotchin had exceptional days against the Eagles, but the spread of possessions is now far more even, with almost Bulldog-like distribution across the board below those two. The depth stretches down to the magoos. There’s some bloody decent footballers who can’t get a game (Exhibit A: Anthony Miles).
All of this has been on show since our intraclub games and our JLT opener against the Crows.
Even our Auskickers are in good shape. They gave the Eagles a fair whack, keeping them scoreless and kicking three goals of their own.
And to cap it all, we have our own Rioli, ladies and gentlemen. Goals like the one he dobbed on Saturday don’t usually happen in yellow and black. If the finish was glorious, the sight of Eagles defender Brad Sheppard flailing helplessly and falling over the boundary as Rioli danced out of his tackle was just as good.
It has been said and lauded often (and quite rightly) since Saturday that Reece Conca, a nearly man for so long, finally looks at home across half-back. That almost meant more than the four points, to those who have watched him try his heart out so often without quite cracking it.
I was so calm, resigned to the fact we might win, as the biblical rain began to tumble at the ‘G. For much of the last quarter, it seemed a boring goalless draw would see us home.
Then Butler kicked a point. Gaff was to take the kick-out. Before he got around to it, he changed the ball. For good measure, he towel dried the fresh one.
From what I can gather, this shouldn’t have been allowed unless Trent Cotchin agreed to it (and changing the ball at this point in a wet weather game you’re leading would’ve been about as intelligent as kicking into the wind at the Adelaide Oval in an Elimination Final…)
Laws of Australian Football 2016, Rule 4.2
(D) unless the captains of each Team otherwise agree, the football selected by the captain of the away Team shall be the football used for the entire Match.
It’s unclear what the rules are around drying the ball, but the goal and field umpires are usually active in making sure players aren’t able to change it, especially in wet conditions or at night when it’s dewy.
The Eagles were a whisker away from going end to end from the kick-out in question after Gaff whacked the new ball a long way up the guts. Thankfully, McGovern was hauled down and we kicked a goal at our end.
It obviously made a difference to the quality of the game. All three last-quarter goals were kicked in the six minutes after the ball change. Thankfully, two of them were ours, which was enough to see us home. Delirium.
Of course, there are still doubters and I know this will probably all come crashing down.
It’s as inevitable, maybe even as essential (to the Tiger experience, at least), as a Jenga tower falling. But I’ve copped it for twenty-two years and I can cope with copping it some more.
Throw out your lids, Tigers fans. The bandwagon is full and bound for the sunny days and freshly-mown grass of September, where it will probably crash into a fallen tree which was knocked over by a ferocious wind we chose to kick against.
RICHMOND 2.2 5.6 9.8 11.10 (76)
WEST COAST 2.6 5.13 7.14 8.17 (65)
3. D. Martin (Richmond)
2. T. Cotchin (Richmond)
1. M. LeCras (West Coast)
Richmond: Martin 2, Butler 2, Rioli 2, Lambert, Houli, Castagna, Grigg, Riewoldt
West Coast: LeCras 3, Kennedy 2, Hutchings, Darling, Cripps
Richmond: Martin, Cotchin, Conca, Grigg, Butler, Castagna, Riewoldt?, Rioli
West Coast: Gaff, Shuey, McGovern, LeCras, Priddis, Masten
Umpires: Rosebury, Stephens, Chamberlain
Official crowd: 42,523 at the MCG