AFL Round 9: Field of dreams – all types really.

by John Green

The MCG is a field of dreams. All types of dreams. For some, the vision of reconciliation between Australia’s original inhabitants and its newcomers. A resurgent Bombers under Matthew Knights are dreaming of creating yet another successful era borne on the wings of fleet-footed youngsters. Richmond, they may as well be dreaming of a White Christmas in Mildura, Knights’ home town.

The Tigers enter the clash with Essendon after a somewhat difficult week. Tense meetings between senior players and the coach, a voracious media pack camped outside Punt Road, rumours of a coach’s demise bouncing around in cyberspace. With such a lead-up, it looks as though the Tigers have as much chance of winning tonight as Kevin Rudd has of being served a cheese sandwich on a VIP flight.

In the initial stages of the match, Richmond players demonstrate their relief at actually getting onto the field and playing footy. They are ferocious in the packs. They run in straight lines and take the best options. Foley and Tuck dominate the stoppages. Jackson effectively blankets Stanton and gets plenty of the pill himself. The Bombers have trouble matching a smaller,mobile Richmond forward line. Brown is too slick for McPhee. Hocking has trouble keeping up with a bustling Kayne Pettifer.

Mitch Morton, the target of an almighty bake from Terry Wallace for his crucial error in the final quarter of the previous match against Port Power, takes the first high mark of the contest. He boots the opening goal and salutes the Richmond members with a vigorous bout of fist-pumping. The tribe responds in kind. Dean Polo, winner of the Yiooken Award for best afield honours in the corresponding match in 2006, roosts another with a left-foot snap and the Tigers have two on the board before the Bombers trouble the scorers. Deledio darts left and feints right before surging past Jobe Watson and roosting it home from a seemingly impossible angle. Pettifer marks and boots the major that teams seem to love more than any other – the long shot that sails directly over the goal umpire’s head after the siren. The Tigers jog to the huddle with plenty of high fives and positive reinforcement.

Richmond’s lead is 16 points at the first break. The Tiger faithful are daring to dream again. “Crisis? Give me more of this if we’re in crisis,” beams one middle-aged fan with memories of past glories. Everywhere I look, reserved seat holders are smiling and chatting, happily renewing acquaintances after weeks of sitting together in sullen silence. After all, hadn’t we won four of our past five encounters with the Dons? Maybe we had the wood on them, meaning no disrespect to their coach, Matthew Knights, a man we still revered. He just shouldn’t have gone to Windy Hill.

Richmond holds it own in the second term, turning at the halfway mark with the lead it enjoyed at quarter-time. A Daniel Connors goal had briefly extended their lead to a respectable 24 points at the 11-minute mark, before the Bombers managed to peg them back a little.

But things change in the second half. To the dread of supporters whose team leads at

half-time, it is one of those matches played in two distinct halves.

The Bombers maintain their relentless running and start to hit their targets. Watson wrests control at the centre bounce scrimmages and manufactures some forward movement. Stanton breaks Jackson’s shackles and works in tandem with Watson. Lovett damages the hosts with some aggressive play-making, booting three second-half goals in the process. Lloyd is too strong and too fast for Luke McGuane. Jason Winderlich continues his emergence as a genuine star with his leg speed and precise 20-metre passes.

The Tigers begin to totter. In an all too familiar pattern, they retreat into their shells, chipping sideways and backwards in an increasingly futile attempt to delay the inevitable. The forward line ceases to function. Morton and Polo miss set shots. Finally, the levy breaks at the 23-minute mark of the quarter when Lovett goals to level the scores. It is the second in a burst of four that obliterates Richmond’s lead. Lloyd adds two more and the Bombers are out to a 12-point lead at the orange break.

There’s no catching them. The Tigers are spent. They have no second gear and are incapable of maintaining a winning level of intensity for four quarters. Lovett-Murray (twice) and Paddy Ryder light up the evening with skyscraping marks. Winderlich gets in on the act with two running goals of his own.

The Bombers win by a substantial 40 points, after booting twelve goals to three on the other side of half-time. The Tigers suffer a 64-point turnaround from their high-water mark in the second quarter.

Dreams do come true for some lucky souls.

My votes: 3 Winderlich 2 Lovett 1 Tuck

Comments

  1. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Despite being a Bomber I enjoyed reading this Richmond perspective John.
    Thankfully a week is a short time in football and fans get to dream all over again so soon.

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