Blues Dominate Waning Tigers

For all the great history between Carlton and Richmond, supporters of either would be painfully aware that not much of it has been written recently. Since2001, when they last met in a final, both clubs have suffered more low points than they’d care to remember. Which is why the 2010 season found both these traditional rivals at different stages of their respective building processes.


When Damien Hardwick signed on as the thirteenth Richmond coach since their last premiership, he would have been aware of the challenge he faced. Richo-less and winless after nine rounds, the mountain may have seemed higher still. But if resolve was a little shaky, for once the Tigers weren’t showing it.

The Tigers have avoided the horror season that might have been, and built a platform for the future by blooding a large group of young players. There are now some realistic grounds for promise.

But the AFL season is tough on young bodies, and recent signs suggested it was proving so for the Tiger cubs.

Which made this a fortuitous time for Carlton to renew acquaintances. The Blues have been stumbling their way toward a second successive finals series. A win in this game was essential if that was to be achieved.

Blustery winds weren’t likely to assist a couple of teams not noted for precise disposal, so there was little surprise at the pedestrian spectacle provided in the first term. The Blues held sway through the middle but were wasteful up forward. Only Judd seemed able to master the conditions, to no one’s’ surprise.

A 3.7 ¼ time tally would be costly in other circumstances . Fatally for the Tigers, they finished the term on 2.2– the Gigacz Devil’s Total.

Word from Gigs obviously reached the Tiger huddle at the break, for they were uncompetitive in the second term. Seven unanswered goals to Carlton blew the game open by ½ time. Richmond could barely get the ball forward of centre.

Though the Tigers managed 8 second half goals, they conceded another 13, so there was never any doubt over the result.

When the team can’t win, supporters must console themselves with the performance of individuals. For the Tigers, eyes turned to several of their more senior players seeking rehabilitation of varying kinds.

Daniel Connors isn’t so senior, but he made headlines for all the wrong reasons earlier in the year. His eight week club suspension obviously provided a glimpse of football mortality, and he’s worked hard to restore his career upon return. Whilst never dominating this game, he again proved to be one of Richmond’s more consistent workers.

Mitch Morton has struggled for a regular game under the new coach. His placement as Judd’s direct opponent seemed to be sending a fairly obvious message about the need to improve defensive capacities. Whilst he failed to prevent the Carlton skipper from dominating, he managed to fire a few shots of his own through the afternoon. The coach’s judgement of the performance will be interesting.

Shane Tuck was another obviously not on the coach’s favoured list at season’s commencement. His ability to find a kick has never been doubted; more at question was what he did with the pill when he had it, and how he contributed when he didn’t. Carlton were obviously wary, because they assigned Ellard to follow him. Whilst Tuck will never be counted amongst the league’s silkiest disposers, it’s hard not to see him serving further purpose to a young list.

And now we come to the most senior of Richmond players; a man responsible for more headlines than half the AFL put together. Ben Cousins long ago transcended mere football status and entered a strange celebrity world of perpetual melodrama. As he’s attempted to play out the twilight years of his career in an hysterical media glare, it’s been tempting to feel some sympathy for him, whatever his past misdeeds. Although it must be conceded he has hardly helped put a lid on things with his constantly touted documentary.

As a player, his powers are obviously diminished, although the competitive flames clearly still burn bright. He suffered injury in this game but kept willing himself back onto the field. Perhaps he felt he was playing for his career. He has a veteran’s know-how when it comes to scrounging a possession, but he’s lost pace and kicking penetration. It remains a legitimate question what value he provides to the long term development of a young side.

Each game for him denies a developing player opportunity. If his personality and presence are so valued, he could surely play a role off-field. Football was the basis of his fame, but it shouldn’t be football’s responsibility to keep his life on track. That needs to be his responsibility alone from now on. Whichever way this decision falls, we’re sure to hear plenty of it.

The numerous young Tigers on the field looked largely spent. The next two weeks could be long ones.

Hardwick has succeeded in convincing many that he knows what he’s about. The Richmond club might finally have developed a sense of direction and unity they’ve largely lacked over the last three decades. But the side still has plenty of gaps. Much will fall on young shoulders. A start has been made, but the journey ahead remains long. The fans have already waited a long time. You suspect their patience will face further tests.

The Blues are further down the building path than Richmond, as this result attests. They will have been encouraged by the performances of Henderson, Garlett and Warnock in this match. Grigg is another to have made some strides in recent weeks.

They continue to get games into the players they hope to build a future on. This win should see them through to another finals series; one more building block in place. But they wouldn’t be getting carried away with how they played.

You can’t see them doing too much damage in September, but just making it represents sustained  improvement on the trials of recent seasons.

The Cats loom as a sterner test than the last couple of encounters.

The reality for most Victorian teams is that the modern AFL world offers few quick fixes. For those who’ve been down, there’s little alternative to a clear plan and the patience to follow it. Both these clubs are the living proof of that.

Carlton     3.7   10.12   14.17   23.18 (156)
Richmond     2.2   2.3   7.5   10.7 (67)

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. Tony Robb says:

    JB
    I’ll have to go OS more often. Two big wins on the trot., Havent seen the games yet as I only returned home yesterday but always good to beat the Tiges more so the Dons.
    cheers TR

  2. John Butler says:

    TR

    I thought you’d been quiet. :)

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