Richmond 2010: The Season That Was

Season highlights

For a 15th placed team – plenty.  Most must be seen in the context of the overall highlight which was that the Tigers did significantly better than most pundits expected.

In no particular order:

  • An outstanding first year from the new coach, both in terms of progress with the young team and general demeanour (low key, honest, to the point).
  • The best win was the come from behind effort against Sydney.  For the first time in ages, I felt genuinely confident that this comeback was going to succeed.  Our attack on the footy out-Sydneyed Sydney, which is saying something;
  • An outstanding first year from boom recruit Dustin Martin.  For once, the Tigers appear to have recruited a “man” rather than a skinny kid, who plays with a resolve that would have done his coach proud in his playing days;
  • Some exciting prospects emerged from the host of other new draftees, in particular, Nason and Griffiths;
  • Continuing emergence of Trent Cotchin as not only a great talent but a potential leader at the club.  Observers last Sunday might have noticed that as the siren ended a pathetic second quarter effort by the Tigers, it was Cotchin who immediately gathered the players together and gave them a rev-up.  No prompting from others, just his initiative.  I like it.
  • Jack Riewoldt.  Say no more – just watch the highlights package.
  • Off-field success and stability.  Over 40,000 members is extraordinary at a club that boasts three decades of almost constant failure and no immediate prospects of success.  The loyalty of our supporters is phenomenal.  (Geelong’s membership this year in the midst of one of their greatest eras is  –  a record 40,000 members.)  Benny Gale looks a class act as CEO and the club’s administration looks as strong and well-functioning as I can remember.

Season lowlight

  • Although there were some miserable performances at times by the team, I’m prepared to write them off as part of the learning curve of a raw, young playing group.  So for me, the lowlight was the Dan Connors incident in Sydney.  It looked for all the world like another sorry Richmond-like story that would compound an already gloomy start to the season.  Happily, it had a silver lining (see The Improvers).

The improvers (as in which players have improved)

Several mentions here and I must hand it to Hardwick – he got some real improvement out of some players that I had certainly written off.

  • Jack Riewoldt.  The transformation of Riewoldt from second-string forward to Coleman/Jack Dyer Medallist was nothing short of remarkable
  • Jake King transformed his reputation as a below-par running player with a penchant for showmanship and sniping into a competitive midfielder/forward flanker who produced a more than commendable goal kicking tally.  Allan Didak – watch out!
  • Shane Edwards had a really consistent, solid year as a busy little crumber.  He’s by no means an A-grader yet but given that I’d dismissed him as lacking the size or skills to be competitive, it’s been a terrific improvement.
  • Daniel Connors clearly learned from his near career-suicide early in the season, returning as a far more humble and far more productive player who demonstrated real endurance and an ability to find the ball that belied his early form at Richmond.  A real bonus in the midfield.
  • Honourable mentions must go to Brett Deledio, Chris Newman, Kel Moore, Shane Tuck, Angus Graham and even the much maligned Mitch Morton, who all displayed improvement of various sorts.  The first three are now genuine on-field leaders, as well as damned good players.  Tuck has resurrected a career that looked gone in the latter stages of 2009.  And Graham displayed enough mobility and endurance to suggest that he could be one half of a strong ruck duo.  The question is whether Richmond has the other half in its ranks.  Morton made a strong return to the team late in the season, re-invented as an attacking winger.  He gathered some good stats, still kicked some goals and has shaken off his “show pony” image.

The sliders (as in which players have gone downhill)

Happily, not too many to report:

  • The failure of the 2008 key position draftees Tyrone Vickery and Jayden Post to kick along this year must be a worry to the hierarchy as the real improvement in Richmond has to come from the “spine”.  Maybe they just need more time.
  • The continuing absence through injury of Nathan Foley was a major disappointment.
  • In a year when most of the senior players responded positively to Hardwick’s new regime, Richard Tambling’s was a notable exception, resulting in him being dropped at one point of the season.  I think Richmond fans should have accepted by now that Tambling is “just a player” and that he’ll never attain the superstar status that his draft pick level warranted.  However, as “just a player” he has to make a contribution, week-in, week-out, and at the moment, he’s struggling even to do that.
  • Jordan McMahon.  Was always going to be struggling to hold his place under a strict youth policy and so it turned out.  The trade to bring McMahon to Richmond has been described to me by chortling Bulldogs supporters as “Wallace’s last parting gift to his old team”.  I think Coburg Tigers can probably cover his absence next year!

Giggle moment

Without doubt, seeing various betting agencies paying out on Richmond for the wooden spoon at a ridiculously early point in the season, only for us to avoid it with ease. (See highlights above).


Failure to beat any Victorian teams, and saving some of our worst performances for the games against Carlton, Collingwood and Essendon.

I briefly lamented Ben Cousins’ decision to retire, but I think it’s the right one.  I hope he can continue to provide guidance to the team in some capacity.  It would be good for all concerned.

What next?

Once the playing group started to be competitive, 2010 was always going to be an easy year for exceeding expectations, because there were none.  The real test for Hardwick and the team begins now.

It disturbs me slightly that we’re being described as the happiest ever bottom 4 club.  It’s fair enough to enjoy a few unexpected wins and to appreciate the emergence of young talent.  But at season’s end we were tailing off quite badly and 15th spot is still 15th spot.  The only teams that are happy with that sort of performance are those who are well familiar with worse ones.  Until that culture is shaken off, Richmond won’t make any real progress towards long-term success.

A related concern is that in Jack Riewoldt, Richmond seems to have found a ready replacement for Richo as a player to idolise and enjoy watching, irrespective of how the team’s going.  I’m all for appreciating great individual talent, and I’m delighted that a player with Riewoldt’s flair can still flourish at this level, but a real priority for Hardwick next year must be to build a forward line around Riewoldt as good opposition defences will take him apart just as easily as they used to do to Richo when all our attention was focussed on him.

It’s already evident that for many Richmond fans 2011 can’t come quickly enough and it’ll be great for memberships that the excitement levels are up.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  If the Round 22 game is regarded as a microcosm of Richmond’s season, we’d all do well to reflect on the whole game, including that stunningly inept second quarter, and not just the gallant comeback (which by the way was unsuccessful).  Comparing that game with the first of the finals only puts into starker relief just how much work is ahead to bridge the gap between the Tigers and the game’s elite.

About Sam Steele

Stainless (aka Sam Steele) started following Richmond in 1970 when he was 6. This occurred when his mother, under instructions to buy him a Melbourne jumper, found they were out of stock and purchased a Richmond one instead. Despite the decades of heartache and turmoil this fateful decision has brought on Stainless, he is grateful to his mum as he has at least seen his side win a couple of Premierships. After 30 September 2017, his mum is now officially his favourite person.


  1. Damien Hardwick should get the coach of the year award.

    Look out for this side in 2011.

  2. Great analysis, Sam (or should I call you Stainless)

    One other important point- the Tigers blooded 12 debutants, the most of any team by a significant margin. With the inexperience that we had regularly playing, it’s hardly surprising that we finished 15th. With another pre-season, who knows what could happen?


  3. Hi Sam,

    I agree with all that – an excellent summary of Richmond’s season.

    My only comment otherwise would be that Mitch Morton and Richard Tambling have played their last games for Richmond.

    Morton is not quite good enough, and his rather un-bustling style makes him more susceptible to the chop.

    Tambling is good enough, but only just. I think it’d be right for club and player to sever ties and make a fresh start without each other.

    Another club will pick him up.

    I say this despite saying for two or three seasons that Richmond should persevere with him. He’s now played 100 games. The verdict is in.

  4. Hi Paul

    Fair comment about Tambling. I think he could fit in quite well on a more mature list.

    Not sure about Morton. He seemed out of favour for most of the year but I liked what I saw towards the end of the season. And I think we need as many potential goalkickers as we can get – Morton certainly has that capability.

  5. Martin Reeves says:

    Daff – agree with your comments on Tambling but I think he’ll be a Tiger next year. Unless another club chases him hard but I don’t see that happening.

    As for Morton, I think his position is more than safe. He’s not without his flaws, but 28 odd touches and three goals from the midfield/wing in the final round capped off a solid month of improvement from him. Keep, I say.

    Good write up Sam, was a promising year in the end.

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