Round 5 – Richmond v Melbourne: Contenders? Pretenders?
Richmond against Melbourne, the night before ANZAC day is quickly becoming a tradition, but this year’s game will have more meaning to it. Richmond who many have predicted will finish in the bottom half of the table are 4-0, and Melbourne whom many predicted were almost finals certainties, and top four contenders are 2-2.
While it’s only a round five match, there’s a lot at stake for both clubs. Richmond needs to take a genuine scalp, while Melbourne needs to prove they are what people have hyped them up to be.
Richmond have started the season in blistering fashion, easily dismantling Carlton by forty-three points, defeating a beleaguering Collingwood by nineteen points, defeating a West Coast side who has notoriously poor form at the MCG, and a promising young Brisbane team who took two steps back in a disappointing performance.
All of those victories – besides against West Coast – were against teams who are likely to remain at the southern end of the ladder. Then there’s the curious case of West Coast; a side that are well and truly top eight contenders, but are hardly the same side when they travel to Melbourne, the MCG in particular. Since after the Richmond match, West Coast have a 30-48 record at the MCG, and are now 3-5 under Adam Simpson.
So what kind of side is Richmond, and where are they at?
Dustin Martin’s form has been the best in the competition and is a Brownlow favourite. They have also discovered effective small forward Dean Rioli, but while fellow small forward Jason Castagna has also been prolific, his efficiency by disposal and in front of goal has let him down. Trent Cotchin, and the additions of Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy, and Toby Narkevis have been vital in Richmond’s early victories.
Where many people are deceived early in the season is not looking at key statistics, and where they rank in relevance to the rest of the competition. Besides inside 50’s, Richmond don’t rank in the top four for key statistics such as contested possession, disposal efficiency, efficiency inside 50, and tackles.
While statistics aren’t always accurate, they’re an indicator so early in the season, but winning this Monday night will go a long way to knocking the doubters.
Melbourne is another interesting case. Touted at the beginning of the season to be genuine finals contenders, and their round one clash against St. Kilda labelled as the battle between the risers, Melbourne have found recent weeks difficult.
Melbourne succeeded in defeating St. Kilda in round one, but had an unconvincing victory against Carlton in round two, and have lost their previous two games.
Suspension, poor kicking and injury have so far marred Melbourne’s season. They went into the season with Michael Hibberd’s return from a drug ban being delayed due to an achillies injury, and experienced Demon Colin Garland injuring his knee during a VFL practice match, and is out for the remainder of the season. Then in the round one victory against St. Kilda, young defender Joel Smith dislocated his shoulder in the first quarter. The biggest injury scalp of them all came against Geelong in round three, in which the best ruckman in the game, Max Gawn seriously injured his hamstring and will be sidelined for twelve weeks.
To add to the injury mayhem, new recruit Jordan Lewis and Key forward Jesse Hogan were suspended for three and two weeks for hits on Carlton players behind the play.
Thankfully for Melbourne they’ll have a nine day break, and Hogan and Hibberd are both likely to return. Hibberd played in the VFL for Casey last weekend and amassed 25 disposals, while former captain Jack Trengove is also pushing for a recall after a 33 disposal game.
Melbourne’s goal kicking has also left a lot to be desired in the previous two weeks. They lost to Geelong by 29 points with six more scoring shots, and Fremantle by two points with three more scoring shots.
Monday Night’s game is not only the match of the round, but the most important match of the round. If Richmond wins they go to 5-0, almost half-way to the desired amount of wins to get a finals spot with a difficult upcoming month. If Melbourne loses they go to 2-3, and languish at the bottom half of the ladder with a few tricky upcoming games.
Both sides have a lot of confidence to gain out of Monday night, and it’ll sure be a cracker in front of a massive crowd.
My Prediction: Melbourne by 22 points