Richmond’s Flag to Lose? Ten Reasons why the Tigers might not win the 2018 Premiership

OK, OK, enough already…

 

So Richmond’s won the Minor Premiership and while the teams below us are all busting a gut to finish Top 4, Top 8, whatever, we’ve snared pole position seemingly without breaking into a sweat.

 

But spare me the torrent of unfiltered borscht that’s already calling Richmond a sure thing for the Flag! Being the best performed team over the regular season just gets you Barrier No. 1 in the September Stakes. No more, no less. And recent history shows a surprisingly large number of Minor Premiers have found all sorts of ways to stuff things up when it really matters.

 

So, in the time-honoured spirit of “keeping the lid on it”, here are ten scenarios, all with recent precedents, that could easily befall the Tigers between now and 5.30pm on Grand Final day. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

  1. The injury curse (Case study – St Kilda 1997)

There’s been plenty of sniping about Richmond’s good run with injuries through 2018, but this could yet change at this most critical point of the season. In 1997, St Kilda got on a late season roll of nine straight wins that saw them secure top spot and a comfortable run into the Grand Final. But injuries to their ruck duo of Peter Everitt and Lazar Vidovic in the last weeks of the season proved pivotal in the Grand Final. Adelaide selected a super-tall group of Sean Rehn, David Pittman and Aaron Keating who fed Andrew McLeod and co beautifully, denying a Flag to the League’s perennial Cinderella club. Add to that the timing of the death of Nicky Winmar’s father on Grand Final eve and you could hardly get a more devastating blow to the psyche of the individual and the team.

 

2. The goal-kicking yips (Case study – North Melbourne 1998)

Richmond has improved its scoring capabilities in 2018 but has shown (e.g. in its recent loss to GWS) that it can be wasteful in attack. North Melbourne’s second quarter of 2.11 in the 1998 Grand Final is the most egregious recent example of a side in complete control blowing the chance to put away their opponent and regretting the consequences. Once again, Adelaide was the beneficiary as McLeod again led the way in a stunning second half revival. The final scores of 8.22 to 15.15 (30 shots each) say it all.

 

3. The freak performance by a no-hoper (Case study – Essendon 1999)

Frankly, there isn’t a gap in class between Richmond and any of the other 2018 finalists like there was between Essendon and Carlton when they squared off in the 1999 Preliminary Final. But I daresay we’ll start favourites against whoever we come up against. My point is that back in ’99 the unfancied Blues caught the Bombers napping and pulled out a performance for the ages on the day, built on the back of superb individual games from Koutoufides, Whitnall and a couple of others. They rode their luck in a tense finish, but their effort across the four quarters was outstanding. Any of this year’s top sides are capable of a similar one-off effort.

 

4. The emergence of a new champion team (Case study – Essendon 2001)

Like Essendon in 2001, the Tigers have had an extended period in which they’ve risen to the top and stayed there. It’s a hard position to maintain, especially when there are plenty of strong challengers. Back then, for all the “if it bleeds” rhetoric, most folks assumed that Essendon would be too strong and experienced for a Brisbane side that, until then, only appeared to be any good at their Gabba stronghold. But on the day, the Bombers looked tired, jaded and a tad complacent as they surrendered an early 20-point lead and were overrun in the second half. It was only then that we realised that, in the Lions, a seriously good team had emerged.

 

5. The fortress breached (Case studies – Port Adelaide 2002 and 2003, Adelaide 2005)

For those of us outside South Australia, it was the gift that kept on giving. First, Port Adelaide cemented their “chokers” tag with consecutive home Qualifying Final losses to Collingwood and Sydney. Then it was the Crows’ turn against St Kilda in 2005. In each case the visitors steeled themselves for audacious “smash and grab” raids at a venue that the locals foolishly regarded as impenetrable. Assuming we topple the Mutts on Saturday, Richmond will be 21 straight wins at the MCG. That’s a streak in anyone’s language. But I’ve been watching footy at the ‘G for nearly half a century and I’ve never felt that the ground doesn’t provide any of the co-tenants with much of an advantage. Our current run is going to end one day and recent close shaves suggest it may be teetering. Which opponent wouldn’t love the bragging rights of being the one to break the streak? Who might stand up to emulate the heroics of Paul Licuria (2002) or Robert Harvey (2005)?

 

6. Killing the shark (Case study – Geelong 2008)

As we enter September, there are myriad theories abounding about how to undo Richmond’s game plan. It’ll only take one successful one. Twenty-three victories by Geelong in a near-perfect 2008 season didn’t prevent Hawthorn from executing a masterful strategy of stopping the Cats’ constant run and carry. Sure, some luck was involved and more than a little wastefulness in front of goal by the Cats, but no-one could deny that the Hawks won the battle of hearts and minds on the day. Wouldn’t it be ironic if ten years after that shock defeat, Geelong became perpetrator rather than victim, with its “attack the corridor” approach in Round 20 being touted as the blueprint to bring down the Tigers?

 

7. Two standouts in the one year (Case studies – St Kilda 2009 and Collingwood 2011)

Is there a clear No.2 challenger to Richmond this year? I still regard West Coast’s demolition of Richmond in May as the best exhibition of out-and-out class for the year.   I see no reason why they can’t repeat that performance in September. All other finalists have pretty good credentials too. What is clear is that sometimes a side can be the best all year – well clear of the rest of the pack – except for one other genuinely great side. St Kilda in 2009 and Collingwood in 2011 can consider themselves unlucky to have encountered such a side that spoiled their otherwise brilliant seasons. In each case, Geelong proved worthy opponents during the regular season, and just found that extra bit of polish and poise in the Grand Final.

 

8. Stage-fright (Case study – Sydney 2014)

Exams, acting, driving tests. Sometimes you just freeze in the moment. If Richmond makes the GF this year, the psychology around the day will be very different to the jovial mood of 2017, where the Tigers’ underdog status kept a lid on expectations and took a lot of pressure off. Not so 2018, where it will be unquestionably Richmond’s to lose, as it was Sydney’s to lose in 2014. Take nothing away from Hawthorn that day, but this was a meltdown of extraordinary dimensions and inexplicable from such a seasoned team. The Swans had been great all season but didn’t give a yelp on the biggest day. Sometimes shit happens!

 

9. Momentum (Case study – Sydney 2016)

Richmond knows better than most about the importance of momentum at the right time of the season. They’ve had a tricky few weeks where relatively easy games and a top 2 spot secured has created a dilemma: continue to select strong line-ups or rest key players? In such a situation momentum is hard to maintain, especially when you’ve been performing at a high standard for a long time. It’s often easier to generate over a shorter period and coming from a lower base. It’s hard to pick a better example of this than the Western Bulldogs surge in the 2016 finals series, which reached its zenith on Grand Final day. Dogs fans will point out that they’d knocked off Sydney earlier in that season, but, man for man, it was hard to mount a strong case for the Mutts as being anything other than clear underdogs riding the crest of a wave of form at just the right time. Any of the 2018 contenders could do this to the Tigers.

 

10. Hubris (Case study – Adelaide 2017)

A few of the teams mentioned above would probably also qualify under this category but I can’t resist taking another shot at the team that reserved a seat on the plane home for the Premiership Cup! I’ve not detected too many signs of hubris in the Tiger camp so far but, Power Ranger stance aside, I’m not sure that we saw it with Adelaide until we had the benefit of hindsight. The Tigers already face a major task through September of blocking out the hype about their prospects. It will only magnify with every victory between now and the big day.

 

So there it is, folks. With all those possibilities, I might as well start planning my September holidays!

 

 

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.

Comments

  1. george smith says:

    Sadly my beloved Magpies do not look like the ones to breach the citadel, bell the cat, bleed the predator, whatever. Like curly in “Oklahoma”, everything has to be going our way for our mob to attain success.

    We ain’t beat Richmond in a final since the 30s, and are still upset about 69, 71, 72, 73, 75 and 1980. The one year we had a “Beat Richmond” plan that worked, 1974, we never got near them. Mind you, the Hawks have never met Richmond in a final, in one of footy’s great anomalies…

    I must stop making predictions. Last week I tipped a Richmond/Weagles grand final, this week the Perth side looks vulnerable, and may even miss second spot. GWS look gone, but they could bounce back against Melbourne.

    in 1982 David Parkin said that back to backs were incredibly hard to win, and his Showpony side was lucky to hang together until they won the second flag, so who knows. Richmond are vulnerable against the Swans, the Hawks (who isn’t?) and even the Weagles if the Weags get their mojo back.

  2. 8 and 9 particularly pertinent. 1996, 2014 and 2016: All minor premier years for my team, all failed. So, I’d be taking your holidays in September. Enjoy!

  3. Stainless says:

    George
    I think you under-estimate Collingwood’s chances. They’re the closest resemblance to 2017 Richmond in many respects. Amazing that the Pies haven’t beaten Richmond in a final for over 80 years and just as amazing that we’ve never played Hawthorn in a final in 93 seasons. Personally I think this is a high quality top 8 so really, the Tigs are vulnerable against any of them.
    Jan
    Good of you to point out the Ducks’ poor record as Minor Premiers. I’d forgotten 96 – on reflection it could be a Scenario 11 about completely losing the plot by fighting a suspension through the courts all week!

  4. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Stainless, rewind a year and imagine yourself writing this. Privileged much ? !
    Tigers have been consistent, even and have risen to the occasion when needed, so far. You do need luck to win premierships, but I still reckon you’re the ones to beat in 2018.
    1980 is so far away now. Enjoy the ride Tiger !

  5. Terrific article Stainless. I sent Mr Wrap a telegram C/- the Pooncarie Pub a few weeks ago nominating the Tigers physio, doctor and performance manager for the B&F. He rang and reversed the charges to agree with me.
    The Tigers structure and game style depends on some key talls – Nankervis, Rance and Riewoldt – and there is no obvious back up. Take any one of them (or Dusty) out and they come right back to the pack.
    There is a to of science and planning to the Tigers physical preparation and injury management – but also a bit of luck with no serious injuries to key players for 2 seasons.
    Luck evens out, and the Tigers are due. Not that I would wish the NicNait curse on you. Maybe Dusty will thump someone?

  6. Stainless says:

    Phil – last year my dreams were realised when we thumped Geelong in the QF. Two monkeys off the back in one night. What followed was a couple of large dollops of cream on an already delicious cake – and I don’t particularly like cream! This year, anything but the Premiership will be a disappointment. Yet the cold hard stats say that only about 40% of minor premiers go on to win the flag.
    Spot on Peter. As ever, strengths can easily become weaknesses. We had five glorious weeks last September without a single injury. It can’t possibly happen again. And I hope the example of your Mr Gaff will have reminded our boys to keep themselves nice for a few more weeks.

  7. Joe De Petro says:

    Every day is another day, Stainless.

    Will the Tigers go on and write history or will they just be another team that falters at the wrong time? Precedents mean nothing. Enjoy each moment for what it is. If it all turns pear-shaped, that is the time for hand-wringing.

    Life is too short to worry about what happened to Adelaide in 2017, to Essendon in 2001 or whatever. They happened. so what?

    There is one precedent that does matter though. If the Tigers get the job done, we are all going down to Swan St to make last year’s craziness look like it was a meeting of the Richmond Temperance Society.

  8. Some how,Richmond structures re off ball are a mile in front of any 1 else will be amazed if they don’t win it

  9. daniel flesch says:

    Nice dollop of pessimism there Stainless. Yours to lose I reckon . My Hawks not as dangerous as people think , I’m afraid . ( maybe next year for them once the new youngsters have another year’s experience)
    The only way the Tiggers won’t win is if Dusty gets a premature Premiers 2018 tattoo and it turns septic.
    Or if the Seventh Day Adventist champion defender suddenly realises he shouldn’t be playing on a Saturday . Both prospects unlikely. Though having said that , at a time when people are talking seriously about Dutton becoming PM , I guess nothing is impossible.

  10. Stainless says:

    Que sera sera, eh Joe? Let’s hope that Swan St reunion comes to pass!
    Thanks for your vote of confidence RB – must be Neil Balme again :)
    Haha Daniel – we live in a post-truth world after all!

  11. Peter Warrington says:

    Absolutely. No confidence at all. We will learn a lot about Richmond in the next 5 weeks. Starting with how they fare against the resurgent Doggies this week. Will we rest and coast, or go hard pushing for that rhythm that has eluded us for much of the season.

    With many players looking to come in, hopefully the latter.

    Having said that, I feel like we have been coasting for the last few weeks. Hard to resist when you are virtually home in the top 2 and 5 goals up with 15 to play – who wants to get injured and miss the next month?

    As for injuries and talls, I think Soldo looked pretty good. It was only Gold Coast, but it Was witts.

  12. Stainless says:

    Hi Peter
    Agree that Soldo looks a good prospect. Will watch his progress with interest.
    Hoping for a full scale dress rehearsal against the Mutts this week. Flirting with your form isn’t wise at this time of year.

  13. Paul Spinks says:

    Stainless:
    I’m unsure if this is devil’s advocacy or very clever reverse psychology. Point out all that could go wrong as a way of preventing it?
    No 8 is the biggest risk – not the stage fright so much, just that favourites have often come undone in GF’s in recent years. You mention the Swans in 2014, but in 2012 the Hawks were equally favoured and the Swans prevailed, in 2016 the Doggies did the Swans. The best way for players to counteract it is to be aware of it, be mentally prepared. Hunger helps.

  14. Stainless says:

    Paul
    I reckon it’s a bit of both. What I do know is that the last clear cut favourite to win the GF was Collingwood in 2010 and it took them two goes to do it.

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