Round 3 – Richmond v West Coast: A very un-Richmond afternoon
So, here we are again.
Quarter number three. One point to the good.
Melbourne’s sky has opened. Rain lashes the ‘G’, coming down in torrential sheets.
At Woodend, in a house full of cousins and discarded chocolate wrappers, Mother Nature is busy throwing herself furiously against red brick and hard ground.
After a day of play far from the city, the littler ones are draped over couches. 774 has the floor.
Tigers are 2-0, up against a side with eyes for an afternoon in October. Their mosquito fleet has been a revelation. Their midfield has awoken. The well-sculpted Rance is as irrepressible and unyielding as ever, aided by many a useful flanker.
But I don’t trust these Tigers. I am the doomed Ned Stark, eyeballing Petyr Baelish across the room. Sure, Dan Rioli and Dan Butler can kick snags that would make P.Daicos blush and sure, Dustin Martin is as tackleable as a rogue locomotive, but that ain’t gonna cut it.
I want goals. I want comprehensive beltings. I want us to be consistently not-awful. I want to win, nod knowingly and remark “never in doubt,’ like those infuriating Hawthorn supporters.
Well, last year. Not this time around.
Clock ticking toward oranges #3, and the Tigs are well positioned, there and thereabouts, playing better footy in the squalor.
They lead by not much.
But Butler, Danny Butler, leaps for a bouncing soap of a footy in the goalsquare, throws it somehow to his boot, skids his second major.
Ahead by a kick and some change, with 25 minutes of running around in a storm to go.
But now the football is concrete. Skills are poor. The ground itself is an ice rink.
Yet it is the Tigers, those fickle bastards, who do the most un-Richmond thing ever and show up in crunch time.
Better still, they put their body on the line. Better still, they attack the footy. Better still, they manage to outplay and outclass their opponent in half an hour of contested, harsh footy where heart palpitations and Dusty’s fend-off are major features.
Sure, this may have happened last week, and the week before that, but still, this is Richmond. We don’t do bruising, hard-nosed footy, or at least we haven’t done it for quite a while.
Jack Riewoldt, for example, has played a very un-Richmond game, having not kicked a goal yet still impacting the game with – get this – forward pressure and tackling. Toby Nankervis has put his head over the ball and followed up with second and third efforts. Todd Elton, who hasn’t been great, is a tall person with questionable AFL skill, that is however not Tyrone Vickery.
Each outstanding issue from yesteryear has been rectified and abolished, as seen on the park, but what’s most exciting is our thirst for the contest. Having watched Richmond make a habit of shirking physicality of any sort last year, it’s a joy to see blurs of yellow and black haring behind an oblivious opponent.
Jack caps off a big day with a mark in the forward 50 and subsequent goal, rare in these biblical conditions. All those years in Tassie give Richmond an unassailable lead, padded by Daniel Rioli’s second.
Well colour me surprised. We’ve won.
In previous years, there would be grand final tickets bought, both papers bought and much celebration. Headlines would play on Brett Deledio’s surname – “Lids are off” – or go with the old favourite “Yellow and Back,” but this time we’ve got some self-restraint exercised.
It is very, very good to be sitting pretty at the pointy end, though.
Roll on, tiger train, roll on.
RICHMOND 2.2 5.6 9.8 11.10 (76)
WEST COAST 2.6 5.13 7.14 8.17 (65)
Richmond: Martin 2, Butler 2, Rioli 2, Lambert, Houli, Castagna, Grigg, Riewoldt
West Coast: LeCras 3, Kennedy 2, Hutchings, Darling, Cripps
Richmond: Martin, Cotchin, Rance, Conca, Riewoldt, Butler, Castagna, Grigg.
West Coast: Gaff, Shuey, Nelson, LeCras, Priddis, McGovern.
Rance (Rich) 1, Cotchin (Rich) 2, Martin (Rich) 3.