Round 3 – Richmond v West Coast: The Emperor’s New Outfit

 

 

Picture, if you will, a procession of Tigers crossing Yarra Park for today’s clash with West Coast at the MCG. Not for this mob the normal accoutrements of yellow and black jackets, scarves and beanies. Old clothes have become new. One of the marchers is adorned with the mayoral regalia and chain worn by Freddy Swift when he was made honorary mayor of Richmond after the Tigers’ drought-breaking premiership in ’67. Someone else carries the fearsome Tiger skin from the board room table at Punt Road. Another punter has commandeered legendary super fan Geoff Nicholls’ famous tiger stripes suit. They’re convinced upon the evidence of wins over Carlton and Collingwood in the first two rounds that the Tigers are back in contention and that new outfits are in order. A fiercer, more muscular midfield courtesy of a beefed up weights program and the arrival of Prestia and Caddy. A willingness to run and take more chances. A rampaging Dustin Martin unleashed as a deep forward to sow seeds of blind panic amongst defenders unable to compete with him in man-on-man duels.

 

Or will it be a case of a little girl on the concourse outside the stadium exclaiming “Mummy! Those Tigers have got no clothes on!” bringing the whole edifice crashing down. More emperor moths than emperors? Will the Eagles pull our pants down today and end our little delusion? The football world awaits a real test of the Tigers’ credentials.

 

They’re doing alright so far, the West Coasters. A comfortable win over North at Etihad in the opening round followed by victory over a fatally wasteful St. Kilda in Perth.

 

Despite the balmy autumn sunshine storms are forecast for later in the afternoon. I fantasise about torrential rain sometime in the second half with the home team holding a handy lead with further scoring all but impossible. All eyes are on Richmond’s number four when the players enter the arena. No helmet for Dusty Martin despite the fact he suffered a fractured cheekbone in the win over Collingwood. They breed ‘em tough in Castlemaine.

 

Somehow the Tigers stay in touch with their more fancied visitors in the first half. The Eagles dominate stats such as possessions, inside 50’s and marks inside 50. Mitchell gathers 12 touches in the opening term and is backed up by Gaff, Shuey and Masten. Much to the consternation of the home fans, their smaller midfielders are masters of the art of milking frees with subtle shrugs of the shoulders, something Richmond hasn’t seen since the heydays of Jake King and Robin Nahas. But the Eagles squander their opportunities with inaccurate shooting at goal.

 

When Todd Elton infringes as third man up in a ruck contest, Jack Darling converts the easy chance and the Eagles lead by 13 points 21 minutes into the second term. Yet the Tigers keep themselves within reach with a number of miraculous majors. In the first quarter the fleet-footed Dan Butler, making only his third appearance in the colours, collects a loose ball near the centre. He burns off Jeremy McGovern, has three bounces, surges into the empty goal square and pops it through. In the second term Martin gets his hands on the pill after an errant pass from Riewoldt, glances over his left shoulder while being pursued by an opponent and drills it straight over the goal umpire’s cap from 40 metres out on a sharp angle. Daniel Rioli saves the best one of all for the third term. He overcomes a couple of rivals deep in the pocket before shrugging off a Brad Sheppard tackle and dishing it off to Prestia. Prestia immediately hands it back and Rioli scores with a banana kick at an extreme angle to the roar of the Tiger faithful.

 

Ominous clouds have been gathering since late in the first half. Fans track the coming storm on their iphones. Halfway through the third quarter lightning flashes, thunder rumbles, raindrops tumble and supporters scramble like refugees up the steps to shelter. The game is turning out like my fantasy. The Tigers cling to a narrow lead with goals now at a premium in an old-fashioned slogfest in driving rain.

 

There’s tension galore in the final term. Richmond leads by six points at the final break. A single goal could swing the balance either way.  Martin, Cotchin, Conca, Houli and Rance fight, scrap and knock it forward. But the goal won’t come!  Butler is awarded a lucky free but shanks it from point blank range. Then the release occurs at the 22-minute mark. Brandon Ellis gets a quick kick forward and the ball drops into Riewoldt’s hands. Jack calmly slots it from 20 metres out, putting the Tigers up by 11 points. Ecstasy in the stands! They won’t catch us now! Rioli adds the coup de grace four minutes later after Ellis causes a spillage, enabling the little goalsneak to pounce and run into the open goal.

 

Now we’re thinking spring fashions. Some smart apparel for campaigning in September? Seems like a good fit to me.

Comments

  1. The Wrap says:

    The Jungle Drums beat out the message – from the Deep Woods to the Tough Waterside Bars of Morristown – B-I-T B-I-T B-I-T T-H-E T-I-G-E-R-S A-R-E B-I-T

  2. Peter_B says:

    Well said JG. There is something in the jungle juice at Tigerland this season. A ferocity not seen since Tommy was skinning ’em alive. Dunno why we didn’t tag Dusty. Maybe he’s too strong and quick to tag.
    The Eagles need to flood Subiaco once a fortnight and practice unsociable footy in the slush. Too many fancy dans who handball rather than kick. Not a % play in the wet.
    Dunno why we keep playing Jetta. Receiver and a light of other days. Sheed is a better long term bet. And why we had Giles and Vardy on the ground together in the second half after the rain. Surely not dinosaur weather.
    Jack Darling??? Cripps and Redden need to lift.
    Thursday night will be a test. Buddy will be looking for revenge after he failed to turn up against the Magpies in his 250th.

  3. Love it John.

    Scrappy to start and slow compared to WCE. But I do suspect the cooler air aided the boys to help us finish the way we did. Mind you, I think the crowd held their recollective breaths until that siren did sound. Terrific departure out of the ground as we were serenaded by a vocal grog squad in full flight. Footy theatre at its cheeriest.

    Red tiger skin….is it taken from the museum for the game?

  4. A great read. Thanks, John.
    There is no substitute for getting early wins on the board, especially when injuries hit mid-season etc.
    I am not totally convinced by the Tigers (a lot of reliance on Martin, Rance, Cotchin & Jack) but after 3 rounds, W W W must look good.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    John love the passion and the off season departures and arrivals well and truly for the best long term.
    Appalling kicking for goal ( my bugbear I write about in my Crows v Power report ) by the opposition probably stop the tigers being 1 and 2 but all you have to do is get the W.Other results as well helped the tigers chances of making the 8 in the end

  6. The Wrap says:

    Tigers are coming out of The Jungle everywhere. While waiting for the #4 bread & jam in downtown Amsterdam Mrs Wrap asked me how Tye Vickery had played. The man behind her said bloody hopeless; getting rid of him was the best thing we ever did at Punt Road.

    And yes Mr. B, I did toast you and the AE with a very excellent Dutch stout.

  7. Stainless says:

    John
    At the start of the season the best I could hope for from Richmond was some positive energy and a willingness to take the game on. I didn’t see a list of sufficient class or depth to challenge for the finals. I was prepared to be satisfied with ten, maybe twelve wins at best and some evidence of tangible improvement which might also just save Dimma’s job.
    Three weeks on and it’s fair to say the positive energy box has been well and truly ticked. The contrast with the negative game and mindset of last season is palpable and the come-from-behind wins of the last two rounds have been stirring.
    However….I don’t know that we can quite start cancelling September holiday plans just yet. Rulebook is spot-on that we dodged a couple of bullets with the poor finishing of Collingwood and West Coast, and frankly, I didn’t rate either as genuine contenders anyway. Smokie’s point about our over-reliance on the stars is also fair enough. We could ill-afford to lose any of the four he named, although interestingly, Jack has had a quiet start to the season and prior to Saturday, Rance had been strangely tentative. As much as Martin has deservedly dominated the headlines, I’ve really enjoyed seeing Cotchin returning to something like his best, and answering a few of his critics in the best way possible.
    In short, let’s just take it one week at a time and enjoy the ride!

  8. JBanister says:

    This reliance on stars is the common argument with Richmond, but I don’t agree with it so far this year. Martin undoubtedly is unmissable, but for mine, Cotchin has really just fired for a quarter and half against the Pies and the WC game.

    As the above said, Rance has been off and unusually fumbley. I think has another gear to go to. Grimes has been as important, if not more important, over the first three weeks, but he isn’t as well-known.

    Likewise, Riewoldt is smashing packs but he’s by no means lighting it up. In fact, I thought he was largely absent for the first half on Saturday, as Stainless has said.

    Prestia in particular has more to give, which I think is to be expected given how much footy he has missed. Edwards didn’t even play.

    We’re playing as many as 10-12 guys through midfield and backing those guys to perform while Dusty and Cotchin stay forward, which is precisely what the Dogs do.

    The game plan and rotational moves are working to negate reliance on the select group. I’m not saying it’s not important the good players perform and that we’re not susceptible if the guns go missing, but I don’t think it’s as essential as it once was. And really, what team doesn’t struggle when the guns don’t fire?

    As for goalkicking – Collingwood had 28 shots to our 32. Of the 11 behinds they kicked off the boot, only 3 were kicked from within the width of the goalposts. Of the other 8, 3 were tight in the right-forward pocket, and 5 were more than 40 from goal.

    West Coast were similarly restricted in terms of where they were kicking from. They had 11 behinds off the boot, 9 of which were kicked from wider than the posts. They also had 24 scoring shots to our 30.

    I suspected while I was at the game that West Coast’s conversion was because of where they were marking, which was a product of good defence. The behinds tally doesn’t really tell the full story. The heat maps are available on the Sportsmate AFL Live app.

  9. PB, Josh Hill? he seemed to lay the softest tackle attempt at one stage and I tut-tutted even as I cheered? too many downhill skiers, waiting for the bottom half of the finals after winning all the home games?

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