AFL Round 9 – Richmond v Melbourne: A Tale of Two Suburbs

With apologies to Mr. Dickens, Saturday’s match at the MCG – a traditional Saturday afternoon ‘blockbuster’ which honoured one of Aussie Rules’ traditional heroes, Tom Hafey – put this viewer into a time warp.

The vortex didn’t quite go back as far as all that, when Tiny Tim was but a glimmer in the great man’s eye and Pip an emerging coalescence at the back of his forehead.

Watching the game, I found myself stuck in this vortex, drawing parallels to a match played on Saturday afternoon Round 14, 2011 between these two sides. At that time, both were nearing their win total from the previous season already. Both were knocking on the door, on the fringes of a toehold in the Eight. Whoever won would be achieving twin goals of growing momentum and opening substantial breathing space from a direct competitor.

In a fierce game with Jack Watts a focal point – Deja What Now? – the Demons put the Tigers away, effectively ending their surprisingly robust finals contention. It was agreed by all who watched that day, there was plenty for both teams to take heart from.

While Melbourne could be as defensively vulnerable as a snowflake falling over a mountain hotspring, they could also produce breathtaking attacking football, making the Sherrin sing. They did so throughout that day against the Tigers, overwhelming a gallant young bunch who showed a bit, but whose lack of seasoning told in the crunch.

Melbourne were looking likely.

In a matter of weeks, they were lurching wildly, swinging indiscriminately at spectres within, tilting at windmills in an effort not to win … Again.

It was ‘Murder … She Wrote’ for Demons’ fans, as their administrators killed any remaining spirit the ailing Jim Stynes might have sought to impart, by sacking talismanic coach Dean Bailey. Then they buried any hope of resurrection in an unmarked grave, as they hired a ‘schoolmarm’ disguised as a taskmaster in Mark Neeld.

The rest as they say is history, with Melbourne’s roller-coaster cubicle pitching through a gap in the tracks of their seeming ascent, while Richmond ground and chugged to fifth at the end of the 2013 home and away season.

Enter Paul Roos. Enter the Dragon. Wither the Tigers this past weekend, as Melbourne’s reawakened team spirit consigned Richmond to forlorn pretenders, seasoned enough now, but cooking without any gas so far this year.

The Demons took advantage of Richmond’s wasteful kicking for goal and withstood a desperate last quarter pursuit, breathing the fire their new coach has instilled and kicked away – Jack Watts making his presence sharply felt when the whips were cracking – with the last four scores of the quarter.

Sure, Richmond may lament their missed chances, but Melbourne showed something in the second half, that we haven’t seen from them in footballing generations. They kicked ahead under a hold at the top of the straight and won like a good thing.

When Richmond’s skipper got them to within a kick of the lead deep in the last quarter, you wondered if the Demons had choked down on the bit. Did these players have anything more to give?

We were reminded that this is a Paul Roos team now, in no uncertain fashion. He didn’t even have to produce the whip as his boys found that next gear … and another beyond that to kick away. That left the Tigers reaching desperately for the flying trapeze, only to end up spreadeagled in the delusionary air of inflated expectations, looking down at a concrete bottom, with no safety-net to be found.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Gregor the dees sacking of Dean Bailey was not there finest hour especially in replacing him with , Mark Neeld the modern equivalent of Robert Shaw fine as a assistant coach but diabolical when given the main gig . Roos has gone back to the basics of man on man yes a long way to go but at least every one knows the dees are going to give a contest each week

  2. Tony Tea says

    Was Robert Shaw a bad coach?

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Robert Shaw here in Adelaide really struggled and just could not cope with the fishbowl environment and expectations of the crows which a lot of is media driven he displayed almost manic crazy behaviour at times a so called game plan would be abandoned in a game if it wasn’t working lack of calmness really hurt him , unfortunately you will get very few crows players to say a good word about , Shaw as a coach the fact they won the next two flags says a lot . Identifying talent was his strength his involvement in recruiting is the one legacy he left the , Adelaide FC

  4. Gregor Lewis says

    That’s it in a nutshell lads.

    Well put Malcolm.

    I was struggling to remember if the Shaw years at the Crows were B.B (Before Blight) or A.B (you get the picture), but your comment above got me on track.

    I think Shaw was as idiosyncratically passionate a coach as Blight, but with a major comparative shortage of self-belief.

    I think the judicious application of that self-belief and the ability to translate that as confidence, both to & within the playing group, is what separates the very best coaches from the rest of the pack.

    I don’t think Shaw was able to find that consistently. As for Neeld, I got the impression from the off that he was a potential aloof resurrectionist. ‘In order to rebuild you must first destroy’ comes to mind as a possible motto.

    He was good at the destroy part. Too good for his man-management skills to overcome, when time came to rebuild.


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