AFL Round 9 – Richmond v Essendon: Is there no place for Daniel Connors in Richmond’s best?

On Saturday afternoon I had charge of the kids so of course I took them to see Strathmore versus Aberfeldie at the Mascoma Street Reserve. The match promised much but proved disappointing. Abers won in a canter, preserving their spot on top of the Essendon District league ladder.

It was worth going, however, just to see Daniel Connors, the Richmond renegade, playing for Abers. Connors looked in good shape, as lean as a whippet. His distinctive kicking action, with the extravagant sweep of his left hand in placing the ball on his boot, was the day’s motif. Sometimes it’s hard to drop back a level, or in this case a few levels, and play to your best. You run to where the ball should be rather than where it is. Connors adapted more and more as the match wore on. By the end he was clearly best on ground. After the controversial events of last season, I was glad to see him enjoying his footy.

On Saturday night I took my oldest son Michael to see Richmond versus Essendon. We joined my father and brother, while another brother was stranded in the members’. I had taken a rare night off work because I wanted to share a big match with Michael and the family.

The Dreamtime match has become a big occasion. In one of the early matches, about five years ago, I liked seeing the Aboriginal kids scampering around near gate 3, their numbers swelling before they made their way around the ground. I assumed some of them had come down from up north because they were wearing board shorts, which is unusual in Melbourne in May. My abiding memory of the match is wincing when Richo put his hand in the back of an Essendon opponent in the dying moments, with only a few points separating the teams. Richo put on an almighty performance when the free kick was paid against him, but it was there. Essendon went on to win. A tone was set for the Dreamtime matches.

The opening of this match was decidedly flat. The rivals traded periods of ascendancy but Essendon looked to have more substance. Richmond looked slick when they shared the ball around and moved through the centre but there was always the sense that they would come unstuck. They played with more hope than confidence.

During the second quarter Essendon took over and Richmond’s confidence seeped through the gates and out of the ground. The Tigers had no pep at all. I doubt there was ever a crowd of 85,000 that raised so little enthusiasm. The rest of the match bears no repeating, so I might sum up with a few observations.

The Tigers were too cautious, too timid. The paralysis that besets them in big games was most evident when the defenders kicked back and forth across the vacant half-back line for what seemed like five minutes. None of the half a dozen players involved in the chain of kicks was prepared to sally forth and pick out a teammate upfield. They didn’t want to be responsible for a turnover that would result in the ball sailing back over their heads. It indicated a lack of confidence in the skill level. It also suggested the Tigers are unable to play the Hawthorn game plan that coach Damien Hardwick is trying to instil.

So the Tigers were over-coached, but they were also under-led. Trent Cotchin, the captain, had moments when he was in charge, but he’s playing with nothing like the zest that marked him as a future Brownlow medallist in the second half of last season. Fellow midfielder Brett Deledio had another stinker, fuelling his reputation for failing to come up in big matches. Former captain Chris Newman gave everything while key defenders Troy Chaplin and Alex Rance played with suitable application, but there was never a sense that one Richmond player would take the match and shake it upside down, like Joel Selwood does at Geelong.

The Tigers’ best for mine was Daniel Jackson, which is a bad sign. Jacko plays at 100 per cent every match. If the Tigers are on a roll, his 100 per cent performance ranks him about 10th on the list. If the Tigers are down, his 100 per cent ranks him up the top. During the third quarter Jacko was the only Richmond player who was willing to take the match on. He was the only player who was willing to make mistakes, which in his case is always plenty. Richmond can never hope to improve until Jacko is pushed down towards the 15th or 16th mark on the player evaluations.

During the last quarter Richmond staged a fightback like a props man who peep through the curtains. Michael became animated. He’s loved the rawness of Tiger fans when his grandfather has taken him to the footy this year, and he especially loved singing the Yellow and Black after the victory over Melbourne, but the fightback was snuffed out and Michael frowned. You could see it cranking through his head: Richmond are a strange mob. I smiled at his confusion. He was becoming indoctrinated into the tribe. Essendon went on to record an impressive victory.

After the match we were waiting with the hordes to catch the South Morang train home when it struck me that the best part of the day was at Mascoma Street, watching Daniel Connors carve them up for Aberfeldie. We could do with him at Richmond.

Comments

  1. Richard says:

    WHY isn’t Newman still the skipper at the Tiges?
    Do the coaching staff, director (s) of football think he’s too long in the tooth, or maybe he voluntarily stood down for 2913.
    He has a go, even taking on the above-mentioned J. Selwood in a spirited man on man wrestle a few rounds ago.

    Deledio is getting very close to ‘dud’ stakes. Never seen in big games or in games against ‘big’ opponents. Having said that he’ll prolly kill ’em when the Tiges play some of the Donkeys — Giants, Dees, Doggies, Sainters — if he hasn’t starred already against that bunch.
    Cotchin is an enigma. Looks terribly earnest as if to say “I’m as clean as clean can be … no substances in this body” then doesn’t produce at much higher than a moderate output.
    Dusty Martin looks like a skinnier version of Errol Flynn. Against Catters he booted 2 second term snag rolls and at least had a dip. Albeit a brief dip.
    But he’s got a bit of shite in him, an essential ingredient for a top, tough, unyielding midfielder — IMHO.

  2. Daff, given that Richmond were 2 goals, 4 goals, 6 goals and 9 goals at the end of each quarter, I was a bit surprised to hear that Jackson was “up and about”.

    Because 2469 is the postcode of Jackson’s Flat.

  3. Paul Daffey says:

    Richard,

    I reckon Martin is one of the Tigers’ biggest disappointments. He rarely appears after half-time.

    Gigs,

    You never let me down.

  4. Daff,

    As a Tiger fan I agree that Daniel Connors could be useful.

    There was a good article by Greg Baum a few weeks ago lamenting the over-coaching of young sportsmen. We end up with automatons rather than unique players. Steve Johnson strikes me as a player that does not necessarily stick to the game plan, but the Cats are better for it. Johnson was not necessarily disciplined in his off-field exploits a few years ago either!

    I am a big fan of both Cotchin and Deledio, but perhaps their problem is their adherence to a typical game style. Especially Deledio, when the game changes he does not have the imagination to adapt. Connors could have been the guy to shake up the team.

    As an aside, there was a day when football clubs helped troubled young men grow and mature. Increasingly they are either not drafted (Dayle Garlett) or cast aside (Daniel Connors, Lawrence Angwin, Liam Jurrah). What is this saying about our puritanical expectations of football players? And famous people in general?

    Quinny

    Gigs – incredible.

  5. Paul Daffey says:

    Hi Liam,

    I agree with all of your comments. Cotchin and Deledio do appear somewhat hamstrung, although it’s a little unfair to compare players of mere talents to Steve Johnson.

    Interesting you mention Laurence Angwin. He’s playing at Ouyen United, deep in the Mallee, with another rogue, Damian Cupido, as well as Relton Roberts, who was pilloried by Tigers fans for playing the opening two games in 2010 and going home to the NT.

    Would be a great road trip to watch Ouyen United.

  6. Stainless says:

    Daff

    I don’t think Connors would have saved us the other night but I agree, he had undoubted talent and it’s a shame that he’s lost to the AFL.

    It’s ironic that in his last game with Richmond he almost single-handedly saved us from the ignominy of a loss to GWS – in a match where simple adherence to the game plan by a far more experienced, capable team should have ensured an easy win, we needed the timely interventions from a maverick to get us across the line.

    I’m pleased for him that he’s doing well in the ‘burbs.

    The less said about Saturday night the better!

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