Almanac Season Review: Richmond renovation (plus Round 23) report

It’s late 2015. A sea of yellow and black are slowly dragging themselves away from Yarra Park, away from the lights and the sounds, over the bridge and into the station, away from footy for the last time of the year.

The masses are stunned. It was wrong. It was their party. 90 000 packed into every crevice of the MCG, at least 60 000 of those lovingly decorated in deep black and fierce yellow.

They were supposed to win. It wasn’t just a game for the heaving, pulsating Tiger brethren, it was a moment.

Their moment.

And it was wantonly thrown away, like one of many vacant pie packets floating across the turf that day. North were eighth, an ageing team patched up with tiring veterans and a diminutive fanbase. Richmond were a behemoth, a club with many voices, a team of battlers.

But it was the battlers that became the problem.

For those many thousands of devastated Richmondites left the fields of Yarra with the thought of next year, and the success and joy it would bring.

Ha.

Because now the season is over again. Richmond have, put kindly, been rather disappointing. After three consecutive finals appearances, the Tigers collapsed in spectacular fashion in 2016, finishing with a paltry eight wins.

The season was a calamity, a failure, a spectacular flop. The Tigers fluctuated from toothless to Titanic to toothless yet again amidst a raging media storm. By round seven Richmond had a single win, their finals chances all but extinguished. Amongst their losses so far were a one point loss to Collingwood and consecutive drubbings from Adelaide and West Coast. They were yet to kick 15 goals in a match.

There were issues everywhere at Punt Road; the coach was under fire, the players hopelessly out of form, the fans furious with the poor performances of a side that was supposed to be a challenger for the flag.

If not for Sam Lloyd’s miracle at the ‘G’ in round eight, the cataclysmic beginning to an already doomed season may have driven newly extended coach Hardwick out of a job.

Richmond settled, eventually, floating a pace behind the also-rans in twelfth position. Generally, their wins came against teams below them in unconvincing, ugly games of football. When the Tigers came out to play the top eight dwellers, things got ugly. Against the ever-improving and very scary Giants, Richmond’s lacklustre effort delivered three goals. Alex Rance was best on ground, a Goliath in defence, a workhorse carrying the entire team.

I said my goodbyes in round 22, on a bright and welcoming winter Saturday. Todd Elton played his third game, Cal Moore his first, Oleg Markov his seventh. Both Richmond and their opponents, a gang of youths from Seaford and their leader N.Riewoldt, spent five minutes playing footy and 115 discussing Mad Monday costumes. It was an awful game, the most comprehensive nine point drubbing of all time.

St Kilda were awful. Richmond were ten times worse.

The final game of the year was Alex Rance’s 150th, against the Swans. Two years ago, the Tigers scraped past the Bloods to slide into eighth place in a game that produced some of the finest television you are likely to see. A jubilant Mick Molloy and Matty Richardson were shown live on Channel Seven as Richmond secured a famous three point win.

Who knows? Could the Tigers produce another monumental performance to ignite their supporters for 2017? Could the heroics of the supremely talented Rance drag the Tigers over the line? Could Mabior Chol, the first Sudanese Tiger, inspire his teammates to victory in his first game?

Well…

Richmond lost.

By 115 points.

And Alex’s opponent, Buddy Franklin, kicked seven.

Oh, and Mabior got two kicks.

So that’s a no then.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

When. Does. The. Fecking. Cricket. Start.

I have accepted that 2016 was a truly awful season for the yellow and black (or mustard and dry grey thanks to BLK). It was a train wreck. There are not enough analogies and adjectives that can describe Richmond’s season.

But what was this exasperating, exhaustive season? What was the bloody point of it all?

There were plenty of positives. A surprising number of them in fact.

First of all, the kids. Jayden Short, Dan Rioli, Oleg Markov, Connor Menadue and Corey Ellis became important members of the team, a group of nineteen and twenty year-olds. Rioli and Markov, in their first year of AFL football, especially starred in a dismal year. Other cubs were introduced once the selection panel ruled out finals, but the likes of Mabior Chol, Cal Moore, Nate Broad, Ben Lennon, “George” Castagna, Liam McBean, Nathan Drummond, Adam Marcon and Todd Elton are still yet to prove themselves at AFL level.

Through injury and alarming loss of form, these young blokes became a pivotal part of the side. Brett Deledio had a recurring issues with his quad and calf, Reece Conca’s hamstring exploded, Ty Vickery lost form as quickly as Ivan Maric, Jake Batchelor vanished along with recruit Chris Yarran (although the loss of Chris was due to a saddening bout of ill mental health), Jacob Townsend was axed very early in the year and backman Kam McIntosh and Bachar Houli missed huge chunks of the year due to injury.

So what happens now? Do the Tigers commence a mass cull and rebuild their list around Rioli and friends?

I don’t think so. Richmond still have a fantastic top five of Rance, Martin, Riewoldt, Cotchin and the ageing but silky Deledio. Their youngsters are impressive but what has been the problem for Richmond is their mid-tier players. The likes of Shaun Grigg, Taylor Hunt, Ty Vickery, Shane Edwards, Jake Batchelor, Kane Lambert, Andrew Moore and even Brandon Ellis are middle-of-the-road players who have hit their peak, yet still have some value on the trade market and in the senior squad.

Richmond need young players, good players. They need a good young core to surround their stars with, a core that will constantly improve, ready to take over when the old boys drop off. Nick Vlastuin, Dylan Grimes and Kam McIntosh are the only players drafted before 2013 who are ready to play that role. Three is way too low for a team looking to have extended success. The likes of Mendaue, Corey Ellis, Rioli, Markov and Short are still in their first few years and still developing, not yet ready to take that baton.

Richmond need to hit the draft hard. They need to trade aggressively and attract young free agents. Dion Prestia is a good start, but the Tigers cannot stop there. Brandon Ellis, Edwards, Conca and Vickery could demand some fairly high draft picks from teams such as Gold Coast, Adelaide, Carlton and Hawthorn.

Richmond don’t need a rebuild. They need a renovation.

And since the Tigers have sacked five of their assistant coaches just this Monday, including Brendon Lade and Mark “Choco” Williams, that renovation may be well and truly underway.

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About Paddy Grindlay

Paddy enjoys a good souvlaki and trying to kick droppies from the wrong pocket.

Comments

  1. Paddy

    Master of the understatement that the season was “rather disappointing’

    But then you hit it between the eyes with the para about toothless.

    Simply awful, and thank god the Rd 23 loss was off Broadway in the coveted late Sat slot that no one watches.

    Simple question for Tiger fans is who is our 6th best player, or 6th most important. I don’t know the answer to Q1 (Houli?) but have a horrible feeling the answer to Q2 is Hampson. as good as his year has been, and who would have seen that coming, if he is that’s a major indictment on us

    Roll on cricket too I say

    sean

  2. Grimes, Vlastuin, Griffiths – all great on their day. Markov will be tops.

    Hampson and LLoyd have been solid and at leats improved.

    The rest – poo they stink.

    I still don’t get the sack 5 coaches and keep 1 – surely it’s easier to keep 5 and sack one, and se if that works.

    Hardwick is a protected species. They should take his DNA and splice it with michael Archer’s Thylacine specimen and maybe a real, actual miracle could occur?

    GO TIGEs, and here’s tro obsessing about the absence of legspinners in the land of legspin

  3. In response to Sean, I will try and list the list in order, based on now rather than potential or how good they used to be):

    Rance
    Martin
    Riewoldt
    Vlastuin
    Griffiths
    Cotchin
    Grimes
    Deledio
    Lloyd
    Hampson
    Markov
    C Ellis
    Miles
    Astbury
    Edwards
    Grigg
    Menadue
    Rioli
    Conca

    not interested in anyone not on that list. really like Sellers’ suggestion that Yarran move to Freo.

    wonder if we can get Prestia with a few second rounders given to GWS for academy picks in return for their first rounder. Lennon and 19 (if they win) for Prestia? keep 6.

    (second rounders to come for Vickery, conca, B Ellis and Houli.)

    pick up three kids in first 40, including one at 6 – get the best kick available, and two keys – and Prestia.

    and then a new coach. yippee!

  4. Thanks Peter

    Think Grimes is waaaaay to high, Rioli needs a solid summer on the weights, still rate Houli, and agree on Yarran proposal. Think you have Lids about right, sadly

    Why does Prestia want to come to us I wonder, what’s he see that none of the rest of us can? Big crowds, tradition, or just really really wants to be in Melbourne?

    If Tyrone does a Brian Lake at Hawthorn, I’ll spew up!

    sean

  5. go Dylan!

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