Finals Week 1 – Brisbane v Richmond: Captain’s call

 

 

 

When Trent Cotchin of the Northern Knights was taken at selection two in the 2007 draft, Richmond’s Head of Recruiting Francis Jackson and Football Director Greg Miller regarded him as the most complete footballer they had access to. Jackson recalled, “You think about some of them constantly. But not Trent. I always felt sure about Trent.”

 

In fact we always felt sure about Trent. Balance, poise, exquisite skills, a maturity beyond his years and a hairstyle as perfect as Jimmy Neutron, boy genius. A leader who grew into his role to the point where he was able to reveal his vulnerabilities and yet maintain the trust and affection of his followers. An exemplar who added a hard edge to his fluid ball-winning moves.

 

He had his first taste of captaincy as a 20-year-old against Melbourne in Round 4 of the 2010 season when skipper Chris Newman was missing due to injury. He became Richmond’s official captain in November 2012. He was 22 and had just completed his fifth season, a brilliant campaign in which he would ultimately be awarded the Brownlow Medal along with Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell. Chris Newman had told his teammates before the final match of the 2012 season against Port Adelaide that he was standing down. A couple of months later Cotchin was waiting to commence a pre-season weights session when he was summoned to Hardwick’s office along with Brett Deledio, the other candidate for the position. Hardwick told the pair how the playing list had voted. Cotchin received the nod because his fellow players felt that he inspired those around him and had the maturity to handle the pressure and responsibilities of the job.

 

He immediately stamped his mark upon the position when he opted to retain his number nine guernsey, breaking with the recent tradition of inviting Richmond skippers to adopt number 17, made famous by the most renowned field general of them all, Jack Dyer, the iconic Captain Blood.

 

Cotchin played his first senior game in Tiger colours against Geelong in 2008. He had been named as an emergency. After a limited pre-season due to achilles soreness and only four games in the reserves, he was warming up to play for Coburg, Richmond’s feeder team of the day, in a match against Geelong’s VFL combination at the MCG. Heavy rain was expected and coach Terry Wallace felt the side was top heavy. The decision was made to omit Adam Pattison and to promote Cotchin for his debut.  The excited youngster was sent across the park to Punt Road where he cooled down and kept up his energy levels by dining on a plate of jam sandwiches. He goaled with his first kick in league footy when he scrambled one through from the square in a crush of players. He added another one later on as the Tigers battled on gamely in the heavy conditions before going down to the Cats by 30 points.

 

Richmond collided with Brisbane last night in a qualifying final at the Gabba, just like they did in the 2019 series. The Lions failed on the big stage and the Tigers’ domination set the tone for its Grand Final demolition of GWS at the end of September. On the same occasion that Damien Hardwick becomes Richmond’s longest serving coach, Trent led the Tigers for a record 169th time. A fitting occasion with a place in a preliminary final was there for the taking. He surpassed the achievement of Percy Bentley, who captained them in 168 games from 1932 to 1940, taking on the role of captain-coach from 1934. Bentley played in both the 1932 and 1934 premiership teams. In his last game he led the Tigers against Melbourne in the 1940 Grand Final.

 

I’m confident. The Lions haven’t beaten Richmond for 11 years. It’s a 15-0 score line. Richmond overwhelmed them at Metricon Stadium in Round 10. They’re obsessed with repairing their goal kicking woes after scorching their chances in their last two clashes with Richmond. One day Brisbane will beat the Tigers again; but it will happen in a run-of-the-mill game in the regular season when the stakes aren’t as high. A Lions victory tonight is about as likely as Angus Young wearing long trousers on stage in AC-DC’s next Australian tour. Yes, Tom Lynch hasn’t sufficiently recovered from his hamstring strain and won’t be available until our next game. No problems. We have a system.

 

We settle down to watch the match on TV, leaving the job of supporting the boys in person to our clan in the Sunshine State. Trent looks relaxed as he prepares to lead his brothers onto the field. He cracks a few jokes with Edwards, Baker and Grimes. He presses the flesh with each teammate as they emerge from the race. He chats to Martin and Vlastuin, who stand beside him in the line before the rendition of the national anthem. There is a delay in proceedings. Hardwick is late after answering the call of nature and he grins as he jogs across the oval to join his men. More laughter. It’s the relaxed approach which suits Richmond so well and which other clubs have attempted to emulate.

 

The Lions strike first when McCluggage feeds the long-kicking Daniel Rich. He’s on target. Cotchin records Richmond’s first possession with a slick handball after the next centre bounce. Later in the term he receives from Graham, deftly sidesteps and lets fly with his left boot for a goal, his first since last year’s Grand Final. He regularly guards Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale at stoppages and their prolific ball winner records zero possessions in the first term.

 

Dusty is playing his role of the illustrated assassin, repeatedly shrugging off opponents and launching the Tigers into attack. Things look good for the visitors. They are winning the clearances, rarely their strong suit, and are threatening to surge to a formidable lead.

 

In the second quarter Brisbane defenders try desperately to hold the line as they are assaulted by Richmond’s constant pressure and forward waves. But the goals don’t come. Then, the momentum shifts.

 

Rayner takes advantage of a rare Richmond error to bounce it through the empty goal square from beyond 50. Cameron streaks past Cotchin to the exact spot where ruckman McInerney deposits the ball and darts it through from an angle so acute that there wasn’t a gap between the posts that he could aim for. In the last minute of the half the ball is in Richmond’s attacking zone when Pickett is tackled by Neale and penalised for incorrect disposal. Bolton negligently plays on and kicks the ball away. It’s a 50-metre penalty. Bolton had conceded the same penalty and a goal to McInerney in the first quarter. Robinson and Zorko have been picking fights with Tigers for the entire game. Zorko deliberately antagonises Pickett, who retaliates by hurling him to the ground. It’s now a double penalty of 100 metres. Neale is at the edge of his range and looks to give off to Rich at first before going back and roosting it. The Lions are emotionally charged and lead by 13 points at half time, with the home crowd right behind them. The Tigers gave away 12 free kicks and four 50-metre penalties in the opening half. Cotchin summons his clubmates into a huddle and he addresses them before they leave the arena.

 

The Lions maintain their intensity in the third quarter. Richmond lose too many contests and fail to locate their targets. They make no inroads whatsoever. The absence of Tom Lynch seriously compromises Richmond’s chances. Lester subdues Riewoldt. Chol is unable to impose himself at all, gifting Harris Andrews with complete authority to take intercept marks and control the aerial traffic.  Martin is less effective after his incendiary start. Neale is working his way into the game. The Tigers stagger on the edge of the precipice, but Berry and McCluggage miss late chances to put the game beyond Richmond’s reach. They trail by 21 points.

 

In the last quarter Brisbane become conservative and are intent upon running down the clock. They continue to waste their opportunities and leave the door slightly ajar. Rioli scores the first major of the quarter. Bolton uses his pace and evasive ability to score a scintillating bouncing goal from the pocket. The Tigers are a chance! Only nine points down with six minutes to go. Score review! The ball is deemed to have brushed the post and the score is downgraded to a point. Cotchin’s long pass finds Riewoldt, who nails it from close range and reduces the margin to eight points. Then the Lions respond. McCluggage, so inaccurate throughout the season that he’s reluctant to try for goal himself, snaps and the two fingers go up. Vlastuin is adamant that he touched it, but the action took place in a spot where the video replay is inconclusive. The goal stands, the Tigers come off worst in another score review and it’s one more indication that it’s just not Richmond’s night.

 

It’s been done before. Hawthorn lost its qualifying final to West Coast before turning the tables on them in the 2015 Grand Final. Brisbane did the same to Collingwood on their path to the flag in 2003. The Tigers recovered back in ’73 and reversed their qualifying final loss to batter Carlton in the decider. In the meantime the team and its supporters need to bounce back from the disappointment of a loss they didn’t expect. The Tigers survive thanks to the precious double chance they earned by finishing third on the ladder.

 

Cotchin had 18 possessions at 50% efficiency. A reasonable performance in which he tried repeatedly to lift his teammates.

 

Bentley was involved in a pay dispute with Richmond after the 1940 Grand Final. He left the club and took up an offer to coach Carlton. Jack Dyer replaced him as captain-coach. Bentley maintained his position for 15 years, winning two flags. His heart was with Carlton, not Richmond, for the rest of his life, serving as a selector and committee member in the following decades.

 

Whatever happens to his team in this strange, virus-ridden year, may Trent Cotchin always remain a part of the Richmond family.

 

 

BRISBANE      3.1       7.2       9.6     10.9 (69)

RICHMOND    4.1       5.1       6.3      8.6 (54)

 

GOALS

Brisbane: Cameron 3, Bailey, McCluggage, McInerney, McStay, Neale, Rayner, Rich

Richmond: Riewoldt 2, Rioli 2, Baker, Castagna, Cotchin, McIntosh

 

BEST

Brisbane: McCluggage, Rich, Cameron, Lyons, Neale, Zorko

Richmond: Prestia, Short, Lambert, Cotchin, Martin

 

 

To read more from John, click HERE.

 

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Comments

  1. Enjoy reading your reports.
    Disappointing, but happy to keep up the playing momentum.

  2. John Green says

    Thanks Kate. I’m glad you liked the report. You never know, the Tigers might do it again from this position.

  3. It was tough watching on Friday, John. Brisbane’s pressure and slippery conditions forced us into more errors than we’ve made since those scrappy early rounds. We missed Soldo and Lynch more than I’d thought. Our first final against St Kilda since the 1973 First Semi. An omen perhaps?

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