Finals Week 1 – Richmond v North Melbourne: The Army Reflects

Long after this battle was over, members of the Tiger army could still be seen in their uniforms staggering back from the front along the fabled streets of Richmond. Some had been drinking their sorrows away; others sat alone in restaurants staring some-place else, captured in a state of disbelief as to what had played out a few hours before. On the steps of the Town Hall, a pair of golden stilettos had been abandoned. Their Cinderella was now off looking for a new Prince Charming; the movement that had got them there, like their allure, was seemingly all so yesterday.

Still, paid up members of the army as well as the reservists may well ponder on what might have been. Certainly for the first time for this scribe one has to question coach Hardwick’s judgment. The Griffiths – Conca selection ahead of the Ls – Lennon and Lloyd – who had ably contributed in winter’s last trimester almost reeked of panic. Ben Griffiths is developing quite a showreel of first quarter big marks and bigger stuff ups in front of goal. Reece Conca’s late last quarter conca-ed short pass that reaped the Kangaroos an immediate rebound goal epitomized not only the man but also one shy of match practice. In August you prepare for the G collecting grit not hours in the gym.

Throw in that ‘diabolical’ umpiring decision 20m from the Tiger goal five minutes from time that became a two goal turnaround and match decider, Tyrone Vickery’s stuff up moments later and Troy Chaplin’s statutorily mandated once a game brain fade in the third quarter and a Tiger victory coulda shoulda woulda happened.

On such a cushion may the faithful rest their pickled passions for the next six months but to do so would be to deny a few realities.

On not a single stat that counts did Richmond get close – start with scoring shots (18-30) and pass through inside 50s (42-55) to contested ball (115-148), marks inside 50 (6-14) and all the way to tackles (51-59) – and if these were all you were shown about the game you would feel strongly that the final 17 point margin deeply flattered Richmond. Just two Tigers got past 20 possessions for the game while Boomer Harvey alone racked up over 30, along with two goals.

The Richmond ‘leaders’ all went missing. Cotchin had the worst game of his career, Deledio was not far behind. Rance was serviceable in defence but his usually sensational attacking spurts were reserved for the last quarter only, Ellis’s run was nullified and Dustin Martin seemed to do little more than kick long without targets in mind. Of the marquee players, only Riewoldt could sleep soundly Sunday night and best not to mention the output of Shane Edwards.

The Kangaroos have a squad that continually confounds Richmond; a combination that scores freely against a defensive unit that is rightly rated as mean as any. If anything belled the cat on what was to come it was the fact Richmond could score seven goals in the second quarter of a final and not record that as a knock out blow; the Kangaroos had scored five in response.

While the brisk business done in the Punt Road souvenir shop before the game and the Tiger supporter ratio then teeming the outer perimeter of the MCG seemed around 8:1 may bear testament to a raucously rusted on supporter base, behind closed doors things were proven to be not so hunky-dory. The administration’s unseemly social media entreaty to the hurting to renew memberships that immediately followed the loss, along with the poor selections before and key player performances during it, perhaps told a truer tale of a club that may have the home and away portion of a season licked but which, frustratingly for the faithful, still finds spring a challenge to be conquered.

Comments

  1. Enthral long game this one. Well written Silver. I disagree on Rance. I thought he was (mostly) terrific. Steady and confident. Cotchin is a disappointment. Good footballer but not a natural leader. Richmond won’t win big games if he remains captain. He doesn’t seem to bring the team with him. Good luck in 2016.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht1fPxS9j_0 Silver Bullet,YoungWide,Premiership,Coach welcome aboard the clip says it all.Richmond have several good players but no absolute super stars to win finals but the last few fall away dramatically and cost finals lots of similarities to the last 2 years

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Keen observations there Mr Bullet.

    They could have done with a goal hungry half forward roaming the expanses of the MCG, arms thrust skyward after each of his four match-winning majors. Now there was a big game player.

  4. Andrew Starkie says:

    Great piece, Silver. And what a game; gripping, intense, enthralling. I scanned the ground as the teams lined up and thought North looked stronger at both ends. I expected our forwards to stretch Richmond’s defence, while at the other end, Jack appeared the Tigers’ only real forward threat. I was worried about Richmond’s onballers – Martin, Deledio and Cotchin – and the trouble they could cause, with their superior speed and skill. However, only Dusty showed up. His don’t argues and preparedness to run and take the game on impressed. He threatened to be the hero until the final few minutes. Ironically, North’s onballers turned the game in the 3rd term. Goldy produced his typical game, while Swallow, Boomer, Cunners and Dal Santo lifted. Swallow has emerged as a real leader this year. He doesn’t have the presence of a Hodge or Selwood, but he has a crack and has found a consistency to his game.

  5. It was agame of no halves. Really weird. I was never convinced we would win, nor lose, every improbable straight kick from 50 keeping the dream – and the fear – alive.

    Martin’s shot selection was bizarre at times. Kicking in front of Vickery when Jack had 10 yards on his man etc. He needs a bit of a reboot tactics wise.

    Cotchin is prone to going missing but Jacobs did great and nobody seemed to want to make them pay in return. The north set up in the middle was superb, even when we won the tap they seemed to read the hands better than us – which usually implies running and blocking, not luck.

    Some things I really didn’t like:

    * North’s fresher legs given how hot it was. If you weren’t in Bay 12 ibn the sun you have no idea, it felt like January. Worth 5% to them. Hate that sort of stuff, when 8 “has eanrt the right” to fiddle but somehow 5th hasn’t. Bad taste.

    * Harvey is a dirty little rulebreaker in the Stevie J mould but the umpires don’t seem to notice (unlike Stevie J). Harvey also played very welll when he wasn’t breaking rules, to my chagrin.

    * Lindsay Thomas really can be a muppet.

    * Higgins is a great get but Waite was tunreal. His running exemplary (see above re resting) and his marking superb.

    * what was up with the bouncing? the controlling ump had the yips and every time Ivan had to reset – on a hot day, against a fresher, taller, better opponent. and then the ball-ups are completely predictable and unwinnable. worth another 2%.

    * some footballers really can make dumb decisions. especially Richmond ones.

    * that non-free in the last bit was the worst decision ever. but arguably saved me $70 and a trip home from Homebush heartbroken, so I should be grateful.

    * Tullamarine is deserted at 8:30pm. Melbourne… global city… pfffft.

    * the slightly better team won. Was always a 50-50 game to me. no real home advantage stings a bit. think the system may need overhaul. may as well be 8th as 5th most of the time.

    For the future:

    * Hardwick on notice – again. Terrible selection re Griffiths. should have moved Cocthin forward.
    * Get Conca and Vlastuin into the middle now. we are too small, these two are tougher. And younger.
    * delist rampantly – Hunt especially.
    * consider Yarran and Johnson. but I would rather Zeibell than both of those.
    * chuck Griffiths on the table, potentially to enable a 3-wayer. He to the Blues, Yarran to us, Kreuzer to the Pies, Pie first pick to Carlton. (ignoring free agency complexities).
    * be more ruthless and win warly, top 4 or nothing.
    * Vickery palyed and rucked well and that goal had 90,000 laughing as one.

  6. Shin-boners have more spirit.

  7. matt watson says:

    For the fourth week in a row, North conceded seven goals in a quarter.
    This time, we kicked five.
    The game swung in the third term. Ten scoring shots to three.
    The margin could’ve been bigger.
    No point blaming the umpires. Both sides had it bad on occasion.
    I feel bad for Richmond. Today, I found Richo’s book in a second hand store.
    I texted my cousin and asked if he had it.
    He didn’t. I bought it and posted it.
    He said it would help take his mind off the loss.
    It probably won’t…

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