Grand Final – Adelaide v Richmond: What the #$%^ was that!!

What the #$%^ was that!!

In the last month about 300,000 people packed the MCG, to watch the magnificent, snarling, brawling, seething collective that is the Tigers, despatch the Cats, Giants and Crows. Only Bulldogs fans have an inkling of how good this feels, the sheer joy and relief of what has just happened, after such a long, long wait.

Firstly, the Tigers were just too good

Post match, Adelaide Captain Tex Walker, summed it all up “Firstly congratulations to Richmond, too good.” Yep to good, pure and simple. No excuses, no crap about home guernseys, the MCG, the tribunal or the dog eating their homework. Adelaide as a collective, simply failed to deal with the Tigers manic pressure. And there were a few individuals, including Walker (5 touches to 3/4 time), who were completely dismantled by their Tiger opponents.

Before the game, I felt if the Tigers could bring their pressure game, that would give them a fighting chance. The game style has stood up all year (with two well documented exceptions), particularly in the two previous finals, which gave much reason for optimism. But it can leave Richmond at risk in close contests. It was a two horse race after all, although you wouldnt have known it from some of the media coverage in the lead up.

Warning signs there early

Despite Adelaide being ahead by 2 goals at the first break, the warning signs were there early, the Tigers had missed 3 shots on goal which flattered Adelaide a little, and the game was following a familiar pattern, you could see and feel Richmond’s game building. Just as it had in the other two finals, where they built pressure slowly to halftime, then overwhelmed the opposition in the second half. But it takes them time to bring it, particularly in the first 15 minutes when games tend to be a bit more helter skelter.

“..they brought really good pressure. We always new they would, but we just couldn’t adapt to it” Brad Crouch

Despite only leading by 9 points at half time, the Tigers had kicked 4 goals to none in the second quarter, and there was a little voice in my head that said “it’s building, they clearly don’t like it, if we can maintain it, then maybe, maybe…..” – but as a Richmond supporter, these thoughts can be dangerous.

Respect is hard to come by

Someone who I think is a pretty good football judge, having watched the Prelim Finals on TV, said to me “I didn’t see much from your lot against GWS that would worry the Crows”. That gave me pause for thought, because having watched the prelim live I thought quite the opposite.

Perhaps when watched on TV, it is much harder to appreciate the impact on the game of Richmond’s pressure and running, given the cameras focus in close, than it is when you watch the game live. They can be quite in control of games despite not having a great score advantage. Maybe the Crows underestimated the impact of the Tigers’ game plan, through not having seen enough of the Tigers live? Or maybe there was a little lack of respect there, a lack of recognition that this Richmond team was very different those of recent years

The Tigers turned around every loss they had during the season in the return bout. They learnt and adapted from those losses, including the big loss against Adelaide. For example the Crows had only one goal from a chain of play from the defensive half in the Grand Final.

Conversely, it was not apparent that the Crows had learnt from the Tigers. Many of the Crows players were quoted after the game referring to the fact that they thought they were the best side all season, and maybe that’s true, however they only finished half a game above Richmond – perhaps not that much better after all.

A game played on Richmond’s terms

“We didn’t play the game our way at any stage – Richmond brought the pressure and we weren’t able to play the game our way at all” said Tom Lynch on ABC.

The Tigers brought their direct game style to bear, with the focus on kicking rather than handball, gaining territory, then holding the ball in the forward half. The Crows who prefer playing down the middle of the ground, were forced to the boundary line, Richmond compressing their time and space, forcing them to try to relieve the pressure by finding space through handball, rather than gain ground through kicking. Richmond forced Adelaide to play out the game on their terms, and the Crows had no answer.

Simplicity and collective effort are things of great beauty in sport. The genius of the Richmond game plan is in two parts. One is in its simplicity, the other is that it draws much greater contribution from the collective. Run, pressure, tackle like a bastard, hit every contest like its your last, anything else, including possessions and goals is simply a bonus. This allows players to make a significant contribution to a game, even when statistically they may not be playing all that well. It’s often said about Grand Finals that your bottom six can win the game, this game style means your bottom six on the day, as opposed to the last six picked, can contribute significantly to the win, even if they are having a statistical mare, something much more powerful.

This has given the Richmond forwards in particular great freedom, the focus moved from scoring goals to applying relentless pressure, which then made scoring goals easier or provided more opportunities to score. As Damien Hardwick said “as much as coaches like me think it’s rocket science, it’s not really”

No matter, contested ball is king

Richmond out worked Adelaide at the contest, they had extra numbers there, more tackle pressure. Dustin Martin managed 22 contested possessions alone, a feat only ever bettered in a Grand Final once before, by the great Simon Black for Brisbane. There is no doubt, despite some herculean efforts by others, he was the best player on the ground. A key factor in Richmond winning was because they won the contested ball, and Martin won contested ball more than any other player. Norm Smith Medallist all day long.

Not much left to say about the man who broke over 100 tackles this season, with daylight to the next best in the comp Dangerfield with 25! Was it the best year ever by a footballer? L Matthews is probably a fair judge so lets just leave it at that.

A few special mentions

Trent Cotchin, much maligned outside the club, was drafted by the Tigers because he was recognised (at 18 years of age) as a future Richmond captain. He may have taken some time to grow into his skin, not helped I’m sure by the trials and tribulations that come with being the leader of the Tiger army, but he was outstanding, a very skilled battering ram who led from the front throughout the finals series.

Enter stage right Jack Graham. Left on the draft shelf until pick 54, Richmond could hardly believe their luck when they were able to get him. ‘Fridge’ or as I prefer ‘Little Dusty’, bashed and crashed his way through 5 AFL games to become a premiership player. He has won more Grand Finals than he has played in losing Richmond games. Moved to Sloane in the second half this 19 year old boy stopped him dead in his tracks, and kicked another two goals himself to add to his first half goal

 

Wippet’s Best: D Martin, A Rance, B Houli, J Graham, S Edwards, D Prestia

 

Three other things..

The Crow stare…. I mean really – give me fecking strength, thats a perfect example of a numnut consultant allowed on the loose in your organisation. Encouraging everyone to put their hands down their pants and have a rummage on national television – downright embarrassing for all concerned. Fecking hilarious when the Tigers all ran off and left them clutching their whatsits and staring at nothing

The headline of the finals series, Adelaide Advertiser on the Saturday morning after the Crows Prelim Final Win “Flag Win Now Formality” – now that is more than a little amusing.

 

Read more from our extensive Grand Final coverage here

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    I think you’ve nailed it everywhere Wippet. Unfortunately.

  2. Nice turn of phrase in the final paragraph.

  3. steve todorovic says:

    Rippa article, Wippet. Perfect analysis. You might want to send a copy to the Addy Advetiser editor and their chief footy writer, Michaelangelo Rucci. Rucci tipped the Tigers wouldn’t get within 40 points and the game would be over early in the 2nd half. The Karma train hit him right between the eyes. The whole city of churches thought they only had to show up to take home the Cup. Like you, I loved the way the Tigs ran off to their positions with smiles on their faces, enjoying and living in the moment, as the wax dummies stared off into the ether. It explained a lot about how the two teams approached the game and ultimately, how they played it. Thanks again for giving us the opportunity to re-live what was a wonderful day for all the Tiger faithful.

  4. Joe De Petro says:

    To be fair to MR, he was right, he just had the team names in the wrong place.

    Love it, wippet.

  5. Terrific summary Wippet. Welcome aboard the Knackery. Like the Lotto numbers, its all so bloody obvious on Sunday morning. Enjoy the moment. There’s another draw next year.

  6. David Hughes says:

    Love your work. I think Jack Graham is the next Richmond captain.

  7. Mark Duffett says:

    My bet is that Rucci, being a Port supporter since forever, knew exactly what he was doing. Do not underestimate the power of the dark side.

  8. Thanks all for the kind words

  9. Love the bit about the Crow stare. Was always a nitwit idea to me, OK while you win, when you lose you look stupid, as they did.

    Steve, the whole city did not think it a foregone conclusion, many secretly rubbed their rosary beads and looked to the ex-Port man Hardnose to save us from a fate worse than death.

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