Round 1 – Richmond v Carlton: The Minus Touch

The Minus Touch is an exquisite malapropism coined by my mate Cammy. He didn’t mean it. Intent doesn’t matter, really – do you think Archimedes was trying to prove displacement when he got in the bath?

To have the Minus Touch is to leave every situation worse than when you found it. For 105 minutes of their 2016 season opener against Carlton, the Tigers had the Minus Touch something shocking. Our play oscillated between tentative and clumsy against the team supposed to be the most toothless basket cases in the AFL. Yet off a single fifteen-minute burst in the last quarter, the under-strength Richmond came away with a nine-point victory.

You could feel it in the late March air as we trooped into the MCG. Richmond supporters normally hungry for a Blue humiliation were quietly hoping to just get there. No Deledio, no Maric and the latter replaced by Shaun Hampson. A captain under immense pressure to perform. Three years of sluggish starts that hobbled any top four dreams. Carlton with nothing to lose and the tantalising potential of number one Draft pick Jacob Weitering’s debut.

“It’s the perfect storm for a classic Tiger meltdown and choke,” gloats Hunter as we idly kick the ball around on the grass under the MCG oak trees.
Hunter was a vicious Carlton pessimist in the days when the Bluebaggers were a competent outfit – he’s kicked off the Bolton era with a masochistic optimism. The man just wants to hurt. I refuse to rise to the jibe – a man is prisoner of his words and master of his silences. Mikey and Jack have been stoking Hunter’s fire for days: the words “I can’t see the Richmond defence stopping our forward line” can be accredited to him. Jack is Carlton but his analytical brain overrides his heart. Mikey is siding with the underdogs tonight while Kasee is a Tiger in name only. I’m up against it.

Hunter is right about one thing, though – the Blues have nothing to lose. In the first five minutes, they surge forward with the ball and are left rueing their lack of a forward line. As the Tigers hang back, more concerned about neatly doing the right thing than adjusting to the aggressive Blues, Carlton fritter golden opportunities. All night, their key forwards combine for 3.3.

By half time the Tigers have eked out an eight-point lead with their minimalist approach. For the first time I can remember, I’m baffled at how we have the lead: Patrick Cripps is monstering the stoppages and it doesn’t matter how many Tigers try to tackle him, he breaks them all. Marc Murphy is orchestrating his side’s outside runners in Ed Curnow, Sam Docherty and Nick Graham. Ruckman Andrew Phillips is looking a real find on debut and Weitering and former Crow Sam Kerridge will be right at home if their Thursday night form is any indication. Levi Casboult is clunking marks… but… “My word,” groans Hunter as a set shot slices out on the full.
“How much is Sav Rocca on?” hypothesises Jack.

Conversely, Hampson, Steven Morris and Dylan Grimes are rolling around in the Minus Touch. Major ball winners like Shane Edwards, Dustin Martin, Brandon Ellis, Trent Cotchin and Anthony Miles are being buffeted in the Blue blizzard. Bachar Houli is getting more of the ball than is good for him. Our best players are Kane Lambert, Alex Rance, David Astbury and Kamdyn Macintosh, three of whom are defenders.

Nonetheless, Richmond soak up some time and then convert the first of the second half on the back of an error from Sam ‘Minus’ Rowe.
“This game is one goal from being over,” says Hunter. Captain Hyperbole strikes again.
Tiger debutant Daniel Rioli takes the advantage from a Jack Riewoldt free, dribbles it along the ground… and hits the post. The Blues work it forward and Phillips goals.
“That could break Richmond!” declares Hunter over the Carlton cacophony.

Twenty minutes into the third quarter and everything that can have gone wrong for Richmond has. Carlton are utterly unstoppable out of the middle, reducing the Tigers to witches’ hats. Their speed of hand is incredible, slipping between the Tigers like navy liquid. Cripps is a beast. Bryce Gibbs and Murphy don’t miss a target. Sam Docherty’s hustle is ferocious. Matthew Kreuzer lumbers… until he gets the ball, whereupon he is a white, ugly Andrew McLeod. Richmond were able to ride out the punches early but the Blues are now efficient. Carlton kick four in four minutes to flip the half time margin – the Tigers were so dominated that the margin could have been five goals.

It’s hard to know what to think as the final term starts. All those Richmond supporters desperate for a win, any way, anyhow, are relieved when Carlton run out of steam within five minutes. Lambert is nothing short of magnificent in the last quarter, but it’s Sam Lloyd who makes the match-winning difference – he bobs up with two excellent goals to put the Tigers clear at the siren. Dylan Grimes has conceded three free kicks, burned the ball and been made to look foolish in a one-on-one against Walker in a Minus-plagued performance. But he keeps plugging away and finally comes good with a crucial clearing kick and a spoil of Cripps’ shot on goal in the last minute.
Still. Few victories have been achieved with less efficiency and match control. Is that better for Richmond or Carlton, Hunter?
“Tigers got the four points, but lost a whole lot more,” Hunter surmises.

Richmond 4.1     7.2          9.5          14.8.92
Carlton     4.4      5.6       10.8          12.11.83
Best – (R) Lambert, Rance, Menadue, Astbury, Riewoldt, Townsend.
– (C) Cripps, Murphy, Curnow, Docherty, Kreuzer, Kerridge.
Goals – (R) Vickery 3, Riewoldt 2, Lloyd 2, Menadue 2, Edwards, Miles, Griffiths, Lambert, Vlastuin.             – (C) Wright 3, Everitt 2, Gibbs, Murphy, Walker, Kreuzer, Cripps, Phillips, Lamb.
VOTES: 3 – K. Lambert (R) 2 – P. Cripps (C) 1. M. Murphy (C)

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. Stainless says

    I can relate to all the emotions described in this report, but I think you’ll find that Nick Duigan retired after that infamous day in 2013. Or was this a deliberate reference to ghosts of Richmond’s past?

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