Round 12 – Richmond v Geelong: For the love of Patrick Naish


by John Green


When my son was graduating through the ranks of the Ivanhoe Junior Football Club I was aware that former Tiger Chris Naish had a promising son a few years below the age level of my own boy. Once I had a chat with Chris as we waited at the pedestrian lights on Upper Heidelberg Road after an annual club presentation at the Girls’ Grammar. Patrick had been prominent in the awards and I put it to Chris that his offspring might one day find his way to Punt Road.


“We’ll see how it goes”, he grinned.


My son and I followed Patrick’s progress through the Northern Knights and were delighted when Richmond drafted him under the father son rule in 2017. I knew where the Naishes lived and couldn’t resist the temptation to cruise down their street with my son one day in the following  summer. We didn’t catch Patrick, but we saw Chris working in his garden. He cast a quizzical eye in our direction as we drifted past in the car but was otherwise undisturbed. A Richmond premiership poster adorned the meter box by the front door.


Now, after a series of outstanding performances at VFL level, Patrick makes his debut in Richmond’s clash with the top-of-the-table Cats.


What hope a seriously undermanned Richmond after another substantial defeat, this time against lowly North Melbourne in the previous round? The additional loss of Astbury and Ellis compounds Richmond’s problems.


But surely it’s as inevitable as the Law of Gravity. Even the best teams have to lose sometime. Every winning run eventually ends and I reckon it usually happens after six or seven in a row, especially in a situation like this when Geelong is two wins clear at the top of the ladder. I cling to this hope. The Cats have won seven in a row but haven’t been overly impressive in their two most recent victories over Gold Coast and the Swans.


The first quarter revives memories of Richmond’s fanatical mauling of Geelong in the 2017 Qualifying Final. The Tigers relentlessly harass and bludgeon their opponents, forcing them into hurried disposals and errors. Trent Cotchin ignites his followers with his fierce attack on the ball.


It’s a dream opening for Patrick Naish. He nails the formidable Zac Tuohy in a perfect tackle before accepting a handball from Higgins and drilling his first major in the big league. Tiger supporters rejoice as jubilant father Chris is displayed on the big screen and the Ivanhoe junior is mobbed by teammates. My son confidently informs me that “we’re on tonight.”


The Tigers dominate proceedings but outrageously waste opportunities. Lynch butchers an angled shot from point blank range and muffs another from 30 metres out. Caddy and Castagna’s shots sail out on the full and Prestia fails to connect properly when he surges into range. The Cats are without a goal by the first break, but Richmond’s lead should be far greater than the modest 11-point advantage they enjoy. If they can sustain their aggressive attack they can win it.


Richmond’s slender lead evaporates eight minutes into the second quarter when Rohan scores. The Cats begin to command the contested possession count and propel the ball to their leading forwards in Hawkins and Ratugolea. The big Fijian takes five marks during the term and rules the air. I can see why Geelong fans are so excited about him. The elusive Gryan Miers flits around the packs and kicks a couple. The Cats boot five in 17 minutes and a total of seven for the quarter. Top teams have the capacity to wind up to a higher gear when they really need to. Dangerfield, Duncan, Kelly and  Stewart begin to do as they please. Home supporters become embittered and indulge in some juvenile abuse of Gary Ablett. While Ablett has been getting himself into trouble recently with a series of clips to the jaws of troublesome opponents, it simply has to be acknowledged that he is one of the greatest players of his generation. Skilful, creative and brave.  Richmond’s pressure fades to black, their resistance crumbles and they are dangerously exposed. The delivery into their attacking zone is abysmal.


The fates conspire against the Tigers. Higgins appears to have scored with a kick around the corner and the goal umpire requests a review. He calls it a point and wants confirmation that the ball grazed the post. The review says one behind. I can’t tell from the images on the scoreboard, but it’s later confirmed that the system has failed again. Higgins’ goal would have broken Geelong’s run of goals and reduced the margin from 21 points to 15. Another shot from Higgins is touched and Martin hits the post. Butler kicks straight to Selwood standing on the mark. The ball is swiftly transferred to Hawkins, who duly converts. Vlaustin has his legs taken out from him in an encounter with Ratugolea, who apologises, before the ball ends up in the hands of Dangerfield. He spears it home just before the half time siren and the Cats have their jungle cousins at their mercy.


Geelong is up by 30 points and I see no way back. In fact the Cats boot eleven unanswered goals in the second and third terms before Lynch launches a lonely reply for Richmond. He is well down on form and confidence and must yearn for the return of the injured Jack Riewoldt. The Tigers enter their forward fifty more frequently than the visitors, but it’s all to no avail. In an era when fans and critics bemoan the inaccuracy of elite players the Cats have a posse of sharpshooters who rarely miss, with Hawkins as their chief gunslinger. Their goals keep coming.


The Cats are up by 74 points at the final change after a run of 15 goals to one. A lot of Richmond supporters have experienced enough for one night and stride purposefully to the exits, my son amongst them. He feels it deeply when the Tigers flounder. Geelong players stand around in groups discussing seating arrangements for the bus trip back home and their plans for the bye on the following weekend. They rouse themselves whenever Richmond launches yet another shambolic move into attack and apply just enough energy to stop them from scoring. They think ahead to sunnier days in September when they will surely vie for premiership honours.

It’s of some consolation to me that Patrick Naish displays pace, balance and sound kicking skills in a promising first foray in the seniors. I can’t help myself. I think I’ll drop an anonymous, encouraging note into his letterbox sometime in the next few days.

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