Round 12 – Richmond v West Coast: Tiger Tiger burning not so bright

 

 

Perhaps the recent change in Richmond’s fortunes can be attributed to Damien Hardwick finding out all about tigers on the Discovery Channel. The big jungle cats silently stalk their prey before surging with raw aggression for the final ten metres or so. They don’t announce their intention by setting off from too far away. After killing their quarry they eat their fill before hiding the remains and dining again at their leisure.

Earlier in the season Richmond’s game plan was characterised by frantic hell bent for leather style running out of defence. Exhilarating to watch when it worked, but when it didn’t it was very ugly indeed. Fans were subjected to the sight of streams of Tigers sprinting into the forward 50 with nothing in their hands, with the all-important football having been relinquished in areas so exposed that it made it impossible to defend against the inevitable counter attacks. Now the Tigers are more refined. They cleverly alternate the speed of their forward moves. Sometimes they slow things down and control possession. Then it’s a quick rake of the claws with the devastating six-pointer. It’s that final ten metre charge after the stealthy approach through the rainforest. If they do lose the pill they are more organised and far less likely to be punished on the rebound.

Easy! After four straight wins the Tigers are being proclaimed as legitimate contenders by the press.

There’s some other things that Hardwick may have learned about tigers in the wild. Males only need to eat about once a week. This fits in nicely with the rhythm of the home and away season. And they hunt at night, which means that we need more evening fixtures like this one.

And who has West Coast beaten so far? They specialise in savaging bottom teams.

Naitanui soars above Maric at the opening bounce and palms the ball to the running Luke Shuey. The Eagles immediately take flight. The panther from the west jumps all over the big man from St. Albans, wins plenty of ground ball and boots two early goals. Gaff, Masten and Yeo are quick and inventive in the midfield. The Eagles blitz the Tigers in defensive pressure, spread and forward efficiency. I am compelled to reconsider the convictions I held before the game.

Maybe the bye has removed the Tigers from their natural habitat and blunted their hunting instincts.

They revert to the habits they developed in captivity in the first six rounds of the season. Constantly fumbling under pressure and turning the ball over. Richmond supporters are beside themselves with frustration at each misdirected kick. I lose count of the occasions that the ball lobs harmlessly into the hands of Jeremy McGovern, whom I had confidently predicted would not take his place in the West Coast line-up because of the leg injury he suffered in the previous round. In this situation he merely has to stand in the right spot for the ball to be delivered to him. Richmond’s much vaunted tall forward set-up of Riewoldt, Griffiths and Vickery is being outshone by the Kennedy, Darling and LeCras trio.

It takes three running, powerhouse goals from Dustin Martin to keep the Tigers in the match in the first half. Cotchin earns a lucky free just before the half time siren. He slots it and the Tigers stride into the sheds with an unexpected three-point lead.

Surely the Tigers are waking from their slumber. But that’s not the case. Richmond’s narrow lead lasts for all of two minutes as West Coast lands five goals to one in the first 14 minutes of the third quarter. Rance and Kennedy are engaged in an enthralling duel. The bearded spearhead briefly breaks his shackles and boots two of the set of five. Riewoldt and Deledio miss vital shots for the home team.

The game has been free-flowing up until this point, but becomes bogged down in Richmond’s forward half as the Eagles fall back to defend their four-goal break. It’s like waves crashing against a seawall and the Tigers are unable to make any headway.

As I explain to my increasingly embittered teenage son, if your key playmakers are only in moderate form, apart from Dustin Martin and Brandon Ellis, and your opposition counterparts such as Naitanui, Priddis and Shuey are on song, you’re going to get beaten in this competition. Sometimes you get outplayed.

Perhaps the Eagles are the real deal and are set to confound the doomsayers, like me, who wrote them off at the beginning of the 2015 campaign. As for Damien Hardwick, he needs to get back on the Discovery Channel and to find out how to keep poachers from sneaking into the forest.

 

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good summary John of the game but go back further re the draft if the tigers were fair dinkum about having a crack at the holy grail and draft for needs they had to draft,B Grundy and this year Lever or Durdin,drafted to be competitive( and keep there job)not plan and get a list together to try and win a flag

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