Round 13 – Richmond v Sydney: Love letter to the MCG

I’m suffering from MCG withdrawal. It’s not a footy withdrawal because I went to Etihad twice last weekend for a footy fix. But footy’s not quite the same at Etihad; it’s the MCG that I miss.

Part of my MCG withdrawal is wanting to be part of a huge crowd, to feel a buzz of excitement in the air and to be energised by the roar of the crowd. I haven’t been to the MCG since Round 5: first for Richmond’s thrilling come from behind win over Melbourne and then to see Essendon beat Collingwood on Anzac Day. Dreamtime at the ‘G, a staple of my football year, was missed because of a weekend away, as was the disappointing loss to Fremantle.

There was no footy at the MCG during Round 11 so my sister and I spent an afternoon on a guided tour of the MCG and a visit to the Sports Museum. Our not-so-knowledgeable tour guide happily imparted misinformation about the identity of the original clubs in the VFL and the 1993 Brownlow medalist, but this didn’t matter because we had a behind-the-scenes look at the ground we’ve visited so many times. When empty, the MCG has a strange calmness, like it’s waiting patiently to be brought to life. It’s the people, not the place, that makes the MCG special.

So, I’m off to the MCG today to see the Tigers take on the Swans. After hopping off the train at Jolimont, the vast expanse of Yarra Park reinforces the importance of footy to Melbourne, placing the MCG at the centre of the known universe with no distractions. After a lifetime of coming here to the footy, I still feel a sense of awe during the walk to the ground. A quick look at the statue of Kevin Bartlett reminds me of the Tigers’ glory days.

As the game begins, half the ground is bathed in brilliant sunshine with a clear blue sky overhead. A brilliant first quarter sees the Tigers 29 points up at the first break. Shai Bolton kicks his first two goals in AFL footy and an air of excitement fills the MCG. But Sydney were never going to roll over that easily, and after a tight second quarter, the Swans slowly but surely get on top. With ten minutes to go, Kieren Jack kicks a goal to put the Swans in front, and just before the final siren Gary Rohan puts the result beyond doubt.

The highly anticipated Lance Franklin versus Alex Rance match-up delivered on its promise, with Rance winning the duel by restricting Buddy to just one goal. Tempers flared when Buddy was reported in the second quarter for a high bump on Connor Menadue. Rance and Jack Riewoldt stood up for their team mate and the Richmond supporters booed Buddy loudly for the remainder of the game.

Dissecting a loss is hard, but I’m going with the glass half full approach. Sydney were in red hot form, having won four of their past five games with their horror start to the season a distant memory. The Swans needed to win to get their season back on track, and their experience and composure held them in good stead. Richmond played a lot of young players – six aged 21 or younger – and at times during the second half, these Tiger cubs didn’t make the right decision or didn’t move the ball fast enough. The lessons learned from these close games will help the kids grow as players.

The five close losses this year show that the Tigers are not that far off the pace, but their 1 goal 4 behinds in the final quarter left Tiger fans to yet again contemplate the ‘what ifs’ as they streamed from the MCG.

Heading back to Jolimont station, I glance over my shoulder at the MCG. I’ve missed you; I’ll see you next weekend.

Richmond    5.3   7.6    9.7   10.11 (71)

Sydney      0.4   3.5    7.6   12.8  (80)

Richmond: Riewoldt 2, Martin 2, Bolton 2, Cotchin, Castagna, Edwards, Lloyd
Sydney: Reid 2, Franklin, Hewett, Lloyd, Heeney, Parker, Hayward, Papley, Kennedy, Jack, Rohan

Richmond: Rance, Houli, Cotchin, Ellis, Astbury, Martin
Sydney: Lloyd, Newman, Heeney, Jones, Mills, Hannebery, Reid

3 Rance (Richmond); 2 Newman (Sydney); 1 Heeney (Sydney)

Crowd: 58,721

About Gill

As a youngster, Gill thought that frequent Richmond premierships were assured, but in the many years since 1980 she realised her folly and distracted herself by crunching numbers at a university. The magnificence of the Tigers’ 2017 season has restored her faith in Richmond and all of humanity.


  1. Gill I put this in the other perplexing category, not the “how did we lose that one”, because I could tell at halftime they were going to get on top and some poorly timed misses eg Nankervis meant we weren’t far enough ahead

    no, this is in the second category, the how did we play so well for the first quarter then lose all cohesion and scoring? happened against the Crows, happened against the Dogs, and to the Giants to a lesser extent.

    I think we have only one game plan and it’s pretty easy to shut down and then the kids are not able to adjust and we don’t have the tall cattle to just keep bombing it in the way we did for the second half (pressure or deliberate tactics, it was just asking for trouble)

    to me that smacks of some gameday coaching and selection issues. we need another tall against a team like the Swans, who had the luxury of the 6 4 Rohan playing loose but able to chop out. even Batchelor on the bench so he could put in a contest upfront of required, or allow Astbury to go use that great marking to dob a couple without weakening the backs. we have 5 midgets, all young. surely overkill?

    or maybe it comes from doubt. Hardwick says we are never going to win by 10 goals. but, jesus a ruthless team would look at a 6 goal lead and think – get a couple more and these guys will crack, and we WILL win by 10 goals.

    i think there is a it of lairising that comes in when we are playing that well early and Castagna, Rioli and Bolton have some questions to answer, but J Caddy playing like he thinks it’s kick to kick in the schoolyard has none of the excuses they do. McIntosh’s terrible decision making is actually improving, and B Ellis at least does as many good things as he does stupid these days, but K Lambert needs to accept his limitations, or learn to think at pace.

    I would like us to have dragged this one from the fire and if Nankervis or Edwards had dobbed their shots early in the last, we may have, but it would have been a case of the slightly better team losing had we done that.

  2. Are we being too critical? Sure we need another tall down forward, but we don’t and we have to adjust somehow. If Hardwick only has the one game plan then it’s a million times better than the crap he served up last year. We have to remember the huge changes to the coaching staff and game plan over the summer. We now have a style that’s fantastic to watch when it’s working. All we need now is a plan B for when the likes of Sydney adapt. I think this will come, as will maturity in the younger players.

    The other thing we lose sight of is that it’s not just Richmond giving up an early lead. It’s been happing all season to all clubs. It’s a crazy season.

  3. Peter Warrington says

    While Lloyd should be the first one dropped, and potentially Grigg as well, and Caddy given a final warning re speccies etc, I have had a look at the young’uns. They are up and down individually, and certainly as a group are trending down. Fewer goals, rating points and even tackles.

    Surely time to give a couple a rest. Rioli looks out of sorts and has butter fingers, Castagna makes the wrong choices. Give Butler a bit more time off the bench. Make Short tackle. Play Menadue more forward, he has good goal sense. Tell Bolton to celebrate at fulltime.

    Vlastuin straight back in for hardness and flexibility, if 90%. Lennon in, but only if they are willing to give him 3 games. Miles on the bench. Markov back in.

    And find anyone over 6 ‘ 3″ who can step on the Carlton defender’s toes. (Would we take Tippett if there was a mid-season trade?) We are gonna struggle bigtime against Kreuzer I reckon. Looking at the list we might need to get McIntosh to play forward, he is 192 and an OK mark, and I never like him with ball in hand behind halfway anyway.

    here’s the stats for the kids BTW:

    13 11 10 9
    Swans Roos Bombers Giants
    P G B T P G B T P G B T P G B T
    Short 61 0 0 1 47 0 0 1 51 0 0 3 88 0 0 2
    Menadue 58 0 0 4 51 0 1 1 67 0 0 5 59 2 0 3
    Bolton 57 2 0 1 44 0 1 1 42 0 2 5 37 0 1 3
    Rioli 50 0 0 7 65 1 1 4 44 0 1 3 55 0 2 2
    Castagna 41 1 2 0 46 2 0 1 47 0 0 5 55 2 1 1
    Butler 20 0 1 3 63 2 1 1 DNP DNP

    287 3 3 16 316 5 4 9 251 0 3 21 294 4 4 11
    47.83333333 0.5 0.5 2.666666667 52.66666667 0.833333333 0.666666667 1.5 41.83333333 0 0.5 3.5 49 0.666666667 0.666666667 1.833333333

  4. saw a stat on that scared and validated me. in the second halves of our 5 losses, 4 of them close, we have been outscored 130-260. that’s a thrashing! and we are only averaging 26 points in the second half. terrible stuff…

  5. We should expect the kids to be inconsistent. We can’t hold them to the standards we expect of a player who’s been in the game for five to ten years. They are yet to be able to cope with the physical and mental exhaustion of a full season of AFL footy.

    What are the stats for our second halves if the Adelaide game is excluded?

  6. Stainless says

    I’m with you Gill. Saturday was a classic example of bigger stronger bodies outlasting a younger, smaller lineup. The positive was the terrific early intensity which came close to blowing the game away. Unfortunately some costly misses at key stages proved the difference. Our lack of scoring capability, especially late in games, is a concern but I think it’s just the reality of having a limited list, especially a lack of tall forwards. On that basis, I doubt that Richmond will hang onto a finals place this year, but I think the building blocks are being assembled in better fashion than I’d anticipated.

  7. Peter warrington says

    It was 19-68 at Footy Park, a Jagger/Richards nightmare.

    Which implies 111-192 in the other 4 losses. Which is average 28 for us, ie 4.4 in a half of footy. Yuk! And 48 for them, say 7.6.

    But I want to take out the Freo game too, where we torched them in the last quarter after being risible for 3. That was a 39-32 second half win to us (5.1 v 1.1 in q4).

    Then it becomes, for the core 3 games in question, 72-160, 24 v 53. Smashings.

  8. Now to inconsistency. I am completely chilled about 20yr olds having the odd loss of form or confidence. Jesus H christ, we put up with Taylor Hunt for a cluster of games, after all.

    But that’s not what is happening here. Dispassionate analysis (ahem) suggest that the whole cohort is losing form collectively. The trend is down. And our over-reliance on the as gamechangers means we are losing winnable games – though you could argue they are the only reason we have a chance in the two-edged first place?

    Anyway, the issues that raises for me are:

    1. Surely there’s an over-reliance on this type of player? Especially when other teams have worked out what we are on about… remember the terrible falls of North last year and Freo the year before when the gameplans were cracked.

    2. Why not give them a rest, a couple at a time, Get some confidence back into them.

    3. At some point. surely you have to accept that cameos from more than 25% of your team is enough. And that selection standards are still important to building club unity and a commitment to perfection?

    4. Or do these rules only apply to taller, slower players, named Markov, Lennon and C Ellis?

    5. Because, isn’t it true that this year is as open as 16, and 15, and it might be the best chance we have to go deep while we have Trusty and Tancebury and Jack and Nank in great form? Don’t we deserve a bit of here and now, as well as some imagined future?

    6. Because whoever won a Premiership based on their small, fast forward line. Other than Carlton 81-2, I mean?

    So, for this week, it’s:

    Grimes Astbury Vlastuin
    Houli Rance Short
    Markov Martin B Ellis
    Menadue McIntosh Lennon
    Butler Riewoldt Bolton
    Fo: Nankervis, Cotchin, Prestia
    I: Lambert Edwards Caddy Choi

  9. Caddy in for Miles, I got spooked by all the M’s in the front half

  10. ffs, reverse that. Meds o’clock…

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