Round 13 – West Coast v Richmond: Ifs, Buts and Flags

 

 

 

 

 

Cracking game. Most enjoyable AFL game I’ve witnessed since the 2018 Grand Final (he would say that wouldn’t he).

 

It was hard, open, running end-to-end footy that felt more like an 80’s contest than the rugby mauls of recent seasons. A crisp, clear Perth winter’s evening the invigorating setting and venue for attractive footy.

 

This was two heavyweight champions – AFL’s most recent title holders – raging against the dying of the light. Both diminished by age and injury but still potent. More the third Ali-Frazier fight – the Thrilla in Manila – than the Rumble in the Jungle when more titles lay ahead of both contestants.

 

My Eagles without midfielders Shuey and Kelly; as well as defenders McGovern and Sheppard. But importantly reinforced by Yeo the welterweight bolstering a midfield of handy lightweights.

 

The Tigers without marking monolith Lynch, defender Astbury and midfielder Prestia. But it was the absence of ruck talisman Nankervis that swayed my tip to a confident “Eagles by 3 points” as we undertook our regular preview on the splendid river walk to the ground.  The Avenging Eagle told me I was being a pessimist. She had a point.

 

And so it proved. Nic Naitanui defined the game. When he was on the Eagles surged; without him we ebbed. He was our best at clearances as much as at taps. Why delegate crucial tasks to junior staff? Tap; grab; fend; handball; collect; run; kick. He just needs to improve his leg speed to be able to mark his own passes.

 

Chol was brave and clearly outpointed Oscar Allen in the first half. Nic decided Oscar was better forward than ruck and spared him the task after half time. Not a viable long term strategy but in a crucial game with a week’s rest pending – it was a no brainer for Nic to ruck most of the second half.

 

If Nic set the tempo the midfields defined the melody. Houli, Martin and Lambert a typically assertive Richmond brass section. Cotchin subdued. Bolton brilliant but wayward – strangely out of tune. Too much of a soloist to fit in with the orchestra? Shane Edwards serviceable – but who would have picked him for third best Edwards on the ground?

 

Dusty has a mensa footy IQ. With an Eagle clear and no hope of tackling he reached from behind to tap the hand as it released the ball to kick. So imperceptibly quick I had to rewind the replay three times that night to see the sleight of hand. A lesser player would have infringed or given up the chase.  He played nearly all the game in the midfield perhaps driven by the team need to counter Nic’s clearance dominance.  Criticism seems churlish, but in the last quarter he seemed driven to win the game on his own and either held the ball too long or kicked long to absent targets. Atlas shrugged.

 

The Eagles midfield is not as gifted without the two leaders of the string section, but Redden was tireless and Yeo powerful in the final movement. Unheralded Lukes Edwards and Foley compensated for Gaff who was having a Cotchin night.

 

Defences dominated. The two Jacks – Darling and Riewoldt – trumped by Kings Vlastuin and Barrass.  Vlastuin a parrot on pirate Jack’s shoulder all night, and eventually a tormenting voice inside his head – “Jacky want a cracker……or a kick”.

 

Riewoldt started brightly enough with early goals then uncharacteristically missed set shots before going AWOL in the second half.  The intercept marking of Barrass and Hurn saved the Eagles from impending disaster under a flood of Tigers forward entries in the third and early final quarters.  Hurn’s laser clearances finding forwards when none were open. One 50 metres long and 50 centimetres above a Tiger defender to the diminutive Jermaine Jones a metre ahead of another Tiger. Centimetre perfect.

 

Broad, Short and Grimes – gentleman’s outfitters for the discerning defensive unit – specialists in taking forwards to the cleaners.

 

What separated the two teams in the end? Perhaps the old trope that quick players get slower but  tall players don’t get shorter.  Our precise kick and mark game came to the fore in the last 10 minutes when the Tigers seemed to lack the legs to run the ball into their forward 50 for effective scoring shots.

 

Tom Lynch is the savviest mature player recruit since the Hawks took Lake and Frawley to bolster their premiership defence.  Lynch doesn’t have to mark or kick goals.  Without him there are few crumbs for Rioli and no target to draw defenders and make space for Riewoldt.  The missing piece at the centre of a splendid Tiger jigsaw.

 

With Darling sulking close to goal Josh Kennedy took on Jack’s usual role further up the ground offering the link between defence and attack.  His movement and agility like a Harlem Globetrotter power forward still showboating the dribbles, fakes and hand-offs to elude a hapless Washington Generals defence.  Nearly 34 years of age he moves better than most 24 year old talls, and as he told us after “played against Luke Edwards’ father Tyson at the start of my career”.

 

Who remembers Josh the Cleese-like Minister of Funny Walks with the stuttering run up from his early days at the Eagles?  Now the best set shot in the AFL. Powerful outside 50 and skilled from angles with either left or right foot. Like the best gaelic footballers he seems to have perfected the instep sidefoot as the most accurate method of propelling the ball precisely over distance.  

 

Both teams played some of their best football in a game where both were short of their best talent. 

 

In a season full of more “If’s” than a Kipling poem both teams will know:

 

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Premier again, my son

 

 

WEST COAST      3.0   7.1   8.3   13.7 (85)
RICHMOND         2.2   7.5   9.9   12.9 (81)

 

GOALS
West Coast: Kennedy 4, Waterman 2, Cripps 2, Allen, Naitanui, Jones, Ryan
Richmond: Riewoldt 2, Coleman-Jones 2, Lambert 2, Martin 2, Graham, Aarts, Castagna, Bolton

 

BEST
West Coast: Naitanui, Kennedy, Redden, Barrass, Yeo, Hurn, Foley, L.Edwards
Richmond: Vlastuin, Martin, Houli, Lambert, Broad, Short

 

Crowd: 50,834 at Optus Stadium

 

VOTES : Naitanui (WC) 3; Kennedy (WC) 2; Vlastuin (R) 1

 

(Rudyard Kipling’s “If” edited and amended by author)

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. So much easier writing about a game when we win! Yes, a cracker of a game, Peter, and a very absorbing final 10 minutes.

  2. Daryl Schramm says

    Wow. What a read. Yet to see the first half that I understand was a mighty match. If it is as good as the finish it will be worth taking a look. Very clever threads in your again profound analysis of a moving parts everywhere event. Your joy in witnessing a successful blue and gold eagle regime as distinct to the apparent frustrations derived from an earlier in life blue and gold eagle experience is understandable. And thank you for your timely, for me, Kipling reminder.

  3. Yep, I agree PB. It was a cracking game of footy.
    However, I am not so sure that I agree with your implied contention that 80’s footy was so much better than now.

  4. Stainless says

    Can’t dispute your comments about the quality of the game, PB. But realistically neither of our sides are going to go far in September. This was, frankly, a game thrown away by Richmond, and with it, any chance of top four. Some of our footy was absolutely breathtaking. But our ruthless hunger of 2017-20 is missing. Several times we had the proverbial foot on the throat, only for profligacy (complacency? lairising?) to spare the Eagles. This has been a pattern throughout 2021 and is an early but sure sign of a great side in decline. Even our key men – Messrs Bolton, Martin and Riewoldt – will look at squandered chances from this game with profound regret. Other important role players of past years – Caddy, Rioli and Castagna – had nights they’d prefer to forget. Your Eagles deserve massive plaudits for dragging themselves back into the game several times over, and for adhering to that most basic but overlooked football skill – converting opportunities. On a night when Hardwick lamented “lack of composure”, Hurn was composure personified and Barrass more than made up for his distinct lack thereof in that memorable MCG match in 2019. Like you, I’d thought pre-game that Naitanui would dominate in the absence of Nankervis. He did in parts but our two young blokes did better than I expected and I think there were numerous factors other than NN that led to your victory. But on overall form, there’s far too much of a gap between the “lions at home, lambs away” to warrant any serious discussion of Premierships and I see only three sure-fire wins in your tough run home. Maybe we’ll meet again in an Elimination Final – the result likely to be determined by venue!

  5.  Chris Rees says

    Great read Peter. The game left me clutching me head for a few hours.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’ve never Kippled.

  7. John Gordon says

    beautiful read Peter. Nailed the ebbs and flows and the influences.. Some great lines but ‘Broad, Short and Grimes – gentleman’s outfitters for the discerning defensive unit – specialists in taking forwards to the cleaners” .was inspired gold. Well done.

  8. John Butler says

    In pretty good form there, PB. Just like your team. :)

  9. I thought that Naitanui’s send-off of Riewoldt was an indication of just how powerful he is. Jack is 193cm and 95 kg.

  10. The Wrap. says

    The word you’re looking for there Stainless is finessing. Too much finessing. And you could have included Jack Riewoldt’s set shot across the body from a 45 degree angle as a squandered opportunity, too.
    The Tiges will learn from this and remember, they played 4 games last year to go back to back including a trip to Adelaide. Watch this space. ??

  11. Luke Reynolds says

    You lost me with the first line.

    Thoroughly enjoyed that West Coast v Richmond game, was fantastic footy to watch. Plenty of upside for the Eagles with who they have to come back in.

  12. Thanks all. My sporting priorities these days are golf played; golf watched; Swan Districts then Eagles. Funny how our preferences fluctuate but a ripping win shocks me out of my torpor.
    I spent a lifetime buying the Budget/Record and jotting in all the goal kickers; incidents and themes that seem important in a game. This is the first year I haven’t as Covid reduces AFL Media to player lists and platitudes. I get more emotionally involved in a game of footy than anything – my licence to return to the innocence (idiocy?) of childhood and adolescence.
    The great Cats man Senator John Button called Parliament House a boarding school for grown ups and I regard footy matches the same. So I always try to embrace the sheer brilliance of a Nic Nait, Dusty or JK and admire the bloody minded craftsmanship of a Vlastuin or Redden.
    And muse the eternal verities of how or why are we winning or losing? As my in-game texts with Mr Wrap attest I spat the dummy half way through the last quarter and reluctantly accepted a gallant loss.
    Richmond supporters seem to be struggling to do the same. Divine right of kings? I try to avoid footy shows, talk back and the bleeding obvious but here goes – your Lynch-pin will be back soon.
    Thanks for all generous comments. Will write again soon. The cheque is in the mail.

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