Round 15 – St Kilda v Richmond: When a Saint goes marching out

 

It appears as if the executioner is sharpening his blade for St. Kilda coach Alan Richardson. His employers are losing patience with him and he’s about to go the way of a host of individuals who achieved their dream and started their AFL mentoring careers with drive, optimism and ambition. He’s probably one big loss away from being terminated by a flailing board of management after the Saints’ 56-point loss to Brisbane last weekend.

 

“If he keeps improving Alan will still be our coach,” intones Football Manager Simon Lethlean. In other words, he’s on death row.

 

My father knew Alan Richardson. Dad was introduced to the East Burwood Football Club by a former workmate after the family moved house to Vermont South in 1977. Dad grew to love the club and fulfilled various volunteer roles at training and on match days until his death in 1991. Richardson progressed through the junior ranks to play seniors for the Rams. He made a few appearances for North Melbourne’s reserves before seizing his chance at Collingwood and making his debut as a 22-year-old in 1987. Richardson was a regular selection for the Magpies during their premiership year of 1990 until he suffered a collarbone injury in their semi-final win over Essendon. He did everything asked of him in the final training session before coach Leigh Matthews bumped him without warning as they left the field. The collarbone went and so did Richardson’s one chance to play in an AFL premiership team.

 

He played 114 games for Collingwood before returning to East Burwood and coaching them to Division One flags in 1999 and 2000. He continued his apprenticeship at Coburg and the Western Bulldogs before eventually taking the reins at Moorabin before the 2014 season.

 

My boy played with Richardson’s son at the Warrandyte Under-19s. Occasionally we’d see Alan at Saturday morning matches.

 

Now it’s come to this. The vultures are circling Marvel Stadium and the former powerhouse of East Burwood is languishing in the fourth division of the Eastern Football League.

 

There’s a quiet confidence at Tigerland. Despite being in ninth place on the ladder with a poor percentage and being savaged by their worst run of injuries in living memory, Richmond believes it can launch a significant challenge for a top eight spot in the latter part of the season. Some big guns are being wheeled out for today’s hostilities with the promise of more reinforcements in the coming weeks. Cotchin, Edwards, Astbury, Lambert, Short and Soldo return to the line-up to take on the Saints – who would surely be demoralised after the recent press speculation on the future of their leader. Richmond needs to win by as much as possible to get their percentage back in the black. Is it therefore fade to black for Alan Richardson?

 

Perhaps I underestimate the bond between players and coach and the “let’s do it for Richo” syndrome. The Saints come out fighting in the first term and boot the first three majors of the game. Jack Steele does his utmost to unsettle Cotchin and they take every opportunity to push and shove their adversaries at stoppages. Sydney Stack is stationed in attack and takes a speccy before opening Richmond’s account at the 20-minute mark.

 

The match plays out in phases with one team and then the other dictating terms. The Saints seek to maintain possession by passing to each other across their defensive zone before seeking available targets. The Tigers hit the front for the first time through Shai Bolton before St. Kilda boot four in six minutes to take their lead out to 23 points halfway through the second quarter. I grow apprehensive. If Richmond goes down here we can kiss the finals a tearful goodbye. But a couple from Stack and another from Chol reduce the margin to four points at half time. Despite being renowned as the most inaccurate outfit in the competition, St.Kilda have seven on the board without registering a single behind.

 

Any third term jitters for the Saints after their collapse against the Lions a week ago? Even though much of the quarter is a stalemate, the game is quite entertaining. Martin and Prestia rack up possessions in the middle. The return of Jayden Short as a running back has enabled Stack to play forward with telling effect. Mabior Chol is a leaper at centre bounces and agile enough to compete on the ground when the ball is in dispute. It’s Richmond by seven points at the final break.

 

Everything comes together for the Tigers in an immensely satisfying seven-goal final term. Stack adds his fourth. Chol takes advantage of a St. Kilda no-show at a boundary throw-in to bound in, seize the ball and pop it through for his third. A previously unsighted Castagna weaves his way through heavy traffic in the pocket and scores with a goal-of-the-round contender. Tom Lynch, having been plagued by a miserly Jake Carlisle and a bout of wastefulness, takes two superb contested marks and brings his total to a respectable three goals for the afternoon. As fatigue sets in, the Saints revert to form and spray their shots at goal. They score 3-10 in the second half and the Tigers boot six of the last seven goals of the match to win by 33 points, a margin that doesn’t reflect the closeness of the contest. The young Saints lack polish but are far from disgraced.

 

Alan Richardson survives for another week, and good luck to him. The experienced Hannebury is a welcome acquisition. Bruce provides a willing target in attack and he must have been heartened by the form of recent additions such as Marshall, Clark, Hind, Coffield and Parker.

 

But it’s a tough industry. With his fortunes aligned with an overly optimistic expectation of finals footy in 2019, Richardson continues to await the dreaded pat on the shoulder from the CEO.

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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Comments

  1. Rulebook says

    John for all the analyzing which is done of footy watching this game as a neutral it was a great reminder of to use ex Ad Uni coach,John Griffen favorite it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain the odd bounce of the ball and as you correctly said fatigue re the Saints was important.Stack is a beauty ( what a load of crap re the criticism of him congratulating,Betts ) The tigers still in with a chance thank you

  2. Surely the W/L column cannot be the only measure of a coach’s performance?
    St Kilda have been cruelled by injury this season. Richardson never stood a chance.

  3. To me the true measure of a coach is whether players and team are getting better. When you change out a coach, you usually take steps backward until everyone meshes with the new regime. The Saints appear to have at least five winnable games left (six if you count the Swans) and so better benchmarks of their development. If they win a chunk of those and show the requisite effort, I say give Richo one more year to see what he can do without all the injuries. The Saints are definitely improved from last year and finally have quite a few promising youngsters. They’re just not good enough yet to beat some teams even with a maximum effort. It’s not like a new coach could wave a magic wand and turn them from frogs to princes. We’re just not there yet.

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