Round 20 – Richmond v Geelong: Be careful what you wish for

 

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

 

With rain expected tonight for Richmond’s big clash with Geelong I’ve made sure I’m well prepared. A towel to wipe our seats down and a yellow and black rain poncho which makes me look like a  bloated  wasp.

 

I’m always nervous when playing the Cats. It all stems from that 157-point annihilation they unleashed upon us at the Docklands in 2007, kick starting them on their path to three flags in the space of five seasons. That massacre was the first of Geelong’s 13 wins in a row over Richmond in a decade, a run which lasted until the Tigers’ barnstorming, emotional victory in the 2017 qualifying final. It’s not as if Richmond were slaughtered every time. The Cats won narrowly in 2012 (10 points), 2014 (five points), 2015 (nine points) and 2016 (four points). It’s been a while now since Richmond has won a game by six points or less – not since Sam Lloyd saluted after the siren against the Swans two years ago. I remark to my son how nice it would be if we could strike a blow for poetic justice by pipping the Cats by a less than a goal, although of course any margin will do.

 

Richmond looks stronger than the Cats. They swarm around their opponents like killer bees attacking a feral cat that’s ventured too close to their hive. Their trademark pressure is relentless. The Tigers’ fierce tackling forces Geelong into a chronic overuse of handball. They lose their composure and either relinquish the ball or lob it harmlessly to Richmond’s ruthlessly efficient defenders. When the Tigers seize the ball they run and spread like a tribe of schoolkids after the bell signalling the start of the term holidays. Jack Hawkins has been the toast of the competition following his bags of seven in successive weeks against Melbourne and Brisbane. Now he is being totally overshadowed by Alex Rance. Surely the title of Alexander the Great should be stripped from the conqueror of a few tin pot kingdoms in the fourth century BC and awarded to Richmond’s heroic number 18.

 

The Tigers dominate forward fifty entries. My son and I await the killer blow to end Geelong’s chances.  But the home team wastes its opportunities.  It’s only through the herculean efforts of their elite playmakers in Dangerfield, Joel Selwood, and Mitch Duncan that the Cats claw their way back each time the Tigers threaten to overwhelm them. Tim Kelly displays remarkable poise and balance for a mature age player who was running around with South Fremantle last season and working as sparky’s apprentice.

 

And why does Richmond earn fewer free kicks than any other team in the league? Is it because we apply so many tackles? Perhaps it stems from a direction from polo club socialist Gillon McLachlan to equalise the competition by penalising the team that sits on top of the ladder. Richmond fans grow increasingly irate as the match unfolds.

 

The game follows a pattern. In each of the second, third and final quarters the Tigers leap to leads in excess of 20 points, only for the Cats to reel them in. Higgins goals on the run nine minutes into the second term before Geelong replies with three of their own to reduce the margin to five points at half time. The Cats lead briefly at the start of the second half when Menzel plays on after a call of advantage in the teeth of goal. The Tigers build their lead to 26 points late in the third and are still up by 21 at the final break.

 

We anticipate the knockout punch at any moment. Riewoldt has the opportunity to lock and bar the cat door when he is awarded a free for a deliberately rushed behind in the first minute of the last term. He takes aim and misses from an acute angle. Tuohy and Menzel reply for Geelong to reduce the difference to ten points. These visitors from the country are outstaying their welcome. When Lloyd goals at the 15-minute mark Richmond’s lead is out to 23 points and we sense that the Tigers have almost completed the job.

 

But the Cats have proven themselves masters of stealing wins with devastating late surges. They are capable of rapid fire scoring in tight finishes, as they displayed a fortnight ago against the Demons. Their deadly trio of Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Ablett report for duty in the centre square.

 

Hawkins goals from a free kick. Guthrie soccers one through before Menegola taps the ball across the line from a scramble in the square. With this horrifying turn of events Richmond’s lead is shredded to only four points at the 26-minute mark. Be careful what you wish for. My pre-game musings on vanquishing Geelong by less than a goal have come back to haunt me. I don’t want this. Supporters around me frantically ask people with radio earplugs how much time is left on the clock. The Cats attack once more. This is Princes Highway robbery. Hawkins fires out a handball to an unmarked Ablett who sets sail from 25 metres out on a 45-degree angle. To my unmitigated relief his shot drifts right for a behind. Three points in it with a minute and a half to go.

 

The Tigers respond and control the closing stages. Lloyd lays a ferocious tackle on Henderson. Edwards wins an important contest in the centre. Dusty Martin sends a speculative kick forward and the ball dribbles across the boundary line by the behind post. It’s a safe place to park with only seconds remaining and Richmond hangs on in a nail-biter.

 

With Richmond established in top position and the Cats left slugging it out for a place in the eight with three rounds to go, these antagonists may have met for the last time in 2018. Time will tell.

 

Read more reports of Richmond’s win over Geelong HERE.

Comments

  1. Stainless says:

    It’s funny, John. I watched most of this game from behind the goals at the Punt Road end instead of my normal vantage point in the AFL members. I used to watch our home games from this spot back when Richo was in his prime and when we played with plenty of passion but very little science. On Friday night it was like being transported back 20 years. i felt like we were watching “unleash the Giesch” all over again, so chaotic and wasteful were our forward entries. You’ve captured the roller coaster mood of the game beautifully. I maintain that ugly though it was, this was a huge win for us and a huge loss for them.

  2. Jarrod_L says:

    Nice write up on a tight win, John – one small thing, Jack’s son Tom is the Cats forward who kicked the bags of 7. They look a little alike, but I’d be surprised if the senior Hawkins ever kicked 7, let alone twice in a row!

  3. Daniel Flesch says:

    Great write-up , John . Watching on telly 1500 kms.north of the G, your account rings true and evocative. Well done .
    One point , though… If Richmond get fewer free kicks than other sides , it’s because that’s what they deserve. Even the ones wrongly awarded tend to even each other out , I reckon. Collingwood supporters used to complain about umpires’ bias against them , I hope Tigers supporters don’t follow. Your mob’s on top and looking at back to back Flags. Supporters of every other club would be more than happy with that , whatever the free kick count might be.

  4. So true, your pregame musings.. ouch!!

    Preparation is the key,; I forgot the towel, but did have a luxurious Laura Ashley mohair throw in my bag, it not only dried the seats but kept our backsides warm…. tip to the merchandise people at Richmond football club… their polar fleece varieties don’t offer the same comfort, let alone warmth.

    Tight finish. The journey continues.

  5. Come on, John!
    Gil issuing a directive to the umps?
    Even the most hardy of conspiracy theorists would struggle to believe this.
    Or Richmond supporters!

  6. Joe De Petro says:

    An enjoyable read, John.

    Embrace the free kicks for what they are. It takes a bucketload of them to bring the team down so they must be good at what they do. They are minus 32 in the four losses this year. That is an impressive number.

    This time last year it was very similar but then it turned around in the finals. Let’s hope for that again.

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