Round 21 – Richmond v North Melbourne: In praise of the humble matchday report




by John Green



Football seasons consist of games of football. It’s the AFL’s core business – the weekly cycle of wins and losses. Every one of the thousands of matches played in the history of the competition, and I would argue every match ever played in leagues and associations across Australia, has been the subject of a match report in some form.


Ashley Browne recently wrote a story on the humble match report in the AFL Record. In the days  before TV these reports were published in newspapers such as The Sun, The Herald, The Argus, The Age and the pink-paged Sporting Globe. The Sporting Globe was published on Saturday nights within a couple of hours of the final sirens. These match summaries were often detailed minute-by-minute accounts.


I used to read them religiously as a boy, and not just the Richmond ones. For some reason I recall the Collingwood v North Melbourne match report in The Sporting Globe in Round 11 of 1968, which I probably read on the Sunday morning after the clash. Richmond had comfortably beaten Footscray by 18 points at the MCG on the Saturday. Why this obscure game from a season in which Collingwood didn’t make the finals and North Melbourne finished at the bottom of the table? Perhaps it was my attempt, at a time when the Tigers were the reigning premiers and I had only experienced success, to imagine what it would be like to support a struggling team like North at a venue such as Victoria Park. I hadn’t yet been taken there by my father, as I was still too short to see above the heads of shoulder-to-shoulder fans standing on terraces. But I knew of the ground’s reputation as a hostile graveyard for visiting teams. I can still recall that the Roos kicked a solitary goal in the first quarter and compiled a score of only 3-2(20) by half-time, before eventually going down by 60 points. I checked and my memory of the game is accurate. There may be no-one else in existence who remembers these details.


Match reports are not consumed as much as they were in the past. They are no longer seen as an indispensable part of the media footy cycle. Supporters read brief accounts on their phones on the way home from games. Reports are more formulaic now, mostly consisting of a few paragraphs supported by series of sub-headings. There is no overarching theme. Just the facts.


And so in keeping with a dying art, still kept alive by worthy publications such as The Footy Almanac, I humbly submit a match report of the Richmond v North Melbourne game played in front of an empty MCG in Round 21 of the 2021 season.


Richmond, a mere shadow of what it was during its recent run of premiership triumphs, overcame a plucky North Melbourne with a second-half revival that was far from convincing.


In the first quarter the Kangaroos were all over the Tigers. They dominated centre bounce clearances through Goldstein and Simpkin. North kicked the first three goals of the game through  Zurhaar, Larkey and Scott. They were able to move the ball efficiently through the corridor from defence to attack with a series of short passes and uncontested marks, totally nullifying Richmond’s pressure game. The Tigers, on the other hand, played without conviction and were completely unable to link up with leading forwards, opting instead to lob the ball into contested situations with little chance of scoring. They failed to kick a major in the opening quarter. North would have led by more than 19 points at the first break if the active Cameron Zurhaar hadn’t wasted two golden opportunities to score six-pointers.


Despite Richmond kicking its first goal after Coleman-Jones received a free for high contact in a marking contest, North continued its domination in the second term. The centre bounce clearance scoreline soon became 8-0. Aaron Hall constantly set up attacks from half-back with ten possessions in the second quarter alone. Anderson, Davies-Uniacke and skipper Jack Ziebell were also highly effective. Shai Bolton displayed his frustration when he clashed with opponent Kayne Turner behind the play, causing the ball to be confiscated from the Tigers when they were going forward. Bolton went on with the business and conceded a 50-metre penalty as well. Zurhaar had no problem in booting his second and when Hall found him with a bullet pass and he converted again at the 18-minute mark the Roos were out to a 26-point lead. The Tigers were in deep trouble with no method or system in attack. Riewoldt received a free and kicked truly after the siren to reduce the half-time deficit to 20 points to leave a sliver of hope for the Tigers.


There was a dramatic change in the match in the third quarter. With Tom Lynch largely ineffective, Hardwick opted for a smaller forward combination by moving Edwards and Baker into attack. Ziebell’s risky short pass across the goal front was picked off by Edwards, who booted Richmond’s third. Cotchin won Richmond’s first centre clearance. The Tigers opted for more of a short-passing, possession-style game to counter North’s effective first-half tactics and deny them the use of the ball. Richmond relentlessly increased the pressure. North’s game plan unravelled, they fumbled the ball and their disposals became haphazard. Graham and Prestia dictated terms in the midfield and Rioli, Vlaustin, Stack and Grimes picked off North’s desperate attempts to transition the ball into scoring zones. Bolton goaled with a long shot at the 10-minute mark to lift the Tigers to within a kick of the Roos. Short located Edwards with a precise pass for his second and it was now only a point the difference halfway through the term. Zurhaar replied for the Roos with his fourth, before Maurice Rioli Junior booted his first major in the big time when he gathered the ball in a goal square scramble and punted it through, much to the delight of his teammates who proceeded to mob him. Then Matt Parker received from Baker and put the Tigers up by five points at the 22-minute mark, seizing the lead for the first time in the match. Baker marked and booted a goal for himself, Taylor responded for North before Coleman-Jones snapped his second. Richmond scored 7-2 to North’s 2-2 for the term and led by 10 points at the final change.


The Kangaroos weren’t going down without a fight. A running goal from Mahony closed the gap to four points. The ball was parked in Richmond’s forward line without producing a score. Prestia, Graham, Rioli and Cotchin constantly drove the Tigers forward. The dam wall finally burst when the Tigers booted four goals in a withering five-minute burst, with majors to Ralphsmith, Riewoldt, Prestia and Baker. Richmond prevailed by a comfortable 33 points in the end with an eleven goal to three second half to keep their flickering finals hope alive.


North Melbourne is a young team on the rise and should take heart from its improvement in the second half of the season. Richmond holds its fate in its own hands in the match against GWS next week in which it could leapfrog the Giants into the final spot in the eight.


There you have it. What significance, if any, will be attributed to this clash in the future? Will earnest sports historians peruse the details of this match report fifty years from now to glean an understanding of the fortunes of two traditional clubs in the COVID-19 years? Will the game provide a launching pad for Richmond’s unlikely tilt at another flag? Will this be the one in which North Melbourne draws a line in the sawdust on the butcher’s floor and maintains a vow to never again be overwhelmed in a second half? Or will it be forgotten like Collingwood v North Melbourne in 1968? Time will tell and an infinite number of match reports are still to be written. Keep them coming, footy fans.



RICHMOND                    0.3    2.4    9.6    13.11 (89)                
    3.4    5.6    7.8    8.8 (56)


Edwards 2, Coleman-Jones 2, Riewoldt 2, Baker 2, Bolton, Rioli jnr, Parker, Ralphsmith, Prestia
North Melbourne: 
Zurhaar 4, Larkey, Scott, Taylor, Mahony


Graham, Prestia, Cotchin, Baker, Nankervis, Vlastuin
North Melbourne: Simpkin, Davies-Uniacke, Zurhaar, Hall, Anderson


North Melbourne: Nil


Richmond: Kamdyn McIntosh (hamstring) replaced in selected side by Thomson Dow
North Melbourne: Nil





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  1. DAN HOBAN says

    It could be remembered as the start of Maurice Juniors career!

  2. Ta John, I don’t mind the humble matchday reports.

    I have a memory for games from my childhood, with the early-mid ’70s very prominent for me. I often recall this halcyon period.

    The 1968 Collingwood V North Melbourne has areas that people may recall. 1968 was the only year Collingwood missed the finals between 1963 & 1976. This was their biggest victory for the season, it was the second victory in a five match winning streak as club stalwarts Len Thompson, Des Tuddenham and Peter McKenna all put in sterling efforts.

    For North Melbourne Rob Peterson,later to be Dr Robert Peterson, debuted. He proved a handy forward pocket finishing his career in the losing 1974 grand final team. Alongside of him I noticed Mick Evans in his 11th game: his brother is a mate of mine.


  3. John Green says

    Thanks for your comments Dan and Glen. Dan, I truly hope that Maurice Junior will have a stellar career at Punt Road. Glen, you’ve provided some fascinating details of a game from all those years ago. Great research!

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