Round 4 – Richmond v Brisbane: Defence is Trumps

Richmond v Brisbane

2:10PM, 14 April 2018







There hasn’t been much of it in Melbourne for months.  The sunny days of January have rolled on into the football season, extending our routine of long, languid afternoons, enjoying Gin and Tonics on the porch at five, walking along the beach with the dog, fish and chips on a bench besides the oleanders in the park.  There has been barely a drop of precipitation……….until today.



As we enter the MCG for the Round Four game against Brisbane, the heavens have erupted and our first wet day at the footy for the year is upon us.  Winter clothes have suddenly appeared, jackets, beanies and ponchos dot the landscape in the stands.  Attendants at the MCC Store are busy, as hopelessly under-dressed fans look to rug up to keep dry against the odds.  Ironically, at the end of a week in which Richmond’s membership surpassed 90,000 Tiger true believers, their smallest crowd in months is on hand to watch this game.



Brisbane are coming off a near thing against ladder leaders Port Adelaide and must fancy their chances.  The reigning Premiers did what they had to do against Hawthorn last week, although their last few minutes were lazy and untidy.  Uncharacteristically, and worryingly, I might add, their defence has leaked a bit this year, no doubt causing some consternation in the inner circle.  We can only hope that this has been addressed at team meetings during the week.  No-one can afford to play like millionaires in this competition.



The game begins in bright sunshine as passing showers clear and blue sky makes an unlikely but welcome return.  Brisbane almost land the first blow, a wayward pass from none other than Dusty Martin is picked off dangerously, and they are thwarted only by an unconvincing score review.  Still, like all good teams, the Tigers regroup and strike at consistent intervals during the opening stanza.  Jack Riewoldt soars high in the goal square for a lovely mark and goal and Dusty quickly atones for his brain fade with a brace of majors.  His sloppy pass in the opening minutes has obviously convinced his coach to banish him to the forward line as punishment, leaving the arcane art of switching the play across half-back to the specialists.  Already, we can see that he may spend much of this game prowling around the goal-square in one-on-one contests.  Bring it on, I say!



The Tiger defence is tight and a comfortable lead is their reward at quarter time.  Trent Cotchin and Reece Conca have been strong in the middle, the latter grabbing his opportunity to break into this team with great enthusiasm.  A talented player whose career has been cruelled by injury, he is running out of time to make his mark and is playing with urgency.  Who wouldn’t want to play regularly in front of massive crowds at the MCG?



The Lions start the second quarter confidently but seem to be having trouble penetrating the miserly Richmond backline.  Alex Rance leads an experienced unit, each member of his team is always where he should be and they work together to stun each foray forward before counter-attacking through their running backs.  Bachar Houli and Brandon Ellis are in perpetual motion throughout the second quarter.  Youngster Jayden Short is composed.  Nick Vlastuin and Dylan Grimes are steady, always taking the correct option.  David Astbury is confident and clean in the air.  Rance himself plays behind them and offers cover when needed.



As the half-time siren rings out, rain threatens once again, but the game is effectively already over as a spectacle, given that the Lions have failed to score even one major.  Rancey’s boys deserve most of the credit but the Tiger midfield is productive and its forwards are lively.  The much-improved Jason Castagna is dangerous, Dusty is downright belligerent.



Long, scoreless spells are common in football.  Teams often fail to trouble the statisticians for forty or fifty minutes of play, sometimes even for an hour.  That Brisbane records its first goal at the 26 minute mark of the third quarter is a testament to the effectiveness of the “defence first” mentality of the Tigers.  Their success in 2017 was built on conceding very little to the opposition.  On many occasions, they failed to score much more themselves but that did not matter, they usually found a way to win.  This season had begun differently for the Tigers with goals punctuating their games regularly at both ends of the ground.  This match signals a return to their basic philosophy.



They are determined to restrict the Lions, exemplified by a desperate lunge and tackle in the goal-square from Dylan Grimes which serves to delay Brisbane’s first goal by a few minutes.



With Brisbane providing very little to excite their fans in the second half, the Dusty show keeps the interest bubbling along.  With their hero continually isolated in one-on-one contests against a hapless defender, the crowd noise rises every time the ball finds itself propelled towards him.  Relieved of most of his midfield duties after the opening quarter, he evokes memories of another high-marking Tiger who wore number four and thrilled the faithful with his aerial dominance and reliable kicking.  Royce Hart is still the best player that I have seen represent Richmond in the number four jumper but his grip on this honour is not quite as iron-clad as it used to be.



Six goals, a career high for the tattooed talisman, sends us home wondering if he would have been a glamorous key forward in a bygone era, thrilling crowds, kicking bags with impunity.  He certainly plays like a key forward!



RICHMOND     5.5     8.10     11.12     16.14     (110)

BRISBANE       0.2       0.4         1.4         2.5         (17)



Richmond: Martin 6, Castagna 3, Townsend 3, Lambert 2, Riewoldt, Caddy

Brisbane: Zorko, Rayner



Richmond: Cotchin, Lambert, Rance, D. Martin, Conca, Grigg, Riewoldt

Brisbane: Zorko, Rayner, Robinson, S. Martin, Witherden



Official crowd: 32,870 at the MCG


About Joe De Petro

My favourite period in history began with the Summer of Love and came to a sad end with the birth of Disco. It was from 1967 to 1975. What was not to like in those days? The Grateful Dead, Creedence, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond and the mighty Tigers won Premierships every other year. It was a magical time, much like the current period in history.

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