Round 5 – Melbourne v Richmond: Basket-case-dom

Gallipoli should never have happened, really. ­­

In the wider narrative of World War I, the ANZACs and Turkey were two sides who should never have been involved. Really, they should have just stayed out of the fight and let the major teams fight their way towards the end game.

So a Richmond v Melbourne Anzac Eve clash is actually quite historically appropriate. ­­­

Well, I thought so anyway. Conversely, Pat is of the opinion that a Melbourne victory tonight would serve as another step in the Demons’ renaissance. I’ve calmly and dignifiedly given up all hope on the Tigers this season and am hoping for Damien Hardwick to lead a rebuild.

Pat is a short, pasty, ginger who owns a whippet called Atlas. He was born to support Melbourne. Having acknowledged at a very young age the cruel trick that life had played upon him, he developed a wicked sense of humour that is equal parts self-deprecation and sadism.

“If you lose tonight, Hardwick’s out,” he says in a mock-absent-minded voice to Kate, his friend from RMIT. “Can you imagine Rance getting beaten by Watts?”
Normally the taunt would get me going but I’ve realised the blissful liberation of total abandon. It’s probably something I’ve learnt from Pat over the last five years.

The sounds of Anzac Day are simple, well-known and evocative.

The lonely, heartbreaking weeping of the Last Post. The birdlike screams of the Major General. Deafening silence. “Lest we forget.”

It’s proof of the occasion’s national resonance that the Anzac Eve pre-game commemorations fail to stir the same emotions: glowing iPhones and a mopey Powderfinger ballad really don’t capture what Anzac Day means to Australia, let alone some dickhead screaming “Go Tiges” in the minute’s silence. The other unusual sound is 60,000 hearts going out to the bugler who nervously farts a note during The Last Post.

“How much would you have to be paid to do The Last Post?” I ask Pat and Kate.

“A performance of immense significance in front of 80,000 people and they all know the song note-for-note? Nup,” answers Kate.

For a clash between a side sliding into basket-case-dom and another still realising its potential to become something more, this really was a fast-paced, exciting game of footy. The Demons skipped to an early break and maintained a three goal gap nearly all game as they held off the relentless but slipshod Tigers. Just to twist the knife in, Melbourne blew the gap out to over five goals to seal their third straight win over Richmond – and, incredibly, their first back to back win in five years.

Melbourne played with a style and pizzazz they haven’t possessed in years. Handballs behind their backs, quick snaps out of stoppages to a waiting chain of runners into the forward line and a mobile, accurate forward line. Jack Viney had 37 touches, nearly half of them contested. Dom Tyson and Bernie Vince were everywhere, providing a barrier at the back of stoppages.

Ivan Maric must have been baffled to see that the big moose who used to be Max Gawn turned into one of the AFL’s most dangerous, versatile ruckmen while he was recovering from injury. Melbourne double the Tigers in effective hit-outs and clearances and Gawn kicks two to boot. Maric was brought in because Richmond had no choice; the decision to not play Brett Deledio is an encouraging sign that the Punt Road coaching staff are going to allow their young players some painful growing time.

Defeating Richmond has become formulaic in 2016. Melbourne kept Jeff Garlett, Jesse Hogan and Jack Watts deep in their forward line with plenty of space and a tough, skilful, dextrous midfield brigade got fast breaks off Tiger turnovers to give them carte blanche to wreak havoc.

Strangely enough, the Tigers didn’t play too badly. Early on, it looked as if they were successfully relearning the fundamentals of Australian Rules only to get stuck between playing a rolling zone and playing man-on-man. When outsiders have criticised a perceived lack of on-field Richmond leadership, it has been a fair reaction to seeing players just aimlessly wandering around as the opposition rushes the ball up field. Too many times, Richmond players were wasted by being caught a long way outside either the contest or the next kick along.

And too often, Jack Riewoldt’s heroics were the only thing keeping the Tigers in the match. With 24 touches, seven marks and three goals, Riewoldt ran himself into the ground. Sometimes he tried to do too much, but whenever he did you had to wonder if he had any other option. Pat and I watched full back Tom McDonald cost Melbourne their match against Essendon by allowing Joe Daniher so much room he may as well have been sitting in the stands with us. He was lucky to be spared a similar fate against the Tigers.

It’s been a very long time since Richmond has lost to Melbourne and had positives to take out of it. The very early Hardwick days, I should wager. The Tigers may have lost the match but, as I point out to Pat, Melbourne have now got expectations to live up to. Time for them to deal with new growing pains.

Melbourne        5.1          11.2        14.7        20.9.129
Richmond          2.3          7.5          11.9        14.12.96

Best – (M) Viney, Gawn, Vince, Tyson, Garlett, Salem.
– (R) Riewoldt, Rance, Cotchin, Miles, Lloyd, Edwards.

Goals – (M) Garlett 4, Vince 3, Watts 3, Tyson 2, Gawn 2, Brayshaw, Bugg, Salem, Harmes, Frost, Kent.
– (R) Riewoldt 3, Vickery 3, Lloyd 3, Edwards, Chaplin, Martin, Ellis, Miles.

VOTES 3 – J. Viney (M) 2 – M. Gawn (M) 1 – J. Riewoldt (R)

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. Good stuff Callum. But what of our man T. “Charlie” Chaplin? We need an individual assessment please!

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