Round 5 – Melbourne v Richmond: Football as an impartial observer

I quite enjoy going to AFL matches as an independent supporter. It allows an enjoyment and appreciation of good football, regardless of which team produces it – a definitive contrast to, what many supporters would agree, the ebbs and flows of happiness and frustration that accompany a day at the football watching your team.

For Tiger fans on Sunday night, it was mostly frustration that accompanied them on their way home from the MCG on Sunday night, having been outplayed for most of the night by a Melbourne side who is certainly on the rise.

The contrasting tales of both sides was stark. The Demons provided their supporters with further hope that things are finally starting to turn for the better, while Richmond provided all too familiar disappointment, when they were expected to perform as a top eight side should. Although I hate making broad statements with only five rounds done and dusted in the season, the Tigers look well off making the finals if this form continues.

I remember saying to a few of my Richmond-supporting friends on Thursday night that there was no way that the Tigers’ best player Brett Deledio would be fit to play his first AFL game for the season. The man had been kicking Auskick balls until a few days prioir to the match, for goodness sake! Desperation would have been the word that sprung to mind had he run out with the yellow and black on Sunday. Adding insult to injury is the fact that they simply do not win without him, and seeing as the stats verify this, I was compelled to change my tip on the train to the G.

The Demons kicked the first two goals of the match through Brayshaw and Vince, and it looked as though they would embarrass a second big Victorian club in two weeks. The Tigers responded midway through the term to get proceedings back on an even keel, but the Dees then put the foot down to kick three goals and stretch the lead yet again.

Max Gawn was dominating the ruck and was clearly the best player on the ground for mine. Ivan Maric has been a valued servant of the Tigers for a while now but there were signs on Sunday that his best footy is behind him, as the bearded Demon giant continually gave Melbourne first use around the stoppages.

Watching Melbourne live, they’re starting to take some risks with their ball movement. They regularly flicked the ball through five, six or seven pairs of hands in quick succession to get out of a tight spot, and their foot skills going inside 50 didn’t allow the Richmond defenders to get a clean look at the ball. These risks didn’t always come off – the Tigers managed to pick the ball off a couple of times – but for the majority of the night the Demons’ ball movement made Richmond look slow and they clearly struggled for a solution to the problem.

Melbourne kicked four goals in the last 13 minutes before half time to take a 22-point lead into the main break, and it seemed like the Tigers would have to buck the trend of their entire season to get over the line.

Having watched the Tigers twice now this season, it just doesn’t seem like they have a specific game plan. Under Hardwick they have tried to replicate Hawthorn’s tactic of dissecting the opposition by foot, but after watching their games against Carlton and Melbourne, it seems like they’ve tried to do base their playing style on something else this year. I can’t quite work out what that is, however.

It’s crucial in this day and age to identify yourself with a certain type of playing method. Do we base our game style on good skills to kick and handball through the opposition? Do we rely on our leg speed to run through a press? Do we focus on defence first (much like Fremantle under Ross Lyon)? Do we amass huge numbers of uncontested possessions to work our way up the field? I’m not sure Richmond would be able to definitively sit themselves in any of these categories in 2016.

As is the custom when a team is behind at the halfway mark, Richmond came out all guns blazing in the third quarter. They missed their mark though, and despite having the first five scoring shots of the quarter, they shot themselves in the foot by managing only 2.3 before Melbourne steadied with goals to Harmes and Garlett.

Richmond eventually won the quarter, but it was hard to see them running down a 16-point lead after trailing for most of the match. A sign of Melbourne’s growing belief and maturity was that every time that Richmond challenged and threatened to take the lead, they responded with a couple of goals to wrestle back momentum.

The last quarter was a formality. Dom Tyson and Sam Frost kicked the first two goals of the quarter to essentially seal the result, before goals to Kent, Watts and Garlett pushed the deficit further – an appropriate scoreboard reflection of what had transpired.

Alex Rance will be missing for a couple of weeks after what can only be described as a cowardly, pathetic act on Jack Watts, elbowing him in the back of the head after the pair fell to the ground after a marking contest. What would have pleased Melbourne fans is the way captain-in-waiting Jack Viney came in and promptly sat Rance on his backside after he got to his feet after his dirty act. He couldn’t have chosen a worse time to get rubbed out, with season-defining games against Port Adelaide and Hawthorn in the next two weeks.

The Demons, just quietly, are building an exciting group of young players. Gawn, after a couple of serious knee injuries, is challenging Todd Goldstien as the premier ruckman of the competition, Jack Viney is as hard as the proverbial cat’s head, Angus Brayshaw is going to be a 10+ year midfielder and Tom McDonald was a pillar of strength at centre half back. All the while a kid called Petracca is dominating in the Twos.

As an independent supporter, I think the Dee’s are (finally) emerging from the wilderness of the AFL.

 

MELBOURNE   5.1   11.3   14.7   20.9 (129)

RICHMOND      2.3    7.5    11.9   14.12 (96)

 

Goals:

Melbourne: Garlett 4, Vince 3, Watts 3, Tyson 2, Gawn 2, Brayshaw, Bugg, Salem, Harmes, Frost, Kent

Richmond: Riewoldt 3, Lloyd 3, Vickery 3, Edwards, Chaplin, Martin, Ellis, Miles

 

Votes:

3 – M. Gawn

2 – J. Viney

1 – B. Vince

About Jeremy Hill

Devoted Hawthorn supporter and University Blacks footballer who spends more time watching, reading and writing about sport than is considered healthy. Like most people my age, I'm 20.

Comments

  1. T. Chaplin not in the votes, Jeremy? Kicked a goal……

  2. Deledio our best? Maybe in 2007.

  3. Jeremy Hill says

    Couldn’t quite squeeze him in, Bucko. Perhaps he’s not the best, Peter – but the fact that Richmond have only beaten Carlton and Brisbane in recent times without him suggests that he’s still their most important player.

  4. 17 disposals and 5 marks in the last final.

    Riewoldt is our best. and most important. and he turns up.

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