Round 11 – North Melbourne v Richmond: Unheard Of – An Average Win

 

North Melbourne v Richmond

Etihad Stadium

Saturday 3 June, 7.25pm

 

For many years, North Melbourne has been the damning benchmark by which Richmond has had to measure itself. Forget the extremes – the Tigers’ occasional freakish wins against the competition’s best, or the thrashings, the meltdowns, the brain-fades that our opposition love to taunt us about. No, the real measuring stick for Richmond has been their performances against average sides. And there’s none that match North, the Homebrand of the AFL, for bog-standard unpretentious adequacy. Good sides beat North, often thrash them.  Poor sides come unstuck against their unrelenting competence.  On that measure, Richmond has time and again shown itself to be a poor side.  Too often I’ve trudged out of the soulless caverns of Docklands after watching Richmond, puffed up with hubris, being systematically taught yet another lesson by bloody North in the art of doing the basics well.  Too often the ringing in my ears of North’s overblown “match day experience” bullshit (even by the execrable standards of most clubs, it is truly shocking) reminds me the Tigers have, yet again, been brought undone by the epitome of mediocrity.

 

Which is why this win may just be Richmond’s most significant result so far this year.  On a chilly winter’s night, this match had all the hallmarks of “average” about it, the very environment in which North thrives and Richmond falters. So it was rather remarkable that after a sputtering first half in which the sides looked equally unimpressive, it was the Tigers who initially seized on some Kangaroo errors straight after half time and then drove home their advantage with panache and class and more than a little grit, turning a likely nail-biter into an un-Richmond-like routine 6 goal win.

 

Of course much will be made of the performance of Dustin Martin in turning the game Richmond’s way. Presented with a golden opportunity to impress both his suitor club and his current employer, Dusty grabbed the moment with both hands – 38 times in fact.  There is no doubt he was best afield, yet I would dispute that he alone was the difference between the sides. For North supporters pining for the surgical precision and clear thinking of ‘Boomer’ Harvey, a word of caution as you salivate at the prospect of him in blue and white. Martin is as indiscriminate as a wrecking ball, and not always to his team’s advantage. Before North seriously pursue the tattooed one with an offer of a million plus per year, they may wish to look again at the wayward passes and moments of poor decision-making that punctuate his many moments of brilliance.

 

Inflated plaudits for Martin would also understate another very solid team effort, led, as usual, from the peerless defence of Alex Rance and his emerging understudy, David Astbury. They completely nullified their dangerous opponents, Ben Brown and Jarrad Waite. And despite a few goals gifted by some sloppy lapses in skill and discipline, the defence restricted North’s total score to just two points more than they managed in that one extraordinary quarter against the much-vaunted Adelaide. Further afield, Trent Cotchin displayed an unrelenting work ethic, especially late in the game, ensuring that North would never get a sniff of bridging the gap. Honourable mentions are also due to Bachar Houli, Dion Prestia and Kane Lambert who were busy and productive all night. Toby Nankervis had the better of one of the game’s best ruckmen, Todd Goldstein, despite having virtually no back-up support.

 

The weak spot at Richmond right now is their forward line. We’re still averaging less than 13 goals per game. The departure of Ty Vickery and the ongoing absence of Ben Griffiths leave the team with an undersized offence. But think silk purse and sow’s ear. What they are lacking in aerial power they are making up for with an emerging rat-pack of hard-working hard-tackling small forwards. It wasn’t always pretty and it certainly wasn’t always systematic, but against North the combination of Edwards, Rioli, Butler, Castagna, Lambert, Lloyd and Bolton provided a manic intensity that brought about enough panic-induced goals to cobble together a winning score.

 

Where to from here for Richmond? Anything above low finals seems beyond a side that still has some significant limitations in its list. But when one compares the current state of play with our abject capitulation to the same opponent in Hobart exactly a year ago, it’s clear that there’s been substantial and welcome improvement. Indeed, reviewing the consistently high standards of our efforts thus far in 2017, one is almost reminded of a characteristic of North Melbourne teams of recent times – an unerring ability to make the most of what they’ve got.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE  2.4    7.6     8.9    9.12   (66)        
RICHMOND                 3.4   6.10  12.13  14.17   (101)  

 

GOALS
North Melbourne: Wood 2, Atley 2, Brown, Waite, Higgins, Gibson, Hansen
Richmond: Riewoldt 2, Martin 2, Butler 2, Lambert 2, Castagna, Cotchin, Edwards, Ellis, Grigg, Rioli

BEST
North Melbourne: Gibson, Dumont, Macmillan, Tarrant, Hrovat
Richmond: Martin, Riewoldt, Prestia, Rance, Houli, Lambert, Ellis, Cotchin

 

Umpires: Foot, Rosebury, Hosking, Schmitt

Official crowd: 36,100 at Etihad Stadium

My votes: Martin (3), Cotchin (2), Houli (1)

About Sam Steele

Stainless (aka Sam Steele) started following Richmond in 1970 when he was 6. This occurred when his mother, under instructions to buy him a Melbourne jumper, found they were out of stock and purchased a Richmond one instead. Despite the decades of heartache and turmoil this fateful decision has brought on Stainless, he is grateful to his mum as he has at least seen his side win a couple of Premierships. After 30 September 2017, his mum is now officially his favourite person.

Comments

  1. Punxsu..and-the-rest-of-it Pete says:

    Great write up Stainless. Let’s hope you’re right that the win is a watershed moment for the Tiges, Losing games like that has characterized us for years. And love you’re market correction of Dusty’s stocks: we need to mess with the heads of clubs circling with million dollar contracts.

  2. The Wrap says:

    Firstly, Dusty’s body language says Punt Road is his home and he’s a Tiger Forever. Let’s see what it tells us after he gets back from Kiwi.

    Secondly, you’ve summed it up perfectly. The defence was magnificent. McIntosh turns up everywhere and I can’t remember a better game from Bakkar. Ashbury & Grimes are playing with confidence now that their injury worries appear to be behind them. Touch wood. And the Angry Ants of the forward line created enough opportunities to notch a comfortable winning margin. However, sadly, I think Griff’s lost to The Game. I get the feeling he’s had enough. CHFs are hard to find, but we need to find one before we can consider a Top Four position as a birthright.

  3. John Butler says:

    Stainless, that’s a remarkably clear eyed assessment. Are you sure you’re a Tigers’ fan?

    The Dusty hype is reaching ridiculous proportions. I think you’re closer to the mark – a player with some great strengths and some clear deficiencies.

    Tigers are playing a much better brand of footy this season. They just need some composure in the tight finishes.

    Cheers

  4. The Wrap says:

    I’d go along with you both, and add, Dusty has a fragile mind. The Richmond locker room is abuzz at the moment. Put him in a strange locker room with a premium contract and the mood mightn’t be as conducive to a Happy Dustin as the one he left.

  5. Is there anything as pathetic as a stadium containing a crowd of 36,000 people and someone in the control booth deciding we need to hear a recording of FAKE CROWD HYSTERIA after every Nth Melb goal? This kind of bullshit might only be tolerable if they also played a laugh-track after every comical player error (of which there were plenty on Saturday night, incidentally).

  6. The Wrap says:

    Interesting point — interesting two points. Here’s The Shinboners, playing at home with their season on the line, on a roll after a disastrous start, playing a side they hold the wood over, and all they can muster is 35K+. Shame Northerners. Shame.

    And the match was certainly a comedy of errors. Whether its was the pace at which the match was conducted is not for those in the stands to say, but until The Striped Marvels get those errors out of the game they can’t expect to play deep into September. The next two matches will be telling. They’re against the hapless but ever dangerous Bloods in Melbourne and The Improving Blues.

  7. Stainless says:

    Thanks all

    If I’m paying $1 million for a “marquee” player, spectacular “don’t argues” or 75m bombs are nice added extras. But the non-negotiable is the knack of being in the contest when the game’s on the line and doing the crucial (often simple) things coolly and precisely that will turn it our way. Selwood’s the best current exponent in the game I reckon. Cotchin’s been criticised in the past for not doing this but his past two last quarters have been huge in this regard. Martin? Meehh…not so much. He produced a huge “hard ball get” late against the Dogs that resulted in a goal to Richmond which gave us one last chance at pinching the game, but apart from that, his last quarter heroics have largely been when he goes forward and uses his strength to win the one-on-one battle. This requires others to win the up-ground contest and get it to him. I’m also thinking about one of his few last quarter possessions against Essendon where he passed to Houli in the corridor, overcooked the kick and gifted the Bombers a turnover, which they fortunately didn’t capitalise on. Million dollar players don’t make those sorts of errors when scores are level and you’re staring down the barrel at a fourth consecutive heartbreaking loss.

    Malcolm – I couldn’t agree more. If I hear the exhortation to MAKE SOME NOISE once more I will do a Terry Wallace.

  8. Stainless says:

    Wrap
    Agree it was a really disappointing crowd, especially as it was the only game in Melbourne over the weekend. I know there’s been some debate on this site about North’s poor attendances and this result won’t help sway the perception about their limited appeal.
    Regarding the standard of the game itself, all I can say is that Richmond is at least backing themselves to play a more quick-fire, attacking brand than the treacle of 2016 and if they make a few blues along the way to mastering this style, I for one am not going to complain.

  9. Anil Lal says:

    Sam,
    agree wholeheartedly about dusty. Great player? Definitely yes. Worth $1M a year? Definitely not.
    Certainly lethal when gets the ball inside 50, and within a kick of goal.
    However when he gets posession on the wing or on back flank, tends to turn the ball over by kicking across the ground back into the corridor, often resulting in shot on goal for the opposition. If I were an opposing team, I’d pay bigger dollars for Alex rance.
    I miss the old Camberwell grammar crew at the footy behind the goals at the MCG. Would love to start it up again if you’re interested!
    Get in touch!

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