Monday, June 15, 2015

Half a season

The win against Fremantle was Rd 10 and it signalled the halfway point for Richmond and the first round of byes. That meant the Tigers didn't play last week, along with five other teams.

I'm not a fan of the staggered byes. I'd prefer to have a weekend off where there's no AFL games. Promote it as local football week or something and get a few more people going to grass roots games. This way it also doesn't disadvantage anyone, and everyone comes back from the week off in the same situation and ready to get into the second half of the season. Anyway the AFL in their infinite wisdom, and an unfounded fear that if they have a weekend without football everyone will forget about it and follow the rugby or something, so instead they stagger the bye over 3 rounds.

However I thought it provided a perfect opportunity to look at the games we've played, our fortunes and those of our opponents, before they played us and after.

Rd 1 V Carlton

The traditional Thursday night season opener was back. Despite some tough talk from coach Mick Malthouse, Carlton were really ripe for the picking. They came out hard, and I think it surprised Richmond a little, but after that opening quarter onslaught, the Tigers got their own game plan working, and opened the Blues right up going through the middle of the ground. They really should have won by more than the 5 or so goals they did. Using Jack Riewoldt as a mobile forward worked a treat, Alex Rance's All Australian form returned and debutant Kamdyn McIntosh was best on ground. The only sour note was the report and injury to Brett Deledio.

That first quarter was about as good as it got for the Blues. Their season spiralled out of control. They sacked their coach before the bye round and lost superstar Chris Judd to injury, he retired after the Rd 10 game.

Rd 2 V Western Bulldogs

For some reason the media wanted to fall in love with the young Western Bulldogs. They beat West Coast in the opening round, a side notorious in recent years for not travelling well. They did manage to fall over the line against the Tigers in 2014, but I'd hoped we'd improved. Credit to their neophyte coach Luke Beveridge. They played with a maturity beyond their experience and years. They took the middle corridor away from us, gave us no room, forced us to take low percentage shots at goal and really should have won by more than the eventual 3 goal margin.

Lost both Ricky Petterd and mature age gamble Kane Lambert through injury. Lambert courtesy of a hospital pass from team mate Steve Morris. Petterd was a late inclusion for Shane Edwards and honestly had he not been injured he would have been dropped. Both were long term injuries and could have spelled the end for Petterd at the RFC.

The Bulldogs continued their strong opening to the season, but eventually the lack of age and experience caught up with them and they've fallen away recently. Stuck at 11th position on the ladder, a game and percentage out of the 8.

Rd 3 V Brisbane

The loss to the Dogs saw the usual panic descend amongst the fans and there was an air of gloom going into this match. I didn't really buy into that. There were a few reasons for it. Brisbane aren't much chop, I'm not being mean, they're not. They've lost most of their stars now, and they'd been hit with injuries, coach Justin Leppitsch is still trying to fix the train wreck that he inherited from Michael Voss. They hadn't just lost their opening two games, they'd been thumped. We also have some sort of hold on them, haven't lost to them for a long time, regardless of venue. I don't know why this is, it just happens with some teams. They will beat us one day, but it wasn't going to be this game. Shane Edwards returned and provided the missing spark from the Bulldogs game. The young Lions were valiant and tried hard, but it was never going to be. The floodgates opened in the final quarter and they lost by over 70 points.

The Lions have managed to register a few wins since that game, but they're still in the bottom 3, and I can't see them improving much for some time yet.

Rd 4 V Melbourne

I don't rate Melbourne. I never have, even when they've been good, which hasn't been often. Despite this they have an annoying habit of beating us. This game was on Anzac Eve and it's something that both clubs want to make a regular fixture. Hopefully in the future we can come to play, unlike this particular game. It was a weird game. Alex Rance had about his worst half in 2 seasons. Nothing we did worked, we kicked badly and somehow we lost the bloody thing. It galls me to lose to Melbourne, because at present they're really not very good. They had a better start to the season than they've had in a while, but they're still one of the bottom four sides, which is where they belong.

Rd 5 V Geelong

Not content with regularly contesting finals and winning Grand Finals, Geelong completely own Richmond and have for nearly 10 years. We've come close a few times, but never taken the 4 points out of the encounters, not since 2006. We thought this year was a chance, as the Cats have fallen away a bit. We stuck with them for the first half, but then they pulled away. It was like we could see it happening, but couldn't do anything about it. This did worry me, because there were times when it really did look like the coach had lost the players and that's disastrous. Made it close, but close isn't good enough.

The poor start to the season has plagued the Cats. They've dropped a few they would have ordinarily won, so they're just out of the 8, but if we don't keep winning, they'll take the spot we want.

Rd 6 V North Melbourne

I personally don't consider the Kangaroos a bogey side yet, but they are fast becoming one. Unfortunately given the Geelong game and the result, this one was scheduled in their home away from home in Tasmania. If it had been in Melbourne I think we may have taken it. Again, we pretty much handed it to the opposition. We gave up 92 points via turnovers. You're never going to win a game doing that. We also took a less than 100% Brett Deledio into the game, hoping to be able to sub him out, but an early injury to Ben Griffiths put paid to that plan, and also condemned Ivan Maric to having to single handedly ruck an entire game against the Roos multiple opponents, one of whom is Todd Goldstein, one of the league's best ruckmen. I got that same sense of coach losing players during the game.

Overall the Roos have struggled to consistently reproduce last season's form that saw them finish top 6, and are currently struggling to get a spot in the 8.

Rd 7 V Collingwood

The Tigers other real nemesis along with Geelong has been Collingwood. The last time we beat them was in 2007. Matthew Richardson nearly took mark of the year and Brett Deledio kicked 5 goals. The start of the game looked pretty much like the past 3 weeks on repeat. There was plenty of unrest in the stands, and we hadn't approached the game in a great state of mind. Something just seemed to click in the 2nd quarter. Richmond went through the Pies like a hot knife through butter. They kicked 8 goals for the quarter, 6 of them unanswered. They came back at us, and the lead changed a few times in the last quarter, but Ty Vickery took it back and Dustin Martin sealed it. The Pies Jamie Elliot kicked a goal on the siren, but that still left them 5 points adrift and the Tigers were back in the hunt.

Collingwood are still in the 8, but the fact remains that the only other top 8 side they've managed to beat are GWS, who are a surprise inclusion there.

Rd 8 V Port Adelaide

Despite the belief that the Power's coach Ken Hinckley is a far superior coach to Damien Hardwick, the Tigers coach holds a winning record against his opposite number. The problem is that Hinckley's win was in 2014's Elimination Final and put us out of contention. They were also fired up for this game by losing to lowly Brisbane the previous week, and it was club favourite Kane Cornes' 300th and final game. None of that mattered to the Tigers, they started the game the way they'd played the second quarter against Collingwood and the Power had no real answer, or seemingly, any way to stop it. Their 3rd quarter was their best and they stopped the Tigers from scoring, but were unable to turn behinds into goals and the Tigers hung tough in the last to turn a few non believers into believers.

At the start of the season the Power was being talked up as a possible Grand Finalist. Halfway through the season they've been badly exposed. Their game of frenetic pace and superior fitness has been shown to be unsustainable. Their foundations have been very shaky, they've been hit by injuries and loss of form, the game plan has been worked out and if they can pull themselves out of this then Ken Hinckley really can coach, but at present he looks like he's only got the one plan and that's not working.

Rd 9 V Essendon

We have an odd sort of schedule with the Bombers. We generally play them twice a year and usually split the difference. They normally win the first game, which is the Dreamtime Game, and we win the later game. This time we were the favourite, and that's usually not good for the Tigers. However we were determined this time and while Jake Carlisle for them marked anything that even came close to him, he couldn't convert and that will always hurt. Richmond also took away their preferred game of playing on by slowing it down and playing tempo football. We were also more accurate.

The Bombers are falling fast. The saga about the drugs has taken it's toll and they look like a fractured club from inside. Making finals is the last of their worries.

Rd 10 V Fremantle

This was the acid test. Fremantle were undefeated and on top of the ladder. They call their home ground the House of Pain. What they don't do is score quickly and heavily, they like to lock games down. Richmond came out on fire, they kicked 8 goals in the first quarter and it was breathtaking. The Dockers did get back into it, but they were shell shocked and again while we faded a little in the 3rd quarter, we never let them head us and held on in the last.

We had a week off and the Dockers pulled out a narrow win agains the Gold Coast. The break can't come fast enough for them.

6 - 4 is a decent platform, and it's better than it looked after the North Melbourne loss. This week's game against the West Coast is huge. Win that and we're on the way, and the murmur will become a roar.

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