Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Collingwood V Richmond - 22/08/2015 (MCG)

The above picture and message sums up Collingwood perfectly. They, more than any other AFL club,  have over the years developed the fortress mentality and got it down to a fine art.

For that reason this was a danger game for the Tigers. We had beaten them earlier in the year, and while due to the draw we don't often get to play them twice in the one year, it had been a long time since we'd been able to win both matches. They were out of the finals, and we were still shooting for top 4, so while the win wouldn't really do a lot for them, they would however like the idea of derailing our top 4 run.

I always thought we'd win, but I thought it would be tough.

It didn't really turn out that way. Richmond were on fire in the first quarter. Sam Lloyd kicked 3 goals, and other Richmond players hit the scoreboard multiple times. It wasn't just how many goals we kicked, it was more how we used the corridor and set ourselves up for the best possible shot each time we went forward.

Collingwood tried to steady in the 2nd quarter. They got the ball into their forward line plenty of times, but in the curse of their 2015 season, kicked points instead of goals, while Richmond kicked goals when they went forward.

We held the lead in the 3rd quarter and while it was largely goal for goal, we had one more and extended the lead.

They're a lovely mob when they're losing, the Collingwood cheer squad. Jack Riewoldt seems to be enjoying their pain.

The last quarter was where it all fell apart for the Pies. The party really got started. Ty Vickery wound up kicking 6 for the game and the Richmond players were lining up for goal. A 91 point victory and the finals absolutely beckon.

Dustin Martin lets the Collingwood faithful know: That's two for the game!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Richmond V Gold Coast Suns - 16/08/2015 (MCG)

A little history. The Gold Coast Suns, along with the Greater Western Sydney Giants, are one of the AFL's love children. I don't know that anyone other than the AFL really wanted a team to come out of the Gold Coast. The Bears before they became the Lions were based there and it was a miserable failure.

Largely because the AFL want the club to succeed, they elected to pay Richmond to play 'home' games against the Suns in Cairns for the first 3 years. We lost 2 and won 1, they've only played us once a year, and last year they beat us in the opening game of the season at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast, we've been wanting to get them on the MCG for a while now.

Last year on the back of Gary Ablett Jr. the Suns looked to be finals bound. Then the superstar went down with an injury and took the side with him. Missing out on that finals berth probably also cost their coach Guy McKenna his job and he was replaced by the experienced Rodney Eade.

2015 has been the year from hell for the Suns. They've had injuries, Ablett played all of about 3 games before giving up to injury for the rest of the season (I've never seen more of a one man team), there has been a drugs scandal and a culture problem with some of the young players.

Having said all that this was a game the Tigers really needed to win. The Suns won't play finals, they won't get close, only Brisbane and Carlton's continuing ineptness is keeping them off the bottom of the ladder. They were just a side the Tigers HAD to beat. It was also the 150th games for Trent Cotchin and Ivan Maric.

Supporters were worried about it. Matters weren't helped by Dylan Grimes and Reece Conca being injured and replaced by battlers Lindsay Thomas and Steve Morris, although Brett Deledio returned. In the latter half of this season when we have had a loss we've rebounded positively. Lost to West Coast and then won the next 4 on end, including a come from behind victory against Sydney. Lost to Freo and responded by beating the Hawks. The loss to Adelaide stung, I had the feeling that the young and undermanned Suns were going to pay for that.

The opening quarter was a little tense early, with neither side getting any clear advantage, until the Suns kicked their first goal. That seemed to wake Richmond up and they slammed on a few goals in a row. Ty Vickery being particularly prominent with multiple goals.

The Suns to their credit fought back in the 2nd quarter, managing to outscore the Tigers and taking a 17 point deficit into the long break. The general consensus was that Richmond needed to do more of this:

The opening to the 3rd quarter showed what Richmond were made of and they started to pile on the goals. They eased up a little, but they'd broken the Suns back and were going to win this one easy. The only point of interest was by how much.

Fittingly it was Ty Vickery who kicked his 4th goal of the game and the final one to ice the cake with an 83 point victory. One down, 3 to go. Win all those and we finish with 15 wins and a nice finals platform.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Adelaide V Richmond 07/08/2015 (Adelaide Oval)

Back to earth with a big thud after the euphoria of the win against the all conquering Hawks. In some seasons the win against Hawthorn would have been seen as an oddity. The underdog in the Tigers bites back and takes out the reigning Premiers, but Richmond have done that too many times this year (beat Fremantle in the West, came back from 32 points down against the Swans at the SCG, and there are others like the first win against Collingwood in donkey's years and beating Port over there when they were still contenders) for that to be the case realistically.

So which is Richmond in 2015? The side that beat those contenders and pretenders or the one that meekly surrendered to the Crows with most of it's better players all having an off night. I think it's the former, but then again I'm a lifelong fan.

When Brett Deledio couldn't take his spot due to a bad case of the flu, I knew we were in trouble.

A virus means this guy has a rare missed game.

Lids is like a talisman. The win loss ratio with and without him is extraordinary. It's skewed a bit by how durable he is. Up until the achilles injury last year, he'd played more than 100 consecutive games, he held the record for currently playing players, he may still have it actually. He did however kick 4 goals against the Hawks and he's generally good for at least one or two a game, not to mention how many he actually creates for others, or the fact that the opposition have to use a good player to man up against him. 

Our fantastic defence in 2015 has masked the fact that we don't kick many goals and when you take out scorers like Deledio and add them to the absence of Shane Edwards it hurts the side's chances.

However you don't expect a large chunk of the side to have an off night because one bloke is out. We lost in 2 areas that up until that night we were ranked #2 and #4 in the AFL for. So what happened?

I think it was this:

Lids missed because of it, and it's a credible explanation for why so many of his team mates simply weren't up to it on the night. You don't suddenly turn around form like that, not when it's been a largely season long thing. It did however put us in a dicey situation with finals fast approaching.

We're on 11 wins with an okay percentage. We have 3 very winnable games, which will give us 14 wins and even if our percentage is crap, no side who wins 14 games is going to miss out on finals. For some reason everyone sees the final game against North as a problem, yes we haven't beaten them since 2011, but we generally only play them once a year, and they're not a bogeyman. They are an average side with a below average coach and they can count themselves lucky if they end up in the 8 at the end of the season. Before we play them, though we have to win the games against 3 lower sides and that starts with the Gold Coast this weekend.

We've only beaten them once, but they're having the season from hell, they've never played us in Melbourne and I think plenty of the Richmond boys will be keen to take out their frustration on the Suns come Sunday. Lids will be back, too.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hawthorn V Richmond - 31/07/2015 (MCG)

Again I'm not really going to talk about the game as such, but more something that struck me in the lead up, during it and after it. I will say that we won, courtesy of Brett Deledio's 4 goals (3 in the opening quarter) and I'm very happy about that.

Brett Deledio gets a Conca cuddle on Friday night.

The media talked up the Fremantle game. Being a traditional Big 4 club and having in excess of 70,000 members, does afford the Tigers a fair bit of coverage, but even when we play a top club we don't get looked at favourably. They did that with Fremantle and it wasn't until the start of the game and it was mentioned that it hit my why. It was 5th playing 1st. The result of the game had the ability to change the competition and the finals race.

We lost the game narrowly, but it didn't dampen down the bullish enthusiasm for the Tigers, even though we were playing the all conquering Hawks. Hawthorn are the reigning Premiers, they're going for a 'threepeat'. They've won their last 8 games in a row. Two of their victims have been fellow top 4 clubs in Fremantle and Sydney and they thumped both of them. Admittedly Richmond also own victories this season against those clubs, but they weren't as emphatic as what Hawthorn did to them. They were deservedly favourites, but there was still love for Richmond, even if they lost the game. They were being seen as legitimate. I can't ever remember this happening before.

It's hard to say exactly why now all of a sudden the Tigers are the 'real deal'. Maybe it's because they've made the finals for the last 2 years. Our two  finals appearances to 2013, in 1995 and 2001, were brief. They were exciting, but ultimately unsustainable. This time it's different, we've hung around and we've consistently improved and while we're still a work in progress, a lot has come together in 2015. We've won games against the likes of Fremantle and Sydney, we've come from behind, we've rolled over the top of teams, we've put together bursts which have sunk opponents. This was the sort of stuff we watched everyone else do to us. This is what good sides do, it's how they get though the home and away season and prepare for finals.

There's an air of expectation about the Tigers now. It's really cool to hear everyone, supporters of the club, supporters of other clubs, the media, players and coaches talk positively about the club and you can feel that fear. The fear the giant is waking up and is about to resume his rightful place at the top of the AFL tree.

We're in the top 8, we're locked in there. We were top 4 after beating Hawthorn, then Sydney won and knocked us down to 5, the Bulldogs had a big win over Essendon and that saw us 6th, but looking ahead I can see us winning our last 5 games and 16 wins would definitely get us top 5, maybe even top 4.

The Tiger is in town people, and he's hungry!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Top Ten - 10. The War of the Flowers

So this time I really have come to the end. Tad Williams' The War of the Flowers is my 10th and final favourite.

I had an interesting relationship with Tad Williams as a writer I read before The War of the Flowers. I picked up his first book Tailchaser's Song on a bit of a whim and because it sounded a little different and relatively light. I initially shied away from The Dragonbone Chair (first book of the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy) because it was big (Williams tends to write what are known as big fat fantasies, and the final volume of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn; To Green Angel Tower, remains one of the largest single volumes in English) and because even then I was becoming a little tired of epics. I did eventually pick it up and loved it, then I took a while to investigate Otherland, because it was partially science fiction, and as I have noted elsewhere generally science fiction and I don't play all that well together. The War of the Flowers was pretty much the same, it looked great and it sounded interesting, but it was very different, it was very large (my copy is around the 800 page mark) and the back cover blurb really didn't do it many favours.

It's a hell of a book really. Hard to categorise. Some call it portal fantasy, the author himself says it's urban fantasy. It runs across two worlds. Some in ours and the rest in the land of faery. That wasn't uncommon for Williams. Otherland takes place in a future Earth and in the virtual world, which has worlds within worlds, depending on what simulation the characters were in at the time. Theo Vilnius' excursions between the here and now and faery were tame by comparison. 

There's the characters. Theo's a good guy, instantly likeable, and his faery companion Applecore is one of my favourites.

It has an advantage over plenty of current epics in that yes it is quite long, but it's all completely self contained. I suppose the author could go back there if he wanted, but neither he or the reader has to. It's a rare beast these days.