North Melbourne brought their best, and it was almost enough… but there’s a reason the Tigers are the best in the business at the moment, and they absorbed the North pressure to run out ten point winners at the Docklands Stadium.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of the pressure-packed contest.
Righto, this goes against every fibre of my being, as I have long held the belief that Rance is at his best when he is able to zone off and cover an area as opposed to a man. I thought he never played on anyone. I thought that the plaudits he received were misdirected and should’ve gone to Grimes and Astbury.
He shut me up, for today anyway.
Rance’s performance across half back, and deep in defence was excellent today. He may have given Ben Brown a couple of free kicks, but the rest of his work certainly made up for those. He spoiled, he bustled, he bumped, he wrestled, and he won.
Nine of his 20 touches were contested, but it was the little things that mattered today. His effort to run from half back at a kick in to make a spoil, then follow it up, hurling himself into the action to avoid a North clearance, was inspiring.
He was made the All-Australian Captain last year, and games like this are exactly why. I thought he needed a big scalp eight games into the season. He got it today.
Couldn’t have this section without him, today.
When a bloke goes out there and breaks a record, you know he’s had a good day. Cunnington was a contested ball beats today, compiling an amazing 32 contested touches amongst his 38 total disposals. There are players that’ll go through a whole season with less contested disposals than that.
He was everywhere early, marking and getting clearances, and looked to have the ball on a string in the first quarter. His duel with Trent Cotchin was one for the ages. Cue up the DVR, watch this game again and watch Cunnington v Cotchin.Well worth it.
One thing I wanted to point out – his aerial work. He may not get off the ground (I don’t reckon he could jump over a piece of paper) but his hands are so clean.
How can you have one of the combatants and not the other. Cotchin’s numbers were slightly less than those of Cunnington, but his 22 contested possessions amongst his 37 disposals were so important to Richmond. With Dustin Martin negated by the pesky Ben Jacobs, Cotchin breathed a sigh of relief and went about having his best game of the season.
Cotchin demonstrated just why he is the leader of this premiership group with a hard attack on every contest. It will be interesting to see who gets the most votes this season when the players are asked who the best captain is. For mine, his only rival is Joel Selwood.
There’s a running joke amongst Hawthorn supporters about the pick they got for Anderson turning out to be Ryan Burton. Well, given this season’s form, they might not be smiling so widely.
While Burton has struggled, Anderson seems to be improving all the while. He throws himself into marking contests and ground-ball situations with a reckless abandon, and today he picked up 28 disposals, with 16 of them contested.
He may lack a little polish, but that’s what Shaun Higgins is there for. Anderson fits in beautifully beside Cunnington at stoppages, and loves a bit of contact, He had a horror run with injuries, but it finally looks as though Anderson is where he needs to be.
I’m surprised to be writing this in the circumstance I am. I expected him to go to Cotchin. Also, I didn’t think anyone could slow down Dusty. I was wrong on both accounts.
Jacobs is the premier tagger in the caper at the moment. What he did to Dustin Martin today had to be seen to be believed. Martin hasn’t had a game this poor since Round Four 2017, when he was held to 16 touches against Brisbane.
With this performance, is Jacobs now looming as a possible inclusion in the All-Australian team? It’s been quite a while since a negating player held a spot, but Jacobs is claiming some big scalps this season. It may be too hard to overlook him.
He just gets where the goals are. It seems that every week lately, there’s Caddy, bobbing up where you MOST expect him to.
He’s like Max Cady from Cape Fear. He just keeps bobbing up right when the opposition doesn’t want him to. And he kicks goals when he does bob up. He now has two hauls of four, and two hauls of three to continue to be a dangerous part of the Tigers’ forward set up. If I had to describe him in a word… it’s be ‘sneaky’ as he just seems to pop out of his direct opponent’s vision and pop up in the right spot to snag a goal.
Bad kicking is bad football
Ben Brown and Jack Ziebell both missed shots they should have kicked. Ziebell missed two back-to-back in the second quarter, and Brown missed two in the last quarter that were pivotal to the contest.
Ziebell, we’ll let go. He is not the leader of the Coleman and talked up as one of the best kicks the league has seen in an age. Brown, on the other hand…
His two shots in the last quarter were bread and butter shots for a good kick. The first one was a result of a free kick. Actually… they both were. 35 metres out on a 45 degree angle… he missed. Five minutes later, in a similar situation, he missed again.
Big Ben, you’ve gotta convert these, mate.
Todd Goldstein beaten again
Remember back a few years ago when Todd Goldstein was All-Australian? Pepperidge farm remembers, and so do I. Sadly, he will never, ever be that player again.
It’s got to the point where I hate watching him play now. Not because he is poor, but because he was so good at one stage. His drop off is a huge reason behind North’s fall from semi-grace in 2016-17. They’re correcting things now, in a huge way, but watching him lope around, hardly giving a yelp is just sad.
I was genuinely surprised when he took a mark in the last quarter. I actually took note of it – “Holy crap Goldstein took a mark”.
He was outworked by Toby Nankervis today. Completely outworked around the ground. Nankervis is no world beater, but what he does do is give you everything he’s got for the entire game. Nankervis runs all the way to the line. Goldstein appears to barely break out of a trot.
Remember when Hawthorn let Billy Hartung walk? There was a very good reason why, and it was on display a couple of times when the heat was on. It’s the little things, like two-grabbing at a ball that allow the opposition to close in. Billy Hartung is a two-grabber.
Sam Wright looked as though he’d given everything he had last week and was not better for the run. He had a bit of ‘dear in the headlights’ about him early, but those smaller Richmond forwards will do that to you at times. Finished with ten touches, but the Roos could’ve used his run off half back a little more.
Seven of the top nine tacklers in the game wore yellow and black. Says a lot.
Loved Kane Lambert’s hands to Grimes through the middle. Grimes then his Castagna perfectly for the first goal. Lambert looked to have copped a knock later in the game, and was much less effective after it.
Majak Daw is such a conundrum. I am sure everyone loves a big mark, but there was an opportunity to completely kill a contest in the first and he opted to try to mark it. The Richmond smalls roved the dropped mark and Townsend fed Caddy for the goal.
Ben Brown was beaten on the day, but his 55 metre pass from the wing to set up a Mason Wood goal was superb.
Quick in close handballs don’t seem to work against the Tigers.
All that happens is that pressure on the next guy increases. Poor old Majak got caught holding the ball as a result of an iffy handball. Conca got the free for holding the ball.
Ben Brown’s first mark was a beauty. How good was the subtle little block from Jack Ziebell, though? Bought Brown just enough space to take the mark and get mauled by Rance on the way down.
Cunnington seems to be standing up in more tackles these days. I love seeing a player take on the tackler and win.
MacMillan’s tackle on lambert was a ripper, but taking the advantage saw the Roos come undone. Had MacMillan taken the kick himself, they could have settled, but they turned it over and Lambert trekked back inside 50 to gather on the run and goal.
It took until the second quarter, but North started really matching Richmond’s pressure around the ground as well as in their own 50 metre zone.
The Tigers are usually really good at having someone drop back to the square in defence. The one time they didn’t, Atley was able to hack one through. Someone missed that assignment.
Ripping mark by Ziebell over the top of Astbury in the second quarter. This led to the first of his two misses.
Atley was the beneficiary of some poor defence by the Tigers again. A quick snap by Borwn saw the ball land in Atley’s hands in the goal square. Atley may have got two goals, but I was a little disappointed with his overall output.
The instinct to give the handball to the first player they see after marking the ball sometimes is just the wrong option. Dumont marked in the third and handballed to Tarrant who was completely covered. The result could’ve been much worse than the hack forward by Tarrant, but with a little patience and poise, could’ve been so much better.
The Jacobs on Martin match up lingered for a little while when Dusty went to full forward. North were lucky/good enough that it didn’t cost them. They made the move of Thompson to Martin when he went forward in the last quarter.
Cunnington’s clean hands made several miskicks from his teammates look good. What should’ve been chest marks, ended up being half-volleys, which are a nightmare to handle, but Cunnington made them look easy.
Lambert’s mark and goal right in front was just really poor man on man defence. Ryan Clarke just didn’t get touch or contest in the air. If he was spent, he should’ve been chopped out.
Brown owes his second goal to a Ziebell tackle at half back. He dislodged the ball and allowed the run through the middle. It was amazing that Rance got back to contest the mark as Brown was so far clear out the back.
Good to see no free kick paid to Jack Higgins when he dropped at the knees in a tackle.
Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. Majak Daw’s big mark in defence worked in the third quarter, but failed in the first. Do you take the good with the bad, North fans?
Ziebell gets the goal assist to Shaun Higgins to put the Kangaroos in front! I did not see this coming at all at the time.
Great contested mark to Josh Caddy to wrest the lead back for the Tigers. He looked to have landed a bit awkwardly as he was sandwiched between two North players, but he bounced up and goaled.
Finally a high fend off is called against Dusty. Well, this one had to be called – he almost pushed Jy Simpkin’s chin down his throat.
No stat for Dusty, but his tap down to Cotchin was a clear goal assist for mine.
Mason Wood was really stiff not to be paid a pack mark in North’s attacking 50.
Martin had a second goal assist with his pass to the very quiet Dan Butler.
Bachar Houli’s run out of defence was excellent all game. He just kept racking them up.
Best piece of commentary came as the time ticked down and the Tigers kept playing hard – “All the way to the line.”
The Tigers played all the way to the line yet again.