There is something special about the Indigenous culture, and something special about our game. Combine the two and you get a truly powerful experience. The Dreamtime at the ‘G allows us to pay homage to two great cultures on the biggest stage in the land, and tonight it did that again. Before the game, Richmond’s cult hero Sydney Stack led a leading a dramatic Indigenous war dance and proceeding game itself was equally as compelling.
How the war was won
The game was played in rainy conditions we haven’t seen at the ‘G in years. The heavy downpour was brought back memories of games in days gone by where the players and field were covered in mud within the first 10 minutes. I sigh sadly as the improved drainage has taken something special from the spectacle, but the slippery, slidey, fun footy that rainy games can produce is still something great to behold.
This game won’t go down as one of the classics. It was not a pretty game, but it was great to witness. The first quarter saw Richmond gain field ascendency, but they were unable to capitalise on the scoreboard. They had the 14 possessions inside their forward 50 within the first five minutes. Essendon on the other hand had only managed one.
The Bombers did well in defence to only concede a goal, but it became clear that they were not adapting to the conditions as well as the Tigers. In rainy footy, skill almost disapears, and it’s paramount just to get the ball forward in whichever way possible – something the Tigers do well in dry footy. In contrast, Essendon like to use skill and pin point passing. They needed to adapt, and quickly. They managed to adapt somewhat in the latter stages of the first quarter and got some momentum on the back of strong tackling and winning the contested ball. But they, like Richmond, were unable to put any real score on the board and went into quarter time goalless.
The second quarter saw Richmond repeat the forward-half dominance they held early in the game. They got the ball forward and locked it in. Whilst the Bombers had their chances, kicking 1.4 for the quarter, they were restricted late to only nine disposals in their forward half as the Tigers set up their whole ground defensive zone and lifted in their contested possession. At half time the score was a 31-13 in favour of the Tigers; not an unassailable lead by any stretch, but in a low scoring affair Essendon really needed to lift in the third quarter. To make matters worse, they lost Jake Stringer to a hamstring early, and he sat out the remainder of the match.
The weather improved somewhat in the second half. As the ground dried up, and it should have suited Essendon better, but they could only watch in the third quarter as the Tigers got into their groove and kicked four goals to one to build a comfortable lead. Their disposal efficiency found its way up to an elite 74%, and they completely outran and outplayed the Bombers.
Essendon responded with power and pace in the last quarter. They lost Dylan Shiel to injury early, and with two on the bench and a considerable margin to rein in, you could forgive them for defending and trying to keep the loss to a respectable margin. However, on the back of an inspired performance by Kyle Langford, and with Bellchambers dominant in the middle, the Dons found their mojo and took it right up to the Tigers, in a compelling run chase.
As Essendon kicked goal after goal and brought themselves within reach, the Tigers needed a settler, but after Tom Lynch went to the bench with a game ending injury, they couldn’t find a target up forward to kick that settling goal. They didn’t need one, as Essendon got within three goals they ran out of legs and weren’t able to get any closer. It was an almighty attempt and would have been a comeback for the ages, but the Bombers will live to regret that third quarter, as the Tigers reminded everyone that despite their missing players, they are still a top-quality side. An after the siren goal to Rioli ended the war of attrition and finalised the margin at 23 points.
The Better players (in no particular order)
Tom Bellchambers was immense. He enjoyed Richmond’s lack of tall men and to half time had two inside 50s, two clearances, two score involvements and an impressive 24 out of a possible 36 hit outs.
Kyle Langford was quiet for three quarters, but cometh the hour, cometh the man. With two down on the bench and the game falling away from them, he bobbed up with three final quarter goals to get the Dons back into the match.
Darcy Parish was huge for the Dons with 31 touches, nine clearances and five tackles.
Bachar Houli was a clear best on ground and was rightly presented the Yiooken award by Michael Long. He has a career high 37 touches including 10 rebound 50s and set up the play for Richmond.
Dustin Martin was big with 35 touches and seven clearances and eight inside 50s.
Dion Prestia just continues to play well. He’s a bit of an unsung player who goes about his business with consistent quality. He finished today 25 touches, a goal and 10 inside 50s.
The umps were loving the deliberate out of bounds call tonight, giving away the free with every chance they could get. They were also hot on holding the ball.
What’s up, Doc?
Jake Stringer injured his hamstring in the second quarter and did not make it back on to the field.
Dylan Shiel went off early in the last quarter with a hamstring. He did not re-join the game and like Stringer will be sweating on the scans, come Monday.
Tom Lynch went off the ground in the last quarter with a cork in the calf.
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