In the end it was a 32 point victory for the Richmond Football Club, and had you missed the game, you may be forgiven for thinking that you missed a good contest between two potential finalists.

It wasn’t.

The Tigers slaughtered the Magpies in the first half with a combination of intelligent wet-weather football with the ball and intense, gang-tackling pressure without it while the Pies fumbled and bumbled when push came to shove.

How good were the Tigers? How poor were the Pies? Is Tom Lynch now threatening All-Australian selection? And are the Tiger faithful who read The Mongrel ready with their comments about how Dylan Grimes is underrated as hell and should be in any mock All-Australian team at this point of the season?

All will be revealed as we dive into the good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

DYLAN… YOU SON OF A BITCH!

There will be some who say that Dylan Grimes didn’t have a huge task tonight, or that he was able to zone off and do as he pleased once Jordan de Goey moved into the midfield to assist the paralysed Collingwood on-ballers.

You know, if you want to look for a fault in anyone’s game, chances are you’ll find it. I’ll show you how. Ready?

Dylan Grimes ONLY had nine intercept possessions. Yep, only nine. Others like Will Hoskin-Elliott had 12. Bachar Houli had 11, and Nick Vlastuin had 11. Does that mean they had better defensive games?

Not by a long shot.

Dylan Grimes ruled the air inside defensive 50. Six of his nine intercepts were marks, and three of those were contested. Not only did he read the ball well, he beat his direct opponent in one-on-ones and took marks with the wet footy. I just want to add that Nathan Broad was able to subtly assist rimes on several occasions with some good body work to move opponents out of position, and this allowed rimes to take intercept marks – he won’t get much credit for it elsewhere, but I noticed.

Some of Grimes’ efforts late in the game – the second third and fourth efforts as the ball remained in dispute were inspirational. The game was over. They were cueing up “We’re from Tigerland” on the MCG sound system, yet there was Grimes, still trying his heart out.

Wiry like a greyhound, and blisteringly quick… also like a greyhound, Grimes (who actually looks a bit like a greyhound) is a nightmare match up. He plays big, small, short, tall, and he’s making me sound like Dr Seuss. Many of the Tiger faithful who frequent our Mongrel website love Grimes to death, and it is games such as this that are the reason.

He had a blinder against Port earlier in the year, and this would be right up there with the best defensive performances of the season as well. Let’s sing the praises of one whose praises are often unsung. And sing them loud – he deserves it.

DUSTY

Remember 2017 when Dusty was doing this every week? Or at least it seemed like it was every week!

I loved Martin’s first half in particular. He was the one streaming inside 50 to put the Tigers on the board. He was the one using underground handballs to ensure they weren’t cut off by the charging opposition, and he was the one collecting 23 touches as the midfield catalyst for Richmond’s obliteration of the Magpies.

Whilst others fumbled, Dusty was clean. Whilst others hesitated, he put his foot down and accelerated to contest after contest… and put his foot down on the throats of Collingwood in the process.

The Tigers were blessed in this game. We touched on Grimes down back (we didn’t touch Grimes down back… that’d be inappropriate) and we’ll get to Lynch, but in the middle, Dusty was the man in this one. 38 touches is a new season-high, and it wasn’t just the touches. The fend off was back, the smile was back, the creativity was back – he played like a bloke enjoying his footy.

And why wouldn’t you be enjoying it when you’re one of the biggest reasons that your team is belting Collingwood? I know it’d make me smile.

THE BIG RECRUIT WITH THE BIG RESULTS

Who remembers Space Jam? My kids watched it a fair bit at one stage, and I genuinely liked watching Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing looking like they were clumsy and unable to execute basic basketball skills. I’d actually seen a bit of that from Ewing in actual NBA games prior to the release of the movie. He could be a little oafish at times.

Anyway, they lose their talent to the cheeky little spacemen and they’re complete uncos from that point on, dropping passes and looking as though they didn’t belong on the court. And at times earlier in the season, Tom Lynch looked like someone had pinched a fair bit of his talent when the ball came to him in any fashion other than lace out. he was horrible below the knees and his second efforts were non-existent. BUT… and this is a big but, once he found that ability again, he has looked like a complete monster! A Mon-star!

He was at it again tonight, doing his best work in the first half to put the game beyond reach, and doing away with another great recruit, Jordan Roughead in the process. I’m a big Roughead fan, but he was led a dance by Lynch early in this one as he controlled the forward 50 and could’ve easily finished with seven for the night.

He settled for 5.1 and had 13 total score involvements in the kind of performance that reminded me of the dominant full forwards of yesteryear. He took contested marks, his second efforts were tremendous, and he was the number one target inside 50 for the yellow and black. However, the most impressive aspect of Lynch’s game was the way he handled the wet ball below his knees.

Two things happen when you play wet weather footy. Firstly, the players who are less skilled get even worse because their relative control of the situation all but disappears, and secondly, the true footballing maestros, and Lynch is definitely counted amongst them… they start to take the ball cleanly and leave others in their dust.

Or the mud.

Lynch was excellent below his knees, one grabbing the ball and dishing it off to others in scoring situations. He was THE standout forward on the park again, and anyone who questioned him earlier in the season should be preparing their apology – I got in early, writing mine this week. You can read it here.

UNDERRATED BIG FELLAS

Was it just me, or did Mabior Chol and Ivan Soldo combine to do what very few rucks have been able to do tonight? Did they just shut down Brodie Grundy?

Whilst neither was what you’d call dominant, their restriction of the normally prolific Grundy started really becoming apparent when we look at the centre clearances, which the Tigers won 15-7. Credit to the Tiger mids for their positioning, but Grundy was coming off one of his bigger games of the season, and more was expected of him tonight.

He didn’t deliver, and the efforts of Chol and Soldo were just as responsible as the Richmond mids stealing Grundy’s taps.

Grundy had just nine touches for the game – his lowest total since Round Seven, 2016. He also had four clearances. Meanwhile Soldo and Chol combined for 17 disposals and six clearances and snuck forward for a goal each to really sting the Brownlow favourite.

I think it’s safe to assume there will be no votes for Grundy in this one, and both he and Nathan Buckley are hoping that this performance is the outlier for his season.

I’m not sure the Pies can afford him to have another game like that.

HEY PRESTIA

We published the eighth edition of our fortnightly Player Power Rankings this week, and there was a bit of noise made about Dion Prestia coming in at number 40. A few thought he should’ve been higher, and watching him tonight, maybe they have a point.

Prestia was a little fumbly early on, and seemed to take the first ten or so minutes to adjust to the slippery conditions, but once he did, he was well and truly on the way to being one of the best on ground yet again.

You have to wonder how close Prestia will go to the Jack Dyer medal this year, given the raft of injuries to the usual suspects, and the consistency of the former Gold Coast Sun. He has averaged 29.28 disposals per game over the last seven weeks, and 6.28 clearances. Some Tiger fans are calling for Prestia to be inserted into AA discussions if he wasn’t already.

Do I think he is AA worthy? Look, I know this’ll be unpopular, but he’ll probably be one of those blokes who makes the squad of 40 but doesn’t get into the team. People may think I’m anti-Richmond, or have something against Prestia because… well, because some people are nuts, and they’re allowed to think that. I watch a lot of footy, and whilst I respect what Prestia has been able to do this season, I can’t put him in the same breath with some of the match-winning mids in the game.

 

JORDAN DE GOEY

There wasn’t much to celebrate if you are a Pies fan, but as a neutral, I absolutely love watching Jordan de Goey playing. I heard Bruce McAvaney call him a bull at a gate, but he was more than that in this game.

De Goey was composed when he had to be, and was a constant threat through the middle of the ground. He had a game-high 11 inside 50 disposals and had 28 disposals as he alternated between the midfield and forward line.

We are seeing a Collingwood team that is in need of a spark at the moment. The problem is they need a spark in the midfield, a spark in the forward line, and a spark across half forward. Jordan de Goey is one man – he cannot do it all.

Nathan Buckley would be perplexed at what to do to help de Goey without his partner in crime, Jaidyn Stephenson to create havoc inside 50. For starters, he needs to get rid of some passengers, and we’ll get into that below.

THE PRESSURE

Alarm bells are sounding across the AFL. Red lights are flashing and opposition coaches are waking up in cold sweats.

The Richmond pressure is back, and it is causing absolute chaos for their opponents.

The conditions were conducive to the manic pressure that made Richmond what they were throughout 2017 and 2018 as the Pies could not be clean when handling the ball, and instead transferred the pressure from one player to the next. The problem with that is, with every fumble, and every doubly grab, the pressure intensifies. Tigers smell blood and they come from everywhere to feast on the carcass of the panicking opposition.

And they feasted tonight. Even players like Adam Treloar started fumbling under the immense pressure of Richmond. The Pies tried to do the same, but the Tigers were up to it, many of their players handling the footy like it was dry weather, and the ones who couldn’t went off the deck to claim metres and put Collingwood under pressure as a result.

I try not to get too excited this far out from the finals, but in exchanging texts with a mate of mine recently, he said he felt the Tigers were just starting to build after the bye, having peaked way too early last season. This season it looks as though they are building to a crescendo at the right time of the year.

Are the Tigers now premiership favourites? Who can stop them on the MCG? I reckon right now there is only one team capable, and it is the boys from out West.

Still, a lot can happen in a month of footy.

RIEWOLDT V HOWE

There are probably a few people who would give the points to Howe in this contest, but I think it was probably the most evenly fought match up out there.

It’s not often that people outmark Jack Riewoldt, but Jeremy Howe was able to do so on a couple of occasions tonight. Of course, Riewoldt was able to turn the tables and do the same to Howe.

Whilst we had other matchups chopping and changing, these two exchanged pleasantries for most of the evening. Riewoldt still looks slightly out of sorts, but played the half forward role really well in allowing Tom Lynch the space to be Tom Lynch. Sadly, it equated to less goals for Jack.

I’m hoping for another round of this contest in September, as I think we’ll have Riewoldt without the rust by that point – it should be a cracker.

THE BAD

PASSENGERS

You know what I like about not having the AFL, or a sub-editor breathing down my neck?

The fact I don’t get paid! Nah… I hate that. Is it that I don’t have my articles stripped back to 1000 words to fit a newspaper column? Yeah, that’s not bad, but there’s something else.

I love not having the AFL or members of a newspaper to answer to. It means that when someone plays poorly, it’s okay to say it. It’s not okay to bash them and insult them, but it is okay to dissect their performances and ask questions about why.

Why did Nathan Buckley keep Mason Cox in the side despite the poor weather conditions? As soon as the ball hits the deck, Cox is rendered as useless as Joe Ganino without his little blue pills. He’s had 11 tackles…

…FOR THE SEASON!

Yep, for the year, his average is 0.8 tackles per game. Careful – don’t let him lay eight tenths of a tackle on you!

Jamie Elliott cannot get near the footy. He is averaging a career low ten touches per game, and his lowest goal average since his debut season. Yet there he is, taking up space in the forward line. He had five touches for the game, beating out Ben Crocker for worst-performed forward – he had six touches.

Josh Daicos did nowhere near enough, nor did Callum Brown – and these were conditions that I thought may see them excel.

And then there was Travis Varcoe. There are days when I watch him and it looks as though he has the ball on a string. And then there are days like today when it looks as though he has somehow become entangled in those strings, and cannot make an impact.

Varcoe’s dropped chest mark late in the second quarter was indicative of his game.

When people talk about teams only being as good as their bottom six, I often think it depends on how good your top six, or top ten are as to whether or not you can carry a bottom six that isn’t performing. The way the Pies are travelling right now, they can’t afford to carry anyone, but there are some that seem incapable right now of being anything but passengers more often than not.

COTCH OUT AGAIN

Watching this game, and after watching last week as well, you get the feeling that there is one thing that can definitely derail the Tigers, and that is the health of their stars. If they’re all up and going, Richmond are formidable, but with Cotchin leaving the game in the first quarter, the Tigers are headed toward September without another wounded soldier to nurse back to health.

And this soldier is an important one.

Cotchin played only 12% of the game, yet in that time he managed to accumulate three clearances. For context, that is more than 34 other players in the game. He was on track to break some kind of record if he’d stayed on (not really… he may have played 80% and even if he retained that pace, he would’ve ended up with around 20 clearances. Paul Salmon once had 22).

The Tigers will nurse Cotchin back to health and hope he can get through the finals series unscathed. He may be the difference between a premiership and an being an also-ran.

NO HELP ON DEFENCE

So there was one particularly ugly piece of defensive work I wanted to highlight, as right then and there, you knew the Pies were screwed.

Sydney Stack received a 50 metre penalty and ambled down toward half forward, eyes darting. The defenders and mids should have all been back by this point – Stack seemed in no great rush. However,. As he went long to the square, Dustin Martin found space, lost touch with his opponent, and took one of the easiest marks you’ll see in a game of this magnitude.

The closest player to Martin was Jeremy Howe, but he was unable to impact the contest. Really, this was not good enough from the Pies. They had ample opportunity to stack their backline and neglected to do so, allowing Dusty to mark and goal…as though he needs to be allowed to do anything more than he was doing!

Buckley has a lot to address. The Pies have lost four of their past five, and their point differential in those five games is -126. They have no key defenders left standing if Roughead doesn’t pull up well from this concussion, and have a world beating midfield that is simply not performing. Whatever koolaid they were drinking earlier in the season, Buckley had better start pouring them glasses of it again, because for the second week in the row they have come out of the gates looking like a VFL side.

And that may be where some of their passengers actually belong.

THE UGLY

FOOTSTEPS

Oh, I hate seeing this.

There is an unwritten law at footy clubs that when it’s your turn to go, you go. If there is traffic coming, a teammate will call you in, or call you out, but if it is just you and one opponent, you’ve gotta go.

Anyone remember the coach yelling that to them? ”You’ve gotta go!”

I sure as hell do – it was a horrible feeling because you had no choice. But that didn’t stop Brandon Ellis from throwing one hand up in the air and half-arsing a contest in the first quarter.

I don’t want to say too much about it, as the vision below will speak volumes, but in the first quarter, when your teammates are having a red hot go and you’re putting your stamp on the game, you don’t want to be the bloke going at the footy like this.

Hopefully there is a chance to redeem himself in the near future.

QUICK BITS

I was really looking forward to seeing if Jordan Roughead could rally and get Tom Lynch under control before he went off with concussion from what was ostensibly a smother, using his face to halt the momentum of the footy. I’m pretty sure the saying goes ‘keep your eye on the ball’, not ‘keep the ball on your eye’.

Another 30+ game for Treloar – this time 39 disposals. Not sure about you guys, but I feel he didn’t really hurt the Tigers at all.

Great way to celebrate for Bachar Houli in game 200. His 31 touches, ten marks and 11 intercepts were a indicative of how loose the Collingwood forwards were defensively. He had Nick Vlastuin basically did whatever they liked across half back for most of the night.

So do the Tigers try to bring Rance back? They have the Dees next week, which could get messy, before Carlton, West Coast and Brisbane to finish, and I’m thinking that as great as Rance is, he is probably not going to get back to where he needs to be to make a significant impact this season.

That said, if they have an injury to Grimes or Astbury in the next few weeks, it would have to be tempting to bring him back. If I was a betting man, which I’m not (The Mongrel Punt – proudly gambling ad free) I’d wager that he sits out the year and comes back with a vengeance next season.

Loved the game of Jayden Short. He spent half the game running away from Jamie Elliott and Ben Crocker.

Every week I hear from Richmond fans about Kane Lambert and how I never put him in the reviews… well, he’s heeeeeere. That run after delivering the ball to Lynch in the second quarter, capping it with a toe poke for a goal… that was gut running at its finest, and I’m glad he got a toe to it. I love seeing running like that rewarded.

You won’t convince me he is an elite mid, but I am more than happy to concede that he is a very, very good one.

Mabior Chol’s sell of the candy to Josh Thomas on the wing was beautiful.

In a stat that bucked the trend for Richmond, the Tigers had seven of the top eight disposal winners at quarter time. Usually the Tigers have a really even spread and the opposition racks up big individual numbers, but not today. The Tigers had an even spread AND were playing so well that the Pies couldn’t get anyone going.

Anyone think that Mason Cox would be a good option to float down to half back as an interceptor late in games when the sting is out of the legs?

And while I am at it, anyone think I should shut up and go to bed? I do.

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