So I drove home this afternoon with a smile on my face. Footy was back.

Yes, it is a watered-down, 16-minute quarter game, with no real reason to keep the shortened time, but hey… it was footy! And I was pretty pumped to see how these two teams hit this game, given the extended layoff since Round One.

Twenty minutes into the game, it looked like Collingwood’s game, but as they always seem to do, the Tigers turned the screws and clawed their way back into the contest.

Was it spectacular? Nope.

Was it a game for the ages? Definitely not.

Was it footy? Well, yeah. And I am glad it was back…. I just wanted better footy. How ungrateful, right?

Anyway, here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of the game that promised so much, and delivered… a draw, and not much else.

THE GOOD

 

THE VALUE OF A KEY FORWARD

At half time, the score was basically five-goal to Collingwood and three goals to Tom Lynch.

As much as we’ll hear people talk about having a diverse range of players to kick goals, there is still a lot to be said for a big bloke who can get involved, be your focal point and convert. In the second quarter, right as the Tigers needed someone to stand up and hit the scoreboard, Tom Lynch did.

He kept his team in it, and allowed them to make their run and though he was quiet in front of goal later (aside from the shot he had when he blatantly pushed Jordan Roughead in the back!), it was his efforts that gave Richmond a place to launch their second half, grind it out strategy. He kept them close enough.

Lynch had a shocker in Round One, belted by Jacob Weitering, but he answered in the best possible fashion this evening. Kicking 60% of his team’s goals, he automatically becomes the best-performed forward on the ground.

 

GREAT SIGNS EARLY. NOT SO MUCH LATER

One day, Callum Brown will play four quarters of footy like his first quarter tonight, and it will be magnificent.

If I was giving votes at quarter time, the Brown kid would have picked up three. He had eight touches, kicked a goal and had a direct goal assist as the Pies kicked away.

He had just five touches for the remainder of the game, and was pushed to the goal square at times, meaning he had the pleasure of Dylan Grimes’ company – that was never going to work out for him. Not sure about that decision.

Brown has shown a fair bit, and with his brother, as well as Josh Daicos and Darcy Moore on the books, this Pies team has a history of greatness in its bloodlines.

Now, if Brown can start playing the whole game…

… and to get his hands to the ball when there’s a floating kick inside 50 with seconds remianing. I’ve watched the replay back a few times, and it is evident that Brown opted to let that kick from Taylor Adams in the dying moments bounce instead of marking it. Why??? It was within his grasp, and a mark at that point would have resulted in a shot after the siren.

The Callum Brown of the first quarter would have taken the mark. And he would have scored too.

The Callum Brown of the last three quarters let it bounce.

You know which player the Pies need.

 

TAKING ON THE PRESSURE AND TIGHTENING UP

Teams going end-to-end and ending up kicking a goal is something that rarely happens against the Tigers, but Collingwood pulled it off in the second quarter, and at this stage they looked to have the answer to whatever Richmond could throw at them.

The Tigers’ game plan is a simple, yet effective one. Invite the opposition to take on your pressure, tighten the screws, an then punish them. You have to give the Tigers credit – they show you how to beat them… if you’re good enough.

More often than not, teams are not good enough, and the best is when they think they are, they try to take the pressure on, and then… bang, the Tigers pounce. For a little while in this game, the Pies were good enough, but as fatigue set in, and players ran a little less hard to make space and accept the short kick, things started working in favour of the Richmond style.

Really, the Tigers had a chance to pinch this game based on that tried and true style of squeezing the life out of their opponents, but with both teams missing opportunities late in the game, maybe a draw was the right result.

 

THE CAPTAINS

So some dual praise here. Both team captains conducted themselves with the kind of intensity and passion for the contest I would expect of two of the best leaders in the game tonight.

Firstly, Cotchin.

If every player on the field attacked the contest with the ferocity of Trent Cotchin, someone would end up dead. I loved the attention he gave Brodie Grundy when the big fella decided to go to ground searching for the ball. Cotchin made sure he earned it and dropped a shoulder into him on the way down.

He finished with 23 touches and 15 of them were contested. He tended to hack away at the ball a little, but his commitment to the Richmond cause should never, ever be questioned.

On the flip side, Pendlebury has in composure what Cotchin has in ferocity. Inserting himself into the half-back role in the third quarter, Pendles navigated the Pies out of trouble on several occasions with his customary handball-feign into hitting up a target. Whilst he too was a little wayward at times, his ability to be in the right spot at the right time, and then buy extra time, is uncanny.

Both these blokes played very important roles for their teams, playing in the same position, yet the way they go about it is so different. If I was to give the points to one of them on the night…

… Pendles, just.

 

HOWE GOOD AGAIN?

This is going to become a real problem for the remainder of the season – Jeremy Howe is becoming McGovern-like with his defensive positioning, and his intercept marking.

Yeah, I can see Eagles fans spitting their cornflakes out as they read this, given McGovern has four-straight AA selections to his name, but Howe’s efforts over the first two rounds have been excellent, and comparing him to Gov is a compliment of the highest order.

Though he was freed up to float around half back a bit in this game, even when he was isolated in a one-on-one match-up, he was rarely beaten.

He finished with eight one-percenters, seven intercepts and racked up 20 touches for the evening to be one of the best performers on the park.

There has been a little bit of a trend with players getting better later in their careers in recent years. Shaun Higgins and Travis Boak have both posted career-high numbers into their thirties, and with Howe turning the big 3-0 in a couple of weeks, he may join them in playing his best footy in the back half of his career.

After two stellar outings in 2020, it might be time for teams to put a bit of work into him.

 

THE WALL AND THE BENEFICIARY

There was a genuine shift in the game in the third quarter, and one man reaped the benefits of it most.

Let’s give credit here to Damien Hardwick, who took the game by the balls in the third quarter and made sure it was played on the Tigers’ terms from that point on. Richmond applied the pressure and forced the Magpies into a style of play that not only restricted their ability to run forward, but allowed them to scratch and tear away at the lead and drag themselves back into it.

Cotchin was desperate, Edwards decided to get involved in the game, and sitting back across half-back, Bachar Houli started to collect possessions,

And that spells trouble.

Can you remember last year, there was some vision aired on one of the footy panel shows that was supposed to be damning of Houli. It showed him zooming off, getting out by himself and not really playing on anyone. I can’t remember who it was that was pointing this out, but I remember it made me laugh.

I was watching Houli picking up easy touches as the bloke criticised him, and I smiled. This is the role Bachar Houli is instructed to play because it is bloody effective! He gets behind the ball, spreads to the flank and runs or hits up a target.

And as the third quarter slog set in – two late goals to the Tigers breaking the deadlock, it was Houli off half-back collecting his touches. He had 14 in the second half as he powered the Tigers forward.

He won’t get votes in this one – there were plenty better, but once the Tigers managed to build that wall across the middle, and the Pies were unable to penetrate it, it was Houli that started looking like the bloke that went so close to winning a couple of Norm Smith Medals.

Makes you wonder why Nathan Buckley didn’t have someone playing a defensive role on him, huh? I reckon Hardwick really out-coached Bucks after the first quarter.

 

THE BAD

 

SCORE REVIEW

“Clearly”.

I’m sure we all heard the dude from the high-tech ‘Arc’ explain to us that Jack Higgins had marked the ball “clearly” inside the field of play, right?

Clearly?

I’m not so sure about that.

In a game that ended in a draw, how important are these kinds of decisions? If there is any doubt at all, they should be going with the goal umpire’s call. If the evidence is overwhelming, change the call, but if it isn’t… don’t. It’s easy, right? Are we sure the decision to award Jack Higgins the mark was absolutely conclusive?

That was a line-ball call. Was it “clearly” marked?

I’m not sure. If I had to bet my house on it (it’s not worth that much, anyway) I would say that it is possible that the entire footy had not crossed the line and the mark should have been paid, but I’m not sure we saw conclusive evidence of that. And if the evidence wasn’t completely conclusive… then should the decision have been overruled? What we’re trying to avoid is guess work.

A question… did the umpire whistle it a mark at all? He was out of camera shot, and the whistle was delayed… I’m not sure, but I think he may have been calling for the play to be halted after seeing the reaction from the goal umpire, who was moving toward him and in the field of play. Did you notice that?

How can it have been a mark if the umpire didn’t actually pay it??? Will be interesting to see a few different angles in real-time, and if I am wrong on that, apologies in advance to the ump  (Matt Stevic, I think it was).

Anyway, what a mess. The game was a mess and this incident just added to the non-spectacle.

Put a gun to my head and I might have paid the mark, but I’d rather the gun was pointed at the goal umpire’s head and his on-the-spot decision was supported.

 

A PASSENGER

Daniel Rioli flashes in and out of games. It’s kind of like his thing. He bobs up, impacts the game, and then he wanders off to do whatever Daniel Rioli does when he’s not impacting the game.

And that amounts to not much.

Last season, he was shipped back to the VFL to find some form, and watching him tonight, maybe another trip back to play some scratch matches could be on the cards.

Six disposals and two tackles.

I have a mate named Johnny A, who tells me Rioli needs only five touches of magic to have a profound influence on the game. Well, I’m sure he is correct in some games but I reckon I can safely say that none of his six touches in this one would earn him a letter from Hogwarts.

I understand fully that not everyone can have a heap of the footy, or lay a heap of tackles – it is not their role, but if you can explain to me how Daniel Rioli played an effective role in this game, I’d greatly appreciate it. I can’t work it out for the life of me, and given the Richmond side plays pressure footy, where players like Rioli are supposed to kill you on the turnover, I reckon his effort in this one was a pretty poor one.

 

THE UGLY

 

IS JACK ON THE WAY OUT?

I was a little worried about Jack Riewoldt last season. Yes, he kicked five goals in the Grand Final, which is a great return, but that wallpapered over what was a terrible season for him. It was the first time he’d averaged under two goals per game in ten years, and despite flourishes of decent play, he wasn’t the same player we’d seen in seasons prior.

He started this year with a really solid first quarter against the Blues before fading out, and the fade continued tonight.

He managed six possessions, took two marks, and didn’t make the distance from 40 metres out in the last quarter. I know there are a lot of people who will defend Riewoldt, and that’s fine, but as an outsider, he is was nowhere near it in this one, and to sweep it under the rug and wish it didn’t happen would be tantamount to neglectful.

It probably didn’t help that he was opposed to either Darcy Moore or Jeremy Howe at times – both excellent defenders, but in the eyes of many, Riewoldt is a superstar of the game. He needs to perform like it.

On tonight’s performance, I’d be worried about his trajectory.

 

16 MINUTE QUARTERS = CRAP!

Right, let’s get onto this big issue, because it is a BIG issue.

Remember after Round One when the 16 minute quarters were such a raging success? Oh yeah, we were told by those in the know, and Gerard Whateley who wouldn’t know if his arse was on fire if he smelled the smoke, that everyone was in favour of shorter quarters.

“Oh, it will lead to more attacking footy!”

Remember that load of shit? They were basing their commentary on one round of footy where half of the games were played under the cloud of the entire season being cancelled. No wonder teams threw caution to the wind. The coaches just let the players play footy. It was free-flowing because they weren’t really coaching in the traditional, dour sense, and as soon as they decided to coach properly, the clamps were going to go on.

And the clamps were on in this game – it was a shit show!

Here’s what I have noticed in recent years – at the end of quarters, that is when teams can break the game open. Players are fatigued, and special things happen. The fitter blokes keep running. The better-skilled blokes use the ball better. The opportunists find the footy. The longer the quarter wears on, the more the great players come to the fore.

So, what do we do? We shorten the quarters, and then, like we’re a bunch of mindless idiots, we’re told how great it is.

Let this be a lesson to everyone – do not trust these talking heads when they’re trying to sell an idea. Most of the time they have no idea what they’re talking about. The other portion, they’re akin to snake oil salesmen.

16 minute quarters were introduced at a time when we thought teams were going to have to play three times in two weeks. It made sense at that time – I am happy to concede. It screwed with the game to the point it didn’t feel like real footy – more a better version of AFLX.

But now there is not that threat hanging over the season. Why are we stuck with it? Would it hurt to revert to 20-minute quarters and give us the proper version of footy? Not this watered down speed-dating version?

In short, it is garbage, and this game was evidence of it.

 

THE GAME, ITSELF

Have you ever eaten something you absolutely hate because you have nothing else in the house? I mean, I was a student once – I remember what it’s like to have no money and be scrounging around only to find some pickles and a jar and vegemite.

I hate both of those foods, but when I was starving, with no other options, you damn bet I ate them. I didn’t enjoy them, but they sustained me.

Which brings me to tonight’s game as a whole.

I was starving for footy. Absolutely starving. I accepted the AFL’s bullshit reasoning behind shorter quarters and so on… as long as I was getting footy, I was going to be okay with things. I’m a big boy… I can compartmentalise and move on.

It was scrappy early, but the Pies looked good. It wasn’t quite a big steak and chips from the Squire’s Loft, but it was a nice cheeseburger and fries from Maccas. Good enough. I was eating it up.

But after quarter time, I had my burger and fries whisked away, and in its place was a serving of vegemite and pickles. I frowned a bit… I didn’t like what I was being served up, but I took a bite anyway, and started chewing. I was starving for months before this, remember? And this was still food.

But just as I got used to the taste of those foods I hate, someone dumped something else in front of me to consume. It was in the form of the third quarter. It looked like a Nutella sandwich…

… only worse.

A quick sniff test of the game from that point on confirmed my fears. The rest of the game was like eating a shit sandwich.

I was hungry for footy, and really, with two teams as good as these in recent years, you could expect to have your fill and be hungry for more. I switched off the TV moments after the final siren to write this feeling as though I’d been robbed a little – not by the result, but by the standard.

We have heard many people lament the standard of AFLW in recent years. I dare you to watch this game and tell me it was any better. At a time when the AFL has a chance to have the eyes of the sporting world focused on it, resuming ahead of most other sports, particularly in the USA, we served them up a shit sandwich to eat.

And if I was them, I wouldn’t be keen to chow down again.

I reckon this was an opportunity lost – I hope the Hawks and Cats can offer some form of redemption on Friday.

 

A FEW QUESTIONS

 

IS THE MARLION PICKETT HONEYMOON OVER?

Nah, not quite yet, but this really isn’t a game he’d be proud of. That said, he’d have a fair few for company, on both teams.

I reckon he was working a bit of the dust off this week. Let’s see how he recovers for R3 before we start looking at whether he is earning his spot in the side.

 

WHERE’D CHRIS MAYNE GO?

Good question – I’m glad I asked. When the Pies play an open game, Chris Mayne is one of the most important link men in their side. he finds a heap of it across half-back and the wing, and does it easily. But in games like this… he had 16 touches and just three in the second half when the Tigers turned the heat up.

In short, if the game is not being played with plenty of space, and in a possession-first kind of style, you won’t see much of him.

 

HOW DID SOLDO DO AGAINST GRUNDY?

Overall, pretty well. I was a bit iffy about him getting the nod over Nankervis, but at the centre bounces, I thought he competed really well. Early on, Grundy gave the Pies first use at stoppages around the ground, including setting up a Taylor Adams goal with bodywork and a deft ruck tap, but Soldo battled on strongly.

Beaten by ten hit-outs, Soldo held Grundy to 15 touches, which even with shorter quarters is below expectations for the reigning AA ruckman.

 

WHO SHOULD THE PIES PLAY OUT OF THE SQUARE?

So, tonight it was Jamie Elliott, and one a dewy night, where the preferred method of attack seemed to be to kick long and hope, he was never going to stand out. He had five touches for the game  – I’d call that a fail. Could the Pies push Mihocek deep? Maybe de Goey for longer stretches? Get Stephenson back in the side and see if he can drag his opponent up the field and double back? Mason Cox?

I suppose having a lot of options is a good thing, but I reckon Bucks would move heaven and Earth to have someone like Tom Lynch coming out of his goal square.

 

IS THERE A MORE UNDERRATED DEFENDER THAN NATHAN BROAD?

What is it about Richmond defenders that allows them to fly under the radar? When Alex Rance was in the side, Dylan rimes was rarely mentioned. Now that Grimes is the number one man, David Astbury doesn’t get much chatter, and Nathan Broad gets even less than him!

I’m not sure anyone is more underrated, but maybe Brayden Maynard is his Collingwood equivalent. Both guys are excellent in their roles.

 

OVER THE HEAD HANDBALLS IN A TIGHT CONTEST?

Yeah, there were a couple. Pendles tried it in the tight last quarter… mistake. And it was either Kane Lambert or Shane Edwards… I can’t quite remember… another mistake.

 

OTHER BITS

The Dusty v de Goey superstar match up didn’t quite happen, did it? Dusty had moments where he threatened, but ultimately looked a little out of sorts. On the flip side, de Goey couldn’t hit the side of a barn when kicking for goal, and what the hell is with a banana kick from 40 out on the run???

I liked what Shai Bolton added to the Tigers in the last quarter. His forward half pressure is exactly what they needed given Rioli’s ineptitude.

Nick Vlastuin… hardly beaten in a genuine one-on-one all game. Come to think of it, I cannot recall a contest where he was beaten, and his tackle on the non-marking Callum Brown in the dying seconds was perfectly executed.

Can’t believe I’ve got this far without mentioning Steele Sidebottom. Really solid game from him, and for a while, he was the standout player on the ground. Then he faded, with just six touches in the second half.

Taylor Adams had a field day in the first quarter, picking up six clearances. He ended up with eight for the game, with the Tigers recognising his impact, and laying tackles as soon as his hands touched the footy. Credit must go to Lambert, Edwards and Cotchin for working hard at stoppages to restrict him after quarter time.

Looking forward, the Pies host the Saints at the ‘G, whilst the Tigers get the Hawks on Thursday night. I would have these teams as heavy favourites in both encounters.

So, that’s it – one of the worst games I’ve seen in ages, yet I don’t really care because footy is back! Thanks to all those who signed on as members and supported us. I hope you enjoy having this up early for you. To others, if you like this stuff, please consider supporting our site and jumping on board.

Remember, if you want to change in AFL media, you have to make it happen… otherwise, things don’t change.

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