The Tigers might be the walking wounded, but even with the bench littered with injured players and the prospect of being without two more of their stars as they head into their Queensland hub, they were still too much for Melbourne.
The Dees made a late charge, as though they sensed the Tigers were wounded, but an inability to hit targets, and Richmond’s delight in punishing their inaccuracy meant the premiers was able to win the last game at the MCG for a fair while.
With Prestia, Cotchin and Nankervis all suffering injuries that will sideline them, it was up to a few lesser lights to carry a bigger load.
And they did.
Because that’s what Richmond players do.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
Nah, he is more like a ute. There’s plenty of grunt in Kane Lambert, and he isn’t afraid to get down and dirty. Lamborghinis stick to paved roads. Lambert would be just as happy off-road.
I wrote in the intro about the lesser lights stepping to the fore. Well, Kane Lambert did not just step to the fore in this game; he stomped his way past everyone and plonked himself down there as the best midfielder on the park.
In this shortened season it has been very rare for a midfielder to pop up and kick multiple goals. It’s rarer still to see one kick three, but that’s what Lambert did today.
With Trent Cotchin struggling (14 touches and a hamstring injury), Dustin Martin on home and away cruise control (20 touches) and Dion Prestia less effective than he was last season, Richmond have needed someone to step up and play a bigger role.
And that man was Kane Lambert in this game.
Look, he hasn’t been great up until this point. If we’re being honest, you’d be hard-pressed to state that you’ve been happy with Lambert’s 2020 season. He had yet to crack 20 touches in a game (17 was his high) and he wasn’t providing that solid support that we were used to from him. With 27 touches and three goals against the Dees, Lambert announced that he was well and truly back. With him playing a host of different roles thus far in 2020, some may argue that he was never really gone.
Lambert is a workhorse. You can picture him as the first to arrive at training and the last to leave, and it is that sort of work ethic that inevitably pays off.
Just as it did in this game.
So, did you hear that David Astbury is out?
Well, did you hear the drums beating that the Tigers were now in deep trouble and there is no way the defence can stand up without one of their pillars?
I’m guessing you’ve heard all that before, right? Just swap the name Astbury for Rance and everything old is new again.
Yes, David Astbury was on the sidelines for this game, but if you have spoken to anyone invested in the Richmond Football Club, you would know the name of Noah Balta. Not that any Tigers fans have been wishing injury on anyone, but they have all been chomping at the bit to see what he is capable of.
Well, unleashed into a key position in defence, we saw exactly what he was capable of in this game.
Balta was a human wall across half back, expertly zoning off to intercept a game high ten errant deliveries forward, and let’s face it, the Dees were providing plentiful opportunities for the big man to float across and cut things off.
But wait, there’s more!
Balta also took three contested grabs, sent the Tigers forward for over 400 metres gained and picked up the lazy 20 disposals for the game. He made this key defender gig look easy!
Once again, the Tigers have been patient with one waiting in the wings for his shot. With such a celebrated defence, you don’t mess with a winning formula, but sometimes all someone needs is a chance, and Noah Balta got his this week.
As one of the best on the park, he might be difficult to displace.
PETRACCA COMES OF AGE
There was a bit of Dustin Martin about the first quarter of Christian Petracca today. He was everywhere, doing everything and looked like no one could stop him.
Stop laughing, Richmond fans.
Unfortunately, Petracca was stopped and added just 13 touches over the next three quarters to his impressive tally of 14 in the first quarter.
Petracca has all the tools to be a superstar of the game, and it seems as though we’ve been hearing that for years. However, this season he has been doing things a little better for a little longer. That may sound silly when he picked up over half of his touches in the first quarter, but his presence in the contest has remained a constant through the first five games of 2020.
He still lacks those clean hands of Dustin Martin (and I hear the Tiger fans stating he lacks much more than that) however Petracca is showing a little more poise and a little more composure with the footy in hand at the moment.
Maybe at some point this season it will all click, and if it does… watch out.
THE DEES ARE GAWN?
Yes, the Dees are Gawn and Gawn is the Dees.
There are a few teams who have their identity tied closely to one personality. Carlton and Cripps. Fremantle and Fyfe. The Dogs and Bont. Maybe even the Tigers and Dusty.
And then there’s the Dees and Max Gawn.
Sometimes it feels as though he is dragging this team uphill. He takes a nice intercept mark and looks around to generate run and carry. He hands off and then… turnover. It must be demoralising.
He was strong in this game, picking up 22 touches to go along with his 33 hit outs. Once Toby Nankervis left the field, he rose in the ruck and was integral in the Dees thinking they had a sniff.
You cannot help but feel the Dees are wasting the best years of Max Gawn at the moment. One Preliminary Final appearance for a team with this talent, and this man leading them is underachieving to say the least.
THE NEXT MOST UNDERRATED DEFENDER
The Tigers have this procession. Have you seen it?
It started with Alex Rance at the front, leading the charge from the back half. He was the leader of the back six and got all the credit. Then he got hurt, so Dylan Grimes moved up a notch to become the leader whilst David Astbury became the underrated one.
At some stage, Nick Vlastuin muscled his way in and Astbury continued in the role of being underrated for a while until people started to give him a lot of the credit for the miserly Tiger defence.
Then he got hurt and Noah Balta stepped up.
But all this time there was a bloke back there doing his job with little in the way of fuss or fanfare. He takes big jobs, doesn’t seek the limelight or attention and is rarely beaten. He is the most unsung of the unsung heroes of the Richmond defence. His name is Nathan Broad.
You may remember him from such moments as photos being distributed on the internet, but Broad has been an integral part of this Tiger back six for years now, and his contributions do not go unnoticed.
This Richmond team is built on doing the little things. It’s the little things like tap ons and knock ons. It’s the little things like shepherding and blocking for each other. And it is the little things like celebrating the successes of your teammates. No one embraces the little things like Nathan Broad – the ultimate team defender, and the most unsung hero of all in the Tiger defence.
OPTIONS TO WORK WITH
Is Josh Caddy the forgotten man at Richmond? It wasn’t that long ago that he was the number two option up forward behind Jack Riewoldt, but for the last couple of years he has had to adapt his game in order to remain an integral part of the team.
And it looks as though he may have to do that all over again.
Caddy has been plying his trade on the wing, but with changes expected to the Tiger side next week (are we thinking 4-5 changes?) more may be asked of him again, and in another role.
Dion Prestia sidelined means there is a spot in the guts opening up, and though Caddy hasn’t been in there for a while, we could see the forward-cum-wingman add another string to his bow.
Caddy is a warrior. He is hard and tough, and with both Prestia and Cotchin missing, the Tigers will need a hard edge in the middle. I could see a combination of Dusty, Lambert and Caddy providing plenty of grunt in the middle, even if just for patches.
A player like Caddy is an absolute luxury for Damien Hardwick. He is a stop-gap that can be applied on any surface and in any situation. It is a luxury some teams simply do not possess, and one that every team wishes it had.
Caddy had 13 of his 19 touches on the outside in this game, but such is the adaptability of the man, a switch into the middle would provide the Tigers with more bite around the contest.
WORSE DELIVERY THAN UBER EATS
That’s right… I have had a lot of issues with shitty Uber Eats drivers making unscheduled stop offs to pick up another order or completely overshooting my address.
Why can’t they just do what they’re supposed to and get whatever I need to me? It’s simply, right?
I feel like…
I feel like a forward in the Melbourne forward line trying to get a midfielder to kick the bloody ball to me! Just think about it and do it – it’s not that hard!
A lot of people will focus on the poor kick from Clayton Oliver in the last few minutes of the game. In fairness, it was a shank and would not be the kind of disposal Oliver would be proud of. The Tigers whipped it forward and Tom Lynch sealed the deal with a goal.
But the Dees’ inability to put the ball in the right spots for their forwards has been an issue since last year, and it is more than just Clayton Oliver missing targets – at least he gets in and wins his own footy.
Angus Brayshaw has been one that has continually turned the ball over in the last year. Seemingly devoid of confidence in his foot skills, Brayshaw has been either bombing the ball as long as he can, or sending poking little kicks into areas that are simply not dangerous. At least not dangerous to the opposition.
Don’t get me wrong – he and blokes like Jack Viney do the courageous thing whenever the opportunity presents, but when it is time to hit someone on the chest… well, let’s just say you won’t be seeing their kicking inside 50 on many highlight packages.
Early in the third quarter, Brayshaw received a handball from Max Gawn in the middle, took two steps, looked over his shoulder like he was expecting the boogeyman to sneak up on him and proceeded to poke the ball to half forward – right into the middle of three Richmond defenders. Liam Baker gathered and just ran away – it gave the Melbourne forwards no chance and is sadly indicative of the kind of disposal Brayshaw has been providing Melbourne with since 2018 came to an end.
Enough is enough.
YOU’VE GOTTA GO, MATE
We’ve all heard that call, haven’t we? “You’ve gotta go!”
It’s never fun to point out when a player doesn’t go for a footy, but in some cases it sticks out like dog’s balls.
Jayden Hunt had a moment he would probably like over again in the fourth quarter. Make no mistake, the Dees were pushing hard here. they sensed the Tigers were hurt and with fewer rotations, Melbourne actually started showing some desperation. This moment called for courage as Hunt ran inside 50 with a floating ball within his reach.
But he didn’t mark it.
He didn’t try to mark.
Maybe this is not in his nature? Maybe he is just not the sort of player that will run with the flight of the footy and put his body on the line. It’s not an enviable situation to be in, and to make it work for you takes extreme courage.
Jayden Hunt allowed the ball to bounce with the hope of running onto it. Nathan Broad saw that he wouldn’t be doing that, bee-lining the footy and punching the bouncing ball away.
There are little moments in every game where you sit down, have a look at later on and shake your head. With 17 points the difference and nine minutes left to go, the Dees were in this game. Miraculously, they had a chance.
Moments like NOT putting your body on the line when it is your time to go have a habit of deflating the rest of your team. Maybe he was called out by a teammate. Maybe he thought he had a clear path if he ran onto the footy and fancied his chances on the run. Or maybe he should have thrown himself at the footy and attempted the mark.
I know which one most Melbourne supporters would have preferred.
SO, WHO REPLACES HOULI AND EDWARDS?
This is a pretty easy one. Marlion Pickett walks back in and will have a better understanding of what is required at this level on a consistent basis. Shai Bolton is the other one who will get a shot.
Bolton’s omission was a strange one – I saw Daniel Rioli’s demotion coming, but I thought Bolton had been doing enough. Dimma didn’t and with a week off to freshen up, I expect a hungry Bolton to hit the contest hard in Round Six.
With those two back in the side, I expect the Tigers to start working Jayden Short free at half back to assume Houli’s rebounding role. If they’re successful at that, watch out! Short is a weapon the Tigers have used sparingly, but if they start to actively work him loose, he could destroy a team with 10-12 deliveries from half back.
HOW DO WE FEEL ABOUT PLAYERS OPTING OUT OF THE HUBS?
This is a prickly one. I know the popular thing to say is that it is “family first” and all that stuff. I get it, but I also want to see the best players available for their teams.
Yes, good luck to the Edwards clan and their impending arrival, and all the best to the Houlis and their little boy, but I have heard some of the teams from WA and SA cop some shit about being in the hubs and not being happy about it – at least they all went.
Interested to hear what you guys think about it.
HOW DO THE DEES GET SOME GOOD BALL USE FROM THE MIDDLE?
Well, how do you get some blood from a stone? They cannot kick and should probably start looking at dangling a carrot in front of a team that has a plethora of outside runners.
But who would be the carrot? And who would want it?
Looking at the Dees’ midfield quartet of Viney, Oliver, Petracca and Brayshaw I see only one that I feel is truly expendable. It’s Brayshaw.
I actually though the Demons should have entertained the idea of trading Brayshaw to a WA club last year, but that was laughed off by Melbourne supporters – memories of 2018 still influencing their choices. I still a think a deal with Fremantle could work for them, with Adam Cerra the kind of player that the Dees would love. Brayshaw could run off and play with his brother and the Dees get a great young mid with 50-odd games under his belt.
And he can hit a target too.
Other than that, who is coming through the ranks? I cannot see anyone that looks like a great ball user/decision maker.
It might be a long couple of years for Melbourne forwards unless they pull the trigger this off-season. and if not Brayshaw, then who?
How good is it to see Jack Higgins as a regular part of the Richmond line up again? With 19 touches and a goal, he was a livewire in the forward half and seemed more than content to work up the ground. Eight score involvements are indicative that when he had the ball, good things happened.
Daniel Rioli still not doing anywhere near enough. Eight touches is about what I expect from him these days, which is an indictment in itself, but one tackle? I’m starting to think he may not be fit. Not as in injured – just not completely fit.
Jack Riewoldt started well again and quickly drifted out of the game. Four of his nine touches came in the first quarter.
Ed Langdon and Adam Tomlinson were recruited for run and carry on the wings for Melbourne, but Tomlinson appears to take an eternity to get the ball to his boot in traffic. Yes, he’ll run all day, but he did a lot of running to spots where the ball wasn’t in this one.
Is it sad that 13 touches and a goal is the best I’ve seen Tom McDonald look this season?
Not a bad debut for Jake Aarts. He has a nice little sidestep going and seemed relatively comfortable at the level.
And that’ll do from me. Solid win by the wounded Tigers with their pressure game starting to work nicely again. I wish I could be nicer about the Dees, but I think they are a little rudderless. Their slow play is horrible because they cannot kick, and their fast play is a lot better… but they still can’t kick.
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