The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It was the Lions against the Tigers – the battle of the big cats, but it had been the ones with stripes that have emerged victorious the previous 14 times the sides had clashed.

And Richmond played like a team that knew they had the wood on their opponents.

Sadly, Brisbane played like a team that were mentally cooked as well.

The Tigers got a huge lift from their key forwards, had masterful performances in defence, and trotted out a new generation of stars to send shivers up the spine of every other team in the league.

The Lions… well, they missed. They missed targets, the missed goals and they missed the opportunity to break a streak that is as big as it seems.

 

THE GOOD

 

TAKING ON THE BIG DOG

It was interesting to see Mrs Mongrel plonk down to watch the start of this game. For the record, she does not like Tom Lynch. She kind of sees him as a bloke who would be one of the jocks in a Revenge of the Nerds kind of movie, and he has just rubbed her the wrong way.

So, when I started saying that I liked the attitude of Lynch in this one, going after Harris Andrews physically before the siren, we were at odds.

Some people really don’t like the niggle involved between players. I am not one of them. I like seeing when a player gives a damn about a game, or about their own individual performance. I like seeing that they are angry when something doesn’t go their way, or they get beaten. I like seeing genuine emotion. I don’t want players to be robotic, and therefore I enjoy the byplay between them.

So when Lynch got stuck into Andrews, I was rapt to see him taking this one-on-one matchup seriously. I thought it had the potential to be pivotal.

Lynch and the Tigers played Andrews perfectly. He is a contest killer of the highest order and as such, he does get drawn to the footy. With Lynch both initiating contact when it suited him, and staying down in contests when it didn’t, he had Andrews second-guessing himself.

Two big Andrews spoils led directly to goals going back the other way. Lynch handed one off to Jack Higgins, and received another with a gorgeous give by Kane Lambert.

As the first quarter ended, Lynch had put his stamp on the contest, with two goals to his name. The game was being played on his terms, and that is something that rarely happens when you’re playing against Harris Andrews.

As the game wore on, Andrews did what Andrews does – he collected eight intercept possessions and made 12 big spoils. All well and good, but for the fact that Tom Lynch finished with three goals, three contested grabs and eight score involvements.

On paper, you look at Andrews’ game and you might raise an eyebrow, thinking he did really well. I’m not going to say he didn’t but when you play full back, my take is that it is your responsibility to put the brakes on the full forward. That was not what Harris Andrews did in this one, and I would have the aggressive Tom Lynch as one of the better players on the park for the Tigers.

But then again, there were plenty of them.

 

PRECISION DEFENCE

One day they’ll make a documentary about this Tiger defence. It’ll be small budget, and one question will come out of it – where are the bodies buried?

Because they absolutely kill players.

They had a few victims in this game. Charlie Cameron was handled by a host of opponents, but it largely fell to the smooth moving Nick Vlastuin to silence him, which he did. Dylan Grimes started on the deer in the headlights Sam Skinners and drifted across to help out wherever required, but the biggest hit in this game came on a bloke who has a habit of going missing in big moments. Eric Hipwood, or as my fellow mongrel, DJK termed him, Eric Deadwood.

The Tigers know how to handle players like Deadwood. He took a nice mark early in the piece and had to be feeling confident. He converted that mark into a long goal and the Lions looked up and about. He went on to pick up another couple of touches in the first quarter… amounting to half his total disposals.

The Tigers recognised a problem, adjusted and took him out. At half time, he had six touches.

Have a guess how many he had in the second half. Go on… a wild guess.

ZERO!

So complete was the shutdown role on Deadwood Hipwood that he simply could not get near it. Broad, Grimes, Balta… they all took turns on him like he was a… damn it, this is a family website!

This positive piece for the Tigers has really turned into a pile on for Hipwood, hasn’t it? Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with it, I swear.

We’ve all seen White Men Can’t Jump. Remember the one on one game between Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson, who can actually play a bit of ball) and Sidney Dean (Wesley Snipes, who really can’t play at all) where Woody gives him a whack and then tells him he’d rather look good and lose than look bad and win?

That’s the contrast between the Richmond defence and the Brisbane forwards.

The Richmond defence are Billy Hoyle. They don’t give a crap how they get the job done, as long as it gets done.

The Brisbane forwards played like Sidney Dean, only they didn’t win, and couldn’t even look good while losing, either.

 

THE CURVEBALL AND THE F-U

I loved the ballsy statement by Damien Hardwick of NOT sending Dylan Grimes to Charlie Cameron in this game.

You know that Cameron would have circled this date on the calendar… if he had actually known when it was going to be. After being towelled up twice by Grimes at the tail end of 2019, he would have geared himself to play against the man who got the better of him.

This was his time! This was his chance to right the wrong of 2019! This was…

… not what he was expecting.

Jayden Short went to Cameron initially. Then Nick Vlastuin. Dylan Grimes was off doing other things.

I don’t know if you guys look into things the way I do, but I am very interested in the psychology of this move and what it says to both Brisbane and Charlie Cameron. I walk away from this game looking at Hardwick’s decision not to send Grimes to Cameron as a massive FU to Charlie. It is Hardwick’s way of getting to him – of saying “this may have been big for you, but we really don’t give a damn what you’ve prepared for.”

And to the Lions, who would have geared themselves for this game, the action says “It’s just another game for us.”

Whack!

 

LIAM BAKER – OPPORTUNITY MAKER

I want to report something I wrote in the pre-season this year. Before Covid and restrictions knocked us all on our backsides, we played the Marsh Series and had the opportunity to witness some of the lesser known Tigers shine when the big boys went and played in the Bushfire Relief Game.

Remember that? It was a big deal at the time, and I sincerely hope that reports I have read about just a fraction of the money raised actually getting to bushfire victims isn’t true… although having worked for not-for-profits, I am pretty certain it would be (you see, they buy land and property with the money, therefore not actually making a profit, but managing to accrue huge value in assets for the company. Shifty, huh?)

Anyway, on the week of that game, the Tigers played the Pies and I wrote this about Baker.

Liam Baker has kind of pushed and shoved his way into this Richmond side, and with performances like this, they’ll have a difficult time removing him.

Baker had 30 touches in this one, His career-high in a home and away game is 24, so Tiger fans would be pumped with his efforts here. I seem to recall him starting as a small forward and then shifting to defence in his time at Punt Road (happy to be corrected) but this output was something I wasn’t really expecting.

The Tigers have made a bit of a habit out of bringing in players and making them better, and Baker is another of these types. He is hard at it, buys into the Richmond pressure, and today he provided Damian Hardwick with yet another option to exercise should things need to be re-jigged during the season. I could see him excelling this season and becoming a real weapon off either half back, or as a pinch-hitting mid. He is not glamorous or flashy, but he is up for the fight and I’d be willing to put money on him having a couple of big outings this season and really cementing his place in this Richmond side.

This was the game I was talking about.

He led all players with 26 touches, gained 580 metres for the club and had seven rebound fifties as he continually dissected the Brisbane forwards.

There aren’t many players I genuinely barrack for, but I am quite happy to say I smiled and nodded several times as Baker did his thing in this game.

Three votes… L Baker!

 

THE GROWTH OF SHAI BOLTON

Here’s another having his breakout season.

Right off the top, he probably should have been caught holding the ball twice in the first quarter, but the conundrum of holding the ball decisions continues to confuse and confound every person with even a passing interest in the game.

After those instances, however, Bolton got to work and began compiling yet another excellent game for the Tigers. Composed and balanced with the footy in hand, he refuses to be rushed as he goes forward and has been making some great decisions in recent weeks.

With two direct goal assist and one of his own, Bolton is both a scoring threat and a creative option for the Tigers. In a team already boasting players who can make something out of nothing, his presence through the midfield adds another dimension to an already potent Tiger mix.

My hope for Bolton is that he is not the victim of a talent squeeze once Dion Prestia makes his way back into the side.

With Prestia in the team, Bolton was used primarily forward, with pretty bloody good results, I have to say. In rounds 1-5 he averaged ten disposals and 1.7 goals per game. However, in Prestia’s absence, Bolton has jumped to 19 touches per game as he’s moved into the middle.

Which version of Shai Bolton do you want, Tiger fans? If he is going to have to go forward again at some stage, does that spell trouble for Daniel Rioli’s return to this side? Based on work ethic alone, I’d take Bolton every day over Rioli.

 

A COUPLE OF BRISBANE POSITIVES

I always try to offer some positivity, but on a night where you fail the test, it makes it hard.

Callum Ah Chee was one who looked to be up for the fight. His attack on the footy was great, and he made good decisions with the footy for the most part. 19 touches at 74% and seven score involvements – could he provide a bit of a different look up forward if Cam Rayner I forced to miss a few weeks?

The other was Lincoln McCarthy. He worked his backside off and whilst he was one of the main offenders when it came to inaccuracy, finishing with 1.3 for the night, I have a lot of trouble faulting him when he was the one continually throwing himself into marking contests because he bloody knew that blokes like Hipwood were going to go missing.

Other than those two, maybe Darcy Gardiner. He battled hard, but I am having a lot of trouble even considering Harris Andrews at the moment as even though his stats will no doubt look great, he was beaten too many times in critical areas of the ground to be considered one of the best.

 

THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT

There’s a bloke wearing the number 15 for the Tigers who must be bloody invisible. How else can you explain him running around half back, doing as he pleases whilst collecting 23 touches and… get this… running at 100% efficiency?

Do you think it might have crossed Chris Fagan’s mind to do something about the impact Jayden Short was having?

The bloke teamed with Liam Baker to have 14 rebound 50s between them as the Tigers swung the ball around with precision and worked their way up the ground.

Where Baker is the tough nut, Short is the class. His run and carry is smooth and damaging, and his delivery is precise. In the absence of Bachar Houli, the Tigers have been blessed with others more than willing to step into the role as rebounder. Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (wrote it without checking the spelling and realised I misspelt ‘Derek’… well done, me!) had his crack, and this week it was Shirt running to space and receiving.

This Richmond defence hums like a finely-tuned machine, and the more options they have, the harder they become to contain. Houli and Astbury have to come back into this team… holy hell!

 

THE BAD

 

HAVE WE LEARNT NOTHING

Sam Skinner – have you not been paying attention to the footage doing the rounds? A couple of weeks ago Matt Taberner took a mark at the top of the goal square and decided to play on.

Mistake.

It conjured images of another big forward who received the ball in the goal square and took things a little easy. Heath Shaw smothered his effort and made an iconic moment for himself.

And then there’s you, Sam.

You undid some blue-chip work from Lincoln McCarthy in winning a hard ball at half forward. You wasted a perfect kick that allowed you to mark the ball without the bother of having to contest. Then, for some unknown reason, you play on and miss from 12 metres out.

12 bloody metres!

It would have been the easiest shot of the night for the night, but you made it difficult. Did you watch Tom Lynch do the same in the first quarter and have delusions of adequacy? He is a veteran and he has poise. You do not, evidently.

You put yourself under pressure when you should have gone back, settled and made sure of it. Yeah, I know hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I am sure people will ask how many times I’ve been in the position of marking 12 metres out in my life (a couple, actually)but that’s beside the point. We’re not talking about local footy, right? We’re talking about professionals here. And Sam Skinner should have taken a breath, walked back and drilled the damn goal.

Instead, he becomes the poster child of what not to do when you have the opportunity to kick a goal from 12 metres out.

 

LEADING FROM BEHIND

Hit outs to advantage. There simply aren’t that many of them in a game, so you have to make the most of them when they come your way.

And Dayne Zorko did the opposite in this game.

He is usually such a good kick, but the way he entered forward 50 in this game gave his forwards very little chance to take a grab, or even split the contest. He received two beautiful ruck taps from the Big O – one in the first quarter and one in the third, and immediately burnt his leading forwards by kicking directly to the advantage of their direct opponents.

This bloke is the leader of the club but he kicked like a bloke with no legs in this game. Our mates at Champion Data don’t immediately provide kicking efficiency to aid me with this review, but I’m not really concerned. He had 57% disposal efficiency overall, including handballs, which leads me to think his kicking stats won’t be very positive at all.

When your captain is out there hacking it and giving the forwards no chance, how can those who follow do anything else?

21 touches, nine inside 50, 624 metres gained. I reckon there’ll be a few who look at that stat line and think he did a good job. To them, I ask this – how can a bloke gain 600+ metres in a system where anything over about 35 metres is considered effective, and still run at 57% efficiency? He averaged almost 30 metres per disposal. Must have been a lot of shitty ones in there.

 

THE UGLY

 

15 STRAIGHT

This is getting ugly now and these two teams meet in the finals, there will be enormous pressure on the Lions to reverse a trend that is 11 years in the making.

15 straight times, the Tigers have emerged victorious over Brisbane. Yes, there was a period in there that the lions really stunk things up, and you can understand them dropping a heap of games, but it is the last three games that are the most concerning.

Richmond are the yardstick in this competition. Thought they were bundled out of the 2018 finals by the Pies, they remained the team to beat in 2019, and in back-to-back games, the Lions were unable to do it.

They met in Round 23 and we saw The Tigers handle business.

In the first week of the finals, it was supposed to be different, wasn’t it? This time, the tigers would be travelling to Brisbane and this time the Lions would prevail, surely?

Nup.

In an eerily similar result, the Lions couldn’t hit the side of a barn and the Tigers made them pay.

And here we are now. The Lions were wasteful and really, not good enough. And the Tigers made them pay.

Richmond are now living in the heads of the Lions, rent free and there is only one thing that will undo the damage that was done tonight.

And that is a lot easier said than done.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE SHANE WARNE FRAGRANCE SMELLS LIKE?

I was really interested in the Shane Warne ad that kept popping up on the fence around the ground. What do you reckon that would smell like?

Winnie Blues? Stale beer and pizza?

And what should be the slogan for it?

Maybe I could steal a line from a movie that the critics hated but damn it, I liked – Eddie Murphy’s Boomerang?  “It stinks… so good.”

 

WHERE WERE THE BRISBANE HARD NUTS?

You’d have to be disappointed with the efforts of players like Mitch Robinson, Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Jarrod Berry in this one. Games against the Tigers are EXACTLY the kinds of contests you’d want these guys playing at their best.

Ellis-Yolmen was recruited to match it in the middle with the Tigers, yet found himself playing forward. He was a fish out of water there. Robinson couldn’t get near the first half, which basically meant he didn’t have a say in the game, and Jarrod Berry failed to fire a shot.

When you go against the Tigers, you cannot afford to carry anyone, and it is your hard nuts that need to lead by example. Tonight, they demonstrated precisely what not to do.

 

WHO IS THE MOST UNDERRATED TIGER?

Far out… what a question. I don’t know why I ask myself such things to ponder.

I am going to say it’s Nathan Broad.

He is of the Richmond mould. Hard working, rarely beaten and does his job each and every week. He doesn’t overstep, knows his capabilities and is a team-first player. I would call him a glue-guy… someone that binds the team together, and his presence is a lot more important than anyone gives it credit for.

 

WAS PLAYING BOTH BALLENDEN AND SKINNER A MISTAKE?

Look, it’s easy to say it was given the result, but let’s say Skinner doesn’t completely cock up his play-on miss at goal, and Ballenden converts from 50 in the third quarter. Is it then game on and the look of the game changes?

Yeah, it’s a hypothetical response, but the nature of this game is that it can swing pretty quickly and whilst it would be simple to say the Lions did themselves no favours at match committee, the exposure in a high profile game those two blokes just got might pay long term dividends.

 

OTHER BITS

 

All this way into the review and I haven’t mentioned Dusty. Oops, there I go. Another nice outing for the superstar, and with 24 touches and three direct goal assists, you have to think that the umpires would take notice, huh?

Could it be happening? Could he do it? A dual Norm Smith and dual Brownlow Medallist… the first in history. Maybe that’s the carrot Dusty needed in this warped season.

Jack Riewoldt kicking four snags had to have been a relief for both him and the club. I thought he contested really well last week, so to see him reap a reward this week was nice. That said, how he didn’t have a free kick paid against him for saddling his opponent and riding him like Simon Marshall, I’ll never know.

I know I gave a lot of credit to Tom Lynch above – not really sure the shove of Alex Witherden’s head was warranted after tackling him, though. not that I think anything should be done about it – I just don’t really enjoy going after someone on the deck.

 

Is Jake Aarts now a regular in this side? After an iffy debut where he was a bit nervous in front of goal, he’s now settled and is at 1.2 goals per game right now. Surely he’s earned a spot for the time being.

I liked the game of the Big O in the ruck. Initially, I thought he was a little too lumbering to fulfil the number one ruck role, but he had the better of Ivan Soldo in this one. I’d say that was slightly unexpected.

Finally, what was with Jack Riewoldt’s little kick to Harris Andrews in the marking contest right before the final siren. That looked… iffy. If it were Toby Greene….

 

And that’ll do for me. This was impressive by the Tigers and just as disappointing from the Lions. Some will look to the poor kicking and yes, while the old adage of poor kicking is poor football rings true, the Lions were also outplayed tonight.

Richmond head into a massive game against Port Adelaide on Saturday to kick off Round 11, whilst the Lions follow directly after with a game against the Dogs. Really, the Lions have the chance to kill off the Dogs’ chances this season. A good team would do it.

 

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