Was it a game you’d want to rewatch?

Nope?

Was it a game that entertained, thrilled and delighted?

Nope again.

Was it a game that Richmond had to win to keep their top four hopes alive? And did they do just that?

Yep, on both accounts.

The Tigers extended their Queensland win-streak with a 27-point win over a competitive Fremantle team despite a well below average effort from their midfield. With Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Shai Bolton combining for just 39 touches, Richmond relied on the usual suspects in defence to hold the fort and unsung heroes such as Jack Graham and Kamdyn McIntosh to get them home.

Here are the big questions stemming from the game.

 

WHO WON THE TABERNER V BALTA BATTLE?

I’m a big Matt Taberner fan and would have liked to see him capitalise on the opportunities that did come his way in this one. He won a dubious free kick against Balta in the first quarter when he was also holding the Tiger defender and hit the post with another shot, but we didn’t see much of that hard running up to the wing to clunk a mark and gain the Dockers ground in this game.

In Tabs’ defence, Jesse Hogan kind of filled that role and had patches where he looked pretty good. He used to do that for the Dees and then work his arse off to get back inside 50 and present again, but I am not sure he is quite at that fitness level just yet to pull that off for the Dockers.

Balta had 14 touches, seven intercepts and eight spoils as he held Taberner to five marks (two contested) for the game. IF… If Taberner had kicked his second, maybe I would be more inclined to give him the nod, but whilst Lynch was able to convert with minimal chances at one end, Taberner was not at the other. Part of that credit goes to the vigilance of Balta, and part goes to the inept kicking inside 50 of the Dockers.

So, the decision goes to Balta in this duel.

 

IS JAYDEN SHORT TOP FIVE IN THE LEAGUE IN TERMS OF KICKING SKILLS?

We hear so much talk about the field kicking of Dusty whenever people talk about the Tigers, but the work of Jayden Short is long overdue for some plaudits.

There was one kick in particular in this game that made me smile.

Short came bounding out of defence, as he does so often and running at full pace, managed to chip the footy about 45 metres (yes, that is a chip for him) to the running Jack Higgins on the wing. The kick was so good that Higgins did not break stride, taking the footy and taking off as the Tigers surged forward.

Short has had a wonderful year at half back for the Tigers and I love the combination he provides with Liam Baker. If Short provides the class and poise, Baker is the junkyard dog, bringing the mongrel to every contest. They’re like the odd-couple, yet they make it work so well.

So yes, back to the question – Baker would definitely be in the conversation. There are a lot of high quality kicks in the league, but maybe it would be easier to compare him to his peers in defence?

With Lachie Whitfield now back in defence, he would be one in the conversation, as Daniel Rich would be as well. Jack Crisp, Tom Stewart, Caleb Daniel, Jake Lloyd, Jack Lukosius… all worthy names.

Right now I am not sure I would take any one of them over Short. Another 23 touches at 83% efficiency despite spending half an hour on the pine in this game… he is having a brilliant season.

 

WOULD YOU GIVE REECE CONCA VOTES IN THIS GAME?

I’d be tempted.

I am a big fan of accountable midfield roles, but Conca played a bit of a different role, adopting the run-with job on Dustin martin after the centre bounce.

Nat Fyfe was controlling things in the middle, which allowed Conca to drift to Martin after the first stoppage, and he did a wonderful job in stifling his influence.

Martin returned just 11 touches for the game – his lowest total since waaaaay back in Round 21, 2013, so I reckon a lot of credit has to be given to the way Conca went about his business. If someone can fact-check that, I’d appreciate it. 🙂

The former Tiger picked up just ten touches of his own, but he wasn’t out there to pick up plenty of the footy. He had one job to do and he pulled it off beautifully.

 

WHERE ARE THE DOCKERS LACKING?

I don’t know whether Lachie Schultz is the answer to this question, or whether Michael Walters wants to be the answer to this question, but they are in desperate need of a small forward who is willing to hit the front of packs, get his hands on the foot and get dangerous.

I know it is easier said than done, but several times in this game the ball was delivered (poorly) inside 50 and when it hit the ground, there was a sea of yellow and black present, and no one wearing those (admittedly fantastic) Freo jumpers.

The ease with which players like Houli, McIntosh, Short and Vlastuin combined to whip the ball out from defensive 50 tore the heart out of the Dockers. They could not maintain the rage inside 50 with no player registering more than one tackle inside the arc.

Can Mitch Crowden fill the role? Bailey Banfield? Do they need to pull the trigger on a trade to fill that role?

Schultz seems to want to fly for marks (I saw him fly and Rory Lobb stay down at one point… wtf?) and Michael Walters sure as hell doesn’t view himself as a pressure forward.

Maybe they are just patient with Liam Henry as he develops and hope that he takes some pride in locking the ball in there. Freo are fine between the arcs, but as soon as that ball goes to ground inside 50, it is whipped out of there way too easily and for a high-pressure team, there was scant pressure at points close to goal.

If they could steal one player from another team to fix the problem immediately, I’d say Luke Breust, as he fixes both the front-and-centre issue and the tackling. However, at 29 he would be a short-term fix. Fingers crossed for Liam Henry.

 

WHO COMES OUT FOR PRESTIA, GRIMES, ASTBURY, EDWARDS?

So this will be an interesting point for Tiger fans, and one that should spark some debate. We’re assuming these blokes walk straight back in, right?

Looking at Prestia first, does his presence for Shai Bolton out of the middle? And if Bolton goes to a half forward flank, who makes way? It’s an easy one – Thomson Dow.

Next up, Shane Edwards. He goes where? Half back flank and some time in the middle as well? Oleg Markov looks the likely one to make way and I feel horrible for saying that as he spent a heap of time on Michael Walters in this one and had the better of him all game. Maybe the axe falls for Jack Graham? No… I don’t like that – he is a heart and soul player and deserves his chance this season.

Grimes and Astbury to come back in that back six really tightens things up with Balta playing so well. Is Nathan Broad at risk of losing his spot? I keep hearing his name thrown up as someone who could be elsewhere next season – is this his last hurrah at Tigerland?

If Markov goes out for Edwards, and let’s say Grimes comes in for Broad, where does that leave Astbury? The bloke has been an absolute warrior for this club but with a younger, more athletic defender now in the mix, could it be that he is squeezed out? I think this is now Balta’s position to lose.

And if you really want Astbury in, you sacrifice one of the two rucks.

In – Prestia, Grimes, Edwards.

Out – Markov, Broad, Dow

What a bloody good problem to have!

 

IS IT A WIN FOR BRENNAN COX IF TOM LYNCH KICKS THREE GOALS?

I really liked Brennan Cox’s game against Lynch, but when you take a step back and look at it as a big picture, can you really love the game of a key defender when his direct opponent kicked the highest number of goals in the game?

Granted, Lynch got a huge junk time goal right at the end, and another shot at goal came from either a very good, or very lucky kick from Jack Riewoldt early in the second quarter, but when having a bit of an iffy day, if Lynch can snag three goals I find it hard to give his opponent too much credit.

Richmond kicked just eight goals for the game, and Lynch had 37.5% of them.

As for Cox, he had 12 one percenters, so was great in the air for the most part and with Luke Ryan occupied with Jack Riewoldt, he had to do a lot of the heavy lifting himself in this one.

So, to answer my own question – it is a personal win for Cox if you’re talking solely about his performance, but this isn’t an individual game, and the three goals from Lynch drag it back into his favour if we’re looking at things in a team-first context.

And last I checked, if you can have one bloke kicking three whilst the opposition kicks just four, you’re well on your way to victory.

 

HOW DO WE RATE MARLION PICKETT’S GAME?

I know he has plenty of detractors amongst AFL fandom, but he was really good in this one.

As a matter of fact, over the past month, he has shown real glimpses of the player the Tigers want him to be. Whilst not reaching his career-high (achieved in game one), his 19 touches and four inside 50 disposals added quite a bit to the Tigers in this one.

There was something very Richmond-like about his game this evening. Not flashy, not over the top – he just did his job, owned his wing and made the run for his team all game. Rounding into the pointy end of the season nicely.

 

WHY DOES MICHAEL WALTERS CONTINUALLY LEAD WITH HIS HEAD?

Look, I have no idea what he is doing sometimes, and he is doing it so often that there is basically no way the umpires are going to fall for it.

Not long before half time, he took possession at half forward, saw an opposition player coming and dipped his head straight into him in an attempt to milk the free kick – I wonder how many times plays have come unstuck due to actions like this as compared to the times it has worked.

He is as skilled as they come – a match-winner on his day and I highly capable of being the best player on the ground in any given game, but this head ducking thing has to stop. It is a horrible part of his game, and you know what’s worse?

One day he will duck into something and actually get hurt doing so.

 

WHERE DOES NICK VLASTUIN RATE IN TERMS OF THE BEST HALF BACKS IN THE GAME?

Right up there.

I am a big fan of Nick Haynes, love the work of Luke Ryan and think Tom Stewart is just about the perfect half back flanker, but Nick Vlastuin does the right things at the right time and seemingly always finds himself in the right spot to break up even the slightest off-target forward entry.

He and Liam Baker led the game with nine intercepts each in this one, and if not for his eagerness to take on a tackle in the last quarter, which resulted in a goal to Mitch Crowden, I would almost say that Vlastuin played the perfect understated game for a flanker.

He had 17 touches and eight marks a he controlled the defensive 50 all night and epitomises the way Richmond go about it. He is calm, cool and collected with the footy in hand, or even when under the pump.

I may not have him as the best, but he is not far away from it at all.

 

IF YOU COULD GIFT FREMANTLE ONE THING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

The ability to hit a target inside 50.

The number of times they had the ball running forward, or just outside 50 and completely blew the entry was astonishing. At times you had Matt Taberner one-out and the kick wouldn’t even make it to the contest.

It must be a tremendous source of frustration for Justin Longmuir to see his team work themselves into a position where a score looks likely, only to botch it up with the key kick.

I liken Freo to a hurdler who runs the perfect race only to hit the last hurdle and crash to the ground. Some of their work down the wing was very good, playing keepings-off with the Tigers, but when it came time to capitalise on that work, they let themselves down.

 

HEY MONGREL, WHERE CAN I DOWNLOAD YOUR LATEST PODCAST?

Great question, and if you don’t download it and have a listen, you’re a real wanker.

🎧 Mongrel Podcast Episode 23 🎧

 

ARE THE CENTRE BOUNCES A WORRY FOR THE TIGERS?

Well, they lost the centre clearances 9-5, and lost clearances overall a whopping 38-19.

Yep, you read that correctly. Now read this.

It doesn’t matter.

I am a big believer in keeping a stat called “effective clearances” where you win the footy and actually gain continued possession and meaningful disposal on the end of it. Grabbing it and hacking to space, whilst effective in getting the ball out of the area, is a hollow stat. If it goes nowhere and does bugger all, what’s the good of it?

Richmond lost the clearances, but their structure is so good that they’re able to win the ball back quickly due to the implied pressure the opposition midfielders feel they’re under. It doesn’t matter if they are actually under the pump – they dispose of the footy like they are.

Against a polished team, a performance like this in the guts could really hurt, but Freo shot themselves in the foot with their disposal and the Tigers continually won the footy back. 38-19 in Freo’s favour sounds impressive, but what did they do with them?

 

DID NAT FYFE HURT THE TIGERS?

Hmmmm, I had to think about this one, and placing it right at the tail end of the questions about clearances has made me wonder even more.

I think he did, but not as much as you could be led to believe. He was really good at stoppages and got some lovely service from Sean Darcy, but he was more of a release-man for the Dockers, getting first hands on it and firing it off to a teammate – it’s the kind of role Paddy Cripps usually plays, and from Fyfe I expect a bit more run with the footy than we got this evening.

I’m not saying he was poor – that would be idiotic (I’ll save the idiocy for other statements) but whilst his role in preventing the Tigers access to the footy in the guts probably allowed Freo to stay in the game, Fyfe’s game lacked the flair that we’ve become accustomed to. Maybe he was just more meat and three veg tonight than I am used to seeing from him? Maybe he left the run and carry up to Blake Acres? He was pretty good as well.

 

HOW DID JACK RIEWOLDT GO OPPOSED TO LUKE RYAN?

You might be tempted to look at stats to assess his game, but please don’t do that. Some things cannot be judged by looking at a sheet of paper.

Instead, let’s look not just at this week’s effort, but last week as well from Riewoldt. He has played consecutive games against two of the best interceptors in the game – Jeremy McGovern and Jack Riewoldt. A week after McGovern ripped the heart out of the Giants, Riewoldt made him a non-factor.

Luke Ryan leads the league in both intercepts and rebound 50 disposals. And whilst he got approximately what he usually would in terms of numbers, I ask this of you – what was his impact on the game? Several of his seven rebound 50 disposals came from kick ins, whilst most of his intercept work was done at ground level.

We’re probably not ever going to be celebrating Jack Riewoldt winning another Coleman – that ship has sailed, but what he can bring to this team is a fantastic second marking option inside 50 that commands the respect and attention of the best defenders in the game.

And when the best defenders are occupied, it opens up opportunity for others. That’s the value of Jack Riewoldt now at Richmond. And if he picks up the occasional bag of four or five, more power to him.

 

IS KAMDYN MCINTOSH A PLAYER OF DESTINY IN 2020?

I sure hope so – he is playing like it, isn’t he?

A lesser man would have walked from Richmond after not making the 2019 premiership team. He played 16 games for the year and was overlooked in favour of a first-gamer in the biggest game of the year.

Something like that can go either one of two ways. Either you allow it to fester and eat away at you until it becomes cancerous to your relationship with the club and you leave, or you use it as motivation to get better and ensure you will be part of the next premiership.

I don’t suppose I need to point out which way McIntosh has taken it?

He was very good again in this game, pushing hard into defence from the wing and getting forward as well to deliver seven inside 50s and two goal assists. He is playing like a man who believes he is indispensable to this team, and the way he is currently going, he is.

 

HOW’D THE FREO KIDS GO?

It was a bit of a mixed bag.

Caleb Serong has a bit of a thirst for the contest. He had some contested footy wins that reminded me a bit of Joel Selwood at times, but his disposal let him down a little. Maybe it was the implied pressure but he missed a couple of easy handballs under little direct pressure, and his eight turnovers hurt.

Andrew Brayshaw had 18 touches but not a hell of a lot of genuine impact. He was one of the main culprits when we’re talking about poor inside 50 deliveries. It was as though he channelled his brother!

I probably liked the game of Adam Cerra best of the three. His second quarter had me jotting his name several times in the notes as he really got amongst it. That may be unfair to Serong, who worked his tail off all game.

 

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

The Dockers now well and truly put the cue in the rack and can experiment with a style of play they want to use in 2021. They’ve only hit 60 points three times this season, so they need to find an avenue to score and we might see some attacking footy from them as we wind down their 2020 against Melbourne, North Melbourne and the Bulldogs.

The Tigers sit in second spot at the time of writing, but have a bye next week which will both freshen them up and drop them a spot or two down the order. They then have a blockbuster against the Cats before finishing off against Adelaide. Top four beckons.

 

And that’ll do me. Three thousand words about a game we could have summed up pretty easily in a sentence – Richmond got the job done.

And that’s all they needed to do.

 

Hey, you know we have memberships here at The Mongrel, right? We are small, we’re independent and we’ve knocked back cash from the gambling industry as I reckon I’d be a massive hypocrite if I complained about all the gambling ads on AFL coverage and then sold out to them. For 40-80c per day you get access to our wingman rankings, defensive rankings, weekly player rankings as well as members-only columns and early access to my Good, Bad and Ugly evening game reviews.

Plus you help us grow. Come on… click the image below and help an old mongrel out.

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get more.