This was billed as a heavyweight clash between two of the genuine contenders in 2020.
Richmond, coming off two flags in the past three seasons, and with the current championship belt strapped around their waist, wandered into this clash with Geelong with a little bit of swagger.
Geelong may have had the recent form on the board – a smashing of Essendon was preceded by wins over the Dogs, Crows and Power. They were eyeing this game from a fair way out. Whilst not a legitimate shot at the title – that can only take place in the finals – they had a chance to take down the champs and score a psychological blow in the penultimate round of combat before the big stuff begins.
And at half time they found themselves rolling about on the canvas, unable to land a punch.
Mike Tyson is quoted as saying “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” and in this contest, the Tigers put one right on the Cats’ chin early in the piece.
As the teams retreated to the dressing rooms, Geelong had scored just one goal, and registered their lowest half time score since 1957.
So, before I get into the big questions, let’s explore what was happening in 1957, shall we?
Man was yet to land on the moon. There were no colour televisions. The Beatles were just forming. And Elvis Presley purchased Graceland.
Oh, you don’t remember that stuff? Me either!
I am 48 years old and this was the worst scoring performance by a Geelong team in my lifetime… plus another 15 years.
Let’s get into the big questions and nut out what the hell went wrong for the Cats, and what the hell went so right for the Tigers.
HOW FAR AHEAD OF THE GAME WAS DYLAN GRIMES?
Two steps? Five steps? More?
If this were a marathon, Grimes had crossed the finish line and everyone else hadn’t even entered the arena.
Returning from a hamstring injury, Grimes looked like he was at the top of his game right from the outset. He completely disregarded his own match-up (we’ll get into that soon) and went where he knew the ball was heading – right to Hawkins Island.
Grimes was the best player on the park in this one, continually thwarting the forward entries of the Cats as he dominated the air with a commanding presence.
The last time I saw him this impressive was against Port Adelaide last season where he almost single-handedly dragged the Tigers to a gutsy win. He had a lot more help in this one, however, as he and Nick Vlastuin gave Noah Balta all the help he required on the Coleman Medal leader, rendering him a non-factor for the majority of the game, whilst also keeping their own opponent under control.
Grimes owned the defensive fifty. He zoned off at the right time, was desperate yet remained in complete control and made defence against the best performed attack of the last few weeks look rather effortless.
Richmond play a team game, and I know it was the team defence that won this game, but it is hard not to single out Grimes for his incredible efforts to break up just about every forward fifty entry in Hawkins’ direction in the first three quarters.
It is as good a defensive effort as I have seen this season.
WAS CHOOSING BEN JARVIS OVER JOSH JENKINS A MISTAKE?
Oh yes, a huge one.
So, if you read the section above, you would have no doubt as to the influence of Dylan Grimes in this game. Have a guess who his direct opponent was.
Come on… it’s not hard.
Dylan rimes gave Ben Jarvis zero respect in this game. Absolutely none. He knew that no one was looking for Jarvis inside 50, and as a first gamer, even if they did, Jarvis wasn’t really going to be the difference – Hawkins was.
So, Chris Scott throws the kid in for his first game and doesn’t give an established forward who you cannot zone off from so easily a shot. And the result was devastating for the Cats.
Jarvis finished the game with five touches, and combined with fellow non-factor small forward, Brad Close, gave the Cats zero bite at ground level.
Now, there is no guarantee that Jenkins would have done any better against this marauding Richmond mob, but in his last three outings against Richmond, he’d kicked five, three and four goals – he commands the respect of the Tiger defenders as he has burnt them before.
But no… Chris Scott through the kid in there.
WAS IT A TOUCH ARROGANT?
I think it was.
If you recruit a player like Jenkins to your club, it is for the exact reason to lighten the load on Tom Hawkins. The entire Richmond defence were collapsing on him at every chance, with Grimes making Noah Balta’s life much easier by neglecting Jarvis and helping out constantly.
Grimes finished with 12 intercepts, four contested grabs and was the dominant defender on the park.
Because Chris Scott was trying to be tricky. He had the chance to select a seasoned player with the runs on the board and he thought “screw it” I’ll go with the kid.
In one of the biggest home and away games of the season.
Against a team that feasts on uncertainty.
Against the reigning champs.
It was thrown back in his face tonight. And I hasten to add, deservedly so.
DO THE TIGERS ACTUALLY ALLOW OPPOSITION TEAMS TO HAVE POSSESSION OF THE FOOTY?
This may sound like a dumb question (as most of mine are) but hear me out.
Possession football is a style of footy most clubs enjoy. The theory behind it is that you cannot be scored against whilst you have the ball in your hands. It’s pretty sound, right?
But what about if you can’t score with the ball in your hands, either? What if you having the footy and chipping back and forth across half back amounts to nothing? What if your possessions are hollow and meaningless, and when you eventually turn it over, the Tigers are ready to pounce?
Is it possible that Richmond’s entire game plan allows for 20 metre kicks that go nowhere because they are completely aware that it is more likely that their opponents will cock things up eventually, and the yellow and black wave will roll over whoever it is they’re playing?
Check out the top disposal winners.
Tom Stewart with 25, Cam Guthrie with 23, Patrick Dangerfield with 19. Did any of these blokes hurt the Tigers in any way?
They combined for just five score involvements. Amazingly, Guthrie and Danger combined for… one. Yep, one score involvement between them.
Meaningless possession does not hurt the Tigers, and when all the opposition is doing is owning it for no result, why bother trying to stop them?
IS JACK RIEWOLDT BACK?
It depends on which version of Jack Riewoldt we’re talking about, really, doesn’t it? And did he ever leave?
If we’re talking about the big goal tallying forward of ten years ago, then no that version is not back, but if we’re talking about the team-first, creative player that takes as much pride in setting up a teammate as he does snagging a goal himself, then yes… quite possibly.
The ground Riewoldt made to not only make a contest in the second quarter, but deliberately tap the ball to the advantage of the running Tom Lynch is the kind of action premierships are built on. There would be a hell of a lot of players who are a little less secure with their place in the game that would have tried to take the mark, probably spilled it and still would have received the plaudits for getting to the contest and causing a spill.
But that was not enough for Riewoldt. His efforts allowed lynch to run into an open goal, and though Lynch completely muffed the kick, Riewoldt’s efforts were not lost at all on me.
This was the 2017/18 version of Jack Riewoldt. Selfless yet required to mark and goal. The focus of the forward line, yet happy to defer. And with Tom Lynch out with what looks to be a mild low hamstring, we may see a little more Jack magic before all is said and done this season.
With four goals out of the Tigers’ seven, Riewoldt was the master of his domain inside 50, and with him in this kind of form, the yellow and black army – at 100K strong for the third straight season, would be feeling pretty good about heading into another finals campaign.
WAS HAWKINS’ MISS IN THE LAST QUARTER AS BIG AS IT SEEMED?
The Tigers kicked 7.15 for the game. Geelong were lucky to be that close as it was. Despite BT wetting his pants at the possibility of an unlikely comeback (which would have been the biggest robbery since that shit website that closed down started reprinting my articles with some clown’s name on them) this game was well and truly over.
I read a couple of Geelong fans trotting out the “if Hawkins kicked that goal…” stuff. I don’t buy it. If Richmond converted early, we’re talking about a ten-goal game here. That was about what the margin felt like in this game.
On tonight’s performance, the Tigers are a ten-goal better team. The scoreboard just did not reflect it.
DID ESAVA RATUGOLEA DO ENOUGH TO RETAIN HIS SPOT?
Probably. It was one of his better outings and he was one of the players responsibly for the cats appearing to mount a challenge in the last quarter.
Also, he was responsible for Grimes’ only loss in a marking contest as well.
With Sav taking those marks, you either want him clunking them ten metres out, or you want him grabbing them about seventy metres from home. That middling distance of 30-50 metres from goal exposes him as one of the least natural-looking footballers out there and he just does not look at all comfortable with the footy in hand.
Personally, I’d love Stanley back in the side and Jenkins up forward, but Ratugolea definitely did enough to retain his spot this week. Too little, too late… but still more than most others on the team.
ARE THE TIGERS PREMIERSHIP FAVOURITES?
I want to go back to earlier in the season (and earlier last season if I remember correctly) when people were looking at a Richmond team not travelling all that well. People were actually stupid enough to jump off them on both occasions.
I thought they would have learnt after the first time.
This Richmond team has been through the absolute wars this season, with players hurt and out, and players remaining home while the team soldiered on without them. It is testament to the on-field culture of the Richmond Football Club that they now sit top four with the run of absences they’ve had.
Are they favourite – I’m not a betting man; I don’t know. However, if the question is rephrased as “Are they The Mongrel’s favourite to win it all?”
Then you damn well bet the answer is yes.
How long have they been undefeated in Queensland?
I don’t see that record being tarnished this year. Now, to prepare for the onslaught of contented and vocal Tiger fans in about six weeks’ time. I’m not sure I can handle it again.
HOW TOUGH WILL IT BE TO HOLD YOUR PLACE IN THIS RICHMOND SIDE?
So, Soldo seems to be done for the season so there is a spot there for Chol to come in and add his versatility to the mix. Lynch might sit next week, which opens up a spot up forward – is that where Chol goes and changes with Nankervis?
You’ve got Nathan Broad desperate to get back in, Shane Edwards knocking on the door, Josh Caddy fighting to get right, Jack Higgins waiting in the wings, Dion Persia most likely back for finals and David Astbury as well. Who is at most risk?
Oleg Markov is not a household name by any stretch, but he seems to be most susceptible to the return of Edwards.
Whilst Shai Bolton has been great in the guts for the Tigers, Dion Prestia gets the right of way in there, which may see Bolton relocated to half forward for periods. That puts one of Jason Castagna or Dan Rioli at risk. Or perhaps Jake Aarts is the one to make way for some positional changes? Or does Jack Ross feel the unkindest cut to make way for Prestia? What a bloody in t have, by the way.
The Tigers have a wonderfully deep list of very capable players to slot into this side. And you’d think that several of them would be so close to pushing in and grabbing that chance with just one good outing.
Next week’s selection will be very interesting. Who do the Tigers rest against Adelaide? Are they willing to risk an upset at the hands of a team that has won its last two games heading into this week? Or do they name their best possible side to make sure of things?
Who makes the cut in your perfect Richmond side heading into finals? And who is the unluckiest to miss out?
I have just one request – keep Kamdyn McIntosh in the side. He has done so much right this season
IF I HAD TO CHOOSE ONE TIGER TO GO TO WAR WITH, WHO WOULD IT BE?
I watched him in the pre-season and thought “he’s got something.”
He’s got more than something – he has plenty. Never takes a backward step, plays his role and has no fear at all. He was the one dropping into the hole and breaking up Hawkins’ leads whenever Grimes couldn’t get there, and given the size difference, he knew what could have happened.
I get the feeling with Baker that if you were about to cross a minefield and you needed someone to go first, by the time you looked to see if anyone was going to volunteer, he’d already be poking the ground up ahead with a stick.
Ridiculous courage, a no-nonsense game style and some of the best hair in the caper – he’d be my choice.
Now if you’re talking about someone to lead me into battle, I’d take Cotchin, and I was really disappointed not to see Selwood wander out there tonight. I would have loved to see the two best leaders in the game go head to head once more.
Maybe in a few weeks, eh?
DO YOU FANCY A HOLIDAY AT HAWKINS ISLAND?
I don’t know… it seems a lot more crowded than it was last week.
So Channel 7, or Fox, or whoever it is have been throwing out their footage of Tom Hawkins getting huge amounts of space to operate in against poorer teams recently. They’ve been calling it Hawkins Island, and really, it looked like the kind of place where you could stretch out on your own piece of beach and not see anyone for hours.
Word must have got out about Hawkins Island, because it seems as though Richmond now owns a significant stretch of real estate right in the middle of it. Dylan Grimes has invested heavily, and now seems to be the majority owner of Hawkins Island, but Noah Balta and Nick Vlastuin have both got nice little spots of their own as well.
Maybe I’ll wait until next week against the Swans to invest in Hawkins Island. Hopefully there are not that many people there for the last round of the season. This week, it was packed!
ANY QUICK BITS?
A bit of an “almost” game for Dusty. Gave us a look at a few things, gave some bloke a really nice fend off and his kicking to position was great, but he has a couple of higher gears and we all know it.
Really poor kicking game from Patrick Dangerfield. Hacked it way too often.
Defensive run from blokes like Sam Menegola and Mitch Duncan was well below their best. I thought Blicavs was probably the best Geelong player on the park, followed by Tom Stewart, but the rest failed to get the pulse racing at all.
I thought Shai Bolton fought back well after giving away five free kicks in the first half – four of them for holding the ball.
Mark O’Connor on Jack Riewoldt doesn’t even look good on paper, does it? Keeping him there all evening wasn’t the brightest move, but I get the feeling Chris Scott is sometimes a little too “innovative” for his own good.
And by innovative, I may mean stubborn, pig-headed or just possessing enormous belief in his ideas.
WHERE TO NEXT?
So, both teams collect a win next week and both should finish top four.
The Tigers get Adelaide and I reckon they might take some perverse pleasure in dismantling the Crows in the first half before taking the foot off and allowing any weary legs to get some rest.
The Cats get Sydney, who are up and down but way more down than up. They’re like the Grand Old Duke’s army really. This loss to the Tigers will have shaken the Cats up a little, but there should be some reinforcements on the way soon in the shape of Selwood, Ablett and Stanley. They’re not bad ins.
And that’ll do me – massive win for the Tigers. Not in terms of the score line, but in terms of the knowledge that when they bring their A-Grade defensive game, Geelong simply cannot withstand it.
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