If you told me mid-season that the Adelaide Crows were a chance to win four games in a row to close the season out, I would’ve started laughing at the word ‘win’

A lot of people were beginning to ask whether Adelaide would win at all, but that maiden win of the season against Hawthorn sparked a run of memorable wins – including GWS who were contending for a Finals place and a comprehensive belting Carlton in the first half. A fourth win here, unlikely as it seemed, was now no longer off the table.

However, the only thing standing in the way between the Crows and avoiding the wooden spoon was the reigning premiers in Richmond, who had a lot to play for in this one. A win for the yellow and black army would seal a top-four finish and the double chance.

A loss could’ve easily seen them fall out top half of the final eight, given that West Coast took care of business against North Melbourne on Thursday night and it is expected that Geelong will take care of Sydney on Sunday.

We got the result many expected in the lead-up to the game, a solid performance from the Richmond Football Club – a tune-up for Finals so to speak. But the Crows certainly gave them something to think about at various stages throughout the game.

It’s time for another Mongrel review.

 

RETURN OF THE SHEDDA

Shane Edwards hasn’t played a senior game since round five – that was over two months ago. So you might be forgiven that he may have looked rusty on his return from a lengthy layoff for family reasons.

If you did expect Edwards to have a quiet return, then I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Edwards slotted back into this Tigers team so seamlessly, it’s ridiculous to imagine that he actually spent two months away from the game.  Floating in between half back and in the middle, Edwards had 18 disposals, eight clearances – four from centre bounces, four marks, three tackles and four score involvements – a good time to return to footy, and a little bit of form.

He’s a more important piece to this team than outsiders might actually realise, his versatility and use of the ball is top notch. It’s good to have him back!

 

TEX’S RECORD NIGHT

Well done to Taylor Walker for surpassing the Crows’ club record for all-time goals kicked.

Sitting level with the high-flying Tony Modra at 440 goals, all he needed was one more goal and he got it in the second quarter. He should also shout Nick Vlastuin a beer for the free kick that led to the goal.

On the stats sheet, it wasn’t a big night all round, he finished with 1.1 from eight disposals, but I thought he competed well around half-forward and further up the ground. He took six marks, half of those were contested grabs and brought the ball to ground often, which is probably what you want from him at this stage of his career.

Should he go around again in 2021? I think the younger talls of Elliott Himmelberg and Darcy Fogarty could benefit from another year of Walker taking some defensive heat off them. They will be fine players, but whether they are ready to soar on their own remains to be seen for now.

 

THE TRADEMARK PRESSURE

Richmond’s last few years of dominance relies on the players inviting their opposition to take possession of the footy and doing something with it… whilst they harass them and get in their face. If you’ve ever played the game, even at local level, it’s a task easier said than done.

The next part of this review will be about the defence of Richmond. However, a big reason the defence set up tremendously well is the pressure of the forwards of the Tigers. If they couldn’t lock the ball in the forward half, the next best thing they did was forcing the Adelaide players into hacking the ball out of there.

What about the forwards though? Statistically, Richmond are last in the league for tackles inside attacking 50, averaging just under seven per game, but laid ten tackles inside 50 in this one. All up, they laid 20 more tackles than the Crows around the ground, despite having 34 less disposals.

Jack Graham is a tackling machine, he laid eight. Marlion Pickett wasn’t too far behind, laying seven. Jason Castagna, Kane Lambert, Daniel Rioli and Jake Aarts all had defensive moments inside 50 that would’ve made Dimma not swearing like a lunatic in the coaches box.

 

RICHMOND’S DEFENSIVE SETUP

So let’s have a look at how the Tigers set themselves up behind the ball.

We’ve already mentioned that the Tigers invite teams to try and take the game on and this is probably where the 44-point gap separates them from the league’s best.

David Astbury hasn’t played footy since round four – another one who has missed over two months of footy – but doesn’t he make that defensive structure even better? It’s hard to say that when Dylan Grimes – despite staging beyond belief (please stop) – is playing amazing footy, Noah Balta is emerging before our very eyes and guys like Liam Baker, Jayden Short, Nick Vlastuin and Bachar Houli are all playing their respective roles to perfection.

Astbury led all Tigers for intercepts with nine for the game and had 14 disposals and six marks in his return game, which is pretty impressive. Between Baker, Grimes and Vlastuin, that was another 17 intercept possessions. And Jayden Short…

 

WHAT ABOUT JAYDEN SHORT?

I don’t think there’s a player in this Richmond outfit that is as underrated and as underappreciated as Jayden Short.

Where guys like Dusty (I’ll get to him), Trent Cotchin, Grimes and others will be the spotlight focus in this Richmond team, guys like Short just continue to hum along with very minimal fuss. He had 20 disposals, 17 of those being kicks and went at 80 percent disposal efficiency. He also took seven marks, had four score involvments and six intercepts.

If teams are looking to knock off the Tigers come October, they have to look at limiting guys like Short. He’s such a lethal weapon with the ball in his hands and he’s shown that he is a pretty smart operator in terms of intercepting possessions.

 

DUSTY

It would be hard to argue against him receiving best on ground honours in this one.

He has been playing a bit more of forward in recent weeks, but in this one, he played predominantly in the middle and had some small stints up forward to rest. But when he was in the middle, he was at his destructive best – cue the bull in the china shop cliché. He had 28 disposals – 16 contested possessions, six marks, four clearances, six score involvements and six inside 50s.

Some of his kicks went wayward at times, but he was up and about and kicked a very nice goal in the second term. I will argue that the ball did go over the line ON THE FULL when he marked it and then he managed to waltz five metres in-field instead of running up his given line. But all things considered, it was a bloody lovely goal and he churned out a fine game.

 

PREMIERSHIP QUARTER TIGERS

I will get to the Crows, because there are two sides to every coin that is an AFL-sanctioned match, and they do deserve some credit, because they did very well to hold themselves up as Richmond continued to blast the footy inside attacking 50.

But the third quarter was where the Tigers put their foot on the gas and really started to excel. 4.5 to 1.1 in a quarter that really should’ve seen the Tigers lead by more, given the number of opportunities they had – they had 17 inside 50s that quarter.

Also, a lot of their players got fired up. Trent Cotchin was having a swing at a Crouch, then Toby Nankervis absolutely piled Crouch into the turf when he saw him having a swing at Cotchin. Next, it was Vlastuin getting very antsy with Taylor Walker; they weren’t there to muck around in the second half, the Tigers.

In terms of who produced in the third term, Daniel Rioli has been a bit maligned in recent times, but had a good third term, with plenty of bright spots. Jack Graham found plenty of the football, Nankervis took a couple of good grabs on a night where he was probably second-best to Reilly O’Brien and Kane Lambert was looking very prominent.

 

REILLY O’BRIEN

When the Crows find themselves back up the ladder in a few years’ time, we’ll be looking at Reilly O’Brien and saying to ourselves: That’s an All-Australian.

By then, he’ll probably have a club best and fairest or two next to his name as well, he is a bloody good talent to watch. He broke out last year as the Crows’ number one ruckman, but this year, he looks like he’s elevated and gone up another gear. He beat Nankervis 29-24 in the hitouts and outworked him around the ground: 19 disposals, seven marks – four contested, four tackles and four score involvements.

 

IS HE A ‘SHOLL’ THING THIS WEEK?

I know the Rising Star award focuses more on the collective performances a player has gathered this season, and this is definitely not a knock on Isaac Quaynor – he’s a star in waiting.

But seriously, how in the blue hell does Lachie Sholl not get nominated last round? It feels a bit cheated, a bit like Jake Riccardi’s debut game a month back where he had the ball on a bloody string. Sometimes, you have to bypass the norms when someone plays an out and out blinder.

Sholl backed up his outstanding performance against the Blues last Sunday with another strong showing – 19 disposals, six marks, three clearances and four intercepts. He’s going to be a fine young man and if he doesn’t get the nomination this week, look out.

 

BRAD CROUCH – DOES HE STAY OR DOES HE GO?

If you asked me this question a month or so ago, I would’ve easily said that he’s packed his bags, booked his ticket home to Victoria and will most likely be donning a navy blue and white-hooped guernsey for the new year.

But as Adelaide put the wins on the board, I don’t really know. Brad Crouch has been a cornerstone piece in Adelaide’s three successive wins before this match and again, turned in a good shift on-ball for the Crows – 26 disposals, eight clearances, four tackles, five inside 50s and four score involvements.

It’s going to be tough for him this off-season and the Cats won’t be the only suitors, but if there is one thing that can convince Brad Crouch to stay in Crows colours beyond this year, it’s the fact that Matthew Nicks is starting to reach to the players and are buying in to the game plan, and the results on-field have shown it.

 

THE OTHER BITS

I mentioned Jack Graham’s tackle numbers earlier, the rest of his stats sheet saw him rack up 21 disposals – 10 contested, along with five score involvements, four inside 50s and three clearances. I know he’s attracted plenty of interest, but I hope he stays a Tiger.

Tom Lynch – the Adelaide one – played a good game: 25 disposals, five marks, five score involvements and four intercepts. Missed a very easy chance to reduce the margin late in that second quarter – he would’ve kicked that with his eyes shut three years ago.

Jake Aarts has been a good find for the Tigers this year and I think he’ll be a huge wildcard for them come Finals. Another two goals from him from 12 disposals to take his season total to 14 goals in 13 games.

Chayce Jones has been a bit of a disappointment this season. I know he’s drifted in and out of games a lot and he’s a second year player. But three disposals in 83 percent game time is a very poor return. I hope he fires up for a big 2021.

The Crows have got a likely lad in Andrew McPherson there. Love that he doesn’t take a backwards step – very gutsy. Matched up with Dusty whenever he went forward and gave away a goal, but liked the fact that he took it on without looking like he was going to wet his undies.

Adelaide won the contested possession count by five, which is a positive for them. Brad Crouch, Matt Crouch and Rory Laird – god I love that little man – combined for 33 contested possessions. I know Richmond are missing Dion Prestia and Shai Bolton, but that’s a big tick for mine all the same.

Speaking of, I don’t want to be Richmond’s selectors come the first week of Finals. Both Prestia and Bolton, along with Tom Lynch will come back into the team. You’d assume Mabior Chol will be the unfortunate one to make way for Lynch. Whilst Jack Ross, Kamdyn McIntosh, Josh Caddy – as solid as they were in this one, will probably have to make room. That’s a dangerous proposition for anyone not barracking for Richmond this October.

And on that frightening note, it’s time to call time on this review.

The Tigers did what they needed to do. All that remains for them now is to see who they will face week one – it’ll either be Brisbane or Port Adelaide – depending on the result of the Port/Collingwood game on Monday. They’re ready for a third flag in four years as far as I’m concerned.

The Crows, well they unfortunately have earned their first wooden spoon in the club’s history. That’s pretty impressive to say the least – nearly 30 years they’ve been in the league and they’ve never been rock bottom on the ladder.

But as they say, there’s a first-time for everything. In good news, they’ll be in a good spot for the Draft this year, despite all the uproar about Academy selections. Pick one, they have GWS’ first round selection, which is somewhere in the top 10 and if Crouch does decide to leave through free agency, they might get another high first-round pick as well.

It’s not the end of the world being a Crows fan is it?