This game shaped as a huge challenge for both clubs.

The Saints, after a stirring comeback win against the West Coast Eagles in Round Four, were looking to cement themselves as a premiership fancy with a win over the reigning champs.

The Tigers… well, they hadn’t made a habit of losing three in a row over the past few years, and they were not looking to give anyone a reason to suggest they were at all slipping.

Of course, when two teams are challenged, it’s always one that responds better than the other. And sometimes, one barely responds at all. The Tigers belted the Saints all over the park, toying with them at times and rubbing their noses in it at others. It was a comprehensive beatdown, a shellacking… a humbling. Richmond abused St Kilda in the contest and on the outside, with their team of men treating St Kilda like a schoolboy team, discarding them whenever they engaged in a test of strength and wanting the footy more when it was up for grabs.

This is The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly, and there will be no prizes for guessing what the good contains, and what the ugly contains. But maybe… maybe I can surprise you with a couple of other things. Let’s go.

 

THE GOOD

 

BRILLIANT BOLTON

I loved his game – elusive, combative, dangerous and unselfish – if you throw those four words together, you come up with elubativerousfish, which doesn’t actually mean anything. But what did mean something is that Bolton brought all those aspects to his game in this one, and made his St Kilda counterparts look pretty ordinary in the process.

One moment stands out for me, and I reckon it was this game in a microcosm. Running back with the flight of the ball, Bolton simply wanted it more than his opponents, and took what was a potentially dangerous situation and turned it into a huge win.

The mark he took at this point ended up being contested, with both Hunter Clark and Ben Long stood, flat-footed, hoping the other would go.

We’ve seen these high balls inside 50 hundreds of times over the years – they’re ready-made for defenders to come across and obliterate the contest, but such was the demolition job on the Saints, they were constantly second-guessing themselves and each other.

Bolton sailed in, marked the footy, slotted the goal on the snap from right in front and went on his merry way, collecting 29 touches, eight clearances and five inside fifties in what was his best outing of the season to date.

The Tigers needed a list from several players, and Bolton would have been one that got the tap on the shoulder from Hardwick at one point (not the sort you give to your missus… settle down, fellas!).

He responded brilliantly, and the Tigers continued to maul the Saints.

 

THE TANK

You knew that when the Saints announced that Rowan Marshall wasn’t going to come up, Toby Nankervis would have smiled like a supervillain, hatching a plan of attack.

You see, Nank is like a ruck bully. He is not the stylish, sophisticated type. My guess is that he doesn’t drink cognac and would have trouble differentiating between a salad fork and a salad bowl, but what he does do is spots the difference between an opposition ruckman that can match him body-to-body, and one who can’t.

Paul Hunter was one who couldn’t.

Nankervis had a party, notching 40 hitouts, and it could have been many more had Marlion Pickett not moved back to his natural position of elite ruckman in the second half.

I kid… I kid…

Nank rested forward at times and provided a good target, but he was also prominent in defence as the hapless Saints bombed the ball and hoped.

And Nank dashed those hopes pretty effectively. He had five intercept possessions to go along with his six tackles and six clearances in one of the better performances of the season.

Many have lamented the Saints’ ruck woes this season, after the position was such a source of their success in 2020. They’d want to get on top of it quickly, as the Tigers absolutely molested them at stoppages, +16 on the night, with a massive 18-8 advantage in the centre clearances.

Paul Hunter is a third-string fill in – it’s not his fault; that’s just his position in the AFL pecking order, and when he fronted up to do battle against Toby Nankervis, it was like the Saints brought a knife to a gunfight, and the result was predictable.

 

THE CLOSE DOWN DEFENCE

The Saints looked okay in the first quarter, right? Good entries inside 50, good movement through the middle, forwards looking as though they might be able to get off the chain…

And then came the adjustment.

I went to a chiropractor for a while. I was expecting him to be twisting me and cracking parts of my body I didn’t even know existed, but it surprised me at how little he did as part of these adjustments and how, much to my amazement, things started to move a little easier.

Such was the way with the Richmond defence in this game. A little tweak here… a small adjustment there, and all of a sudden, there was a wall across half back that the Saints could not penetrate.

Grimes, Balta, Baker, Broad… they all got in on the act, drifting into the path of the hopeful, yet incredibly poorly executed St Kilda kicks inside 50, to cut the Saints off at the knees.

Special mention must go to Dylan Grimes, whose job it was to stand Tim Membrey and ensure he did not get dangerous. I noticed him disregard Membrey a couple of times as he forward led right up the ground, but anything forward of centre saw Grimes attack the contest with vigour. Membrey’s 11 touches are his lowest output of the season. Chalk that one up to Grimey.

 

DUSTY WAS DUSTY, BUT A LITTLE BIT RUSTY?

I almost fell off my chair when I saw that Dusty had 34 touches in this one. Great output, but…

… but… and you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?

But the game wasn’t really up to the standards we expect from Martin, was it? I felt like it was a pretty average game from a man that can murder teams with 20 touches. With 34 disposals, there is the potential to have the stadium look like a killing field.

Am I being too harsh? Am I judging him against Dusty, when anyone else doing this kind of stuff would be lauded as a hero?

Maybe, but I find that score involvements are where Dusty shines, and you can really tell how potent he has been by how many plays he’s involved with end up in scoring shots. With five in this one, he was actually well under his season average. Yes, 34 touches are great, but I cannot help feel they were not “Dusty quality”. In short, he played like an accumulator, and his best is far more impressive than that kind of game.

 

THE TACKLERS

I read somewhere during the week that tackling was down and there are not enough opportunities now to lay tackles. Seriously, people bitch about some dumb stuff…

Go tell Jack Graham there are only limited opportunities to tackle blokes. While you’re at it, let Jack Steele know, and send a message to Toby Nankervis to make sure he is aware as well.

Graham had 12 tackles in this one in another fantastic accountable midfield performance, capped off with three goals in the kind of game that can still fly under the radar in a stacked Richmond team.

Earlier this season, I was asking around about future leadership at Richmond. The Red Menace, Nick Vlastuin was the name that came up most commonly, but Graham’s name was next in line, and I reckon it is performances like this that cement him in the hearts and minds of the Tiger faithful as one of the leaders of the next generation.

As for Steele, he has been the only bloke to show up each and every week for this team, and it must be so disheartening to look around and watch efforts from teammates that shouldn’t be called efforts because it makes the word “efforts” seem piss-weak.

The Saints had few winners, but Steele can hold his head up high. Throw in Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield… possibly Dougal Howard, and you have the four players that didn’t get their pants pulled down in this one.

To the rest of the Saints…pull your damn pants up!

 

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK

Remember when Jack Riewoldt was going to magnanimously move aside and allow Tom Lynch to become the number one forward at Tigerland?

Pepperidge Farm remembers.

Maybe they need to send a memo to Jack, who presented like the number one man in this game, and snagged five goals to show for it. Riewoldt’s performance was akin to the 2017 version we got used to, demanding the footy on the lead, using his body in packs and taking a nice contested pack mark to bring a smile to both his teammates’ and the fans’ faces.

He probably could have had seven in this one, with a couple of uncharacteristic kicks spraying off his boot, but five goals in a winning side is a big day out for a bloke who was supposed to be close to washed up.

All that said… he does get away with going studs up in marking contests. If Toby Greene were doing that…

 

HE’S NOT ON BRAD HILL MONEY

But I’ll tell you what – Marlion Pickett gives a hell of a lot more desperation at the contest in one game than Hill has all season.

Over the first month of footy, you start to notice little things about someone’s game and the Richmond wingman/ruck is one of the first outside runners to get back inside defensive fifty to aid his defenders. His willingness to engage in physical contests is what sets him apart from a large portion of wingmen in the game, as both he and Kamdyn McIntosh – hell, and Josh Caddy when he plays – are all warriors. They’re hard runners on the outside, but when the footy is there to be won, they put their body on the line and win it.

If we were to hold a poll for the hardest wingman in the game right now, where would Pickett rate?

His strongest opposition could very well come from his own team, with other teams sporting players like Andrew Gaff, Karl Amon, Brandon Ellis and Hugh McCluggage (okay… Mitch Robinson cracks in, as well).

Pickett had the dream debut, released a book and was reportedly heading home at WA at one stage according to the pundits, but here he is, part of the Tigers’ best 22 at the moment, doing the little things that become big things for others.

It’d be pretty difficult to keep him out of the votes in this one… and I haven’t even factored in his ruckwork!

 

 

THE BAD

 

VANISHING ACT BECOMING A LITTLE TOO PREDICTABLE?

I know this is harsh on a young man, but bear with me.

Let’s have a gander at Max King over the first five rounds of the season. He ticks a lot of boxes, doesn’t he? Young kid, a bit of a presence. Leads well and takes marks.

Does a lot early in games and then… not so much as the defenders compensate for his strengths and force him into positions in which he is uncomfortable.

But Mongrel… do you have anything to back this up?

I’m glad you asked. Here we go.

55% of King’s goals this season have come in the first quarter, and 36% of his overall disposals accompany them in the first stanza as well. Marks? 41% of them come in the first quarter.

Go Mongrel… do that homework!

Look, every man and his dog can see that King is going to be a star of the game. He has a reach that simply won’t be denied, but defenders aren’t the plodding neanderthals they once were – they play a more sophisticated style now that allows them to play collective defence to nullify the strengths of their opponents. With Max King in this game, he was effectively shut out by Noah Balta after yet another promising start.

He’ll be fine, but he needs to be a little more than a first-quarter specialist.

 

BUTLER DIDN’T DO IT

New hairstyle… new attitude in Round Four – back to poor form in Round Five.

The second half of the Eagles game was heralded as the return to form of Dan Butler, but coming up against his old side, he failed to fire, collecting a pedestrian eleven touches as he meandered about the field having little impact and rarely looking dangerous.

Much like his first three games of the 2021 season.

Has Dan Butler already proven his point? Did he have the season he needed to have as a Saints to show the footy world he was worth a lot more than Richmond though he was? And now the foot is off the gas a little?

Butler was a non-factor in this game, and that is reflected in the tackle stats. This was not an open, free-flowing game. This was a game where Butler’s pressure and chasing should have been important. It wasn’t.

It was non-existent.

Butler had one tackle for the game. A shadow of the player he was in 2020, at the moment.

 

GUTLESS

There is a very good reason that people dislike the Channel Seven commentary team’s efforts at times, and I want to highlight one particular incident that had me shaking my head.

The Brad Hill dropped mark that led to the Marlion Pickett goal. Hill dropped the chest mark… and oh, believe me – we will get to his “efforts” in this game, but why is it that these commentators and analysts refuse to acknowledge that a player has made a huge error? Particularly when it is as costly as the one Hill made?

Having a current player as a special comments man is a stupid idea – he will not give any insight that isn’t hand-fed to him. You guys know I love Joel Selwood, but having him on commentary in this game was a waste of time. He was never going to give any insight that wasn’t positive or generic, because he has to play these blokes at some point.

But the “professionals” were no better. They were tight-lipped about the Hill error as they watched the replay, and whilst I fully understand concentrating on the positives, you still have to address the negatives when they are sticking out like dogs’ balls.

It took Jonathon Brown, during the Fox Footy half time show to address it, and I am so glad he did. Someone had to. He put Brad Hill on the spot for his lack of effort and…

… well, keep reading. We’re about to get to that.

 

THE UGLY

 

THE PASSENGER

I have a couple of rules at The Mongrel Punt that I don’t like to see broken. Bent, yes… but not broken.

One of them pertains to writing hatchet jobs on a player, however, if the writer can back things up with solid facts, they can go ahead and give it their best shot. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you as evidence the entire game film as we zero in on the pathetic efforts of Brad Hill in this game.

I am sick of the excuses. I am sick of hearing about how hard he runs and how his teammates don’t look for him when they have the ball. Do you want to know why they don’t look for him when they have the ball? Because they don’t trust him.

They don’t trust that he will compete. They don’t trust that he would put his body on the line for them the same way they would for him, and they do not trust that he will make the hard yards to get the footy on the off-chance they don’t lace the footy out to him.

How many possessions did he earn in this game? A particularly clumsy butcher could count those disposals on one hand.

He had a horrid first half, with just six disposals to his name and coughed up a mark at defensive fifty only to see his direct opponent claim the footy and slot a goal as he watched on. Yes… watched on.

So, after such a disappointing first half, how did he respond? Hold onto your hats here, guys… he came out and dazzled the crowd with a four disposal second half. Yep, he got worse. He was completely shut down, time and time again by Kamdyn McIntosh, who simply refused to allow Hill to drift out wide and pick up the cheap kicks that are now synonymous with his game. People, this is a three-time premiership wingman, and he flat out refuses to go and get the footy. One of his disposals were in a contest today, but that’s not uncommon – he averages less than four contested touches per game. He has become a seagull, and his teammates are tired of throwing him chips.

But wait… he is an outside player. He needs space to run into and use his endurance to wear down his opponent. OK… that would be great if he were playing against a bunch of fat kids, but he isn’t. he is playing against a collection of men that can also run all day, but – get this – go and get the damn footy if they want it.

Brett Ratten is a good coach. I refuse to believe he is blind to the fact that his star wingman is playing like a complete passenger, and if he wants to make a statement about what is required to play footy at his club, Brad Hill belongs in the seconds for a couple of weeks until he decides he wants to play the game of footy the way he was hired to, and not the way we witnessed in this game.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

HOW MUCH OF A LOSS WAS ROWAN MARSHALL?

Huge. He has the potential to be one of the top three rucks in the game within the next few years, and you have to think that Nankervis is not anywhere near as effective with Marshall opposed to him.

Was integral in the Saints’ comeback last week and if you can’t see how he could have stopped some of the bleeding in this game, I don’t think you’ve paid attention over the past couple of years.

 

DID THE RICHMOND PLAYERS REALLY NOT KNOW WHO NIGEL MANSELL WAS?

That’s because they’re undoubtedly Ayrton Senna guys, right? He was always the better driver, even in an inferior car… but that black lotus JPS car was a ripping machine.

Anyway, shame on the Tigers for not knowing Mansell – sure he looked like a wanky school teacher, but he could sure as hell drive a car.

 

DID DANIEL RIOLI DO ENOUGH?

We could really make this a standing question, as it seems to come up often.

Look, in a game like this, it is pretty difficult to assess whether someone was good, or just along for the ride. Two snags and 12 touches in a win of this nature is a pass mark… just. Let’s run this question again next week and see how he goes if the Dees can apply the pressure the Saints were unable to.

 

WHAT IS JAKE CARLISLE THESE DAYS?

I really don’t know. I was almost going to say “: close to being finished” but thought it too harsh. Now I wrote it, anyway, so… that’s unfortunate.

He was forced to ruck at points in this game, but he moves like a glacier these days and doesn’t appear too interested in making contest after contest. Could still be a good one-on-one defender on the deepest forward, but that’d still be a downgrade on Dougal Howard.

 

WHY HAVEN’T YOU MENTIONED HUNTER CLARK?

Yeah, it was a pretty Richmond-centric review, given they won by almost 15 goals, but Clark was good and under a tonne of pressure, he had nine intercepts and 33 touches for a Saints team that was pretty light on in terms of winners.

Many Saints fans reckon he will be an A-Grader in the very near future, and given the way he has pinch-hit in the midfield successfully, they may be right.

 

AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, WHY HAVEN’T YOU MENTIONED SHANE EDWARDS?

Geez… who’s asking these questions?!?!

Maybe because the Tigers had so many good players that I’ll be writing all night if I mention them all. This is the last one, damn it!

Loved a couple of his creative handballs to get the Tigers off and running, or to continue the run through the middle. He knows just how to hold the ball for that split-second longer to draw a player, or to weight it so well that his teammate doesn’t break stride. Can’t believe he is 32 years old – he plays like a man in his prime.

 

 

OTHER BITS

 

Brad Crouch looks as though he is finding his way in the Saints midfield, but it has really made Seb Ross a redundant figure at the club. Forced out onto the wing and collecting 15 touches, people forget that we’re just a few years removed from Ross being a 30+ disposal winner every week.

At 27, Ross would be a very handy trade piece if the Saints are looking to continue down the Steele/Crouch/Jones path. The injuries to Hannebery and Gresham may mean he is a required player beyond this season.

Ben Long seems to like the taste of angry pills. I reckon playing as the medical sub just pisses him off… as it would any genuine footballer who just wants to get out there and play.

Another underrated game from Kane Lambert in this one – runs his guts out and provides an option all the time for the Tigers. Great to see his hard run rewarded a couple of times.

And that’ll do me – punishing win for the Tigers; the sort that can break a team that does not truly believe in themselves. Do the Saints believe in themselves, or do they believe in who they were last season???

They get the Power next week in Adelaide. They had a huge win there last season and need to repeat the dose. 2-4 is panic stations.

As for the Tigers, a date with the Demons looks mouth-watering at this stage. Deserves a big crowd at the ‘G.

 

 

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