Both teams came into this match in a very interesting place, and not just because it was being played at Marvel Stadium. Richmond’s fans should be careful, lest they develop a reputation similar to Collingwood and complain every time they have to drive five minutes from the comfort of the MCG. Less than 20,000 to a Saturday night game? I don’t care where it’s being played or who you’re playing. You’re not really in a position to demand stadium changes when you’re bringing those numbers through the gates, even if it feels like there is triple that amount there in the last quarter.

The Tigers lost another couple of premiership players in Bolton and Edwards during the week, but regained defensive pillar Dylan Grimes, as well as a debutante in Ralphsmith, following their defeat by Geelong. A lot had been made of the Tigers form, which was somewhat warranted based on their sporadic efforts across 2021. However, those in black and yellow were still sitting comfortably in their armchairs with no panic stations in sight. The Tigers have faced similar challenges in previous years and found their form when it mattered. There was no reason to doubt them now.

The Giants made significant changes to the side that snuck past Essendon in a shootout. Mumford, Keeffe and Finlayson were the significant outs for the Giants. Buntine, Flynn and Hogan returned to the side. They also brought in a debutante ruckman, in Briggs, to assist in dealing with Nankervis. GWS had definitely found form coming into this match. Staring 0-3, the Giants looked very shaky, but they have rallied strongly behind their stand-in skipper of Toby Greene to win four of their last five matches. The Giants were on the march and coming up against a familiar foe that they definitely don’t hold any friendly feelings towards.

Let’s get into the stuff that mattered…

 

THE BEST STUFF

 

DUSTIN MARTIN

I feel like Martin should just come out to his own theme song. My pick is Robert Palmers Simply Irresistible. That’s how every Richmond fan must feel when they see “Dusty” get the footy. The ball just seems to fall his way, but you can’t call it luck, because it just keeps happening. He makes his own luck.

One thing that is definitely not luck is that opposition players continue to not account for the fend-off. The guy has been doing it for a decade and is arguably the best ever exponent of it, but surely you know it’s coming? Either way, when the Tigers needed a hero and things looked lost, Martin did what Martin does and dragged the Tigers back into the game.

I’m a biased viewer and I don’t view him as the best player in the game, but there is no player who is his equal in big moments or big games. When the time comes and someone needs to step up, Martin enters the picture like Rocky Balboa ready to stand toe-to-toe with anyone and will himself to victory. But that’s enough on Dusty. He’s done this so many times in much bigger games, Tigers fans must think that it’s just compulsory in every game.

Loved it when he just kept signalling a goal during the review in the last quarter. Maybe a David Rodan style career change after footy for Martin?

 

LIAM BAKER

This guy is apparently a second-string midfielder at the Tigers and is only taking the step up due to injuries. I suppose its hard to be a first-string midfielder when that line includes Martin, Cochin, Prestia and Edwards. But with three of those four out and Martin spending plenty of time forward, Baker had to step up and by jeeze he did that in a big way. He took everything that the Giants threw at him and kept coming.

The Giants had some pretty big players running through the guts, and Baker went head-to-head with them all game and was one of the few Tigers to put in a four-quarter performance. Consistently in and under winning the footy. Sure, he could clean up some of his disposal, but when you fight for it as hard as Baker does, that can be forgiven.

It might be a weird comparison, but the way Baker played tonight reminded me of Russell Crowe in Gladiator. You know that scene just after the first battle in the Colosseum when he has revealed himself to Commodus? Crowe and his fellow gladiators are going down in the elevator with a crowd chanting his name; spine tingling stuff. I’ve found that some people don’t notice that every other guy around him is like a foot taller with huge muscles, but Crowe still commands the space with absolute authority. That’s Baker. Others may be bigger, but Baker commanded the space around him in this game.

He lead the Tigers in disposals, contested possessions, clearances and metres gained. Not to mention the desperation play in the last few minutes of this game where he applied some of the most outstanding pressure to not allow the Giants any clean footy exiting defensive fifty. He simply refused to lose.

 

JACOB HOPPER

It’s always hard being the best player in a losing side, particularly when you’ve been arguably the best player on the ground for the majority of the match. Hopper was in everything. He was winning the footy in spades, laying tackles and then giving away free kicks. He delivered the ball beautifully at times, including a real hot patch in the second quarter, but made some costly mistakes late.

How much do you take off him for these costly errors late in the game when he has been so good throughout? I’m not going to take much off him. He is elite and would’ve justifiably been recognised as the best on ground had the Giants won this game.

 

THE RUCKMAN

TOBY NANKERVIS V MATT FLYNN & KIEREN BRIGGS

This was a fascinating match-up. I was surprised to see GWS “manage” Shane Mumford when he would be such a perfect opponent for Nankervis. However, my worries were allayed by the performances of Flynn and Briggs. Its’s weird, but this is one of those game where I had both ruck primary ruckman as winners.

Nankervis was a huge roadblock and towering in the Giants path forward as he played a kick behind the footy for most of the night. I was having a discussion with a couple of Richmond mates and they agreed that Nankervis reminds us a lot of Brad Ottens (Not Richmond Ottens, Geelong Ottens), in that he won’t be recognised or discussed as an elite ruckman, but you’re not trading him for anyone else. Ever. Especially in a final or big game where he seems to just take a step up and assert himself.

He just doesn’t get beat, the worst result you get is a draw. Perhaps it is this reliability that keep Richmond thinking they can squeak by with just him in the ruck, while most teams have changed to two rucks or a third tall to pinch-hit.

I have to ask if it was Matt Flynn out there or just Shane Mumford in disguise? He plays so much like him. Follows up his play beautifully and lays bone-crunching tackles. Nine of them in fact, the most for the game of any player. He really makes his presence felt. It’s a very similar style to Nankervis which is probably why I rated both of their games so highly and he ended up being just as good of a match-up as Mumford would’ve been.

Flynn has burst onto the scene in 2021 and looks set to take the ruck role right out of Mumford’s hands once the Giants have worked out how win with him in the side. You’ve got to give to ole’ “Mummy”, he delivers results.

Briggs deserves a mention as I thought he was very good on debut. The commentators talked about him coming in “ready-made”, but he is still only 21 years old. Coming up against the Tigers in your first game and playing in such a tight and tough contest is no easy task, no matter how big you are. He played his role and supported Flynn well against Nankervis.

 

Character

 

THE GOOD STUFF

 

TOBY GREENE

Gave his all in this game. Played higher up the ground and was more of a link player. Didn’t find himself deep too often which showed in a lesser return on the scoreboard, but his ability to get involved in the Giants possessions chains going forward and be that key link was first class. Unlucky at times and stupid at others, but that’s Toby Greene. Overall, I think he has made a tremendous step-up as a genuine leader of this footy team.

 

HARRY PERRYMAN

Perryman tearing his hamstring absolutely changed this game. He was on fire for the Giants in the first half and left a hole that they were simply unable to cover once he departed. Perryman had seven intercepts in the first half, the eventual leaders for the game finished with just eight. If that doesn’t tell you the value the Giants lost in that moment, then nothing will.

 

DYLAN GRIMES

How good is it to have Dylan Grimes back Tiger fans? Not only just for the Petr Čech style save in the dying minutes, but also for the stability he brings to the defence. I swear Nathan Broad was a different player compared to last week and I’m putting that down to the confidence that comes with having a player at the level of Dylan Grimes standing next to you. You suddenly don’t absolutely have to win your contest as that guy in the next one further down the line just doesn’t lose any. A solid return for Grimes. A lazy eight intercepts along with seven one percenters and a game saving dive on the goal line. Fairly standard for him.

 

ISAAC CUMMING

Speaking of quality defenders. Isaac Cumming is a player I don’t know a lot about, but he is one I will be watching closely from now on. I mentioned the imbalance that occurred in the Giants defence following the Perryman injury, but Cummings was one of the few who was not affected. He stood tall under the Richmond avalanche late in the last quarter and was performing his own heroics to keep GWS n the game.  There was a period of about 5 minutes where I think he made three of four spoils and just seemed to be the only thing in the way of the Tigers onslaught.

 

JESSE HOGAN

How good can footy be sometimes? Hogan had arguably the hottest 10 minutes in football so far this season. He found so much space, took marks inside 50 and most importantly kicked the goals. Basically, when a key forward does this, it is the best time to be a footy fan. Nothing is purer than a forward who finds his mojo for a short period and you just feel like he can’t be stopped. That was Hogan in the second quarter.  Six marks (five inside 50) six kicks and four goals. If only he didn’t get sucked in and give away a stupid free kick, his quarter could’ve been even better. What keeps Hogan out of “the best stuff” is the fact that after half time he blew up and was barely sighted again.

 

MARLION PICKETT

A pretty quiet game from Pickett but I thought some of his moments in the second half were very telling. He was very composed and found time and space where he previously would’ve panicked. He took the extra time to step past a defender or sum up a situation that allowed him to make better choices with the footy. He also did enough on the defensive end to support his teammates.

 

RCD

The best game so far from Collier-Dawkins. Two telling goals, 18 disposals and seven tackles. He’s made a very strong case for a NAB Rising Star nomination this week. After serving his time on the Tigers list, they look to have developed a quality young player

 

THE NOT SO GOOD STUFF

 

JACK RIEWOLDT – STUDS-UP.

God damnit Jack. Just stop it. I think I’ve watched about five Tigers games this year and he has done this in every one of them. There is a clear rule in place for this and the umpires better remember it’s there before someone gets hurt. If not, scrap the rule and the AFL can apologise to Toby Greene for the overreaction.

 

IF YOU DON’T MIND UMPIRE? (1)

While we’re on Toby Greene, it must be an unwritten rule that he doesn’t get free kicks unless he is just about murdered by an opposition player. It’s just a trend I’ve noticed, and I think a couple other Mongrels have as well. Possibly a bit of his reputation preceding him.

 

TOM LYNCH

Lynch got seriously lucky tonight. Lucky that he has teammates like Dustin Martin, Liam Baker and Dylan Grimes to dig the Tigers out holes that Lynch allows them to fall into. Eight disposals is poor, but the single goal and four behinds is horrible.

 

HARRY HIMMELBERG

In a game where he really needed to stand up Himmelberg went missing in the worst way. I’m not about to give 200 words on why he isn’t good enough, as his 2019 season showed he clearly is. However, there is no sugar coating his performance in this game, it was bad.

 

THE OTHER STUFF

 

IF YOU DON’T MIND UMPIRE? (2)

If you watched the Brisbane Vs Fremantle game last week, you would’ve seen the goal umpire body-up to some players in a marking contest to ensure he called the ball correctly. Well, wouldn’t you know, he was back at it again in this game. Copping a shirtfront from Dustin Martin on the goal line in the last quarter to make sure he called the ball correctly yet again. To top it off, he bloody dislocated his shoulder in the contest. The commitment to the craft is noted.

 

THE BOUNCE

Lachie Whitfield will probably have nightmares about that bounce of the footy in defensive 50 this week. Whitfield did everything right and was set to run onto the footy and clear it out of the Giants defence. However, the ball had other ideas and bounced on its point and cleared Whitfield’s reach and fell into the arms of Daniel Rioli who snapped truly to give the Tigers the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter. Remember how we talked about how good footy is sometimes? Well, sometimes it can be very cruel.

 

THE SHIFT

Richmond’s changes after half-time. That is what good coaching is. Hardwick realised what was going wrong in their game and made the changes. He put Balta back to defence and got some bigger bodies into the middle to try and assist Baker in combating the Giants’ giants. They weren’t huge changes. A few of my Tiger supporting friends were saying they were downright common sense, but they still needed to be done, and coaches operating with small touches that deliver big dividends is what we all love to see.

 

THE WRAP

 

Wow. What a contest this turned out to be. It’s hard to believe the Giants were 28 points up midway through the third quarter. It’s even harder to believe that the Giants actually came out in the last quarter and responded, to be 15 points up 13 minutes in and really feeling in control of the game after Richmond stormed back into it late in the third. Richmond were just unstoppable.

 

RICHMOND

The Tigers did what they needed to do. They ground out a win and kept themselves just in front, on their win-loss ledger. Given the number of players currently out of their side (yes, I know every team deals with injuries) that is probably the best situation they can be in. As an opposition fan I’m still haunted by the fact this feels eerily similar to previous years where the Tigers haven’t quite clicked into gear in the first couple months of the season, but still find themselves sitting in the eight ready to make their run and hit form when it counts. A huge Friday night game looms next week against Brisbane. On paper and on form you’d have to favour the Lions at their home ground, but this Tigers team… you never know with them.

 

GWS

A wasted opportunity for the Giants. They had this game under their control. It was being played their way, on their terms, and then they let the Tigers flip it on its head. They now sit four wins and five losses with a percentage below 100. They must win at least one of their next two games to stay in the hunt for finals. A tough home game against the Eagles at Giants stadium followed by their own trip to the Gabbatoir to face the Lions. The Giants need to start stringing some wins together if they’re going to push to be a serious finals threat.

 

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