A week is a long time in footy, and opinions change like my buddy, Adam West changes his underwear (about once every five or six days) when it comes to a team’s finals chances.

Cast your mind back a week or so, and recall the way people were writing Richmond off. It’s not that hard – you may have even been a part of it. Maybe you still are? I can remember people doing that to Hawthorn in the final season of their three-peat, too. They were more barracking for them to fall over than predicting it with any certainty.

And that’s what we saw over the past few of weeks from the experts paid to tell you what to think about the game. They’ve told you Brisbane is a contender and Richmond were cooked. And yes, the Tigers did themselves no favours with a deplorable loss against St Kilda followed with a shock loss to the Suns, and then to the Pies, but in the back of your mind, you knew that their best is still just about THE best, right?

You had to at least suspect it?

And you knew that at some stage, they would turn the corner… or at least poke their head around to see what was going on? And that’s what they did in this game – just a peek… maybe a step or two around the corner without fully turning it.

The thing is, this was not the Tigers’ best – far from it, actually. Still, it was more than enough to polish off the Brisbane Lions in Jack Riewoldt’s 300th game. And if this was good enough, what happens if this team actually finds that which made them the most dominant team of the last four seasons?

Join me, if you will, as we walk through the game and narrow the focus on the things that mattered, that will matter, and the things that perhaps could have been done a little better. It’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly, and we’ll wrap this game up tighter than… something that is very tight, indeed.

 

THE GOOD

 

CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION

I had a smile late in the game as Kane Lambert kicked long to the Richmond full forward position and you heard the whistle blow. Immediately, you knew what had happened, and you knew who the downfield free kick was going to go to.

Lambert’s kick may have been meant for Riewoldt anyway, but as soon as that whistle blew, you knew who was going to take the relayed free kick. Jack went back, casually slotted his sixth goal and put an exclamation point on a 300th game to remember.

There are some players who limp over the line to 300 games, and really, looking at Riewoldt over the past month or so, some may have toyed with the idea of placing him in that category, but as I sit here and write this review, Riewoldt’s six goals have him sitting second in the league in the race for the Coleman Medal, which at this stage of his career, is just a little bit ridiculous.

Ridiculous in a good way, of course.

With Tom Lynch occupying the attention of Harris Andrews, Ryan Lester was left to deal with the deceptively strong and quite sneaky (that’s not an insult.. I really rate sneakiness!) full forward, and in his milestone game, Riewoldt was far too accomplished for the second-string defender to handle.

On the flipside, Andrews did a reasonable job on Lynch, with the former Sun kicking one goal on him, but he had his hands full with the resting Mabior Chol, who kicked two of his four snags playing directly on Andrews.

In the end, Andrews had ten one-percenters and nine intercepts, but he was nowhere near the dominant defender we’ve come to know over the past few seasons. When you’re playing on Tom Lynch, you simply cannot zone off that much, and that allowed Riewoldt plenty of room to move, and capitalise on lesser opposition.

Seeing Riewoldt chaired off was nice, but there was part of me that wanted to see that moment at the MCG in front of 80K Tiger fans. Still, six snags in your 300th game… not a bad outing, Jack.

 

THE BIG FELLA’S BACK, AND THE OTHER BIG FELLA AIN’T BAD, EITHER

How good was it to see a big, bad, combative, angry ruckman patrolling the ground for the Tigers? Did you miss him?

Nank the Tank returned to the Richmond lineup and made a huge impact, with his physical pressure a vital part of the Richmond resurgence. Get a load of these numbers.

Nankervis lead the game in intercept possessions with ten, he had 22 touches, seven clearances and 18 contested possessions in an effort that not only gave the Tigers some real grunt in the ruck, but set Oscar McInerney back on his heels and started him grasping at his opponent in the ruck all over the park.

Nank crashed into the Big O at every opportunity, and as he did, I am sure there were many nodding, coming to the realisation that this, yes this mongrel, was what Richmond had been missing. Nankervis’ work against McInerney set up opportunities for the Richmond forwards to get a clean look at the footy coming out of the middle, and though you’d be crazy to claim Nank’s presence aided Mabior Chol in snagging four goals, the backup ruck was able to spend more time up forward and made for an excellent bailout target inside 50.

There would be plenty of people, including the Cats hierarchy, watching this game and wondering how they’re going to combat Nankervis next week. The big fella was a dominant force in this game, and the ripple effects of his performance were felt from defence to attack.

A wonderful return.

 

THE DIFFERENCE-MAKER

Is there a better player to watch with the ball in hand than Shai Bolton? Okay, so there might be a couple, but he would have to be in the top five, right?

He has this amazing, loping, angled run that seems t unsettle those he plays opposite. He is quick, and his change of direction has been the best in the league for two years now, consistently wrong-footing his opponent after collecting the footy.

Bolton looked every bit the star in this game. His run and carry game was on, his centre square work was polished, and his ability to create for teammates, as evidenced by his two goal assists, created havoc forward of centre.

Was I the only one to notice his workrate increase in the third quarter when Dustin Martin went off the ground? It was as though Batman took a hit and Robin, only a much v=cooler version of Robin, stepped up and said “no probs…I’ve got this one.”

There were moments in this game where you watched Bolton and felt sorry for the Richmond list managers. If they were having a hard time agreeing on a figure for a new contract, Bolton’s skill, finesse and balance during this game would have had them digging down the back of the couch fro loose change to add onto his 2022 amount.

Look, whether Bolton is at Richmond in 2022 or not, the ride he is currently taking the Tigers on could be a special one. Some people never get to play in a team such as this Richmond unit. Some go their whole careers without tasting finals success, let alone multiple flags. Shai Bolton is the next huge Richmond star if that is what he wants to be, and as we tick down toward the business end of the season, you get the feeling that he has a little more left to give in order to convince the Tigers of his true worth.

And if that is the case, I put those who play against him.

 

NO ONE ATTACKS A FOOTY LIKE MITCH ROBINSON

I have to admit, watching Mitch Robinson play football is like watching a potential car crash.

You see him coming one way, and sometimes, it is two or three opponents coming the other, and you just know that Robbo is not going to be the one to swerve out of the way. You just have to brace for impact. On two occasions in this game, Robbo opened himself right up and put his body on the line.

I can just imagine smarmy little know-it-alls calling him “dumb” or his actions “stupid” had he suffered an injury in attacking the footy the way he did. That’s what people do these days – they wait til someone is down, they sink the boots in, just like they did to Tom Doedee when he put himself in harm’s way. The thing with Robbo is… he only knows one way, and anyone who has played the game will tell you that you would much rather have a player like him on your side than against you – he makes others walk taller.

It was in a clash with Robinson that Dustin Martin sustained the injury that ended his night. The amazing this is that when you look at the footage, it looks as though Robinson was in the worse position of the two, attacking the contest front-on, whilst Dusty has time to brace and tuck-up. Of course, it was Robbo who got up first, leaving a clearly hurt Martin requiring help to leave the arena.

The second contest saw Robbo attack a ground ball without any fear at all. In heavy traffic, he barreled into what could have been a very dangerous situation, contested the footy, took it cleanly, and happily took the ensuing tackle.

People in the ‘ugly’ section, you will find me lamenting the lack of physicality allowed in the game at the moment – I find it quite disturbing. However, as long as you have players like Mitch Robinson, who would rather be strung up than shirk the issue, there will always be a place for good, contested football.

At the time of the second contest, I jotted down something in my notes that I thought was reflective of the way Robbo plays. When you’re a kid, you dream about taking the footy, crashing into someone, knocking them over and coming out on top as you snap a goal. I am certain we’ve all done it… whether it is in the backyard by yourself, down at the local oval, or even careening from doorway to doorway in your home. You take the contact and keep on going.

The note read – “Mitch Robinson attacks the contest the way we all wish we could attack the contest.”

And for that, I tip my hat to him.

 

RICH V SHORT

Yes, yes… I know they didn’t play on each other, but the rebound kings from both clubs wre always going to have a significant say in the outcome of this game.

Brisbane have loved getting the footy in Daniel Rich’s hands this season, and have manufactured a defensive set up to ensure he gets plenty of the footy to use that potent cannon masquerading as a leg. On the other side, the Tigers have done the same with Jayden Short, and though they usually have a couple of other very good options in Bachar Houli and Nick Vlastuin, in this game it was Jayden Short carrying the load.

So, how’d they go?

Let’s start with the winners.

Short was able to spend a heap of time running forward of centre in this one, often linking up through the middle of the ground to provide plenty of offensive firepower for the Tigers. The fact he had as many inside 50 disposals as rebound 50s gives a strong indication that he was looking to run off half back at all costs.

Rich found the early going tough. And though h was able to move the footy from defensive 50 with the same potency as Short his run was stymied several times by an alert Richmond midfield unit that continually rotated over to ensure he was covered. Both Kane Lambert and Jack Graham seemed to take the bulk of the responsibility for this, ensuring that Rich was unable to have free rein through the middle.

As fatigue set in in the second half, Rich found his way forward to use that leg of his to hit Charlie Cameron to close out the third quarter, but the persistence of Short, and his relentless run and carry were slightly better in this game. Rich has often cracked 700 metres gained in games this season. In this one, he was restricted to 546 – nothing to sneeze at, but when you realise that Short was able to clock in with 644 for the game, you come to understand that one side was able to better work their run-and-gun defender into open space than the other.

You give this one to the Tigers.

 

THE BAD

 

THE ONE WAY RUNNER

So, Brisbane fans… are you a bit sick of Joe Daniher’s shit yet?

If not, go back and watch the second half of this game again and pay particular attention to the way he competes, chases and applies pressure. More to the point, watch the way he DOES NOT do any of those things to an acceptable level, and never even looks like making a second effort at any stage. In addition, have a good look at the way he does not provide an aerial target at all, instead waiting out the back, or opting to become an uncontested target.

He finished this game with three goals, but it was one of the laziest performances you’ll see.

If you do go back and watch, check out the difference in his application when the Lions have the ball and when they’re without it. It is like chalk and cheese. When there is something accountable that requires his attention, Daniher barely gets out of second gear, but if there is a chance to get out the back and kick a goal… watch him drop the clutch and take off at breakneck speed.

In a professional football team, sometimes it takes 18 players on the field to create the type of defensive environment that prevents the opposition from getting out into space. Watching Joe Daniher meander about the forward fifty, barely interested in covering an opponent and less interested in laying a tackle, I was almost waiting for one of his teammates to give him a spray.

With Eric Hopwood out of action for 12 months, many wondered what the Lions would miss. It turns out they missed someone who would attack the footy in the air. Daniher is a better contested mark than Hipwood, but when there is a reluctance to engage and compete, it makes Hipwood the better option. Hipwood has a crack at the incoming ball. Daniher didn’t seem interested. And he was less interested when his team didn’t have the footy. He was almost a liability when the Tigers had the footy.

Sadly, he wasn’t the only one that was a liability.

Without Hipwood, much was expected from Daniel McStay.

And that was the problem. Yes, he kicked two goals for the game, but his five disposals tell a story of a man who simply could not find the footy at all. Unlike Daniher, McStay did fight hard without the footy, and his pressure (six tackles) and contesting in aerial contests were good… he just couldn’t get a touch once the ball hit the deck.

Add to that his dopey reversal as Dev Robertson marked and lined up for goal early in the piece, and you have the type of game that has made McStay somewhat of a maligned figure. I know it’s easy to whack McStay, but unlike Daniher, I cannot fault his application. He tried his guts out, but he was just unable to impact the contest often enough, soundly beaten by David Astbury. I reckon he’d make a very good centre half back.

Combine the offensive output of Daniher with the defensive work of McStay and you have a complete game. Individually, you get only half a game from each.

 

THE UGLY

 

DANGEROUS??? NOT REALLY.

Are the umpires now taking the piss with this rule?

It takes a lot to turn me off footy. There have only been a few times when I have legitimately felt like walking away from it altogether. One was when I did my knee, missed an extended period of work and just felt really negative about the game in general. I was a pup at that stage – 19 years old. The other was during the Essendon Supplement Saga, when a team I should hate was being smashed in the media every day, and I just got sick to death of hearing it and reading it.

But the insistence of over-umpiring the tackling situation in the league right now is really starting to piss me off.

Ask yourself this – in the first half of this game, were there more dangerous tackle free kicks paid than there were holding the ball decisions?

The fact you actually have to think about should give a very big indication that something is wrong with the way this rule is being adjudicated. If we go waaaay back, it only ever used to be the spear tackle that was penalised – picking someone up and dumping them on their head. Recently, the sling tackle became the target of the rule makers, and that has morphed into the dangerous tackle rule as we now see every game.

And with five in total in this game, boy, did we see plenty of it!

Amazingly, three of these dangerous tackles were laid on one player – Hugh McCluggage. Also, he managed to finish the game as one of the best for his team. Those tackles must have been pretty bloody dangerous to cause him to play so well!

Seriously, though, there were several instances where the only option the tackler had, other than to take the man with the ball to ground, was to allow him to get a disposal away – this goes against everything you’re taught about the game and is artificial in terms of the way the game is actually played. When the opponent has the ball, you attempt to prevent them from disposing of it by tackling them – to permit them to get a disposal away makes tackling redundant.

Is that where we’re heading?

Touch footy?

I was rolling my eyes as I heard the umpires squeak out “dangerous tackle” like a pre-pubescent child and complaining about it to anyone who would listen. Are you still listening/reading? GOOD!

Our game is built on winning contested footy. It is meant to be tough and in some instances, rough. When you have 46 blokes competing for one football there is going to be the odd occasion that someone tackles a bit too vigorously or recklessly. If you want to punish them, then go for your life, but if you’re going to start punishing good tackles by labelling them as dangerous (from 50m away in one case overruling the closer umpire) then you’re going to start causing long term supporters – your heart and soul supporters to wander off to find something a little more akin to their tastes.

Here is the simple way of judging tackles.

If it’s a good tackle, it cannot be dangerous

If it’s dangerous, it cannot be good.

Use that to guide you, apply common sense and stop blowing the whistle every time a player tackles another to the ground with a bit of force.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

SO, WHAT HAPPENED TO DUSTY?

You don’t see him go down like that often, and really, I thought it was gonna be Robbo hitting the deck and coming off second best. I covered Robbo above – he is a slab of iron.

Dusty was moving pretty gingerly after the incident, and after heading into the rooms to be assessed, seemed to be in minimal discomfort after the game. If he misses a week, you’d be pretty surprised, particularly with the Grand Final rematch on the cards next week, but these things can be tricky.

EDIT – This morning it has been revealed he’s still in hospital and they’ve speculated its a kidney injury. Geez… what is going on here?

 

DOES JARRYD LYONS GET VOTES AGAIN?

He is having some season…

Another nine clearances to go along with his 27 touches and six tackles…. he may not pick up votes given the Tigers won and had a few standouts, but he will have done his AA chances no harm at all with another combative effort.

 

HOW DID THE DANIEL RIOLI AT HALF BACK EXPERIMENT GO?

Well, it didn’t backfire, so that’s nice, and it saw Rioli pick up 19 touches – he hasn’t done that since he notched his career-high 25 touches back in 2018.

This is a really small sample size for Rioli, but he did not look out of place at all and used the footy well. He didn’t go biting off tough kicks or anything, but he didn’t waste the footy, either. It’ll be interesting to see whether Dimma gives him another run in the backline next week, with Shane Edwards due to return.

 

IS THIS THE TYPE OF WIN THAT INSTILS BELIEF?

You know, if you didn’t have belief after winning a couple of flags, I am not sure anything would instil it. What this win may do is strengthen that belief, because I reckon Richmond have not stopped believing.

Next week will be a massive test, and if they get over the Cats (and look at Geelong trying to get the game to played at Kardinia Park…) people will really sit up and take notice.

I’m already sitting up. This could be a galvanising win. Things going wrong, abandoning the state, getting stuck in traffic… the excuses were there is they fell over. But they didn’t need them.

 

OTHER BITS

 

The return of Sydney Stack has really flown under the radar with all the Covid garbage going on at the moment. Was interesting to catch Mark Robinson laying into the officials who sent Stack to bloody jail for Covid breaches during the week. In hindsight, the penalty seems absolutely ludicrous.

The other return – that of Kane Lambert, was pretty impressive. His clean hands across half forward added some bit to the Tigers attack, and though he didn’t hit the scoreboard, his eight score involvements were very important.

Matt Parker adds an interesting dynamic to the Tigers. Laid seven tackles, which was a game-high, and looks as though he could really add something to this team.

Charlie Cameron v Dylan Grimes got a bit of a reboot for a while, with Cameron sneaking away for two goals, and Grimes having patches where he ate up intercepts. This one was about a draw in the time they spent on each other.

Hugh McCluggage will make a run at some decent points in out wingman of the year award this week. He currently sits third and needs to close the gap on the top two. His 30 touches and seven score involvements will hold up well this week.

A few costly turnovers from Jackson Payne, particularly early in the game. He had seven intercepts for the contest, but matched that with seven turnovers. When you consider that 11 of his 16 touches were uncontested, he is not the man I want trying to hit a target to save my life.

Might be the slowest I have seen Grant Birchall look this season. His level of fitness this season has really surprised me, but the end is coming rather quickly for him.

 

And that might do me. The Cats and Tigers will be a ripper in Round 18, whilst the Lions should make short work of the Hawks, who might be eyeing off a number one pick the way they’re going.

Thanks to our members – and if you enjoyed this, please consider joining as a member. Your support helps us remain gambling ad-free, unlike other sites that talk the talk but refuse to walk the walk. Cheers – HB

 

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