Richmond v West Coast – The Big Questions

It was not all that long ago that Richmond v West Coast was a marquee clash, in my mind, at least.

As late as 2021, it was a game I looked forward to, as the owners of the last four flags squared off. What was missing from their rivalry was one epic finals clash. We won’t see that now – not with these squads. Not in the next five years.

Sitting down to write this review, I struggled with what was the bigger story. Was it the power exerted by the Tigers on the road, obliterating West Coast to be over ten goals up at halftime? Or was it the deplorable efforts from the Eagles during the first half that made them look inept?

I am not in the habit of burying teams, but in many respects, I feel that the Eagles did that to themselves in this game. In the process, they may have ignited a fire under the Tigers, reminding them of what it is like to systematically dismantle a team. It’s been a while since they felt that.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly were way too easy to populate in this review, with one team occupying the first category, and the other with so many aspects to fill out the last two.

Time for The Big Questions

 

SHOULD TOM LYNCH HAVE KICKED 12 IN THIS ONE?

Maybe ten. I reckon ten is fair.

By my count – and I readily admit I could be out by one – he kicked seven goals, five behinds, and had three shots where he missed everything. 15 shots at goal for the big fella, and he returned seven goals.

Whilst I am sure that nobody will be disappointed with his return for the evening, this was a golden opportunity for Lynch to match, or even surpass his career-high of eight, set back in 2018 when he was still a prt of the Gold Coast Suns. Not all of the chances were gettable, but to finish with seven… it took the slightest bit of sheen off what was an incredibly powerful outing from him.

Lynch dragged in eight contested grabs in this one, using his body to perfection in several contests and reading the flight of the ball much better than his opponents. His 15 score involvements speak of a man who was also looking for ways to bring his teammates into the game where possible, but I am at a bit of a loss as to how he could have nine turnovers next to his name when 12 of his disposals were scores? Are they counting behinds as turnovers now? I just went back and checked Max King’s game last week where he kicked 1.7. Guess what – only three turnovers.

So, Champion Data… what the hell are you blokes doing? Making shit up as you go?

Lynch now sits in the lead for the Coleman and perhaps it is finally time he takes the mantle as the clear number one forward for the Tigers? In this one, he was just too big, too strong, and damn it, too smart for anyone that matched up on him.

 

HOW PISSED WOULD YOU BE IF YOU WERE HARRY EDWARDS?

Let me channel Adam Simpson here.

“Well, Harry… Tom Barrass is out, so we’re going to start you on Tom Lynch. Give him a bit of a shove here and there early – knock him to the ground and get under his skin – make him think he’s going to be in for a long night. Don’t worry, though, as we’re going to be sending Gov over to kill the contest whenever the ball comes in high and long, so you’ll be protected and all you have to do is hold your ground against him til the cavalry arrives. Got it?”

Harry Edwards got it alright. He got it dished right up to him by Lynch every time he was isolated on him, and if he was waiting for the help to arrive, he would have been pretty bloody disappointed, particularly after halftime, when the horses seemed to be tied to the goalposts and the help defence was off having a quick nap somewhere else. The Tigers did what so many teams simply fail to do – they kicked the footy to the advantageous side of their key forward. The rest is history.

If you ever get the chance to chat to a key forward, ask them what they hope for in a game. They don’t often say they want silver service or lace out passes – sure, they’re nice, but all they ever want is the footy kicked to the spot where they can take control of the contest, and Richmond did that tonight for Lynch.

In many ways, as soon as the ball came off the boot of Jayden Short, or Daniel Rioli, or Shai Bolton, Harry Edwards was beaten. He simply does not have the body strength at 21 to match up on the mature Lynch, and with the individual Eagles defenders going into self-preservation mode very early in the game, it left an inexperienced defender to deal with a monster forward all alone.

I remember seeing a similar situation when Zac Dawson played on Anthony Rocca one day at Marvel stadium… and he got slaughtered too. It was Hawthorn against Collingwood in 2006. It was Alastair Clarkson’s second year as coach and I was wondering why they’d leave him isolated on a guy that was murdering him? Rocca finished with eight goals that day, as well. He had six of them before Clarkson pulled the pin and moved Dawson. I felt less sorry for Dawson that day than I did for Edwards in this one.

He was hung out to dry, not only by his team, but by individuals who failed to do their job and help him.

Fingers crossed for a Barrass return sooner rather than later.

 

WAS THIS THE MOST COMPLETE GAME OF SHAI BOLTON’S CAREER?

Is he just covered in lube or something? Why can’t people tackle him?

They get hold of him and appear to wrap him up, but for a skinny little runt of a bloke (not a typo), he has some serious core strength about him. He wriggles those hips, keeps his feet, and changes direction and the tackles… they fall off him like Joe Ganino’s pants in a public toilet. Bolton is like a human eel – you can grab him, but you cannot keep hold of him!

He waltzed out of the centre like he was practising centre breaks in his backyard, effortlessly wading through the Three Stooges-like efforts of the West Coast midfield to stop him. Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk.

He streamed forward, picking up four direct goal assists amongst his 15 score involvements for the game, and kicked three, himself. Add to that seven clearances that felt so important every time he gained one, and 30 overall touches… you have one hell of a game.

People, this was Dusty-level stuff, as he tore the hearts out of the Eagles, threw them on the ground, and then stepped on them. I know a lot of people will gravitate toward the efforts of Lynch as the catalyst for the Richmond onslaught, but the work of Shai Bolton was special in this game.

He had the chance to add his name to the 30 and 5 club, but for inaccuracy. 30 disposals and five goals has only been recorded by 26 players in history. I still reckon he could get there this season, such is the way he was moving in this game.

 

HOW WILL KANE CORNES ASSESS THE CELEBRATION OF JOSH KENNEDY’S 700TH GOAL?

You know this is coming, right?

Tugging at his jumper, big smiles, many congratulatory pats on the back… whilst his team was down by over 100-points. Kane is going to have a crack about it because that’s what Kane Cornes does.

Does he have good reason for doing so?

There was not much for the West Coast fans to cheer about in this game, and for a long while, it appeared as though Kennedy’s 700th would elude him until next week, but two goals in succession in the last quarter saw the Eagles’ spearhead reach the milestone and receive a standing ovation from the crowd.

It was a great moment for Kennedy and should have been a great moment for the club, but it was somewhat diminished by the circumstances of the team as he arrived at that point. For the fans that stuck around – and good on them for doing so – it was a small moment of reward for sitting through an, at times, insipid display from their team, so if he was doing it for them, then all is well and good.

Of course, not everyone will feel that way and I can see many arguing the case that celebrating a personal milestone while you’re being pummelled as a team could be viewed as a little self-indulgent.

In the end, who really gives a crap what Kane Cornes thinks, right? The fact remains, he has a big forum and loves to be the lightning rod. I expect the happy, smiling chatter between Kennedy and Darling, and the smiles of the Eagles as they left the ground to be on the agenda of several media performers this weekend as they search for a way to kick the club that hasn’t really given them many opportunities to sink the boots in over the years.

 

DOES JOSH GIBCUS GET THE RISING STAR NOD THIS WEEK?

Well, look on the bright side – he’s leading! 🙂

Defenders don’t often get the love they deserve from the Rising Star selectors, but with ten one-percenters and seven intercepts, it will be pretty difficult to ignore how effective Josh Gibcus was in this game, particularly early on when the game was still alive.

He was responsible for controlling six defensive contests in the first quarter, with three spoils and three intercepts to leave no doubt that he is not being carried by his experienced teammates in Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin. Sure, it is much easier to grow and learn when you have cool heads around you like that, but Gibcus demonstrated maturity beyond his years as he refused to over-commit to contests and remained in control.

To finish the game with 17 contests won or broken even, only a very brave man would opt not to recognise him as one of the best young players in the game. It will take something out of the box from Jason Horne-Francis, or another young star to rain on his parade this week.

Even if they do, the fact that he was able to stifle the forward entries against players the likes of Darling and Kennedy gives an indication that he is very much the real deal.

 

DO TEAMS JUST NOT BOTHER WITH JAYDEN SHORT?

If so, why the hell don’t they start bothering?

When he plays defence, his role as the designated kicker tears teams to shreds, and as he moved into the midfield for this game, it was almost as though he’d forgotten to shower and was repelling opponents with the stench! Why was nobody going near him? He has one of the deadliest kicks in the game and you’re hanging off him?

The defensive accountability from West Coast… or lack thereof, gave Short a warm welcome into the onball division, as he used his precise delivery to pick up three direct goal assists and gain 774 metres for the Tigers. His time spent in defence was minimal, and with Daniel Rioli filling in admirably, he wasn’t required.

This was the first time I’d seen Short deployed through the midfield, but I daresay it will not be the last. The bloke just runs his guts out, makes great decisions, and you know there will come a day when a lax opponent allows him space about 55 metres out, and we could be looking at a three-goal performance from the middle.

 

NOW DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN ABOUT PATRICK NAISH?

A week or two ago, I pointed out something about the game of Patrick Naish, and I got a few messages from West Coast supporters about it. Guys, I know he had plenty of mates in this one who did not pull their weight at all, and I will get to them shortly, but I just want to touch on his touch with the footy, and his propensity to fumble at crucial times.

Finding the footy is one thing – and he is quite adept at it, but in terms of his ball use… I am not sold at all that he will be an answer to the turnover issue at West Coast. As a matter of fact, he was one of the main contributors to scores off turnovers in this game.

When the Eagles get the footy at the moment, there is an implied pressure to get rid of it quickly. It seems as though the walls are closing in every time someone receives a handball, and so often this is compounded by one player fumbling, or not hitting a target. Too often, that player is Naish at the moment.

Five of his first nine touches were turnovers, and though he settled after that, two of his errors led directly to Richmond goals – one to Prestia in the first quarter, and one to Jack Riewoldt in the third.

I’m not trying to be petty, here – I realise it may come across that way and I must stress – this is not the intention at all. What I want for him is to see him clean up his disposal and work on his hands. I believe it was David King that called the modern game a “no fumble game” and I reckon that’s a great call. As soon as you double-grab at the footy, or leave it behind, you’re dead.

In the first quarter, he had close to 250 metres gained. For the rest of the game, he had 300, indicating that he became more conservative with his ball movement. That enabled him to bump up his disposal efficiency to 71%. Don’t be fooled by that number – it is the product of plenty of 25m chip passes to an open man, and no genuine attacking efforts. He tried attacking in the first quarter, but his inability to hit targets brought him undone.

Part of me would like to see how he fares in a team that he develops an d grows with, and the good news is I think we’ll see that over the next few years. West Coast almost have to invest in the kids now, and Naish, for all the faults I listed above, is a dead-set goer, and I would not hesitate to give him the opportunity to work the kinks out of his game.

 

WAS THIS THE TEST FOR SYDNEY STACK?

I was a little surprised with the inclusion of Sydney Stack in this Richmond team, but once I sat back and thought about it, it made sense – this was Damien Hardwick seeing what Stack had to offer.

He should have felt comfortable – back in WA, probably had mates heading to the game to cheer him on… and after the first quarter, where Stack returned zero touches and zero tackles, I reckon they may have headed to the bar.

Whilst I will never doubt his hardness at the contest, Stack looked lost as a forward, and I found myself wondering why he was not released to half-back early in the piece to get him into the game? By the time he was able to venture up the ground, it was all too late.

He did help create a couple of snags with his pressure at ground level, but a return of five disposal with just two effective means that if this was a test, then Stack is probably sitting there, staring at the results, wondering how he went from being one of the top prospects in the game in 2019 (he was having his name mentioned in the same breath as Sam Walsh and Connor Rozee by some) to the player he is now.

The only saving grace I can see forthcoming for him would be deployment to half-back, where he can attack the footy full-chested and use that cannonball attack on the contest to break things up. As a forward, he was run under the footy way too much and, without sounding too horrible, was probably the Tigers’ worst-performed player.

 

WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR ANDREW GAFF?

Well, he started as the sub in this one… what? Andrew Gaff? The sub? What is going on, there?

This is a bloke who has made his living by outrunning every opponent he has ever faced. He may not be the quickest fella around, but the beauty of Gaff is that he runs as hard at the 25-minute mark of the last quarter as he does at the 25-second mark of the first. He is just a machine.

And in this game, the machine didn’t even get started until the second half.

Is there that little faith in Gaff from Adam Simpson at the moment? In a team that sported so many inexperienced players, could they not have benefited from Gaff’s cool head and decision-making out there?

He is contracted until the end of the 2024 season. Remember back to when he was supposed to be leaving to go to North Melbourne back following the 2018 season, but he stayed with the Eagles to win a flag? Now sure what value the Eagles could get for him now, but North took Tarryn Thomas at pick eight, with Zak Butters still on the board.

 

HOW GOOD WAS THE RUN FROM DANIEL RIOLI FROM HALF-BACK!

That is more a statement than a question.

The question is – where the hell was his opponent as he sprinted forward and gave the Tigers drive up the middle of the ground? That opponent was Jamie Cripps, and a couple of times, you can just see him enter the screen as Rioli streams through the middle of the ground, pumping Richmond into attack.

With 23 disposals, Rioli continues to develop into a running weapon from half-back, and with Jayden Short playing as a midfielder in this game (really going to screw with his lead in the Defensive Player of the Year Award), Rioli had free rein to run and create.

And he relished the opportunity. Finishing with 617 metres gained, Rioli had seven score involvements and ran at 91% efficiency, doing as he pleased with the West Coast forwards doing very little to stop him. I know I singled out Cripps, but Liam Ryan’s defensive running was non-existent as well, and Willie Rioli may blame a hamstring, but you kind of have to move to injure that muscle, so I don’t really know how he did it.

Three Riolis played this game and the top two were Tigers, and not by a short margin.

 

WAS THIS THE BEST ADVERTISEMENT FOR A FLOATING FIXTURE?

This weekend, we have two games that are set to shape the top eight by the end of the round. Every week we hear people bang on about how Friday nights sets the tone for the weekend of footy, and we get served this?

There is a Fremantle v Geelong clash on Saturday pitting second against sixth, and in the graveyard slot on Sunday, we have third v fourth in a game that will well and truly set up the year for either Sydney or Brisbane.

Whilst I am positive that Richmond fans, masochistic West Coast fans, and footy die-hards watched the entire massacre… I watched the entire massacre… how many casual fans switched off at halftime and buggered off to do something else? The ratings will be very interesting.

For the record, I am not a fan of the floating fixture, but if the AFL are going to screw around with it and pretend like they’re giving the best teams in the league preference when it comes to marquee Friday night games, then do it damn well properly. This week, after completely sucking for the first quarter of the season, Essendon were rewarded for their “efforts” with three Friday night games in upcoming weeks. This is the result of a floating fixture?

Whilst some may enjoy witnessing football sacrifice, seeing the Eagles dismembered by the Tigers was not idea of a good time. If this is what West Coast is going to dish up, they belong in the late Sunday game, where people may have already had their fill of footy for the week.

Richmond… you can stay in the frame for marquee games this season.

 

ARE THE TIGERS BACK?

Hmmm, I know a lot of people will want to think they are, but we need to see sustained effort, and not just against the league’s current basket case.

Richmond have been up and down a little too often early in the season and whilst the return of the killer instinct is very welcome, we need to look at this in context. The nature of some of the Tigers’ goals in transition were just too easy. They were playing against blue and gold witches hats at points. This will not occur on a weekly basis, or perhaps again this year. West Coast were deplorable and Richmond took full advantage of their ineptitude.

What we need to see is three solid weeks of Richmond smacking the living piss out of their opponents – not to the level of this shellacking; I don’t think we’ll see this type of win from them again this year, however, what I want to witness is this team being remorseless and relentless when they sense weakness on a consistent basis. One swallow does not make a Spring. One belting does not indicate that the Tigers of old have returned…

… but it is a very good start.

Three wins in a row and I’ll be on-board.

 

ANY OTHER BITS?

Look, I am nearly 3500 words into this baby and feel like there is a heap more to discuss.

Jeremy McGovern started well and then just threw the towel in at halftime. He had two disposals and one intercept after the main break. That is the response of a bloke who gives very few shits at that stage.

Three goals from Kamdyn McIntosh on the wing was a great return. Not to flog a dead horse, but anyone know who his direct matchup was?

Another nothing performance from Sam Petrevski- Seton. How so? He had 17 touches playing across half-back and gained 94 metres. His skill is supposed to be his big weapon – why is he so afraid to use it. He averaged 5.5 metres per disposal. Lots of backwards and sideways kick in there.

Ten holding the ball decisions paid in this one at 5-5. To me, it seemed like there were several tackles early on that could have been whistled for holding the ball, but play was allowed to continue. It seemed to benefit Richmond, but to hang onto something like in a game where you were shellacked is probably a very long bow to draw.

23 players in this game had one tackle or fewer. That often happens in blowouts. The winning team doesn’t want to hurt themselves by crashing in, and the other team… well, that’s part of the reason they’re getting blown out, isn’t it? 13 Eagles and ten Tigers were in that mix. Six on either team had zero tackles.

Another monster game across half-back for Nick Vlastuin, with 13 intercepts. This probably deserved more attention given the ball was predominantly in the Tigers’ front half for most of the game.

Three goals from Maurice Rioli Junior was great to see. What was even better was the sideline reporter interviewing him after the game asking about kicking his first goals in AFL footy. Pity he kicked two in 2021, jackass.

I’ve defended Jackson Nelson on this site several times, but damn he looked slow out there. For a mid-sized defender, he turned like a container ship when his opponent changed direction.

Liam Ryan runs a lot harder when there is a chance to get on the end of a footy than when there is a chance to close down a D50 exit. There, I said it.

And just on Jason Castagna – I know he is a polarising figure, and I can see why. It seems he does 90% of things right, and then he has the chance to really cement his stature, and he just gets a little… unco. He had 19 touches, but hacked so many of them, and probably should have finished with three goals at least, instead of 2.2.

One day, he will put it all together and people will be wondering why they doubted him at all.

Luke Shuey raised the bar in terms of effort in the second half. He really needs a few “come with me” moments to get his team to respond over the next month.

The “dangerous” tackle that Kamdyn McIntosh was pinged for was a complete joke. I know we hear about duty of care and all that, but Liam Duggan actually jumped up into the air and McIntosh caught him and threw him onto his back. That is not McIntosh’s fault – that was Duggan’s! He took the tackle on by jumping into it and if we were to give each player’s contribution to the situation a weighting, I’d give Duggan 65% of the fault in that one.

Of course, the ump saw it the other way because he’s a panic merchant. “Oh no… hard physical contact… better blow the whistle…” Soft.

If there was one more bright spot for the Eagles, the debut of Greg Clark was a good one. 23 touches, four clearances and six tackles is a nice first day at the office.

 

And that will do me. A massive road win for the Tigers, keeping them in sniffing distance of the eight (they’re in there now – probably won’t be by the end of the weekend). As for the Eagles, this may not be rock bottom just yet. I have a feeling some big changes are afoot – this club does not tolerate mediocrity.

 

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