The stakes were high for one team and the other was attempting to re-establish a winning culture following a tumultuous season to date.

The Tigers and Eagles were a marquee matchup a couple of years ago, but never met in the finals during their peaks. Now, we find the teams in very different positions, but both were eager to make a statement in this game.

In a fast-paced, high-scoring game, we had two Mongrels watching and taking notes – Tim Hunt sat watching the Blue and Gold of the West Coast Eagles, whilst The Doc kept an eye on what occurred with the yellow and black.

Here’s what they saw, from two very different perspectives.

 

WHO WAS THE MATCH WINNER?

 

DOC

From me, I don’t think there was no clear individual winner for the Tigers in this game, but more so a collective effort from the 23 who were out there.

Dustin Martin’s first half was huge, reminiscent of the Dusty who won three Norm Smith medals and brought back the destructive use of his touches before he was subbed out of the with ‘hamstring awareness’ whatever that means, it doesn’t look like he’ll miss much footy if it’s not a serious hamstring, but with the Tigers pushing for a finals berth, best manage him now and get him to peak at the right time, because they’ll need him.

I thought Liam Baker stood up in the second half in his absence, with two second-half goals both coming at crucial points in the game when West Coast were mounting the charge. Every game he plays it’s almost as if the world’s coming to an end, and he’s got to make the ball his. He’s such a bloody good player.

I could rattle off a list of other names; Nathan Broad was rebounding very strongly off half-back and Marlion Pickett on the wing was fantastic also, but I thought Daniel Rioli’s game was one of the best I’ve seen for a long time. It felt like he was everywhere in this game and did so much with his 28 disposals; he set up his mates for a couple of goals, providing good links with his run and dash.

 

TIM

I’ve found it really hard to pick one player from Richmond to single out as the match-winner, such was the evenness of their performance. Admittedly, for the first half there was a stand-out player – Dustin Martin, whose 17 disposals and a goal signalled his return to form. However, a nasty bout of ‘hamstring awareness’ sidelined him in the early part of the third quarter. Given how influential he had been in the first 60-70 minutes of the game, it was of little surprise that the Tigers started to look a little vulnerable without him as West Coast began their push through the middle and latter part of the third.

But then Liam Baker got to work. With Martin off the ground, and with fellow midfielders Trent Cotchin and Dion Prestia watching from the stands, Baker sensed the trouble and rose to the occasion. In a dominant second half, Baker gathered 13 disposals and kicked two goals, steadying the Tigers as they never let West Coast get within arms length. With West Coast’s interest in Baker’s services being made public during the week, his performance couldn’t have come at a better time. For the Tigers to keep him, he’ll demand a high price – for West Coast to dislodge him, the Tigers will rightly demand even more.

 

WHERE DID WE WIN/LOSE THE GAME?

 

DOC

With 28 scoring shots each in this game, I think it was clear cut that the Tigers’ accuracy in front of goals was what won them this game, because looking at the statistical stuff, the Eagles beat them in a lot of key areas around the ground; +4 in inside 50s, +12 in clearances, +5 in centre clearances, +19 in contested possessions.

The only thing that did work in the Tigers’ favour is the marks, with which they beat the Eagles by 10, they showed enough control when they had possessions to make sure that they kept West Coast at bay, because I thought the Eagles really brought it to them in this one.

 

TIM

One look at the scoreboard will tell even the most uninformed football supporter where this game was won and lost. In contrast to last week’s effort, where West Coast’s efficiency inside forward 50 made up for the lack of entries, this week it was their lack of efficiency inside forward 50 despite their ascendancy further up the ground, which lost them the game. Liam Ryan missed two gettable shots at goal, Bailey Williams missed one he should have kicked, as did Jake Waterman and Jack Petruccelle. All told, West Coast racked up 15 behinds, and could probably point to half a dozen that they’d expect to be converted.

Up the other end, for much of the game the Tigers could barely miss. Yes, there were two late misses from Jack Riewoldt, and one from Shane Edwards that you would expect both to kick in their sleep, but there were more than a few examples of less than 50-50 chances being converted for the yellow and black.

Ultimately, bad goal kicking is bad footy, so West Coast only have themselves to blame for the loss.

 

WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?

 

DOC

I’m not entirely sure if there was much I’d change in-game or structurally. Obviously, Dusty subbing out of the game in the third quarter isn’t ideal, but I’m not sure what Kane Lambert is doing as the medical sub. Obviously, it’s been a year marred with injury, so maybe that’s just the way of him not being able to run out a full game just yet, but he has been a best 22 player for the best part of the last five years.

I’d bin Soldo out of this team, looked absolutely cooked in the ruck contests, and I just feel he doesn’t add a lot of secondary skills as a second ruck – only five touches and two clearances, but not a lot of points where he poses as a dangerous threat up forward or leans back to give the backs a chop out.

Would isolating Lynch one out with Barrass have helped them? He kicked 2.1 but I feel like he got beat by the West Coast defender in this game, and I suspect a large portion of that comes from not just Barrass’ aerial contest ability and Richmond’s delivery to Lynch, but the Eagles who surround him waiting to pick off the inside 50 entry, they are a good aerial side when they get their best men on the park and they did well to make sure the talls didn’t have the best influence on this contest.

 

TIM

This is another tough one to judge as I thought most of what West Coast tried was, if not successful, at least logical. The use of Jamaine Jones off the back of the square bore fruit on several occasions, the instinct to trial Petruccelle in the middle of the ground seemed to keep him engaged in the game for longer, and the decision to play Waterman as an undersized, roaming centre half-forward gave the Eagles forward line some much-needed structure in the absence of Josh Kennedy (and Oscar Allen).

If pushed, of course, I’d probably tell Nic Nat not to get in a wrestle with the opposing ruckman, let Elliot Yeo know that he doesn’t have to engage in a foot race with Maurice Rioli Jnr and remind Yeo and Liam Duggan that they can (and should) rush the ball through for a point when under pressure deep in defence. But probably the structural decision I’m most miffed about is the role played by Connor West.

West was below par today, playing predominantly across half-forward, and without being at the game I can only assume that he was playing a defensive role on someone like Nick Vlaustin, Jayden Short or Nathan Broad. If this is the case, then I don’t think it worked too well – all three had their moments today, with Broad probably being the pick of them. West is a hard-at-it, no-frills midfielder and appears to be being played out of position at half-forward. A move into the midfield looks unlikely with West Coast getting more soldiers back, so perhaps a swap with Samo Petrevski-Seton (or even a debut from mid-season draftee Jai Culley) may be on the cards.

 

MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE

 

DOC

For a man who only had seven disposals and one goal for this game, the defensive pressure of Maurice Rioli is absurd. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said a fair few thousand times now, pressure is key in the modern game and Rioli brings the pressure in spades and it’s fitting that it’s in a Richmond side who have been known to suffocate teams with their frontal pressure. He had 28 pressure acts in this game, the most of not just any Tiger out on the ground, but of all players.

In addition, he also laid two tackles inside 50 – Richmond had seven blokes who laid tackles in their forward 50, but he was the only one to do it multiple times. If he can find himself hitting the scoreboard more, or at least finding more continuity in his influence in Richmond’s scores (only the one score involvement, which was his goal), then he’s going to be a very damn good player for them.

 

TIM

I’m going to give a shout-out here to Tom Barrass who I thought was mighty. Often playing in the shadow of the more venerated Jeremy McGovern, Barrass is accustomed to playing a role akin to the fifth Beatle. In the increasingly regular games where he does battle without his defensive counterpart, however, Barrass can look overwhelmed, as if he’s not sure of his role. Should he be intercepting the ball, flying for marks at will, or should he continue to be defence-first, dour full-back?

It’s no secret that the last times these two teams met, West Coast had one of their worst ever performances, with Tom Lynch running riot kicking 7.5. That night, the Tigers were utterly dominant in all facets of the game, and Barrass must have felt under siege as the ball kept coming inside forward 50 with next to no pressure. A lot of people would remember a performance like that and approach the next meeting with some trepidation.

Barrass, however, is not like most people.  Today, he appeared to take a big step towards a future role as a defensive leader, locking down Lynch and allowing him no space or freedom. He played him assertively, cutting off and discouraging multiple Tigers forays forward, using his nous as a defender to quickly cut down space to provide timely spoils. Lynch being Lynch, he managed to take four contested marks and kick two goals, but if it weren’t for Barrass, it could have been much more.

 

A Tale of Two Liams

 

THE MOMENT THAT MATTERED MOST?

 

DOC

There were a couple of moments here. Firstly the wrestle between Nic Naitanui and Ivan Soldo, which saw Naitanui pinged for slinging the Richmond ruck into the turf off the ball, which in turn, costed the Eagles a goal when the ball was in their defensive half and in their possession.

But I also want to relay the moment which led to Liam Baker’s second goal of the game. Three goals down with plenty of time remaining with the ball hemmed inside Richmond’s forward 50, the Eagles had an opportunity to rush the ball over the line with Andrew Gaff, who had some pressure bearing down on him through Maurice Rioli – instead he handballs it off to Liam Duggan who’s basically on the boundary line and hacked the kicked right into the lap of Baker, who converted truly after that.

That was a moment that completely sapped the energy from the Eagles, who worked very hard to come back into a position to pinch it after being around 40 points down in this contest earlier on.

 

TIM

While it’s easy to look at individual moments and say ‘that was when we won/lost the game’, the truth is that football is more complicated than that. It’s a 120-minute battle where moments are certainly important, but the accumulation of big moments matters far more. In this vein, the set-shot goal kicking differential between the two teams stands out as mattering most.

The Tigers managed 14.4 for their set shots while West Coast kicked 3.9 from theirs. For those playing from home, that’s a 61-point advantage to Richmond – in a game where the final margin was 35. Now, it is true that there is more to it than raw numbers – where shots were taken, who took them, how tired the kicker was are all factors that can impact the accuracy or otherwise of a team in front of the big sticks. But a lot of West Coast’s misses were by forward half players who should be making the most of their opportunities.

 

WHICH PLAYERS LET US DOWN THE MOST?

 

DOC

Well, I’ve already mentioned Soldo, so I won’t go too much into that once again.

However, I still can’t comprehend how Jason Castagna continues to get games. I understand the notion of that he brings defensive pressure and I do think his kicking for goal has improved from the past few years. But he drifts out of games way too easily, four tackles and 14 pressure acts are okay defensive numbers, but when Maurice Rioli Jnr is doubling the number of pressure acts, Dimma can only take that so far.

Robbie Tarrant didn’t see a lot of the ball, just eight disposals and two intercept marks in this game, but also did have 10 spoils, the most of any Richmond player out on the ground in this one. Sure, he might be playing a different role in comparison to the one he played at North Melbourne, but he’s looked terribly out of sorts this year; very fumbly and very unsure about his decisions with the ball in his hands.

It probably becomes nitpicking from here on out, but the tall forwards of Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch kicked 5.3 between them, but 10 kicks between the pair of them. Whilst they were able to capitalize on their opportunities in this game, they weren’t entirely able to get off the leash. Lynch took four contested marks in this game, but hardly looked like he was going to take the game by the scruff of the neck

 

TIM

This is probably a bit rough, and perhaps I am still answering the previous question, but Duggan made a few uncharacteristic errors today that really hurt West Coast’s chances of an unlikely win. Twice he was responsible for direct turnovers in the back half that led to Richmond goals, and it felt like both times robbed the Eagles of the momentum they were building.

Other than that, the performance of Bailey Williams was disappointing. Yes, he’s a young ruck-forward still learning his craft, but he has to impact the game more than six disposals, two marks and 11 hit outs. I’m not expecting him to be Nic Naitanui – let’s face it, there never has been nor will there ever be a footballer quite like Nic Nat – but in the absence of Josh Kennedy, and with Jack Darling having a quiet afternoon, being able to drift forward and take a few big grabs would have been invaluable and cemented his spot in the team.

As it is, he’s left the door ajar for Callum Jamieson to unseat him as Nic Nat’s number one apprentice.

 

PLAYER FROM THE OPPOSITION I ADMIRED MOST IN THIS GAME?

 

DOC

Well the easy one is Tim Kelly with his 40 disposals in this one, he did everything in this game and it was reminiscent of the games he had at Geelong prior to being traded to the Eagles, he won important clearances (nine for the game), he won a ton of contested footy (led all comers on the ground with 17), he was impacting on the scoreboard with 2.1 (could’ve easily been three or more), and also the fact he had three goal assists and a further four score involvements (that’s 10 for those playing at home), he was the standout Eagles’ player in this game.

Luke Shuey had one of his better games without tearing his hamstring, which will be something Eagles’ fans will be happy with, he was the leading clearance player on the ground with 11 for the match, including six of them coming out of centre bounces. It was a classic Shuey performance in the middle, and one that saw him win a lot of the in and under stuff and doing his best to surge the ball forward.

It’s also good to see Nic Nat back in this team. You don’t need me to tell you this, but when he’s fit, the midfield walks that little extra taller and in 69 percent game time, Naitanui’s ruck work was at his best – 26 hitouts, 11 to advantage and six clearances to boot. In comparison to Toby Nankervis, who attended the same amount of ruck contests (60 each to him and Nic Nat), he had 22, eight and two.

Also a shoutout to Jamie Cripps and his three goals in this game, he was an absolute menace in the forward half for the Eagles, he led and presented well and could’ve just as easily had a bag of five in this game if it weren’t for some shots that went off the mark.

 

TIM

I loved the game of Marlion Pickett today. 25 touches, seven marks, five tackles and two goals is just about as complete a performance you could expect from a wingman. He doesn’t play like most others in his position – he’s much happier winning in congestion than just about any other wingman in the AFL – nevertheless, he continues to run all day long, helping the defence to thwart attacks before launching those of his own.

I watched his battle with youngster Brady Hough all game long and I reckon it gave Hough the best football lesson West Coast could have hoped for. Pickett displays an uncanny knack of knowing when to attack a contest and when to hold his space, and as Hough watches the game back with his coaches they will surely be making several mentions of this.

 

WRAP  UP

 

DOC

Firstly, let me offer an apology for this being done so late and if it sounds a bit rushed, I’ve had a bit going on this weekend and I completely dropped the ball and forgot about it, so this was all done on Monday morning, that’s on me.

Secondly, I think we need to give the Eagles a lot of respect heading into the second half of the season, it’s taken them 11 games to get something going and they’ve had a rough ride themselves over the course of the year, but the core of this team is starting to come together again. Nic Nat is firing, Tim Kelly is firing all they need now is Elliot Yeo to stay fit for more than few weeks (best wishes on the latest injury setback big guy).

The kids coming through look likely too. Brady Hough has had some wraps already this year and I liked what Zane Trew brought to the table in his first game as an Eagle. When you add the fact that the Eagles will likely get a high draft pick this year and Campbell Chesser fully fit for next season, It’s easy to be more buoyant about the Eagles than it is about North Melbourne at the moment.

As for the Tigers, well they’ve got the win they needed to keep on chugging along inside the top eight. They remain two games behind in fourth position, but with some important games coming up in the next month, including the Gold Coast next Saturday at Metricon as well as home games against both Fremantle and Brisbane, the Tigers have got some chances to make some inroads on the top four.

 

TIM

Though they lost, I’m pretty pleased with West Coast’s performance today. The debut of Zane Trew was encouraging, Rhett Bazzo held his own against Jack Riewoldt, Hough continued to show signs he’s going to be a long-term AFL footballer, Nic Nat showed he hasn’t lost any of his prodigious ability, and Jones continues to grow into his role at half-back. They created 28 scoring shots against a top-eight defence, put their midfield to the sword when given the chance and showed that they can still mix it with the best.

On the other side, they’d be disappointed with the injury to Elliot Yeo – hopefully, the hamstring isn’t too bad – and if they’re honest with themselves, should have won today were it not for some inaccurate goal kicking.

 

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