What just happened?

Had you wandered away halfway through the second quarter for a gastronomic sabbatical and emerged deep into the last quarter (hey, sometimes these types of sabbaticals take a while), you could be forgiven for thinking something glitched and you were watching a completely different game.

Behind by 42 points, Richmond seemed to have no answer for the Lions’ rampant forwards. Every time the Tigers kicked a goal, the Lions would answer with one of their own in a matter of minutes. On any other day, any other team would have dropped their heads and gone quietly into the night.

But this is Richmond we’re talking about. And much to the chagrin of many teams residing in the top eight, they don’t seem to be going anywhere just yet.

Much was made of the Brisbane hoodoo at the MCG – it seems as though that was the favoured story to run with from AFL journos in the week leading up to this game. You could almost hear them scrawling their stories during the second quarter, explaining how the Lions never gave any credence to the supposed haunted lands of the MCG, and how foolish hoodoos are better reserved for children’s stories and rivalries between Hawthorn and Geelong.

And then the writing stopped and headlines were revised.

Richmond came storming back into the contest. The forwards started clunking marks, the defence tightened up, and Brisbane… well, the ghosts of Tigers past paid them a visit and spooked them.

After shooting themselves in the foot so many times this season, the Tigers finally managed to fire a few shots at their opponents in a tight last quarter, and the Lions took direct hits.

Let’s jump into the analysis of a famous Tigers win, and explore how the Lions let this one slip.

 

IF SHAI BOLTON KICKS STRAIGHT, THIS WAS A GAME FOR THE AGES

He was close to making this one of those all-time games that people say “remember when Shai Bolton…”

However, with his kicking boots seemingly on the wrong feet early in the game, Bolton will have to be content with being the best player on the park despite not walking about with a bag of five or six goals.

Just after the second quarter commenced, I jotted down a note to work from which read “The Tigers look like they’re a Dustin Martin away from turning this around.”

It turns out, they kind of have a version of Dusty running around already.

Bolton was a nightmare to matchup on, continually finding space in a game where his teammates struggled to find anything in the first 45-50 minutes of footy. It was like he covered himself in oil and was just ale to slip through whatever net the Lions set to catch him.

Worse, from halfway through the second quarter, he got even harder to handle… and he started to hit the scoreboard in a meaningful way.

The thing that made Dusty so great was the way he went about it when he was in all-out attack mode. He would rack up big inside 50 numbers and have a heap of score involvements. Christian Petracca does it now that he is in his peak years, as well. And what of Bolton? Oh, just the ten score involvements and nine inside fifty disposals for the game… you know, the type of numbers that absolute bloody superstars produce!

Right now, when Shai Bolton is up and about, there is simply no better player in the game to watch. He has had the best change of direction in the league for years and now he has the strength and confidence to match that insane ability. H is now a match winner, a game turner, and a difference maker, and whilst people lament the lack of Dustin Martin in the Richmond team in 2022, to the point where the crown may have slipped off his head, Richmond supporters can take solace that when it did slip off, Shai Bolton snatched it up before it even hit the turf.

The King may not be dead just yet, but long live the new King, anyway.

 

KEIDEAN COLEMAN IS FAST BECOMING A STAR

With Daniel Rich out of the team, it was apparent that the Lions required someone to pick up the slack, but I am not sure that they expected Keidean Coleman to be so damn good in the role that you kind of forgot Rich was missing.

That is not meant to be a knock on Rich, at all. If anything, it is a huge feather in the cap of Coleman, who has made a huge leap this season and looks like a player ready to explode over the next two months of footy.

When the Lions inflicted maximum damage on the Tigers, it was Coleman’s run and carry from half-back that cut them to pieces. He had 12 touches in the first quarter as he continuously left his opponent (I felt for Tyler Sonsie) in his tracks to receive the footy off half-back and drive the Lions into attack. Not only was he repelling attacks, but he was also creating for himself and his teammates, as well, finishing with seven score involvements and six inside fifties for the contest.

It is no coincidence that Richmond played their best footy with Coleman on the bench, either. At 22, the future just seemed to get a whole lot brighter for Coleman – he looked like a future Al-Australian player in the role today.

 

DID DIMMA GIVE TOM LYNCH A MOUTHFUL AT HALFTIME?

Harris Andrews handled Tom Lynch with relative ease in the first half, restricting the big forward to just four disposals and one mark. Lynch, who has been up and down with injury in the second half of 2022, looked out of sorts, and misread the flight of the ball on a couple of occasions – the type of actions of a bloke trying to play himself back into form.

As he wandered off to the sheds at halftime, despite the Tigers starting to break even with the Lions, he would not have been feeling particularly good about his own game. He and Jack Riewoldt were being comprehensively outpointed by the Lions’ defence, with only Noah Cumberland able to have any impact of significance – he gets his own section.

However, after halftime, Lynch burst from the blocks as though someone had stuck a rocket up his backside (do they test for that? It would be considered performance enhancing, but also possibly some form of sexual abuse… I wouldn’t put it past Dimma…). With the Tigers mounting their comeback, they started to look more to their big forward, and Lynch stood tall and delivered.

He kicked three of his four goals in the third quarter, had six disposals and a couple of huge contested grabs. This, with dual All-Australian, Harris Andrews shadowing him every step of the way.

I think it is pretty safe to say that Andrews won’t be troubling the AA selectors this season, and that should be a worry for the Lions, but when engaged in a body-to-body contest, he remains pretty bloody tough to beat.

Unless you’re Tom Lynch.

Lynch ended the game with 15 touches, seven marks and four big goals as he provided the deep forward target the Tigers needed. He also ventured out to clunk three big “Get out of Jail” grabs to open the game up for the Tigers.

In a game that had everything, Tom Lynch was a standout. He has had his critics over the journey but if there were any remaining, his work in this game made a statement that they should not ignore, and that statement can be best summed up with four little letters. STFU.

 

WHY DOES DAYNE ZORKO DO SUCH STUPID THINGS?

I don’t know, but he reminds me of that kid in class when you’re at school who would just make fart noises with his armpit and giggle, irrespective of the fact you were now in Year 12 and he was the only one that found it amusing.

Zorko is the captain of this Lions club, and for no apparent reason, he ran up behind Trent Cotchin and swung an open hand into his stomach with the ball 60 metres away. The result was a downfield free kick to Noah Cumberland, which gave the Tigers a little bit of hope.

Make no mistake, the Lions were flaying the Tigers at this stage. Richmond had one goal on the board and looked like they were shellshocked. Cumberland had just slotted his first after being tackled to the ground, and somehow being permitted to get up (actually, Darcy Gardiner… the man who also owned the turnover that sealed the game, released the tackle when they hit the deck, allowing Cumberland to get back up and goal), but the second goal in a minute or so to Cumberland breathed life into the Tigers.

They were almost going to be put on a respirator prior to that.

Look, when Zorko concentrates, he can be so valuable to the Lions – his work from half-back late in the game when he simply took control of the ball movement and sliced through the Tiger defence to enable Charlie Cameron to get on the end of the footy is a prime example of what he can do. However, once in a while, he seems as though he just has to do something stupid – he is the yin to his own yang.

And in this one, at that moment, Dayne Zorko was a complete and utter yang of the highest order. I don’t know if yang means “dickhead” in any language, but for the sake of this section, let’s just say it does.

 

NO-SHOW JOE

Three goals in the first quarter, and Joe Daniher was walking on air.

Perhaps he should have kept his feet on the damn ground and knuckled down to do the dirty work, and perhaps the Lions would not have flailed around so much later in the game.

We’ve got to give a huge amount of credit here to Robbie Tarrant, who would have been feeling like trash after the first quarter. It was his man with three goals on the board, and Joe let him know all about it at one stage, as well. Tarrant walked to the first change looking pretty pissed off, and he emerged to start the second quarter like a man on a mission.

And that mission was to wipe that big, idiotic smile off Joe Daniher’s face. Come on, Lions fans… it is pretty idiotic-looking.

Tarrant blanketed Joe for the next two quarters, with Daniher barely able to make a contest, let alone win one. He did not work up through the wings, instead deferring to the hard leading McStay, or the in-form Hipwood to make those searching leads.

It was only in the last quarter that Daniher started to get on his bike a little more, but by then, the horse seemed to have bolted and he was there trying to shut the gate. The big knock on Joe over the years is that he doesn’t do the tough stuff when tough stuff is required. Sadly, he did nothing to dispel that notion in this game. He was up and about when his team was flying, but as soon as they genuinely needed him to make a stand, he stepped aside.

September is the time you shed these types of perceptions. I’ll be watching how he handles the pressure pretty closely.

 

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR BRIGHT SPOTS, THEY DON’T GET MUCH BRIGHTER THAN NOAH CUMBERLAND

Five goals in a game like this, including the Tigers’ first three to keep them in touch… that is how you make a mark as a young forward!

With both Lynch and Riewoldt struggling against their respective opponents, it was Cumberland that made the play inside 50 for the Tigers, using a variety of skills to continually apply scoreboard heat for a team that were ice cold at the time.

What do the Tigers have in Cumberland?

At 21 years old and just 83 kilograms, he is no huge-marking forward, but like Isaac Heeney at Sydney, he seems to do everything well. I’m not saying he is going to sit on people’s heads like Heeney does, but in terms of managing to find the ball in the land of the giants, Cumberland could morph into one of the future targets for the Tigers inside 50.

The only reason I say “could” is because, at times, we are too quick to anoint someone as the next big thing. I remember Dean Polo – do you?

At this point, you can only go with what you’ve seen, and you cannot help but love what Noah Cumberland has demonstrated to this point of his young career. He stood up today and held the fort until the big boys were ready to step up, and it was a real coming of age game for him.

 

DION PRESTIA’S FIRST-QUARTER PRESSURE KEPT THE TIGERS IN TOUCH

This may be glossed over in the wash up, but I found it to be a very important factor in the way the Tigers were able to gather themselves. At quarter time, if I were Damien Hardwick, there was one player I would have pointed to and asked that the rest of the team follow his lead.

That player was Dion Prestia.

I know that he made a couple of errors with the footy at stages throughout the game, but whilst the remainder of the team was playing the AFL equivalent of matador-defence, Prestia was doing his absolute best to ensure the Lions didn’t run all over his team.

Of his four first-quarter tackles, two of them resulted in holding-the-ball decisions, which stopped the Brisbane momentum dead in its tracks.

He finished with a typical Prestia stat-line – 26 touches and five clearances, but it was his efforts to stem the flow of the Lions in the first that stood out to me. You can tell a lot about a player by how well they perform under the greatest pressure, and the Tigers were under the pump in the first quarter.

And that’s when Dion Prestia played his best footy.

 

HOW MUCH DID THE INJURY TO ZAC BAILEY HURT THE LIONS?

It seemed to throw them way out of whack.

The incident, itself, seemed rather innocuous, as he and Marlion Pickett collided off the ball, but both blokes seemed okay initially. Moments later, a distressed Bailey left the game, clutching at his chest and was promptly subbed out of the game.

With a player like Shai Bolton running riot for the Tigers, the absence of Bailey exacerbated the issue, with the Lions losing their own potential matchwinner. Instead, they had Darcy Fort as the substitute and as a result, seemed to lose some of the hard run and opportunism that Bailey provides.

It’s no knock on Fort, who probably should not have been used as the sub, given his limitations, but he returned just five touches for the game. Bailey had nine in a quarter and a half.

I know some may argue that the loss of Dylan Grimes was just as big for the Tigers, but the Richmond defence managed to cover for him well. Bailey was nigh-on uncoverable for the Lions, and it is no coincidence that they slowed right down once he was removed from the game.

 

DOES THIS GAME GIVE THE TIGERS THE BELIEF THEY NEED?

You know, had Richmond lost this one, it would have been just another game they were in up to their eyeballs, only to lose it. There wouldn’t have been an uproar from the Tiger fans – they’re kind of used to this team shitting the bed in 2022.

However, to be so far down and work your back into the contest against a team that has top four, or even top two designs… this is a huge win.

This season, Richmond have made a habit out of building a lead and squandering it, losing too many games that were theirs for the taking. This was the polar opposite.

Down 42-points, you got the feeling the Lions needed to land the knockout blow. They had a few swings, but were unable to connect, and when Richmond counter-punched, the Lions went into their shell and covered up,

For Richmond to make this comeback would have their leaders talking up their chances again. They sit half a game behind the Saints (don’t say ninth… don’t say ninth) and are in ninth position (damn… sorry), but if they can string wins over Port, Hawthorn, and Essendon together – all highly likely – there is no team in the top eight that wants to run into them in the first week of finals.

None.

 

DO THE LIONS START TO BELIEVE IN THE HOODOO NOW?

Nah, that is horse shit.

This team did go into their shell in the third quarter and into the last, but their best football is as good as any in the league, and they will remain a September force. With the list they have, they can still win the flag, but the more losses you have at a venue, I suppose the more it plays on your mind.

You think the Kennett curse wasn’t a thing?

It was, in the end, because it was allowed to drag on by a Hawthorn team that kept falling over in games they should have won – much like Brisbane in this one.

The Lions won’t get to play on the MCG until the finals, and you can bet your bottom dollar that journos will jump on the “can they win at the ‘G?” rhetoric. It’s what they’re paid the average bucks for.

Instead, questions around players who go missing and those who play their best footy when the team is dominating should be the questions being asked. The Lions will be there in the second last week of the season, but if they play timid footy, that will be the reason they don’t win at the MCG – not because of any made-up hoodoo…

… though they seemed to be spooked by the ghosts of Tigers past in this one.

The only way to stop people talking about this type of rubbish is to put a stop to it. The next time the Lions hit the ‘G, only one result is acceptable.

 

QUICK BITS

Loved the clashes between Charlie Cameron and Daniel Rioli, but I did not like the lack of running from the Lions’ forwards when the Tiger defenders pushed forward. Dan Rioli’s last quarter goal saw Lincoln McCarthy 10-15 metres off the pace and Charlie Cameron nowhere to be seen.

Strange game for Jayden Short – a few really uncharacteristic errors from him in the first half before being thrown forward.

Another solid game from Lachie Neale – best hands in the league at ground level, I reckon.

The last moments of the game saw Darcy Gardiner play on and turn the footy over. A couple of my fellow mongrels questioned whether Noah Cumberland was moving on the mark and whether it should have been fifty metres to Gardiner, which would have stopped the clock. I genuinely don’t think the umpire had enough time to call “stand” before Gardiner took off, which means Cumberland had every right to be on the move.

And how stupid was that score review when the umpire had called a push in the back? It didn’t matter if it were a goal or touched if there was a free kick in play before the ball went through. Most pointless score review of the year, and the competition is fierce as there have been some really stupid ones.

Great to see Eric Hipwood start finding some marking form. These are the types of games that allow you to start having faith in your body after an ACL injury. Ask me how I know.

 

And that’ll do me. A massive win for the Richmond Footy Cub to keep their season alive, and a disappointing loss to a game that seemed in hand for the Lions. As a neutral, it was a belting game of footy – a privilege to witness. Have I mentioned I love footy?

I’ve left this one accessible for all as it is a Sunday night and we’re all in the mood for some good footy reading. If you like what you read here, please consider becoming a member to support our work. It averages out to about $1.50 per week. I reckon we’re worth that much of an investment for six members’ columns per week.

 

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