Anzac Day Eve has brought out the best and worst of both Richmond and Melbourne for the last eight years.
This year’s instalment brought out the best of both sides, with a cracking contest in front of just shy of 84,000 in the traditional Anzac Day Eve game.
However, the fallout of this game will has me continually asking questions about the Tigers and their inability to string a consistent four-quarter performance. Now I can sympathise with Richmond’s injury list, as there are about five or six players that are walk-up best 22 players.
But you can only play with what’s in front of you and I’ve been harping on about it since the opening round, but the Tigers are building the reputation of being a one-quarter side.
We saw a bit more effort from the Tigers in this one, after a strong start that saw them kick five goals to Melbourne’s two in the opening term, Richmond led by as much as 25 points in this game and held a 14-point lead at halftime.
But from there, the Tigers only kicked three more goals for the match. It’s not for the lack of effort, they kicked 1.4 in the last term – so that alone says they had opportunity. Having said that, Melbourne made the most of their chances in the second half, kicking 9.4 to complete their come-from-behind win.
THE ROO BURST
Sometimes in football, it won’t be your game, but you are still able to have moments.
Jacob Van Rooyen is a player that I saw plenty of in the VFL last year and was convinced that he should’ve made his debut late last year. He presents well towards the ball, has strong hands and his kicking for goal has been a steady improvement since being drafted to the club at the end of 2021.
Fair play to the Melbourne coaching staff for holding him out as long as they did, because he’s shown in just four career games that he’s going to be a super player down the track.
It’s interesting, considering Melbourne have Ben Brown and Tom McDonald at their disposal, neither didn’t play tonight, alongside Harrison Petty being switched from his usual defensive post as a key forward and Max Gawn spending time up forward (more on him later).
Up to three-quarter-time, I reckon he would’ve had hands to the ball… maybe twice or three times? The point is he was having an incredibly ordinary game to this point. He had a combination of Noah Balta and Tylar Young on him throughout the game and Balta was immense at various stages and Young was playing his role to the letter.
But then come the final term, he played as if he was the second coming of David Neitz. Everything he touched turned into gold. He was allowed the space to run and jump and that’s where his strengths lie.
He could’ve had four goals in the last quarter, but I don’t think he’ll lose sleep on 3.1 – considering that it still played a massive role in helping the Dees push through against a Richmond side that proved on this night – despite their drop off in scoring – that they would not go away.
These sorts of games set up the young emerging key forwards. Funny hearing Simon Goodwin saying in the post-game presser that he was going to substitute him before he took that speccy in the final term.
Keep him in this damn team for the foreseeable future Goodwin.
THE BIG SHORT
Richmond have missed Jayden Short in this side in the opening five games, and that is not a hyperbole.
Jayden Short is the kind of player that every team needs; a sort of player who is willing to break the lines and slice through the opposition with foot. I’d wager he’d be in the top 10 percent of kickers in the compeititon in the last five years.
Since I can’t prove that, I’m just going to go from this performance. He set the scene in the opening quarter with his ability to work the angles and generate the drive out of defence. Daniel Rioli has been fantastic with his run and spread, but I don’t think even him has got the IQ to pinpoint players on transition in the manner that Short has.
He started with eight disposals and nearly 200 metres gained in the first term and he would go on and finish the night with 30 disposals, 21 kicks at an efficiency of 81 per cent, nine intercept possessions, seven marks and 644 metres gained.
I covered the Tigers’ loss to the Bulldogs here on the Mongrel a few weeks earlier, and I mentioned how good the Tigers were when they were able to transition from their defensive third up the ground and to their forwards, well it gets a lot better now with the inclusion of Short in this side.
It gives them another level head and such a sure kick of the ball. A lot of people turn to the guys like Dusty or Shai Bolton as their favourite players to watch from Tigerland, but here’s mine, because you know you’ll get clean precise footy nine and a half times out of ten.
THE RETURN OF ‘GAWNDY’
It spells bad news for my already shit supercoach side, because after Max Gawn’s knee injury against Brisbane, Brodie Grundy had been averaging well above the 100s and now he’ll go back to getting very mid scores… if you know, you know.
It’s actually a little bizarre to think that it was only just four weeks ago Max Gawn injured his knee in the early goings of Melbourne’s loss to Brisbane. It looked serious, Maxy was in the change rooms contemplating about all the things he’s done with his career and now he’s back playing as if he never bloody left.
It’s interesting to break this down, because this dynamic duo went up against the popular ruck pairing of Samson Ryan and Ben Miller, who have probably played about 20 games between them.
They gave it a fair crack in the ruck, but as the game progressed, the experienced heads were able to get on top of them. Grundy in particular really got the whips cracking in the third term, when he just used his body to push either Ryan or Miller out of the contest and get the clearance for his side… he had four clearances alone in the third term.
It was actually an even split of 35 ruck contests each between Grundy and Gawn – combining for 31 hitouts (Gawn 17 and Grundy 14) and 10 to advantage (five each). In comparison, Ryan had 11 hitouts and six to advantage and Ben Miller had seven and two respectively.
Having said that, I thought Gawn’s work around the ground was simply brilliant. In terms of being able to present as a bail-out option up the ground and being able to present up forward and bring it to ground for the little square-headed Kade Chandler’s to run on to, he played his role to perfection.
The thing is, he still came big with six contested marks. It’s just crazy to think that after four weeks on the sidelines., he had eight marks overall and 13 contested possessions to go along with 1.2 – could’ve easily had a few more, but who’s complaining about that?
It’s just good to see him back out so soon, the game’s better with him playing and as far as the ruck tandem goes, I think we’re already starting to see the benefits of it come to bear right now.
THE INTERESTING CASE OF TIM TARANTO
Okay, so this has been on my mind for what feels like years, but I’m sure it’s only months. But Tim Taranto is not an elite footballer. Fight me.
I’m not saying he’s a dogshit footballer. There are plenty of things I love about his game; he goes in hard for the footy, he’s a great tackler, and as far as clearance work goes, he’s a very good player.
It’s once he starts kicking the ball, things start to go sour, particularly when he’s in the forward half of the ground. It just shits me to tears, it’s in the same category as Bailey Smith when it comes to dump kicks up the ground, there’s often very little thought process that goes through it.
There was the odd occasion where he levelled it and found targets, that’s good. It should also be worth mentioning that he had another good game – contested wise that is – 33 disposals, 16 of which were contested, he also managed 13 ground ball gets, six clearances, 10 tackles and 32 pressure acts.
As far as defensive efforts go, he was by far and away the best player on the ground. The next best player for pressure acts was Alex Neal-Bullen with 27. The next best player for tackles was Christian Petracca and Ed Langdon, both of which had five. He equal-led the game in clearances alongside Clayton Oliver and Brodie Grundy and the next best player for ground ball gets was Michael Hibberd with nine.
All that gets washed down when we relate it back to his kicking… 16 of his 33 disposals were kicks… only six of which hit the target – that is a 37.5 percent efficiency for all of you playing along.
There were a handful of times where his kicking was just so bad. I think he is under the impression that you must throw it on the boot as soon as you get it. I don’t blame him, because I was a similar case when I played footy. Only I kicked it as soon as I got it, because I know I had no speed.
Unlike me, you’re a big strong athlete Tim, find some composure with the red leather product and find it soon. I love what you do defensively, I love that you go and hunt the ball. But until you can steady up when you’re delivering the ball inside 50 or going for goal, unfortunately, you’re just going to be a decent ordinary footballer.
There may not be a lot of recognition externally, but for shutting out Noah Cumberland after quarter time, I think Michael Hibberd deserves a lot of credit for his role in this one.
After the first quarter, Cumberland was easily the best player on the ground, with three goals and looking sharp at every opportunity the ball came towards him. I did want to highlight one of his goals, that saw Hibberd get sucked into the football, which enabled Cumberland to sneak out the back and eventually got the goal.
Those sorts of efforts can be coach killers in football, but the thing that I admire about the man that’s called ‘pig’ is that he’s not one to dwell on those sort of moments, he just goes right back to work and picks up where he left off.
Cumberland had five disposals up to quarter time, he finished with just adding another two more disposals to his name. Meanwhile, Hibberd had 23 disposals, 12 of which were contested, but also had a game-high 12 intercept possessions.
He was able to run off and do what he liked, and for the young bucks like Cumberland, he got the proverbial lesson handed to him in this game. I will say to his credit, he still had 15 pressure acts and three tackles inside 50.
However, the stats will indicate that Hibberd had the more influence in this game and it showed when he could barely get anywhere near it in the second half, whilst the pig had his evening.
Jack Viney won the Checker Hughes Medal and I thought it was a good performance: 30 disposals, one goal, seven score involvements, six marks and five clearances here.
Not sure if it was as influential as Christian Petracca’s game. Across general play, he had a lot more influence in helping the Dees surge the ball forward: he had 26 disposals, 609 metres gained, three goal assists, seven score involvements, seven marks, 12 inside 50s and kicked at 73 percent efficiency.
Crap start from Jake Lever, gave away a free kick and then gave away a certain goal to Cumberland for encroaching the protected zone. But after things settled down and Melbourne got the game on their terms, he started to come to the fold: Five intercept marks from ten overall, also had 10 intercept possessions.
Tough night in the office from Kysaiah Pickett, who started with a poor attempt for a mark of the year candidate, but then struggled to get dangerous all night. Had Liam Baker working off him for most of the night and finished with just eight touches.
Having said that, it was a good night for Kade Chandler, who kicked an equal career-high three goals. He’s enjoyed a good start to the year, now taking his season total to 10 goals from six matches.
How in the hell did the umpires not pay 50 metres against Maurice Rioli Jr for dumping Alex Neal-Bullen on his backside in the final term? It wasn’t in the motion of play, he was coming in the protected zone. It was a howler from the ump here.
Liked Nick Vlastuin’s game here I thought he was as reliable as ever in defence: 21 disposals, 11 contested, but also had 12 intercept possessions and three intercept marks.
A nice vintage performance from Jack Riewoldt, kicking four snags and showing that he can still lead and jump to the footy at highest point. You hope he’s got a few more of those in him before Tom Lynch comes back to the team.
I thought Dusty’s game in this one was an ‘almost’ game. He kicked 1.3 from 25 disposals, 579 metres gained, six inside 50s and nine contested possessions, if one or two of those misses become goals, then he almost becomes the best player on the ground.
I mentioned Noah Balta earlier, well I thought he was doing a solid job in defence, before he was called to back-up ruck after Ben Miller was subbed out of the game. He took four intercept marks, two of which were contested grabs.
I thought there was some good spots from Trent Cotchin in this game. Took a nice grab on the wing and some of his kicks going inside 50 were dangerous and to the advantage of the forwards. Finished with 19 pressure acts.
I don’t know where Jacob Hopper is at with his footy. He had the 23 disposals, but renowned for his contested work, he had just seven contested possessions and eight pressure acts. That’s not good enough for mine.
And with that said, I think that will be me done for this game. Melbourne are back on the winners’ list with a good come-from-behind effort against the Tigers and are now sitting pretty nice at four wins and two defeats. They are well placed to make it five wins on Saturday night when they take on North Melbourne under lights at the MCG.
As for Richmond, they’re still bogged down with one win and a draw to start their year. Whilst this performance was a much better effort, they have four losses in a row to their name now and that begins to concern the natives that wear the yellow and black. And it doesn’t get any better for them next week as they take on the Gold Coast Suns at Marvel Stadium next Sunday.
And as Damien Hardwick once said about the roofed stadium… ‘I hate it here’. Can’t get any worse can it?
You know who’s a great bloke? The Doc. You can buy him a coffee for the work he does by clicking the link below. I’m sure he’d greatly appreciate it.