We have short memories in footy, willing to pass over a player who hits a certain age and write them off as yesterday’s news.
It happens often and it happens suddenly. The best-laid plans for “one more year” quickly start to seem like a mistake as the many seasons of battle start to take a heavy toll on the body. That begets doubt – doubt in your decision, doubt in your ability, and doubt as to whether you could, or should go on.
In Round Five, a despondent Trent Cotchin sat on the bench for the Richmond Tigers, substituted out of the game. He was not injured – no more than he had been at the start of the game, at least. He was just ineffective. With 11 disposals from the former captain, Damien Hardwick made the call and sent his Brownlow Medallist and triple-premiership captain to the bench.
For the rest of the contest.
As a proud warrior for so many years, it had to sting more than a little for Cotchin. Though he has always been about the team, the club, and all those around him, he has been a proud leader of the Richmond Football Club – a legend of the yellow and black, and the man who many pointed to as being a difference maker in big games.
And here he was, relegated to the bench as his team – and in many ways, it is still HIS team – capitulated to the Swans.
After a week off to lick his wounds, Cotchin has been named in the side to take on the reigning premiers this week – a clash that could very well spell the end of the Tigers’ finals hopes before they ever really get started.
Or it could kickstart a run toward September.
Their season has been a disaster to this point, with last week’s win against the struggling West Coast Eagles just wallpapering over some pretty significant cracks, but against Geelong, this club will be truly tested.
And they will need a leader to stand up, as he has so many times before.
Geelong are haunted by memories of Trent Cotchin. Those amongst us are who are not goldfish ready to move onto the next story after reading a headline, would remember vividly the opening moments of the 2019 Preliminary Final – it seems so long ago, now.
The game was in the balance as the third quarter commenced. A strong Geelong first half had them up by 21 points and looking like the better team. At the first bounce, Trent Cotchin made a difference. As the ball spilled out toward the wing, it was Cotchin, throwing his body at Rhys Stanley as he tried to escape and bringing him down. The resultant spill of the footy saw the ball ricochet forward for the Tigers – Tom Lynch marked. Tom Lynch goaled. The dye was cast and the momentum swung to Richmond. They ended up winning a flag and you can trace their momentum back to that very moment. It was Cotchin doing… well, Cotchin things.
In that moment, Trent Cotchin changed the trajectory of the game. He was a difference-maker. He was the catalyst for the Tiger revival. He was Trent Cotchin.
But who is he now?
With career-low numbers next to his name, Trent Cotchin is no longer the same player he was back in 2019. Really, nobody playing in that game is. He is a little more fragile, slower, and doesn’t possess the same explosiveness that was displayed when he collared Rhys Stanley to start the yellow and black machine rolling toward the Grand Final. He is -7.82 disposals per game, has not hit the scoreboard as was predicted in the preseason, and is seemingly a man without a genuine position in the side given the recruitment of Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto.
Who would have pictured this? A mighty tiger without a place to call home in the team that was once his?
There is still time to turn things around in 2023, both for his club, and for Cotchin to give things one last hurrah. However, it has to start against the Cats, and it has to start with a statement.
If there was ever a time the Richmond Football Club needed someone to stand up, it is right now. Against the Cats, they need someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck and shake the life out of it. They have Shai Bolton, who is highly capable. Dusty has threatened, but has not delivered a vintage Dusty performance this season. And then there is Cotchin – can he provide the spark that ignites a bushfire?
All it takes from the former skipper is a moment or two to inspire this team. Like it or not, he is still the man they look to when they need a moment to drive them. And at this stage of his career, that is about all Trent Cotchin is capable of providing. He has become a “moments man” for this club, but in 2023, the moments have been few and far between.
It’s past time to correct that.
At 33 years of age, Trent Cotchin has made the decision to go around once more. 300 games loom on the horizon and the club, whether his form warrants it or not, will do the right thing to get him there. Right or wrong, they will honour their champion.
And he may just repay the faith along the way.
Trent Cotchin has been a star of the competition for the last 15 years. In the twilight of his career, some are calling for him to be removed from the best 22 to make way for kids. It would be a heartless call on a team that built their success on heart, and one the organisation will not permit. He will play his 300th this season and will be celebrated accordingly, but perhaps… just perhaps, there is one last act to play out in the Trent Cotchin story before it’s all said and done.
For the Tigers, we are nearing the point where “we’ll be back next week” starts to ring a little hollow. There is no time to wait for players to return to save them. And there comes a time in the career of even the greatest players where the memories become great than the dream and moments – here and now – are all that matters.
It’s time Trent Cotchin created some of those moments for the 2023 Tigers. And it is time the team made those moments matter.
Never doubt the heart of a champion.
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