R5 – West Coast v Richmond – All That Mattered

This game didn’t go the way I expected it to, but not for the reasons you may be thinking. It wasn’t the Eagles winning that was surprising (I’d been calling this for a couple of weeks) but it was the way it was done, and how easily it came to be. Richmond supporters, you will not enjoy this read.

West Coast, from about halfway through the second quarter, could do no wrong in this game of football. While Richmond burst out of the blocks early, and Shai Bolton threatened to rip the game out of reach, West Coast worked into the game, and subsequently dominated from that halfway point of the second. The third quarter was all West Coast and ended any ideas Richmond fans may have had about fighting back. By the end of the last, the Eagles run out convincing 39 point winners in a performance that should give fans a bit of hope moving forward.

While Richmond has a lot of injuries, it can hardly be used as an excuse given what West Coast have been through over the past few years and where their list currently stands. They showed up today and should be given credit for a hard edged performance that deserved a victory.

Here’s all that mattered from the clash.


All and nothing

Richmond stormed out of the blocks in this one. They kicked the opening four goals of the game and did it with relative ease. Kamdyn McIntosh had multiple runs that went unopposed, and it looked like the Tigers were out their on their own, such was the ease of ball movement. Shai Bolton kicked two early goals and looked in a league of his own out there, and I questioned whether the young Eagles would drop their heads and accept another loss.

That was not the case, however.

The West Coast midfielders woke up and started to assert some dominance in the middle which lead to three goals of their own to get right back into the contest at quarter time, and we had a game on our hands.

From that point on it was essentially all West Coast. The Tigers had no answers and simply couldn’t get their hands on the ball for large portions of the game. I’ll get to what made West Coast so good further on, but this stark drop needs to be noted.

Toby Nankervis was always going to be the dominant ruck in this game, but you really wouldn’t know it by watching. He virtually had no effect, and the Richmond midfield were unable to win the ball for themselves, constantly having to chase, and using the ball poorly when they did win it.

I have serious concerns for them until they start to get some cattle back. If this Eagles side were able to dominate so easily, what are some of the heavy hitters of the comp going to do to them? Yze has a really tough task on his hands with this group, and it will be an intriguing watch for the rest of the season.


Clearance is King

Make no mistake about it, West Coast decimated Richmond in the midfield today. The ball moved in a procession out of the guts and into the Eagles forward 50 and lived there for the entire day. The trio of Tim Kelly, Elliot Yeo and Harley Reid were insurmountable in the way they attacked and owned the footy for the majority of the contest.

Not one of those players had more than 30 touches for the game, but they didn’t need to. Once the ball was in-hand, it was quickly moved forward and locked in their attacking end, often in dangerous positions that led to scores. Every stoppage and centre bounce seemed to lead to a West Coast midfielder breaking away from the contest to create an effective inside 50, or a handball chain that inevitably moved itself forward.

The West Coast forwards deserved to have a day like today. Being a forward in a losing side is a tough ask in that you rarely have an opportunity to impact the game. Today, they had some reward for effort, and the ball use to them was fantastic. This is the day a key forward dreams of. Speaking of which…


Jake Waterman

It’s not often you see a genuine full forward have a day out like we saw today. Waterman played as West Coast’s key man, and absolutely owned every match up he faced. Six goals, two behinds, 13(!) marks including eight contested – that is something we thought we may never see from him, particularly after his horror run in 2023.

As I’ve mentioned, the ball use to him was superb. He was able to play that classic lead up role and every time the ball got near him, you knew he’d hold on to it. I am completely aware he was facing a young, undermanned defence, but so what? You can only play what’s in front of you, and today Waterman well and truly took advantage.

It’s been noted the issues he faced last year. Questions were raised about some mismanagement of his illness and at times we were left to wonder if he would even play footy again. Eagles supporters would be grateful that he’s out there right now after that sort of performance. For what it’s worth, I don’t see this as a flash in the pan. He’s always had traditional key forward skills; he just never had an opportunity to be that guy. I hope for his sake he can continue from here and dominate games of football.


Mykelti Lefau

To continue on with the theme of old school forwards, Lefau deserves a mention for his showing today. He was about the only positive Richmond had from the game, kicking three goals two behinds from eight marks.

Lefau isn’t a key forward. He isn’t going to be the number one, but he’s forced to play like it in the absence of Lynch. He, like Waterman, presented as a terrific lead up option and made the most of the opportunities afforded to him today. Some may consider him lucky to be playing given the injury situation at Richmond, but you cannot argue that he doesn’t deserve a spot after his performance.

I’d like to see him have an extended run as the second option. He’s incredibly dynamic in the way he moves, very strong (noted by some exceptional fend offs today) and has a great turn of pace. There is definitely a bit to work with going forward. Well played to him.


Where Do Richmond Go From Here?

Enough has been written by people more capable than me about the situation at West Coast and the youth coming through, but serious questions need to be raised about Richmond and where they stand right now, and how far off they are from competing in a meaningful way again.

As I’ve said, there are some serious injury issues at the Tigers and that can’t be undersold, but when you consider that West Coast have dealt with the exact same thing for many years now, I almost feel like we’re able to look into the future of the Richmond Football Club based on what we’ve seen at West Coast.

If Richmond can’t get Lynch back on the park and healthy consistently, their forward line will always lack a killer edge. Their midfield mix today was incredibly ordinary, and even with Taranto and Hopper there are question marks around if those two can play in the same midfield together and play in any dynamic way.

I don’t see many of upsides in a lot of the guys that were out there today. This may come off as overly brutal, but someone must look at the list and decide if it’s time to cut deep and find some kids that will bring them through. It’s looking like it’s going to be a long year at Tigerland.


The Side Notes

I mentioned above how Kamdyn McIntosh had all the room in the world in the first quarter. Here is where I note that he finished with six disposals, and did nothing after that quarter. Great work from West Coast to keep his run out of the game, as he is so important as a connection piece for the Tigers.

I loathe the way Harley Reid is reported on as much as the next person, but he was brilliant today. Multiple times he streamed out of a contest and got the ball moving forward in a dangerous manner. It can’t be understated how important it is for West Coast to keep him long term.

He’s still young, but I’m not sold on Maurice Rioli at all. His effort is so poor at times. When he’s dangerous he looks like he can break open a game, but it’s so few and far between. Screams of a player that wants it all his way and refuses to do the hard work. Does he get a game in a better side? Probably not.

The jury remains out on Campbell Chesser and Reuben Ginbey in my opinion. Both are still young players, both had 13 disposals today, both are fairly one paced by my viewing of them. I believe they both still have the potential to develop into strong players, but it may take a bit more time than others, as right now you can’t take any of Reid, Kelly, or Yeo out of that midfield mix.


What Mattered Most

Centre bounce and stoppage clearances. That’s what mattered most by the length of the Flemington straight.

West Coast just dominated in there and got the ball moving and locked in their forward half because of it. That third quarter was as brutal a midfield domination as you’ll see. Nankervis had to assert himself more to give better opportunities to his midfielders as the senior ruck today. If I were a West Coast supporter, I’d be proud of that showing in tight. Brilliant stuff.

So that’s all that mattered from the battle out West today. West Coast next week have the home derby against a Fremantle side that would be filthy with the last two losses they’ve had. They present a much more difficult task than Richmond given how strong they are in defence and through their midfield, but if today is anything to go by then we know it should be a pretty hot contest.

Richmond gets the bye, and probably at the perfect time for them. I think they just have to cop this loss for what it is and accept where they’re at as a club right now. They’re a long way off it and there is considerable work to be done to get back to the top.