It seemed everything went right for the Tigers in 2017, culminating in a premiership that made footy look enjoyable. The players had a season where positivity ruled the roost. It was infectious, and the club rode that wave of positivity all the way to the top. It was a feeling that had been missing from Punt Road for many years prior, with board infighting, coach sackings, and a raft of draft mistakes dominating headlines concerning Richmond. Those ghosts have now been laid to rest.
Amidst the fanfare of what turned out to be the Dustin Martin clean sweep of awards in 2017, one man claimed an honour that places him in rarified air. Alex Rance was named the All-Australian Captain.
To put it in perspective, this century only one other man has been named the All-Australian captain without leading his own team on a weekly basis; Andrew McLeod in 2007. Also in that period, only one other key defender has earned the right to captain the AA team; Darren Glass in 2012.
Rance had the kind of year defenders dream of. He was the foundation the Tigers built their #1 ranked defensive structure around, and he played his part to perfection. Some have gone so far as to use this season to rank him one of the greatest defenders of all time, speaking of him in the same breath as Matthew Scarlett, Dustin Fletcher, and the full back of the century, Stephen Silvagni.
Whilst no one can deny Rance had a blinding season, it was only a few short years ago that leaving Rance alone when he had the ball was a viable option for opposition coaches, such was his penchant for butchering the ball. It’s a side of his game he has corrected, and it may even get better still. Whilst Rance's own defensive efforts have remained solid, its the big jobs done on a weekly basis by Dylan Grimes and David Astbury that have made life easier for him. He's been afforded the opportunity to freelance at times - not the glue that holds it all together, but rather an elastic band, stretching to aid his fellow defenders where required.
Alex Rance continues to receive accolades as we head towards the 2018 season. He was the lynchpin to the excellent Tiger defence in 2017, but statistically, the season itself was worse than his 2016. The difference – Richmond won a lot more in 2017. This seems to be the determining factor for some when espousing his greatness. With team success comes individual credit
It doesn't quite work the opposite way.
Rance 2016 v 2017
Rance went over 20 disposals four times in 2017. The most marks he took in a game was eight, which he did twice. He did not dominate statistically by any stretch of the imagination, but what he did do was make key spoils, use his body to out-position his opponent, and apply as much pressure as he could to every contest. In short, he made life miserable for key forwards.
Whilst Rance has made a living taking big scalps in his role as the number one defender at Richmond, he may have a target on his own back coming into the 2018 season. There are some young key forwards who took some big steps in 2017. They will be looking to continue their rise up the ranks in 2018, and using the All-Australian captain as a steppingstone en route to becoming the best forward in the game is an enticing prospect. But do they have the tools to back up their aspirations? Can they break down the Rance-led Richmond defensive set and make a name for themselves against the premier defensive structure in the game?
Brown is a strong contested mark and a very hard worker. After being overlooked in in the 2010 draft, he returned home to play for Glenorchy in Tasmania. He received a second crack at the big time when he headed to Werribee in the VFL. Brown was selected by North Melbourne with Pick 47 in 2013. He knows hard work pays off. He’s the proof of that.
North Melbourne has a decent record against Richmond in Brown’s time at the club. In five outings, the Roos have won three times. Brown has not been a big contributor in those games. His numbers tell the story of the young man finding his way. He averaged 10.8 disposals and 4.6 marks per game in those games to go along with 1.4 goals per game. Normally you’d take into account his early years and weight them up against more recent performances, but Brown’s last two games against the Tigers have yielded similar results of 11 disposals, 4 marks and 1 goal per game. He has been consistently average against the Richmond defence. With the Kangaroos in complete rebuild, you have to wonder what type of delivery will be coming his way in 2018.
If Brown is to be viewed as a match winner, he has to be able to do it against the best. His four years in the league to this point have been like an entrée. Perhaps now he could be ready to dish up the main course.
Round 8 Sunday May 13th is when Ben Brown will circle on his calendar. That’s his date with Alex Rance.
Daniher made huge strides in 2017, and if he repeats the dose in 2018, opposition coaches will be scrambling to find a way to curb his influence. Richmond has an ace up their sleeve in being able to move Rance onto him at any time, but is Daniher good enough now, or will he be good enough that anyone will find it impossible to stop him one-on-one?
The Bombers have notched just one win in the seven outings where Daniher has worn the red and black. With the Tigers now reigning premiers, and their team defence at its best, Round 11 sees Joe meet the AA captain in one of the biggest games of the year, and he’ll get another shot at him in Round 21.
Daniher’s history versus the Tigers is a little more impressive than Brown’s. With 11.7 disposals, 6.1 marks and 1.7 goals per game, Daniher has proved to be a handful over the course of his five seasons, but is yet to stake his claim on an individual game against the Tigers.
As with Brown, we’ll take the last two seasons as a more accurate reading of a mature Daniher versus the Tigers. 13.3 disposals, 5.7 marks and 2.3 goals per game are a little more impressive than his overall numbers, indicating that Daniher could be the kind of player that can get a hold of the Tigers if he gets good delivery.
Walker will be hell-bent on erasing the painful memories of 2017. His lack of physical impact on the 2017 Grand Final is the sort of performance that can damage a legacy if steps are not taken to correct it.
His career stats against the Tigers are decent. 13.3 disposals, 5.6 marks and 2.6 goals per game are a healthy return for a modern key forward. Over the past two seasons, his 12.0 disposals, 6.0 marks and 3.3 goals per game are a little better than most. He is strong enough to wrestle with Rance or whomever Richmond throws at him, and is a reliable kick for goal, particularly from distance.
In 2018, the Crows will get two cracks at the Tigers in Rounds 2 and 15. These are dates Walker, and his Crows will be eyeing off. The man voted as “Best Captain” by his peers will face the man voted the All-Australian Captain, and the man whose team embarrassed Adelaide on the biggest stage.
You don’t get many shots at redemption in life. 2018 provides Taylor Walker with not one, but two at least.
Roughead is an interesting case. At 30, his days running through the midfield may be limited, and a role deep in the Hawks’ forward fifty beckons. He is the sort of player that can cause headaches for any defender, being able to crumb goals just as easily as he can take a mark and kick set shots.
Rough’s stats are taken from the beginning or Rance’s career in 2009, meaning his impressive 2008 campaign is stricken from the record.
His 14.8 disposals, 3.7 marks, and 1.4 goals per game overall indicate a player who has spent a little more time up the ground. More recently, his 2015/17 stats (Roughead did not play in 2016 due to a cancer scare) see Roughead averaging 19 disposals, 4 marks and 1 goal per game. Again, a move away from time spent the midfield would be a treat for fans to witness a true Rance versus Roughead battle but would also see a likely decline in overall disposals for the Hawk.
Little things like Rough’s second efforts could trouble the Tigers’ defender. His skills at ground level are sublime, and as he proved with his goal to ice the game against the Swans in 2017, he is as cool as a cucumber under pressure.
As with Roughead, Buddy’s stellar 2008 season is off the books here, as it pre-dates the commencement of Rance’s career.
Franklin is a different beast to all others on this list. He’s a freak, and if left one-on-one, will tear a game apart. However, even with a complete team defence employed, Buddy has enjoyed playing the Tigers. From 2009 onwards, his 16.9 disposals, 5.8 marks and 3.2 goals per game lead the field against Rance’s Tigers.
His stats over the past two seasons indicate that Franklin didn’t just beat up on Richmond early on. 17 disposals, 8 marks and 4.3 goals over that period shows that he has not slowed at all over the last couple of years; at least not against Richmond.
Franklin versus Rance is the best match up of forward versus back in the AFL currently, and 2018 will be another chapter to the story. Unless they meet in finals, Round 15 will be their only encounter. If it includes a Buddy v Rance match up, it must –see.
Kennedy is probably the best pure full forward in the game currently. Great on the lead and a beautiful pair of hands, JK is almost the perfect opponent for Rance if the ball comes in low and fast. However, when looking statistically, he has been unable to get the better of the Richmond defence. Since 2009, he has kicked four goals against the Tigers only once, and that was in ’09 itself.
He has accrued healthy stats of 12.1 disposals, 5.8 marks and 2.2 goals per game over the journey, but I have omitted the R5, 2012 game from these averages, as Kennedy was injured early in the game and missed a significant part of the year as a result.
More recently, Kennedy has faced the Tigers only twice in the past two seasons. In those games he has averaged 10.5 disposals, 5 marks and 2 goals. You know what you’re going to get with JK recently. In the past five games against Richmond he has had 10 kicks three times, and 11 kicks twice. If you go into the game as Richmond’s defensive coach, you’d be happy to give that up.
Kennedy narrowly missed three-peating as Coleman medallist in 2017, beaten out by Lance Franklin’s ten-goal final round, and his own inability to fire. In order to be considered one of, or the best forward in the game, he needs to perform well against the best defenders. He needs to perform well against Rance and Richmond. He’ll get the chance in Round 9.
If you choose one instance to highlight the prowess of the Richmond defence, it is their work against GWS star, Jeremy Cameron. Cameron’s career averages against are down across the board when he fronts up against the mob from Punt Road. He gets 9 disposals, 3.6 marks and 1.8 goals per game against the stingy Tiger backmen, down on his overall averages of 11.4 disposals, 5.3 marks and 2.5 goals.
Cameron has not had a standout game against the Tigers, and will be looking to turn things around in 2018. It’s likely, if GWS are to challenge for the flag, that they’ll have to contend with Richmond in the finals. Cameron needs to do more if they’re going to compete.
He’ll get his chance to get the better of Rance and the Tigers in Round 16, and possibly again in September.
So who has the goods to withstand a) the Richmond defence, and b) the possibility of Rance being moved onto them they find themselves getting on top of the reigning premiers?
Franklin will be good. He’s Buddy Franklin – he’s always good, but of the young brigade, Joe Daniher looks the danger. As he gets stronger, Daniher’s overhead marking will prove a huge headache for all defenders. If the Tigers allow him a run at the ball, they will regret it.
Richmond is not a one man defence by any stretch, but as goes Alex Rance, so do the Tiger defenders. Beat him, and the others are more susceptible. It’ll take someone special to lower Rance’s colours in a big game. Luckily, we have a few special forwards in the AFL currently.
Who do you think will be the one to get hold of the Richmond defence in 2018? Let us know on Twitter @themongrelpunt or get us on our Facebook page.