The biggest home and away game of the season saw the Tigers produce a vintage ten minutes at start the last quarter and leave no doubt that they are the number one team in the game, running out 28 point winners against the Magpies.
Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
It’s funny – I had a text conversation with a Tiger-supporting friend as the game unfolded, and he concluded that a heap of Richmond’s guns didn’t fire today. I beg to differ.
As a team, the Tigers fired. Sure, no one was dominant, but what they did was work for each other and no one player stood out as completely dominant. Cotchin seemed quiet, yet there he was burrowing in late in the third quarter to push the Tigers forward. Martin seemed quiet, yet he had the opportunity to punish the Pies with a fourth goal late in the game. Individually, the numbers don’t look great, but as a collective, the Tigers were outstanding.
And isn’t that what this sport is about? Teams working well together to win games, and flags? No player does it individually. Dusty required a team of fantastic players around him last season despite his brilliance. He required a champion team around him – not a team of champions.
So, whilst we look at the stats to see Sidebottom compile 38 touches, Pendlebury 37, Phillips 33 and Adams 30, we have to look down to 22 touches for our first Richmond appearances, those being Shane Edwards and Brandon Ellis. This is the epitome of a champion team. They have no one they rely on completely. They have no two they rely on completely. They have a team, and that team gels and works for each other.
If you name the top five players on the ground today, who do you name? There's a solid chance a few will be Collingwood players. But if you ask who the best team was, there would be absolutely no question. What a funny game this is.
There was a point in the third quarter where I thought Grundy was going to will the Pies back into the lead. A late goal to Dusty rained on that parade, but Grundy’s third quarter was one of the best we’ve seen this season from a ruckman.
It pains me to say it, as I am a huge Toby Nankervis fan, but Grundy took the game over in the third. He finished with double the hit outs of his opponent, had 23 touches, 12 contested disposals and led the game with 10 tackles.
He is locked in a tussle with Max Gawn as to who’ll be the All-Australian ruckman. Whilst I am quite positive both will make the side, if I had to pick one right now, I’d take Grundy. His second efforts today were phenomenal, but it looked as though he spent all his petrol tickets in the third. At three quarter time, Grundy had 23 touches. At full time, he hadn’t added to that total, whereas the rested Nankervis was able to have an influence.
Grundy’s tap work was excellent today, and that continued into the last as well, but around the ground, Nankervis had a good final stanza.
The Higgins goal
We’ve seen a few rippers this season, but for mine, this is goal of the year.
It required quick thinking, balance, speed and a healthy dose of luck, but Jack Higgins has this in spades. His ability to gather, avoid the goal post, release the ball, dance around the post and snap the ball backwards over his head will be an endearing image of the 2018 season.
Higgins has become a cult figure not only at Richmond, but in footy in general. He has a disposition that makes him sound nervous in interviews, and you can tell he’s had no media training whatsoever, but I like it that way. He’s honest, enthusiastic, passionate, and far out, he can deliver.
This goal is by far my favourite of the year, and seriously, this is one year-end award I really do not mind a Richmond player winning. Just think – had Darcy Moore lunged a split second earlier, or had the umpire deemed his elongated ball drop a throw, we’re not talking about how great this goal was. I’m glad everyone has a sense of theatre about it – it was a classic.
It seems that I am praising one of the Richmond defenders every week at the moment. This week it’s Astbury’s turn.
What he does, week in and week out is provide the grunt work for the Tiger defence. He and Dylan Grimes (we have him up in a second) are the rudders and sails of this defence, and whilst Rance stands at the wheel, these two provide the power to send the ball from whence it came.
The Magpie forward line looked like a fluid beats today, with plenty of players rotating through to offset any comfort for the Tiger backline, but Astbury was anything but uncomfortable today. He had 21 touches and seven marks to lead that back six, and did some fine work in the air on Mason Cox.
Astbury is vital to the Tigers. You may not hear his name mentioned in many media reports – he is the ultimate unsung hero clad in yellow and black – but you can’t argue with results. Rarely beaten, and never disgraced – the David Astbury story
So, the last team to win 17 games in a row at the MCG won… hmmm… just the lazy four straight flags. There’s something to aim for!
The Tigers’ ownership of the MCG at the moment is scary. It would provide them with the kind of mental edge that would cause other teams to start thinking about it. “Oh no, we’re playing Richmond at the ‘G…”
I’m sure that thought has crept into the psyche of more than a few club officials, coaches or players as the season has worn on. Nothing is forever, and someone will come along and knock them over. My old man used to like to bring me back to Earth when I’d get a bit ahead of myself as a young fell. “No matter how good you think you are, someone will eventually bring you undone,” he’d say. Enjoy this dominance, Tiger fans – lap it up and revel in it. A streak like this has never occurred before, and may not again, but all streaks are broken eventually, and each game you win is closer to the one you lose at that venue. I’ll take my pessimistic hat off now… because the Tigers have been wonderful at the ‘G and deserve to enjoy their success there.
The Dylan Grimes chase
Jaidyn Stephenson has been spoken about quite a bit this season. He has blistering pace and has been in scintillating form. When he took off down the wing and took a couple of bounces, it looked as though he’d pull away from the chasing defenders and run inside 50 to goal or find an open player.
Enter Dylan Grimes.
The Richmond defender is no slouch in the speed department, and demonstrated today just how fast he is. Stephenson could not pull away from Grimes, and as the Pies’ speedster drew to within 35 metres, Grimes was close enough to get him. He lunged forward as Stephenson kicked, affecting the kick.
It was enough to send the kick to a position where the Tigers were able to clear, and was a microcosm of the Richmond team play all day. There was no huge glory in the act of Grimes. There was no moment where he’d get an ovation. There was no moment where he’d get a one-two with a teammate and run the ball out of defence. There was just that one desperate act for the betterment of the team.
People used to joke about things being Richmond-y. Blowing a big lead, or snatching defeat from the jaws of victory… these WERE the Richmond-y things. Now, acts like we saw today from Dylan Grimes are the Richmond-y things. The negatives are now positives – every club wants their team doing Richmond-y things, because those things are so damn impressive at the moment.
Darcy Moore looks likely
I was a bit of a critic of the decision to send Darcy Moore into defence this season. The sample size we’ve got thus far is only small, but there are definite signs.
An intelligent forward set up like the one Richmond possesses will find ways to exploit a young defender, and that’s what the Tigers did on a couple of occasions today. Whether it was a sneaky block, or his opponent (Riewoldt usually) sneaking out the side of a situation where the ball was in dispute, the Tigers managed to eke wins out against him, but if the ball came in long and high, Moore owned it.
The emergence of Mason Cox has given Nathan Buckley plenty of flexibility with Moore, and I expect we’ll see him spend the rest of the year down back, especially if the absence of Matt Scharenberg is a long one.
Dusty up forward
It’s been a tactic to break a tag for years – send the bloke forward, and that’s what Damien Hardwick and Dustin Martin did to break the Levi Greenwood tag today.
The result? A couple of one-on-one contests where the kicks to martin gave him every chance to torch Greenwood, and that’s what he did. Dusty could’ve very easily have ended with four goals, but had to settle for three after missing a set shot from 30 out late in the game.
Martin was good today, but his field-kicking has been a little questionable this season. He completely missed a few targets today, in what was a real up-and-down day for him. Two miskicks from martin led directly to Collingwood scoring opportunities, and a third went begging as well when he gave away a 50 metre penalty in the second quarter for pushing Greenwood to the ground as Pendlebury had the ball on the wing. Of course, the good outweighs the bad significantly for Martin, as always.
My favourite Dusty moment for the game wasn’t any of his goals – it was the “don’t argue” he hit Pendlebury with in the middle of the ground early in the last quarter. Vintage Martin, and very indicative of where the contest was headed as a whole at that stage.
Inconsistent tackling rewards
There was a period in the last quarter that had me scratching my head.
Brody Mihocek was caught holding the ball in the middle of the ground and penalised. The free kick was there, and there is no question about it, but several moments before, in the Richmond forward line, Dion Prestia was caught red-handed holding the ball, to the point several Collingwood players stopped playing.
They knew it was holding the ball. Prestia bounced from one tackle to another, was tackled, taken to ground and only once on the ground did he release it. It was very clear to everyone watching that it should’ve been a free kick, but he was given an eternity to get rid of it. Mihocek was not given the same leeway.
As a neutral supporter watching it, it’s frustrating to see two situations umpired very differently, and you can understand the frustration of both players and supporters when these kinds of things occur. These instances weren’t the only occurrences, of course, but they were pretty close together so the inconsistency was quite glaring. The umps seem to go from being very lenient to being red hot on a rule within the space of a minute or so depending on the tempo of the game. Maybe they get caught up in the emotion of it as much as anyone else at times?
No second ruckman may cost the Tigers
Shaun Grigg is a very handy player. Long penetrating kick, sees the game well, and has been through the hard times in his career in order to understand just how good this time is right now, but as a ruckman… he makes a great running link man.
Whilst he was in the ruck, the Pies looked dangerous. In the third quarter, Grundy took over whilst opposed to Grigg, and physically, there was very little Grigg could do about it. Whether it was Grundy or Cox, Grigg was significantly outmatched.
Now they got away with it this time, and have got away with it many times, but as some stage this season, a ruckman will get a hold of the Tigers and it will actually hurt them. It threatened to today, but they were good enough as a team to compensate and retaliate. They may not be as lucky next time.
When Nankervis sits, the Tigers have to have more of a presence at stoppages. You’d hate to see it cost them a flag…
The first five minutes of the last quarter
Oh Collingwood… you just looked defeated in the first couple of minutes of the last. Maybe you were spent? Maybe you’d given all you had in the third and just didn’t have another surge in you? Or maybe you just bought into the growing legend that is Richmond in the last quarter and fell victim to their self-belief?
Irrespective of the reason, Collingwood were a non-entity early in the last quarter. Riewoldt marked almost uncontested 15 metres out, Edwards fed Townsend for a second goal of the term, and Dusty kicked a goal from the square against Greenwood. Just like that, the game was over.
The Pies had a couple of opportunities to stem the tide, but they went begging, most prominent amongst them a wild kick at goal from 50 by Mason Cox who may have just been outside his distance. They are a powerful unit in the last quarter, Richmond, and the Pies needed to at least get a few stoppages and now allow them to get any momentum. They didn’t get stoppages, and the Tigers did get momentum. Once that happened, the game was cooked.
The tag of Greenwood on Dusty didn’t start all that well, with Martin getting the free kick for holding at the opening bounce, but it did set the tone for their contest. Greenwood was excellent in the first half, and really looked to have Dusty frustrated.
The injury to Jeremy Howe robbed us all of a match up that could’ve been amazing. Howe on Riewoldt was tantalising.
Good to see Castagna get on the board early after a few weeks of kicking like a mule.
I reckon the glaring flaw in the defensive game of Darcy Moore right now is his penchant for not having touch on his opponent as the ball comes in. Both Riewoldt and Townsend were able to mark against him due to the distance between them as the ball came in.
I was only half counting, but I think Dion Prestia was awarded three free kicks in the first quarter – two for holding the ball, one for out on the full. He really seemed to drift out of the game after being cleaned up by Varcoe in the second quarter.
How cool for us old-timers to look at the stats halfway through the first quarter and see the Collingwood goal kickers with the names Daicos and Brown on there. Memories… like the corners of my mind… tralala.
In our game preview, I asked a couple of blokes who Rance would go to. It turns out, it was up to Collingwood. Whomever they decided to drop to the square, Rance would take. He opted to be the deepest defender today, and found himself on Cox, Mihocek, Stephenson and Will Hoskin-Elliott at different times.
We spoke of the umps being hot on holding the ball – I have zero idea how Nankervis could’ve been holding the ball when Cox tackled him in the first quarter. He’d barely touched it when he was tackled. There was no prior opportunity at all.
Speaking of Cox, he looked so much better when moved up the ground in the first, where he could get a run at that ball. Rance did a ripping job of moving the big fella under the ball on several occasions when he was deep forward.
Last week I watched the Tigers hand the ball off the Jayden Short outside 50. Did Nathan Buckley watch this? Did any of the Magpie players? They sure as hell didn’t take notice as he did it TWICE in the first quarter for two goals. That he had the time and space to do that twice was a sad indictment as to where the Magpies’ heads were at, at that point.
Big difference early was that I thought Collingwood was playing what I like to call “polite footy” where they would leave the ball for a teammate to pick up instead of grabbing it and kicking it forward. Richmond were the opposite – they’d grab the ball in an almost selfish manner before dishing off (which I know is a complete contradiction). They don’t leave it to chance – they grab the ball, secure it, and then look for options. Leaving it for a teammate opens the door for opponents as well.
Another thing was multiple Pies contesting everything in the air which would leave several Tigers looking for the crumbs. Only a bit of luck and an unkind bounce or two saved disaster for the Pies on several occasions.
Sidebottom and Pendlebury had 24 touches between them in the first quarter, but so many of them were dinky little sideways gives. Nowhere near as effective as their stats indicated. Taylor Adams was better, for mine. The top five in disposals were all Pies, actually.
Strange to see Riewoldt hand off a kick from 50 on a good angle but take a kick from 50 on a more difficult angle in the second quarter.
I’m a big fan of hard tackles, and Shane Edwards' crunching tackle of Josh Thomas on the wing in the second quarter was a ripper.
Mihocek may have goaled from a pass from Stephenson, but I hope some credit went to Darcy Moore, whose clubbing spoil in the back pocket got the Pies off and running. Josh Daicos took a nice hit from Grimes to get the ball forward for his team in the sequence as well.
Astbury’s intercept mark against Mihocek in the second was beautiful. It came back in on a Rance turnover (where he bounced the ball and it just didn’t come back to him) and the only bloke back covering was Astbury.
Is Josh Caddy the best set shot in the league? That kick from 45 out on the boundary – wow… not many blokes make that kick in a big game.
Big tackle #2 – Tom Langdon crashing into Grigg on the boundary in the second. Grigg thought it was too high. I thought it was a great tackle and so did the umpire. Holding the ball.
Of Steele Sidebottom’s first 11 kicks, only one hit the target. Ouch…
Big one on one win for Mihocek against Rance on the boundary, which allowed him to set up Will Hoskin-Elliott for a goal.
How great is it to see a big name player get a one-on-one contest in the goal square! With time ticking down in the second, Greenwood must have been dreading the scenario of the ball coming in to Dusty’s advantage, and for good reason. Martin was too good, but it was a tap back over his head by Jack Riewoldt to keep the play going that should be commended as well.
Josh Thomas really leapt to the fore today. Whenever the Tigers looked like they may wrest complete control of the game away, he hit back with a goal. You look at their multi-pronged forward set up, and it kind of worked for them today. Thomas had four straight, Hoskin-Elliott had three and Cox had two. If only a bloke named de Goey had been down there, huh?
For the first time this year, I reckon Jaidyn Stephenson actually looked like a first year kid out there.
Not so, Jack Higgins. He looked like he belonged.
Interesting to see Kane Lambert go to Pendlebury in the third. Lambert was really struggling to get his hands on it, and quelling the influence of Pendlebury really seemed to be working for the first half of the third quarter.
Big tackle #3 – Jacob Townsend on Tom Langdon. Pow!
If we can drag play of the game out for a thirty second period (and take Higgins’ goal out of the equation too) Will Hoskin-Elliott’s smother on the boundary and then mark at the top of the square from the subsequent clearance would take the cake.
The Tigers’ “force of will” goal in the third was spectacular. Grundy won the tap to Pendlebury, but Cotchin was all over the ball. I’m not sure he got a disposal, but he was fighting for it like a madman in the middle. It bobbled around and went from Cotch to Higgins, to Rioli before making its way to Riewoldt, then Townsend and finally ending with Castagna who ran into the open goal. It may have been the teamwork goal of the year.
Big tackle #4 – Taylor Adams destroying Liam Baker.
Didn’t like seeing the ump call for a stoppage after Townsend ducked into two tackles in the last quarter. If you duck, you should be pinged.
It looked like floodgates about to open after Riewoldt marked all alone 30 out in the last quarter. There were holes everywhere in the Pies defence. They were shot by this point. It begs the question – are Richmond simply fitter? Their last quarters have been massive.
Garbage time goal to Rioli – he was unsighted today.
So the Tigers win without anybody having a dominant game. The Pies have Pendlebury and Sidebottom look statistically great for little result. I guess this is a team game after all. Great win for the Tigers in front of 88K. The Pies weren’t disgraced, but on this form, I can’t see them actually beating Richmond should they clash in September.
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