Richmond v Essendon - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Tigers secured a top two finish, and with it a home MCG final, despatching the Bombers, despite a late game run.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

Dusty finding form at the right time

So, let me start by listing some of the things I enjoyed about Martin’s game. Actually, that would take way too long. What I will do is list the thing I liked best, and that was the return of Martin as the beast.

There have been plenty of people who have lamented Martin not having a season to rival the one he had in 2017. Let’s get something straight – no one is going to have a season like that again for quite a while. Instead, we are getting Dustin Martin MK.II. And you have to think that part of the 2018 version of Dusty is the plan to get his body right, and his game at its best right at the time it’s required most.

Tick tock… it’s almost that time.

With one more game to get through before the finals, Dusty has just compiled his most complete game of the season. I fully expect to hear Gil McLachlan read out the votes for this round and hear the name ‘D Martin’ when the three votes are announced.

He finished with 26 touches, four goals and delivered the ball inside 50 on six occasions.

On a personal note, something that wasn’t highlighted too much, but for me spoke volumes, was his fend off against Devon Smith toward the end of the first quarter, Dusty received the ball, and it looked as though Smith – the most consistent tackler in the game – had him dead in his sights. Smith went for Dusty, and was met with the standard “don’t argue” right in the middle of the chest. Such was the force that Smith staggered backwards and landed on his backside. It was vintage Martin, and left no question in my mind that Dusty is now back to his best, and he’s ready to turn it on at the right time of year.

Josh Caddy

It’s strange watching Caddy and Riewoldt work together. They’re like two parts of the same total, like a boxer who can punch equally as well with either hand. If the left one doesn’t get you, the right one will!

Today it was Caddy’s turn to land some big blows, and in one five minute period in the third, he took two big marks and kicked two big goals to steady the Tiger ship.

Caddy’s kicking at goal this year has been excellent, and often it is the difference between a player kicking 4.1, or in Caddy’s case tonight, four goals straight, or having a middling performance and finishing with a couple of majors and a couple of misses.

His goal in the first quarter was a thing of beauty. Running straight at the boundary line, he was able to change direction too quickly for Matty Dea, and swung the ball around his body for goal. That’s the conundrum for opposition coaches when it comes to Caddy. You have to pick your poison. He is great overhead, as strong as a bull, and has retained agility as well despite getting stronger. Which aspect do you want to defend? He goaled today from big marks, from crumbing, and from simply reading the play better. You need a complete defender to play on him, and let’s face it, they don’t grow on trees.

Dylan Grimes

So, further to my last point, complete defenders don’t grow on trees, but what the hell are they planting at Richmond – they have three fantastic defenders, and tonight it was Dylan Grimes’ turn to shine.

I like to think that it is in the first quarter when everyone is fresh that you see the best and worst of a defender. Fatigue may make cowards of us all at times, but in the first quarter, you have fresh legs, the playing field is level and the game is up for grabs. If you play great first quarters, you play well when there are no excuses.

Dylan Grimes was the best player on the ground in the first quarter tonight. Everything he touched turned to gold for Richmond. He had two intercept marks before you could start to get annoyed at the kids for getting in the way of the TV - don't ask , and his physical clash with Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti at half back was a cracker. As a matter of fact, let’s have a run through of that.

Dyson Heppell burst through the middle as only he can (I say that because only he can go on to botch a kick quite as badly as he does so often). He saw Tippa running with the flight into space and kicked it out on front of him (too far, if we’re being honest). Tippa got on his bike and ran after it, and seeing this, Grimes decided to do the same and meet him. He left his man and made a bee-line for Tippa.

And meet they did – their bodies collided and the ball spilled free. The Tigers were first to recover and swept the ball forward where Dusty marked 40 metres out. He went back and kicked the goal, but without Dylan Grimes, there is no turnover. Without Dylan Grimes, there is no Dusty mark, and without Dylan Grimes… the Tigers would be a substantially worse team.

Rance may get the plaudits, but no one locks down like Grimes does. He is the consummate defender.

The Rioli chase down

How can we not touch on this?

Adam Saad has been terrorising teams all year with his run off half back. He leads the league in bounces, and looks to run at every opportunity.

Richmond knew that, and a couple of times they swooped on him as he put the hammer down. But few people can match it with Saad on the run. Once those pistons start pumping, there is simply no stopping him.

Unless you’re Daniel Rioli.

Rioli had a couple of excellent one-on-one contests in the last quarter, but none will make the highlight packages more than his chase down of Saad. Rioli put his head down, ran as hard as he could and cut the angle. As Saad went to straighten after taking off in defensive 50, he was already well and truly within Rioli’s sights. When the Tiger finally pulled the trigger, Saad went down, and the free kick was awarded to Rioli. He took his shot after the siren and failed to kick a goal, but that didn’t stop his teammates flocking to him to celebrate a selfless effort.

The Sam Lloyd bump on Baguley

Here at The Mongrel, we love the little things, and though it was a nice little bump from Sam Lloyd on Mark Baguley, it had large implications.

The Bombers were desperately trying to claw back into the game, and when Baguley gathered and spotted Jake Stringer streaming by, all it would’ve taken was a quick give to allow Stringer the open goal square.

The ball never got that far.

From Baguley’s right, Lloyd entered the frame, and used his body to batter into Baguley, jolting the ball free and allowing the Tigers to clear. You’ll often hear people lament that the bump is dead, but when executed in the manner Lloyd did this evening, it is alive and well.

Aaron Francis backing himself

Aaron Francis waited a long time to break into the Bomber side this season, and his recent form has indicated that he was well and truly worth the wait.

Francis looked very comfortable across half back, and even when he was dragged down to full back. He took intercept marks and won free kicks, even when he was matched up in a dreaded one-on-one against the reigning Brownlow medallist. As a matter of fact, he had a couple of nice little wins against Dusty, also throwing himself across Martin’s boot as Dusty turned and fancied himself a chance at goal.

As the Bombers look for things to take out of a season that was so far below expectations, the late blooming of Francis has to be one of them.

Devon Smith

And the continued form of Devon Smith would be the other highlight. Though Saad and Stringer have both had good moments throughout the year, Smith’s consistency and tenacity when he hasn’t got the ball should see him comfortably leading the Essendon Best and Fairest award.

He kicked a goal tonight and probably should’ve had a couple, with David Myers not getting enough purchase on the ball to get it to him in the goal square in the third.

Smith finished with 18 contested touches amongst his 28 disposals, added nine clearances  and was once again Essendon’s best.

THE BAD

Bruise free Bombers

Ok, there is one moment I want to highlight, and it aint pretty.

With the ball in the Bombers’ forward line, keeping the pressure on is vital to scoring. If you allow someone an uncontested mark, or an unchallenged disposal, you’re letting them off the hook, yet that’s what Dyson Heppell and Darcy Parish allowed Shaun Grigg to do with approximately 15.50 remaining in the third quarter.

Grigg grabbed the ball from a contested situation and ran in a straight line. Both Heppell and Parish were in the vicinity. Heppell stuck his arm out to impede Grigg's progress.

That’s it. The season is on the line, you’re playing the reigning premiers and you conjure up that pissweak effort? Heppell, in particular is at fault here. He had the chance to line Grigg up, hit him with a solid bump or hard tackle and dislodge the ball. Instead, he did what a poor leader would do – he made a half-hearted attempt to slow him down. It was a token defensive effort, and it was as though he was halfway through the action when he realised he needed to do better.

He managed to grab hold of Grigg's jumper and hung on, more like a child not wanting his father to go to work than an AFL Captain trying to inspire his team. What was required was genuine physical pressure. What he brought was anaemic.

Richmond bring the effort and the aggression. Sam Lloyd sat Mark Baguley on his backside. Dustin Martin sat Devon Smith on his backside. Dyson Heppell had the chance to do the same to Shaun Grigg, but he didn’t. He chose to hold onto his jumper and get dragged along.

What a leader.

THE UGLY

You punish the act, not the result.

As Kamdyn McIntosh and Devon Smith got to know each other better in the first quarter, Smith appeared to throw a punch right at the chin of the Tiger defender. It didn’t connect, but I ask you – his intent seemed the same as that of Andrew Gaff a couple of weeks ago – why should this be allowed, and Gaff get suspended simply because he has better aim?

The AFL has for too long punished players based on the results of an incident. If you choose to bump and get someone high… AND they get concussion, you’ll be suspended. If you choose to tackle someone in a slinging motion and they hit their head… AND they get concussion, you’ll be suspended, but if they just pop up and keep playing, you don’t get suspended. You’re basically held hostage by how thick a bloke’s head is!

So now we have Devon Smith throwing a punch. Look, if it were me, I look at it and say “it didn’t even connect – let’s move on.” However, with people talking about red cards (stupid idea), send-off rules, mandatory suspensions for punches, and the recent crucifixion of Andrew Gaff, it makes you wonder how seriously the AFL is willing to take matters.

Devon Smith did exactly what Andrew Gaff did. He threw a punch aimed at McIntosh’s jaw. He missed, but Michael Christian shouldn’t miss on this one. His hands are tied in terms of what he can grade. There was no impact, so it doesn’t fall under any of his stupidly restrictive categories. If the AFL are fair dinkum about stamping out punching, it should be sent straight to the tribunal.

And if they’re not serious about, stop bloody pretending that you are and let the boys play.

OTHER BITS

First of all, the gesture between Houli and Saad before the game was a nice touch. Nothing over the top; just two blokes wandering out with their captains. Nice touch. What I didn’t like is Eddie Maguire talking about tolerance. You don’t tolerate people, Ed. You accept them. Its acceptance people want – not to be tolerated. Anyway…

I know Bomber fans love him, but McDonald-Tipungwuti was bloody ordinary again tonight. I suppose he was due for a quiet one after a few pretty good weeks. Seven touches for the night… not good enough.

For a moment, with Riewoldt leading and marking on his chest in the first quarter, I wondered whether Gold Coast players had shown up and thrown Essendon jumpers on. On second viewing, it was just a perfect kick inside 50 from Nick Vlastuin. Really loved the first few stanzas of the Hurley v Riewoldt duel.

Essendon ran exactly the same play at three different centre bounces for three separate wins for three separate players. The play where Bellchambers hits it backwards to someone curling around the back gave Heppell, Smith and Stringer a clearance each. Beautiful ruckwork.

I reckon Alex Rance may have smelled a little blood out there today. He looked to run off Hooker early, and his second efforts in contests were excellent. Case in point – he spoiled Hooker on the wing, but whilst Hooker dawdled, Rance made the next contest and got a stoppage by smothering the kick out of bounds. He was on tonight.

Speaking of Hooker, I know he had a big last quarter, but he looked to be doing that on heart alone. He was completed bamboozled by Rance up until three quarter time, to the point he had zero marks to his name.

I noticed a distinct difference between the defences in the first quarter. In the space of a minute, Bachar Houli took two intercept marks across the wing. In defence, Brendon Goddard dropped two intercept marks. Goddard looked slow today, and was as fumbly as I’ve seen him. Still, it was good he took the time to point out what his teammates were doing incorrectly around him even after he made errors. Wouldn’t you love to play with him?

I had a feeling early on that Richmond were targeting whichever player Matty Dea played on. It was as though they had a known quantity in Dea, and they wanted to exploit the weakness.

Not much was said about it, but Bachar Houli’s ability to get a small kick away whilst being dragged to the ground at half back in the first set the ball rolling the Tigers’ way, and it ended with a Castagna mark at half forward.

Meanwhile, the Bombers made some idiotic handballs to players obviously under the pump through the middle of the ground.

I have here in my notes that "Tipungwuti catches Rance with Hooker." I think I may have to refer this to the AFL’s integrity unit!

I thought Heppell was incredibly stiff not to get a free kick for catching Grimes holding the ball in the second quarter. It looked like a pretty clear free kick to me.

Hurley v Caddy at ground level provided a good, physical clash between two guys unafraid of physical contact.

There’s been some moments this season where Mitch Brown has been really good, but tonight, with a third gamer bearing down on him, his body positioning was terrible. All he had to do was keep his body between Garthwaite and the ball and he would’ve either got a mark or a free kick. He didn’t do either and Garthwaite made the spoil. It’d almost be enough to make John Worsfold prescribe himself some Rohypnol to get through the rest of the game. Do you think pharmacists do that? Would you?

Another Goddard moment. Late second quarter. There’s the chance to go for the ball or lay a shepherd. Goddard opts for third choice, which is to appear confused, and basically stands there as the play goes right past him. Rather than shepherd, which is something useful, Goddard opts to do… nothing. He doesn’t get involved in the play at all. He was lost out there tonight.

Speaking of not going, anyone else see Zach Merrett opt not to try to get into the path of Jack Riewoldt in the second quarter? Not sure he could’ve made it in time to impact the contest, but unless you try, you never know.

Three free kicks against Riewoldt in the second quarter had him looking pretty annoyed, but we did get to see one of those patented Jack Riewoldt tap-ons as the Tigers ran through the middle. It’s a pity Houli missed the goal, as the passage of play was excellent. Actually, we got to see two knock-ons from Riewoldt. His knock back to Dusty on the boundary in the second was pretty cluey.

Kyle Langford looked like he was a step slow today. Not slow over the ground, but slow to react.

I’m getting mighty tired of teams playing dumb footy and bombing the ball long to where Alex Rance is sitting by himself, waiting for it. Surely they’re being told NOT to do that?

Talk about being made to pay for your mistakes… Matty Dea’s dropped mark after a miscommunication with Hurley resulted in a Dusty goal. Of all the people you don’t want in the vicinity…

I saw Alex Rance have a bit of a miskick and go 50 metres across the backline with a bit of a shank, and the ball rolled out of bounds. Wanna know something strange? That counts as an effective kick because it gained over 40 metres. So, you know you can have ten kicks, kick them all straight to the opposition, and still have ten effective kicks to your name as long as they all travel over 40 metres? Crazy, huh?

Adam Saad had a few moments tonight where he started running a little like a chook with its head cut off. It was like he was just running for the sake of running. Castagna knew he didn’t have a lot to go to, and he ran hard to make sure Saad felt the pressure. The result – a turnover, a re-entry, a Caddy mark and a Richmond goal. Slow down there, Adam… it’s not sex.

Amazingly, it is Castagna and Saad involved again soon after, with Castagna this time catching Saad holding the ball and Caddy marking again to goal.

Nice Kodak moment for Garthwaite with the blood streaming down his face. Irrespective of where his career goes, he now has a bit of a lasting image He can scare his grandchildren with.

Seeing Lloyd spin out of one tackle, get nailed in another, and not penalised… that’s disappointing.

Is it a defender’s nightmare to find yourself isolated at full forward with Dusty Martin as your opponent? Well then, is it a nightmare you can’t wake from to have that scenario and then have the ball kicked to Martin’s advantage? That’s what Matthew Dea had to deal with in the third.

Dylan Grimes’ smother at half back was so important near the end of the third. The Bombers were out if the ball had got past him.

Another Goddard fumble moment allowed Liam Baker his first goal in footy. He has had plenty of misses up til tonight. I think this aspect of footy, with teammates getting around the young fellas, is one of my favourite parts of footy.

If I am an Essendon fan, every time I see Dyson Heppell with the ball, looking for an option out of half back by foot… it is panic stations. He hacks it far too much and his pass outside 50 on this occasion, under no pressure, cost a goal when he hit Brandon Ellis right on the chest 30 metres away.

Good to see nobody cover for the injured McDonald-Tipungwuti as he limped to the bench early in the last. It only meant that Martin could stroll inside 50 unattended and get all the way to the goal square without an opponent. Can we guess what happened next???

Razor Ray had one of the worst decisions of the year, pinging Nathan Broad for holding the ball after being tackled over the goal line by Mark Baguley. If I just get my scientific tools out here, my estimation is that he was approximately five metres out when he took possession, facing the goals. He was tackled almost immediately as he pushed off toward the goals to get away. Baguley also used Broad’s momentum to push him toward the line as well. At the time he crossed the line, he’d been tackled for approximately 1.26 seconds and then the tackle was completed over the line. And yeah, I may be guessing those numbers, but the eye test tells me that was an absolute howler from Ray.

Nick Vlastuin gave Dusty a challenge for fend off of the day with a ripper on “Eyeshadow” Guelfi in the last quarter.

The ruck duel… I’d give it to Bellchambers, but he was by no means incredibly influential. Nankervis has a habit of just doing enough to make sure you never truly get on top of him, and he almost always tackles better than his opponent.

A couple of great Rioli moments late in the game. One we covered above, but his one-on-one with Andrew McGrath on the wing was fantastic as well.

It's a funny thing - here you had Essendon coming at Richmond in the last quarter, yet at no stage did I think they had a legitimate chance. I just thought the Tigers would be able to repel whatever the Bombers could throw at them. I reckon the Tigers felt that way too. When Merrett missed late, I just kind of nodded to myself. Things were as they were meant to be.

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