Richmond v Western Bulldogs - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Tigers got a bit of a scare from the western Bulldogs, managing to hold on to collect a three point win, and stretch their MCG win-streak.

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

 

THE GOOD

Caleb Daniel

There were a few players with more disposals than Caleb Daniel this afternoon, but none demonstrated as much poise and composure in pressure situations.

Daniel had 29 touches as he worked back into defence to time and again allow his teammates a pathway out of danger. His ability to find space and make good decisions with ball in hand helped the Dogs break down that almost impenetrable Tiger wall across half back.

He played a very outside game today, but when he did get the ball, he made good decisions, and was involved in six Dogs scoring thrusts, including one direct goal assist. I’ve watched him go missing in several games this season, but he showed up today, and he did it against some of the best talent in the game.

Dion Prestia

Speaking of talent, this is a bloke who gets left out of the conversation too often when people talk about the Richmond engine room.

At one point in the first quarter I watched Prestia just hold his ground against his opponent as Jack Riewoldt ran back with the flight of the ball to mark ten metres out and goal. It was a selfless act, and I thought “He’s a strong little bugger.”

Indeed he is.

Whilst Cotchin, Martin and Edwards gets the lion’s share of the press, the work of Dion Prestia in that midfield cannot be discounted. He had six clearances and pumped the Tigers inside 50 on seven occasions. He is the sort of player that can slip under the guard of the opposition and make them pay in short order. His 28 disposals today included 11 of the contested variety, but it is his ability to extract from stoppages, hit a target, and set up those Richmond runners that makes him so valuable.

The Nank

If ever a team needed a ruckman, it’s the Bulldogs, and when you watched Toby Nankervis pick up nine touches in the third quarter, easily stamping his mark on the game in the process, it rammed home just how undermanned the Dogs are at that position. I’ll get to that soon enough.

For those who’ve read this site all year, you should know of my love for Nankervis. I adore his work ethic, his combativeness, which I was just afraid wasn’t a real word (it is), and I love that even though he is not the most gifted ruckman in the world, that he’ll never die wondering if he tried hard enough on any given day.

He had 21 touches today, running at 71% efficiency, and added seven marks and six score involvements. When I look at this Richmond team, I am starting to wonder whether he could potentially be their most valuable September performer. They have Soldo waiting in the wings, but he is definitely no Nankervis. Rance, Astbury and Grimes all work so well as a collective that if one is missing, they can cover. Riewoldt has Caddy lurking around ready to step into the main role up forward.

But Nank…  no one replaces Nank in that side. Between you, me and whomever else reads this, I’d love to see this bloke win a Norm Smith IF the Tigers get there. Yeah, it’s a long shot, but I admire the way he goes about it, and I reckon he deserves more recognition than he gets.

Please note – I said “IF” the Tigers get there.

The Nankervis Gamble

Coleman Jack

Sounds like a character from a Western, doesn’t he?

“There goes Coleman Jack… one of the straightest shooters in these here parts…”

Well, he probably could’ve shot a little straighter today, finishing with 5.2, and the two misses both being very gettable, but I don’t think I have been happier to see a bloke jump out and take a commanding lead in the Coleman Medal race as I am for Jack.

He won me over this season with those knock-back efforts over his head, which could really go either way at the time. They either keep the ball alive and give his teammates a chance, or they turn over and set the opponents off running. Riewoldt takes the risk on those and gambled that his teammates will be good enough to capitalise on his work. They usually are.

He collected three contested marks amongst his seven grabs today, and added a goal assist in for good measure. He was opposed by either Dale Morris or Aaron Naughton - both match ups providing some genuine highlights.

Unless we see something special from Ben Brown, Jack Riewoldt will be the 2018 Coleman Medallist, and a thoroughly deserving one as well.

The stars out to play

I wanted to highlight both of these guys, so doing it together is probably fitting. When you think of Richmond, you can’t help but think of Dusty. When you think of the Bulldogs, images of the Bont leap to mind, and today, both of them delivered.

Dusty first – Do you hear that noise? It sounds like the rattling of bones, and that’s coming from seven other coaches as Martin starts to round into his 2017 form as we head into finals.It’s their knees knocking together in fear. They know what a flying Dustin Martin means in big games.

He was excellent today, notching 33 touches, nine clearances and a huge 12 inside 50 disposals. He did get nailed in tackles a couple of times, but on both occasions they were secondary tackles getting him after he’d already disposed of the first tackler. This is actually starting to happen a little more often, for those watching on at home. Teams are learning.

Dusty had 12 score involvements and four direct goal assists on the day, meaning that he hurt when he was given the time and space to operate. On one occasion he gathered on the wing and navigated through heavy traffic to kickstart the Tiger offence. It was his clean hands, his decisive, powerful movement to avoid tacklers, and his delivery that set up a goal for Daniel Rioli. As I watched that, I just shook my head – he moved like other players wish they could, and his hands were as clean as a surgeon.

And Bont – yes I have given him a few whacks this season, but he was sublime today. He had 29 touches, seven score involvements, three clearances and eight tackles, but it was his use of the ball that caught my eye most.

His spearing pass to Brad Lynch in the waning stages of the game was a 45 metre bullet that gave only Lynch the chance to glove it. There are many who’d try that kick, and nowhere near as many who could pull it off. He was also strong overhead, clunking an important mark at centre half back late in the game. Had he dropped that, or even juggled it, the Tigers were ready to pounce, but Bont stood firm and held it.

Bont will benefit greatly from some time away to rest. His form since returning from his appendix surgery has been excellent, but you know what would aid him more than anything? A ruckman.

 

THE BAD

The Lipinski turnover

I really don’t want to pick on a kid, but I feel as though this moment could’ve been huge.

Early in the fourth quarter, the game had a bit of a lull to it. We’ll talk about the Tigers putting the cue in the rack in a moment or so, but this kick… this horrible, lazy kick robbed the Bulldogs of a scoring opportunity, and ignited the Richmond attack the other way.

Lipinski received on the half forward flank and looked to true centre half forward where Mitch Wallis was out all alone. He went to kick to him and got little meaningful purchase on the kick. It was chopped off by the man on the mark and the Tigers propelled the ball forward. All the Bulldogs defenders were out of position as a result of the turnover.  It ended with Dusty at half forward and he hit Riewoldt who goaled.

One lazy kick. One momentary lapse of concentration. One moment saw the ball go from a scoring position to for the Dogs to sailing through the Richmond goals. The lead went from eight points to 14.

Gimme that final margin again?

Josh Schache

Sorry – another kid. He got the first goal of the game, which was great. It was a bit of a cherry-pick over the back, but it was a great start to the Dogs. He then took a nice contested mark just inside 50, but his kick went astray. He was looking the part of a young tyro who could make a difference today.

But he didn’t. I went back through my notes looking for any other impact he had. There was nothing. As a matter of fact, the only other thing of note I saw regarding him was Nick Vlastuin showing him a clean pair of heels in the third quarter. It was a weak contest from Schache who definitely needs to put a few kilograms on in order to start having some sort of influence in one-on-one contests. That contest against Vlastuin saw him compete like a man who knew he’d already lost.

He finished with 10 touches, four marks and a goal. His move to the Bulldogs was a big one. The results have not lived up to the hype just yet.

THE UGLY

False hope

Now I’m not the Grinch who stole Christmas here, I swear, but am I the only person who thought that the Tigers well and truly had the cue in the rack for the entire last quarter?

Yeah, the Dogs were good, and they kept coming, but for me, the Tigers looked like they were in cruise control and just didn’t want to see anyone get hurt to damage their finals campaign.

Of course, with a couple of minutes to go, this all went out the window in the last minute or two when the Dogs drew to within a goal, but prior to that, Richmond looked to be in third gear.

Sorry Dogs fans. It was a great effort, but you were playing a team in preservation mode in the last quarter.

Now where are those Christmas presents?

No ruckman

Jordan Roughead is not the answer.

Tom Boyd is not the answer.

And if they are the answer, the Bulldogs are asking the wrong damn question! The Bulldogs need a ruckman, and they’re going to have to find one if they expect a renaissance in 2019. The Bulldogs’ brainstrust should be looking at all legitimate available ruckmen and starting to put together some offers. Imagine Macrae, Dunkley, Bont and Daniel at the feet of someone who can actually get a meaningful hand on the ball at a stoppage?

Want to see why they need to recruit a ruckman? Rewind your recording of the game, and have a look at Roughead beaten by Jack Riewoldt in the ruck in the third quarter. It led directly to a goal for Jason Castagna.

Luke Beveridge… get a ruckman!

 

OTHER BITS

Here’s a big statement – if I were to be given the choice of one defender to pinch to create my own team, I’d pick Dylan Grimes. Fast, determined, and very rarely beaten.

I was going to add Aaron Naughton in the ‘good’ section, and I was going to add him in the ‘bad’ section for that moment in the last quarter where he left the ball behind on the boundary, leading to a Castagna goal, but in the end I did neither. His intercept marking was spectacular, yet he found himself beaten by Riewoldt on several occasions. When I watch the Bullies at the moment, he is the one that has star-potential written all over him.

Jack Macrae’s game was great but I thought his first half was spectacular. His touches were hurting, and he was doing the kind of things that distinguish a great player from a good player. He stood under the ball and took the heat when it came his way, and he laid some great tackles, too. He also looked like a real chance to add his name to the list of those to achieve a rare AFL Quadruple Double. The last bloke to do it was Corey Enright in 2015. Long time between drinks.

Pretty impressive first quarter from Jack Graham. Three goals and eight touches – looks like someone is determined to hold his place in the side.

Can we talk about the free kick count? It ended up 10-20 in favour of the Dogs, and the Richmond fans were letting the umps know all about it. However, even though the Tigers got the short end of the stick most of the day, it seemed to me that the biggest errors were actually errors that really screwed the Dogs over. That free kick for holding the ball against Lachie Hunter in the last quarter was disgraceful and showed absolutely no understanding of the game at all. Then there was the advantage that was disallowed and resulted it a Tiger goal, and a free to Jack Riewoldt in the first quarter that I still can’t explain. As a neutral, I thought that whilst Richmond got far less free kicks than they deserved, they did get some important ones.

But hey, two of the three umpires were hanging up the whistle after this game, so the next group coming through won’t make those sorts of mistakes, right? Right?!?!

Roarke Smith is an interesting looking character. That blonde hair, up in a bun… I’ve dated a few women less attractive than him.

Loved Cotchin’s punishing tackle on Caleb Daniel in the second quarter. I wonder if he did the weight to force ratio calculations in his head before he buried him? And hello to any West Coast supporters that may be reading…

I had Daniel Rioli listed as one of the best for the first half despite only touching the ball a limited amount of times. His run a few times in the second quarter was the factor that created scoring opportunities for the Tigers. He's also pretty difficult to tackle.

I don’t have access to this stat, but I’d love to see how much time the ball was in the Tigers’ half of the ground from about ten minutes into the second quarter up until half time. They just dominated possession, and on the rare occasion the Bulldogs went forward, it was ripped out of there so quickly.

That said, the Dogs did a really good job early of not bombing long to allow the three-headed monster of Rance, Grimes and Astbury to gobble up the footy. As fatigue sets in, those tactics tend to lapse here and there, and we saw it start to lapse as early as the second quarter.

The 50 metres against Dusty for being in the protected zone might be the only time I thought this was adjudicated correctly in several weeks.

The best passage of play for the game came in the second quarter, and started at half back with a contested ball win for Dusty Martin. It was a hot footy and it took the clean hands and ability to extract from Martin to get the ball rolling. It ended with Edwards handing to Rioli, and Rioli handing off to Caddy in the goal square for a goal. Vintage Richmond.

I love seeing effort rewarded, and as you know by now, I love the Nank, so seeing him bust a gut to run inside 50 and be rewarded with a pass by Conca made me smile.

I wasn’t completely sold on Brandon Ellis’ game in the first half. Of all the Richmond players, I thought he looked the most out of sorts and fumbly. Made up for it later in the game.

Ed Richards’goal in the third quarter would’ve had Stephen Kernahan smiling. A complete helicopter mongrel that just kept going.

I do love seeing a good one-on-one at full forward, and Gowers outmarking Rance after the All-Australian captain lost sight of the ball was an excellent one-out win.

I know some of you think I hate Rance (I don’t), but surely you could see he wasn’t playing one of his best games today?

It’s a funny thing about Richmond. As the fatigue sets in and the precision kicking falls off, the Tigers start to make wide open spaces feel a lot more confined.

I know its common knowledge these days, but those forward handballs are such a feast or famine tactic against Richmond. If it comes off, you’re out and have a clear run at goal, but Richmond just prey on it and await your error, and when it comes they make you pay.

Here’s an interesting one for you. At three quarter time, four of the top five disposal gatherers were from the Bulldogs. Also, six of the bottom seven disposal gatherers were Bulldogs. It just shows the consistency of the Richmond team. No one gets too high or too low, but they all contribute.

You could almost see Jack Riewoldt lick his lips when he saw that it was Caleb Daniel dropping in the hole in front of him early in the last. I’m surprised he didn’t jump right over him.

Lipinski really couldn’t take a trick in the last. Moments after his horrid turnover at half forward, he was poleaxed by a teammate.

Do you think Bont having to wait around for three minutes as Lipinski was carted off had him think too much about his ensuing shot at goal? No? Oh yeah, he’s a professional footballer and of course he didn’t overthink it. I’m an idiot.

But he did miss pretty badly…

Four intercept marks for Naughton in the last quarter. He reads it beautifully.

On commentary, do you think sandy Roberts gets more names wrong than he gets correct? Or more around a 50/50 split?

Three posters from the Dogs in the last quarter. I’m sure they’d love to blame any number of things for the loss, but that right there is something that is no one else’s fault but their own. Admittedly, Lynch’s kick for the lead with 20 seconds remaining was a very tough kick.

And who does the ball end with to ice the game? My man Dylan Grimes clunking a mark at half back. If only he’d been able to feed it off to Nankervis before the siren – my day would have been complete.

 

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