The Tigers didn’t dominate the last quarter for a change and were challenged in the final minutes by a gutsy Geelong team, but the premiers held on to get over the line by three points in a nail-biter.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
The Cotchin pressure
This may be a strange one to start on, and when you look at the stats, you could be thinking that Cotchin may not even rate a mention in a game where you had so many players doing amazing things. I’ll get to as many of them as I can, but no one… NO ONE applies pressure like Trent Cotchin applies pressure.
I like to watch how hard someone works when they haven’t got the ball. I reckon it’s a sign of character and just how much they care. If the ball is in the same area as the Richmond captain, he is always going to work his backside off to impact the contest. Even if he knows he can’t get there, he doesn’t die wondering. He puts his head down and attacks.
I watched him bust a gut to affect the kick of Patrick Dangerfield in the second quarter in a contest he had no right to be part of. He closed on his fellow Brownlow medallist and caused the kick to be ineffective with a last second lunge. These are the sorts of actions that are fast becoming synonymous with Cotchin. In games where he may not be ball-dominant, he does the little things that ensure he stays involved in the game. They’re the actions of a leader – they’re the actions of a great leader.
In previous Tiger game reviews we’ve touched on how balanced the team is, and tonight was no different, with so many players popping up at crucial times to simply do their job, and do it well. You had four of the top five disposal gatherers of the game wearing hoops, and then there was Kane Lambert.
This bloke is probably in All-Australian contention. Averaging 22.4 touches per game, and traveling at 75% efficiency, Lambert continues to be the workhorse of the Tiger midfield. He ran harder and longer than any player on the ground tonight, finding the footy deep in defence, and working back up through the middle to power them into attack.
He was hard at it at the contest, totalling 14 contested disposals amongst his 31 touches for the game and had two direct goal assists. Pumping the Tigers inside 50 on eight occasions, and executing seven tackles rounded his game out nicely. The Tigers have some genuine stars running through their midfield, with Cotchin, Martin and Shane Edwards providing some of the real class of the competition, but you’d be a fool to sleep on the influence of Lambert.
His quick hands caught the Cats completely unaware on several occasions, and his excellent vision allows the Tigers to get a jump start when he gets the ball. His handball down the line to Daniel Rioli got the Tigers running when all the surrounding Cats were caught flat-footed was beautiful. I’m sure Rioli appreciated it.
Picked #46 in the rookie draft of 2015, and third in the 2017 Richmond B&F, Lambert is no longer flying under the radar in terms of the casual fans. Those not on the Lambert bandwagon would be wise to do so immediately.
So, Cats fans – has Tim Kelly replaced Gary Ablett as your third mid?
Hear me out. Nobody can deny the influence of Dangerfield. He is still one of the top players in the league. Ditto for Joel Selwood, who just threw himself into every contest tonight with a reckless abandon. And then there was one other ripping game from a Geelong midfielder, and it wasn’t Gary Ablett.
Tim Kelly put on a show again tonight, once again making many Geelong supporters both delighted with his development, and nervous about his intentions next season. He may be a contracted player, but if he wants to head home, chances are the Cats will have to work out a deal to make it happen. An unhappy player is not often a good player.
But he was more than good tonight. Combining with Dangerfield and Selwood, he looked like he was a class above every bloke on the field with the way he controlled the slippery ball early, and the skills he demonstrated below his knees, managing to gather it cleanly whilst every other player fumbled, made him stand out all the more.
If there was one thing I could criticise Kelly for, it is that he probably tried to finesse one time too many. In most games there will come a time when every player is required to put his body on the line for his team. Earlier in the game, Kelly had a moment where he spun out of trouble and sent Geelong into attack. It was a brilliantly skilled moment that demonstrated both his class and agility, but late in the game, he was confronted with a similar situation, and instead of putting his head over the ball, and taking the tackle, he tried the spin again, and the ball spilled out.
It’s nit-picking, I know, because he was wonderful for the most part, but it’s always the little things that don’t go well that seem to stick out in the mind. You’ll hear a lot of former players talk about when it’s your time to go, you have to go. Kelly had to go late in the game and he tried to dance around the contest. It was the one blight on what was a superb performance.
There’s a bloke at my work who loves the movie Predator. Anyway, there’s a moment where Schwarzenegger sees Carl Weathers (underrated 80s action hero and built like a brick outhouse), whose character is named Dylan (Dillon), and he says to him “Dylan… you son of a bitch!” and they have this strong handshake thing going… only slightly homoerotic, but it's Arnie and he can do as he pleases.
Where am I going with this? Good question. I reckon there was a few Geelong fans calling Dylan Grimes a son of a bitch as this game went on, but it would’ve been muttered out of respect. Whilst everyone was hoping for the Rance v Hawkins clash, it was Grimes who stole the show in defence, for mine.
Look at his stats – Nine touches, six marks and five tackles. An average night, right? But what Grimes does, week in and week out, is make things difficult for opposition forwards without compiling big numbers. He doesn’t require big numbers to be successful.
The three headed defensive monster that is the Grimes, Rance and Astbury combined to stifle Tom Hawkins today, though they were aided by the weather – I’ll get to that. Grimes ability to shut down leads with his closing speed is invaluable to the Richmond defence, and his willingness to take either a small or tall means there isn’t much he can’t do.
As he marked out the back tonight to punish the Cats for a poor turnover and poor kick in, I found myself pondering his season to date, and one thing that nagged at me was whether Jack Riewoldt is the All-Australian full forward this season?
I’d be interested to hear what anyone reading this thinks, but he has been doing some incredible things this season, and up until now I’ve been pretty adamant that the leader in the Coleman should be the All-Australian full forward. I’m being turned around on this by Riewoldt’s consistent brilliance, and right now, I’d have him as my full forward (unless Brown comes out and kicks 6-7 tomorrow).
On three occasions this season, I have seen Riewoldt appear to be out of a contest, only to thump the ball backwards over his head and lead to a goal scoring opportunity. Jack has been lauded for his unselfishness and team-first attitude in recent times, and acts like tonight, when he whacked the ball into the path of the steaming Jason Castagna, leading to a goal in the first quarter are exactly why I am thinking that he may be the man coming out of the goal square in this year’s AA team.
I’m a fan. An unabashed fan. In truth, he didn’t have much to beat tonight, as his opponent was playing his first game, and even then, the was jumping over the Tiger ruckman to get first hands on the ball in the first quarter and ended up with two goals to his name.
But Nank is a slow burn. He is the old bull – remember that story? It’s one of my favourites. The young bull and the old bull are standing on the top of a hill, overlooking a herd of cattle. The young bull turns to the old bull and says “Hey, let’s run down there and have sex with one of those cows!” The old bull turns to the young bull and smiles and says “Nah, let’s walk down there… and have sex with them all.”
Tonight, Ryan Abbott was the young bull, and he went hard (pardon the pun) early in the game. Nank knew that this game wasn’t a sprint. He’d trained for the long haul, and half an hour later, he was clearly on top. He kicked a goal himself, directly assisted on another with a ripping pass to Riewoldt, and started getting his own hands on the ball at stoppages.
I thought he was really unlucky to be pinged for holding the ball in a contest against Joel Selwood late in the game, in what was probably his only glaring mistake. I love the way he contests, I love the way he isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers (I have no idea how Sam Menegola didn’t get a free kick after Nank buried him without the ball in the third), and I love that despite being the lone hand in the Richmond ruck, Nankervis is still there at the pointy end of games, just as effective as he was earlier.
And if I have to pick something to pick on him about, he may want to improve that 39% disposal efficiency a little. Want more Nank? Check out our recent article on The Nankervis Gamble.
The Gaz miss
Oh man, it was all set up for the little master, wasn’t it?
Maybe it’s a sign of the times? Maybe it’s a reality that 34 year old legs just don’t have the capacity to do the amazing all the time anymore? Or maybe it’s just because sometimes even the great ones miss shots they should kick?
Tom Hawkins fed a ripping handball out to Ablett 35 metres out on a 45 degree angle. It is the type of kick at goal Gaz would normally eat up, but for whatever reason, this shot didn’t even begin to look like it. It started right, stayed right, and finished right. At least the kick was consistent, huh?
You hate to pinpoint a late game moments as THE moment a game was won or lost, but it is so commonly the case because it so commonly is. If Ablett kicks that goal, the Cats are in serious top four contention. Now… they’re reliant on other results for this to happen and could be outside the top eight all together if the Swans topple the Magpies.
Imagine that kick had gone through for a goal? Sadly, if you’re a Geelong fan, imagine is all you can do. That kick may have cost you your season.
The weather robs us
OK, I bought into the hype a little. I walked out of work this afternoon, after having a little nap (hey… I work hard!) and it had been raining for quite a while. My thoughts didn’t turn to the traffic and the fact that people absolutely panic when there is water on the road and forget how to drive, therefore making my trip home longer. My thoughts turned to the possible Rance v Hawkins match up, and how this would basically void it because the conditions were not conducive to a big forward taking marks and kicking goals.
The bloody Melbourne weather robbed us of what could’ve been a monumental clash between the in-form forward in the competition and the in-form defender of the past few years. Come on Melbourne… lift your game!
Of course, it didn't seem to affect Riewoldt too badly...
That Thurlow kick
The Cats came hard late in the game anyway, but this was a pivotal moment, and before I start, I just want to say that in the third quarter, it was the gutsy kick from Thurlow that opened the game up and allowed for a goal scoring opportunity for Jack Henry. It's not my intention to bury the guy for one (big) mistake, however his miskick late in the game will be the one that’s remembered.
The Cats were ten points down and could smell blood in the water at that stage. Dangerfield gathered and went inboard at half back, and Ablett kicked to Thurlow on the wing. He turned to the middle, again looking to make the gutsy kick that would open the attacking 50 up. But the kick was a shocker.
It went nowhere near its intended target, and missed him by so far that I can’t even make out who it was. It landed with Daniel Rioli right in the middle of the ‘G. the crowd rose as the Tigers counter-punched, and Shaun Grigg hit Josh Caddy on the chest.
Uncharacteristically, Caddy hit the post, but you could see the exasperated look on the faces of Thurlow and Dangerfield- it took the wind out of their sails a little to see their hard work undone by such a scrubby kick. On the kick in, Jayden Short took first possession booted the ball long and strong back inside the Tigers’ 50 where Riewoldt marked 15 metres out to kick his fourth goal. It was a seven point play at a point where Geelong should've been going deep into their foreard line.
Credit to the Cats – they rallied again, but had they scored from that forward thrust, or had they simply not turned it over so horribly, the game would’ve tightened up a lot earlier.
I thought Dusty wasted it a little tonight, but ten clearances to lead the game, and ten inside 50 disposals… even when he doesn’t play brilliantly, he’s still pretty damn brilliant. We just have the bar set really high for him these days.
As much as I love the Nank, I might love Joel Selwood more. 22 contested touches tonight. See ball – get ball. He was a beast early on when the game was pretty hot, and his toe poke to a teammate’s advantage whilst laying on his back in the first quarter was one of those little things that slip under the guard of people sometimes, but we love the little things at The Mongrel.
Ablett completely sold Tim Kelly into trouble in the first quarter, and he is probably lucky that Dustin Martin isn’t too malicious. Dusty elected to bump instead of tackle but there was no malice in it at all, and Kelly was able to ride it and run away with the ball.
The multiple efforts from Cotchin the first quarter were complete captain courageous stuff. He burst from the stoppage at half back to find a teammate on the wing. Seconds later, he’s the one laying a tackle at half forward. That’s workrate! He doesn’t get a goal assist for it, but he was as big a part in Riewoldt’s first goal as anyone.
How great was it to see genuine stars of the game going head to head at centre clearances! Martin, Ablett, Cotchin, Selwood, Dangerfield… loved that they were all in there contesting the same ball.
You probably won’t hear this from me again, but I think the best piece of ruck work on the night occurred in the first quarter, when Shaun Grigg tip a perfect tap to Jack Higgins on the move at half forward. Sorry Nank…
The first time Hawkins looked to have the better of Rance was spoiled by Dylan Grimes. Hawkins got separation from Rance and leaned into the mark, but Grimes managed to free and arm from his own opponent and just get a fist in just in the nick of time. It saved what would have been a Hawkins chest mark. Of course, the commentators completely missed what was an excellent reactive defensive play.
Ryan Abbott – probably needs a preseason or two, but there’s definitely something there.
I thought Ablett’s first quarter was as poor as I’ve seen from him all year. Looked like he was waiting for others to get him the ball and didn't want to be in and under. Looked a little slow, but like Martin, he is a victim of his own success in terms of how we assess him.
Really felt like Geelong needed someone with a cool head early in the second quarter. The Tigers pumped up the pressure and were really pressing. Every kick Geelong took was under either real, or implied pressure to the point they could not get past midway. And just as I was writing that they needed someone with a cool head to stifle Richmond’s influence, Nankervis grabbed it out of the ruck and dribbled a goal from 15 metres out. A cool headed player should’ve drifted back into the goal keeper role and saved a goal, but at this stage, the Cats had no one with a cool head, apparently.
I reckon Liam Baker is the first to make way for returning players for Richmond. Was OK, but looked a bit like the game was too fast for him at times.
I think Joel Selwood’s smother on the wing completely reversed the momentum at that point in the game. The Tigers were about to go into their attacking half, but Selwood threw himself across his opponent’s boot and the Cats rebounded. Amazingly, it was Selwood, still working, that tapped the ball to Tim Kelly in at the top of the goal square for the goal.
Ripping kick for goal by Castagna early in the third quarter, particularly for a bloke who’s been copping a bit of flak for his goal kicking recently. Not much was made of the Martin delivery to him, but it was exquisite vision and the kind of kick that gave defenders no chance of getting there to spoil it. Only Castagna could make the ground required to mark it – the kick was a beauty from Martin.
Three Cats with 20 or more contested touches tonight. Selwood, Danger and... Menegola.
Cam Guthrie… he looked at times as though he was intentionally running into trouble. I wrote at the time that there is a fine line between bravery and stupidity, as trying to draw 2-3 players to you in the Richmond 50 is playing with fire, but there was Guthrie on multiple occasions, trying to run the ball out, and draw those small Tiger forwards to him in the process. He stopped doing it after his errant handball started a chain of pressure that led to Kamdyn McIntosh catching Abbott holding the ball right in front. When you look at the final margin… it’s a big price to pay.
Loved the niggle between Dusty and Selwood.
From a distance, anyone else think Connor Menadue looks a bit like Dylan Grimes? I had to do a double take a couple of times as I watched.
You think at some stage people will start realising that Dustin Martin REALLY wants to get onto his right foot as much as possible and start forcing him onto his left by overplaying him?
Gotta give a mention to Mark Blicavs, who was under siege in the back half at times. He only had Riewoldt briefly but was quite resolute all game.
Loved the steal by Shane Edwards on the Guthrie handball through the middle. It was such a tremendous split-second read of the play.
I continue to see a lot of Hawthorn (the successful teams) in Richmond at the moment. It’s the little taps and knocks to advantage that just seem to come off. It’s as though they fully expect their teammate to win possession, and make position accordingly. It’s a joy to watch when 2-3 tap ons link up and it ends with the Tigers on the run.
Again, if you duck into a tackle, it should be an automatic holding the ball decision against you if the tackle sticks. If you want to stop people ducking, penalise them!
Yet another dangerous tackle rewarded with a free kick for holding the ball. How can the players and officials involved in the game on the field get it so wrong? I know – it’s because it’s the rule that’s wrong. If the opponent is trying to get a kick away, sometimes slinging them is the only way to prevent it happening. Parfitt slung Jayden Short to the ground as he tried to kick it. His other option is to let him kick it.
Mind you, the free kick should’ve gone to Short for too high before the sling, and before the holding the ball decision.
Really loved the intensity of the fourth quarter. Really, it is about time a team matched the intensity of the Tigers. You look at the Cats –they’re on the brink of missing finals now, yet they’re the only team that’s been able to legitimately challenge the Tigers at the MCG in the last quarter… and don’t tell me Hawthorn did it too. That game was well and truly over when they made their run.
Interesting move by Jack Riewoldt to kick Mark Blicavs in the back in the marking contest. No malice. I think he was trying to clear space. I’m just a big fan of kicking back.
Really looked at times late in the last quarter that the Cats were giving Richmond some of their own medicine with their forward pressure. The thing is, the Tigers bring this every week. Geelong need to do that as well.
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