QF Richmond v Hawthorn - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Tigers used a powerful third quarter to distance themselves from the Hawks, and push their way into a Preliminary Final.

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

 

THE GOOD

The Dusty goal and his second quarter

OK, first the numbers. 29 disposals with 17 contested touches and 10 clearances.

Want more? No probs. 10 score involvements, three contested marks and five inside fifty disposals. He’s been threatening to do this for the last month. Actually, he’s been more than threatening – he’s been doing it, and again tonight, when the game was there to be won, Dustin Martin stepped to the fore with a 2017 vintage second quarter effort.

What was special about the second quarter? Well, the game was on the line, for starters. And then he just happened to kick one of the goals of the year from the boundary line. This goal was Akermanis-esque, and that is about as high a compliment as I can give it, as Aker kicked two goals like that in a row just to prove it wasn’t a fluke. And not for a second do I think Dusty’s shot was a fluke, for those negative people who will take that as a shot at him. It was a moment of the utmost skill and precision. It was perfect.

He then set up Dion Prestia’s squaring kick to the top of the goal square with an excellent underground handball. Rioli flew, McIntosh stayed down and reaped the rewards of a three-on-two situation right in front of goals. How Richmond managed to outnumber Hawthorn deep in their own forward line remains a mystery (until I watch a replay), but without Dusty’s quick thinking and perfect execution, there is no fly from Rioli, no squaring kick from Prestia and no goal to McIntosh.  

Martin was the difference tonight. He was stronger, better and took the game by the scruff of the neck when it was there to be won.

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O’Meara  v Cotchin

This was a cracker. I was wondering how O’Meara would go in his first final, and he answered emphatically with a ripping first quarter where I had him as best on ground. He had 11 disposals as the Hawks finished the first with their noses in front.

But he was matched up against the best Captain in the game, and the way Cotchin answered demonstrated why he is so highly regarded. He collected 11 touches in the second to power the Tigers to the half time lead – they would not be headed.

The tale of the tape tells a great story. O’Meara finished with 29 touches, eight clearances, and 17 contested disposals. Cotchin countered with 26 touches, seven clearances and 16 contested disposals.

But it’s not all about numbers – some of it is about desperation. Actually, so much more is about desperation in finals than sheer numbers. Cotchin was more desperate tonight. More than any Hawthorn player. More than any other Richmond player. He is the ultimate contest-splitter. He turns a 30-70 situation into a 50-50 just on his will power alone.

Want to know why Cotchin was voted best captain in the game? Watch his game again tonight. If there is a loose ball to be won, he doesn’t tap at it, or reach for it, meekly. He throws himself at it. He is the best pressure player in the game in my opinion, bar none.

I’m no spring chicken. I’ve been around and seen a lot. I wouldn’t follow many people into battle, but with Cotchin, I’d be tempted. He is a leader in every sense, and a captain that Tiger fans should be proud of.

Rioli haunts Hawthorn

Oh man… we called this in our preview – it was almost bound to happen.

After so many years of a Rioli terrorising opponents FOR Hawthorn, it was about time they got a bit of their own medicine. Tell me… how classy was his dribbling snap goal in the second quarter? How bloody good!

Mind you, had Hawthorn had the wherewithal to play someone in a goal keeper role (something Richmond do brilliantly), he would’ve cut off the dribbling goal, but as it stands, Rioli assessed the situation better than everyone else and slotted a ripping goal.

I want to take a minute to look at the poor Hawthorn defence at this point, however. They seemed content to bobble the ball around without anyone taking real responsibility for it. James Worpel hacked a little soccer kick that ricocheted out of the pack, and that’s where Rioli was lurking. Not good enough.

Now, back to Rioli. His ability to bob up and be in the right place at the right time. Even when he wasn’t kicking the goals himself, his ability to impact a contest was great. It was him flying for the mark and forcing the Hawthorn defenders to commit in the air that led to Kamdyn McIntosh’s goal in the second quarter, and he was the one who panicked James Sicily into an ill-advised kick early in the third quarter which led directly to a turnover.

Rioli seems to have that rare quality of being able to lift when September rolls around. Norm Smith medals to Maurice and Cyril may not be the only individual awards bestowed upon the Rioli family come three weeks’ time.

Dylan… you son of a bitch!

That's my Predator reference for the day. I like that movie.

It’s hard to slot a defender into the votes at times, but I would’ve thrown Grimes in there tonight. He was supreme across Half Back, repelling attack after attack. He may have had just 12 touches for the game, but nine of them were contested, and as he got on top of his opponent, be it Puopolo, Breust or Gunston at stages, the Tigers assumed control.

The more I watch Grimes, the more I am starting to lean towards him being the best defender in the league. I had him in my version of the All-Australian team, and when he didn’t make it into the actual team, he was first picked in defence for the Mongrel’s All-Australian B-Team.

He covers the ground so well for a bloke his size and can play big or small. It doesn’t matter what mismatch you attempt to manufacture – he is good enough to beat anyone.

Rance had the big job on Roughead tonight, but for mine, it was Dylan Grimes who made the big plays in defence at the big times.

Snags

There were a few players out there competing in their first final tonight, but only one looked like he revelled in it. That player was Jack Higgins.

He was the pick of the bunch of the kids, notching 20 touches, two direct goal assists, 10 contested possessions and six deliveries inside 50. But for me it was more about his footy smarts. His little things that made a difference as the game wore on, such as his theft of the Harry Morrison handball in the last quarter and the subsequent feed to Caddy.

There are times when you hear “experts” talk about a player where they say he “sees the game in slow motion”. I hear it in basketball a lot, but that’s what Higgins did tonight. He saw the options available to Morrison, and anticipated his next move. When Morrison made the move, he pounced and a goal was the result.

Liam Shiels, despite the goals against him

I’m resisting the urge to throw Tom Mitchell in here just because he’s Tom Mitchell, and always tries his backside off (38 touches, 23 contested possessions and 11 clearances – all game-highs for those playing along at home) and instead wanted to highlight Liam Shiels.

This bloke goes unnoticed way too often for my liking, and you never get anything other than a good, honest day at the office from him, win, lose or draw.

He had 26 touches and a game-high 11 tackles tonight, and was one of Hawthorn’s best when the heat was on early. He has been a real workhorse for Hawthorn in a period where others will be remembered more fondly. He was there when Mitchell, Hodge and Lewis were the big names in the midfield, and he’s there now as Mitchell and O’Meara take that mantle, but he is just as important as ever, and will need to be good again if the hawks are to overcome the winner of the Cats v Demons.

Still, it’s a real pity his opponent, Kamdyn McIntosh was able to sneak away from him and slot three… count ‘em, THREE goals. Shiels is usually a much more reliable and accountable defensive player than this. Actually, let’s take him out and make this about Tom Mitchell instead. The bloke is a star.

 

THE BAD

Luke Breust

All-Australian forward pocket, huh?

I’ve been singing Luke Breust’s praises all year long. He was the tackling, pressuring forward who could take a mark and make something out of nothing. Tonight, he reversed the trend. He took a stellar season and made nothing out of that.

He had 11 touches and three marks, and disappointingly, only three tackles. He kicked his one goal, but his miss from 25 out right in front early in the game was the sort of miss that just deflates an entire team. It reminded me of a goal he missed against the Bulldogs in 2016. The Hawks were up in that game and Breust had the opportunity to kick them away. He missed that from 25 metres out, the Bulldogs took the ball the length of the ground, and what could’ve been a five goal lead was cut to three.

On the big stage, Luke Breust shrunk again tonight. It’s as though he’s forgotten how to tackle, and his chasing has completely fallen away over the last 6-7 weeks. Between him and Jack Gunston, the Hawks got bugger all tonight. You’re not always going to get silver service, Luke. You’ve got to work for your goals, too. You have one chance to redeem yourself.

James Sicily

He had 21 touches and took five marks in adverse conditions. Not a bad night, right?

Think again. I thought he stunk tonight!

His kicks out of defensive 50 were panicky and rushed. His contests in the air were lacking the regular sort of impact, and he took zero contested marks for the night. I think the story of his night was best summed up early in the last, when on a transfer of play from a James Frawley kick (after the standard James Frawley fumble), Sicily repeated the dose and invited the Tiger pressure to close in on him. He turned it over, but luckily the Tigers didn’t make the Hawks pay.

Sicily’s return to the team was the kind of news that Hawthorn fans hung some hopes on. Those hopes were dashed with the way he played. There were instances where he guarded space, more corralling than committing to a contest (take a look at the action just before Martin kicked that amazing goal from the boundary for an example), and had a couple of clear defeats in one-on-one duels.

He will be better for the run. If John Lennon were here, he’d chime in with “he can’t get much worse.”

At the end of the night, he’ll have good numbers, I’m sure. But in terms of impact, he had none.

 

THE UGLY

Two Ruckmen

This was called a mile out. Lo and behold, it came to fruition.

Tell me this – with a forecast of rain and possible storms, why did the Hawks play two ruckmen? Were they going to work over Toby Nankervis? Was that the plan?

Well, Nankervis had 27 hit outs to the combined efforts of McEvoy and Ceglar, which totalled 55, but when will people learn? Nankervis just works and works and works, and when they throw Grigg into the ruck, or even Daniel Rioli, the Richmond mids just tighten up on their direct opponents at stoppages.

Seriously, I would tear my hair out if hadn’t given myself the trusty old number two a few weeks back –it’s really hard to grip. Check some of the footage of Ceglar on the far wing. The Hawks were desperate to get the ball to someone in order to clear the defensive zone. Richmond would simply sag off Ceglar, knowing that if the ball wasn’t delivered perfectly , he’d be screwed.

And due to the pressure on the kicks coming out of defence, Ceglar WAS screwed!

McEvoy and Ceglar combined for 14 touches and two marks. Nankervis had 14 touches and three marks by himself. On a wet night in Melbourne, playing two rucks was a boneheaded move, and it’s not often that Alastair Clarkson looks like a bonehead.

 

OTHER BITS

OK, the nitty gritty.

Those two misses from 20 metres out from Luke Breust and Shaun Burgoyne were both unforgiveable. Under 14s would kick them. When you look at the scoring shots – 30 to 19, it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, but momentum is a funny thing, and misses like those don’t just hurt on the scoreboard, they hurt psychologically as well.

Shaun Grigg. Makeshift ruckman and ripe to be exploited due to his lack of size. That’d be a shallow person’s assessment of Grigg, but what he did tonight was take that weakness and make it a strength. There is simply no way either of McEvoy or Ceglar could go with him around the ground, so he did what a smart player would do – he got on his bike and worked to make position. The result? 25 touches, six marks and a game-high nine disposals inside 50. Two ruckmen, my ass!

I wonder what odds you could’ve got on McIntosh slotting three goals tonight? He only had 12 touches for the contest, but when three of them are goals, you don’t call him on lack of output. He hurt Liam Shiels going the other way; something that rarely happens.

I’m not really sure how I feel about Alex Rance hanging back and allowing Puopolo to pick the ball up in the first quarter so he could tackle him. On one hand, I think it was incredibly smart play, but on the other hand, I feel as though it’s not really in the spirit of the game. I don’t want to see a game where players don’t want to fight for possession.

And while we’re at it – the apparent eye gouge from Rance on Puopolo? Play on! Nothing in it.

He may have been held goalless (as much due to poor kicking as great defence) but I loved Riewoldt’s attack on the footy in the first quarter. A high ball could’ve been anyone’s, but the only bloke who really, truly wanted it was Riewoldt, and he made it his.

Another high quality outing from Nick Vlastuin tonight. His mark at full stretch in the first quarter saved a sure scoring chance. It makes me feel unsettled that he looks so much like my next door neighbour Greg, who is pretty shit at all sports.

Loved the tackling pressure in the first quarter, but find that when you have a game with that kind of defensive effort, and combine it with the elements, you can sometimes get a game that is great pressure-wise, but not so great spectacle-wise.

Ceglar and McEvoy combined for one possession in the first quarter. Two rucks…ugh!

Jack Higgins in a nutshell? His smother on Blake Hardwick to open the second quarter was desperation at its best. Plenty of players would’ve given up on that kick, but Higgins threw himself at the boot of Hardwick with a reckless abandon. Maybe he is learning about desperation from Cotchin? Either that or he’s learning about it from my mate Joe Ganino… I’ve never met a more desperate fella in my whole life. He’ll take anything!

Was I seeing things, or did Jaeger O’Meara use the fend off on Dusty at one point? That’s like The Rock using the Stone Cold Stunner on Steve Austin! He best be careful or Dusty will open a can of whoop-ass…

Quite a few dropped uncontested marks for the Hawks tonight. Impey, Puopolo both offenders.

Garry Lyon is looking more and more like he should start living under a bridge and accosting travellers for money when they try to cross it.

Josh Caddy looked like he had plenty to say as the night wore on. If someone tells you these isn’t much feeling in footy, take a look at Caddy. He gives a damn about each and every contest, and when he sees something he likes, he isn’t backwards in letting his opponent know all about it.

So, we’re all in agreement that the Daniel Howe ‘tag’ on Dusty Martin was a complete and utter failure, right? It was painfully apparent that Martin had the foot off the gas in the last quarter, but his 25 touches to three quarter time would be good enough to have him ranked as the best on ground.

Of the players back into the sides tonight, it’s fitting that Kane lambert was the standout. The hawks brought back Sicily, Ceglar and Howe, but Lambert was better than all three. Many Tiger fans were adamant he should’ve made the AA side. Personally, I don’t think he’s anywhere near it as a fourth midfielder, but he was excellent tonight.

In our preview, I kind of flagged Dion Prestia as a potential thorn in Hawthorn’s side. His 26 touches and seven kicks inside 50 kind of make me feel content that I got something right. You allow him free reign at your own peril.

Righto, there was a little sequence from Alex Rance at the beginning of the third quarter where he somehow just managed to continually keep the ball in his vicinity without falling on it or taking possession. He just… stayed involved, but I get the feeling that of the 15 players around the ball, he was in control of the situation. Maybe that’s because he was? With him hovering over and around the ball, the Tigers moved it from 10 metres out to 35 metres out without actually taking possession. It was quite amazing, and quite an amazing 15-20 seconds of pressure football.

I love NBA star Kevin Durant’s line of “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Why do I bring it up? Well, there was a moment in the third quarter where Luke Breust had a ground ball to win against Toby Nankervis. Instead of putting his head down and grabbing the ball with two hands, Breust tried to be cute, and he was beaten for the ball by Nank. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

So I’ve harped on about two ruckmen and so on, but for crying out loud, when a huge ruckman like McEvoy is matched up on a kid like Rioli, you want to see one of two things happen. Either a) McEvoy taps it straight to his teammate and they get a clearance, or b) McEvoy takes a few steps back, gets a run at it and puts a knee right into the inexperienced young player’s chest, ribs or back. McEvoy opted for option c, which was not part of the original equation. He tapped it straight to two Richmond players and had it not been for the quick thinking Tom Mitchell to run in and disrupt things, we may have seen a Tiger goal result from that stoppage.

Terrible first half from Jarman Impey. The Hawks got no run and carry from half back from him at all. He was slightly better in the second half, but delivered nowhere near what was promised.

Bit of a quieter game was Shane Edwards tonight. Still managed a goal assist, however. If there ever comes a day where I peruse the stats and he doesn’t have one, I will be very alarmed indeed.

What a great pick up Ricky Henderson has been for Hawthorn. 29 touches as a valuable link man tonight.

If there were ever and advertisement for having clean hands, watching Trent Cotchin close in on Harry Morrison after he double grabbed in the Hawks’ attacking 50 would be it. All it took was a small fumble from Morrison, and Cotchin was there in a heartbeat. He threw his body into Morrison and the ball jarred free. The Tigers rebounded and turned it into a scoring chance of their own. If Morrison takes the ball cleanly, the Hawks shoot for goal. Instead, Trent Cotchin sees a door open, walks right on through it, and his team is away. Clean hands are important, just like after you go to the toilet… unless you’re home alone.

Second lesson of the day – going down the guts from the kick in cannot be telegraphed. Another James Sicily defensive 50 exit came straight back after his kick in was spoiled by Vlastuin (huge spoil, actually) and ended up with Dion Prestia at 50 who goaled.

Guys, I hated how many incorrect disposals were allowed in tackles tonight. There were just some clear dropping the ball decisions allowed to occur without penalty. I know the AFL wants the game to flow, but when you try to handball, miss the ball and the ball falls out and onto the ground, that’s holding the damn ball!

If you’re playing against Hawthorn, I reckon you love seeing the ball in James Frawley’s hands inside defensive 50. He just doesn’t make good decisions with the ball. Was pretty good defensively tonight, but with ball in hand, he’s horrible.

For mine, you could tell the game was completely gone in the third quarter when Tom Mitchell grabbed the ball inside defensive 50 and looked up and saw… no one. He just drew a complete blank and ended up handballing ten metres away to no one, only to see Prestia grab the ball and snap a behind. This told me that the Hawks had stopped running to position, and in effect, had given up then and there. The Tigers sensed it too, I’d wager.

The Hawks were just hemmed into their defensive half for so long in the third quarter. It was almost a carbon copy of the third quarter the last time these two sides played. Once they did finally get it past the centre, old mate Dylan Grimes was there to rain on their parade, assuming they felt like having a parade for finally getting the ball into their attacking half.

The last quarter was glorified junk time. Caddy got a couple to his name, Breust, Smith and Roughead added one each and Jack Graham hit the scoreboard as well, but both sides went into preservation mode halfway through the quarter. Rance looked a little sore, as did Riewoldt. Losing either of those blokes would be trouble for the Tigers, but they trotted back out after being assessed to finish the game.

Not so good was Ben Stratton who has arguably been the Hawks’ best defender this year. Ice on a hamstring means time out of the game. I doubt we’ll see him again, and part of that may or may not be because the phrase “straight sets” will now start to be applied to the Hawks over the next week or so.

And no sooking, Richmond fans – you won the free kick count this week, 20-19, even with a late flurry of frees in the last quarter to the Hawks.

And to finish off, I’m going to do something a little different. The five best, and five worst players on the ground from what I saw tonight. This is also based on what they are capable of as much as what they delivered tonight.

Best

Martin. A killer when it counted

Prestia – Got under the radar again, and makes teams pay when this happens.

Grimes – One of my favourite defenders in the game. An unsung hero

Mitchell – The guy is a machine.

Cotchin – Played a Captain’s knock against a quality opponent.

 

And the worst

Breust – Played a soft game of footy.

Sicily – Good stats. No impact.

Puopolo – Butterfingers.

Castagna – Stopped playing after quarter time

Ceglar – Too immobile.

And there we go. Hopefully not too harsh on the Hawks, though i reckon they deserve it. The Tigers march on and are now a game away from a Grand Final berth. These here are crazy times indeed.

 

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