Here come the Tigers, hear them Roar
Jack Riewoldt celebrates another goal - are the Tigers a real chance or is this another false dawn for supporters? (Slattery Images)
Round 9, 2012. Richmond v Hawthorn. MCG. Third Quarter. 50,000 in the stands. Tigers up. Hawks coming, rising up.
Trent Cotchin attacks a loose ball in defensive fifty, and chips it to Dustin Martin. He handballs back to Cotchin. Back to Martin, who finds Brett Deledio. Cotchin continues to run hard for yet another handball receive, and kicks beautifully into his forward line.
A goal results. Tigers by 23. Uprising quelled.
This sparked seven goals in a row for Richmond, who went on to win the game by 62 points, brutally attacking the premiership favourites from the outset, dominating possession, clearances, inside fifty’s, and most importantly, the scoreboard.
But the aforementioned chain of play brought as big a smile to Tiger fans as the result itself. This was not just the present. This was the future, and a bright one at that.
A future of silky run and carry through the middle. A future of an unstoppable midfield trio who combine for grunt, power and class. A future that could finally, finally, finally deliver a premi…No, let’s not go there. Not yet.
Richmond beat up Hawthorn using the blueprint that Essendon and St Kilda had against Carlton. Be harder in close than the opposition, tackle with ferocity to close down time and space, and gut-run on the spread when in control.
As pointed out to me on Twitter, that blueprint will actually work against any opposition, anytime, anywhere. After all, it is what finals and premiership success is fundamentally built on.
Damian Hardwick knows this. And so do his players.
Competitive losses to Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong, West Coast and Essendon suggested that this Tiger outfit was a very good football side, just lacking in experience and belief.
Wins over Melbourne, Port, and especially Sydney were comprehensive, more so in general play than the final scoreboard, but a genuine big scalp was missing. This has now been emphatically claimed.
As we know, it all starts in the middle, and every good side, which is what the Tigers are on track to become, contains no-frills players that are integral to success.
While plenty has been made of Ivan Maric’s mullet and the fact that he was recruited to provide competitiveness in the ruck, if he isn’t the leading contender for the All-Australian position after nine rounds, then the selectors are showing bias against no-name players and so-bad-its-cool hair.
Maric has been a leading force in hit outs to advantage and throwing his weight around when the ball hits the deck.
Strong marking deep in defence and on the wings has been a highlight, and he can also sneak down for an important goal, either from a set shot, or even around the body.
Opposition players should also take note that he is a very controlled short kick of the ball. They see the big man with the wild hair take a mark and immediately think the only thing he can do is drive it long, so they suck back fifty metres. He then uses his wits to pinpoint an effective pass to an open lead-up target.
Shane Tuck has long been a master stoppage player, and fans and football-watchers were often bewildered when he couldn’t get a match for periods of time. The knock was always on his kicking and defensive pressure, but the game becoming so congested around the footy has helped, and few can find the needle in the haystack as effectively as him.
It is important now just to get the ball moving forward through any means so teammates can press up and apply pressure in the forward half of the ground. Averaging over six tackles a game confirms how hard he works in tight.
With Maric and Tuck thriving on the dirty work, Deledio and Cotchin have been vying for the honour of most damaging on-baller at the Tiges this season. Both have been providing grunt and class in equal measure. This is a duo on the rise, quickly moving to elite status and will soon be looking to challenge the Pendlebury/Swan, Judd/Murphy, Selwood/Bartel and Watson/Stanton combinations as the best in the business.
Cotchin, in particular, has future Brownlow medalist written all over him. His will to compete and refusal to be beaten is an inspiration to watch. And anyone who thinks Deledio doesn’t have a hard edge to his game simply hasn’t been watching.
Dustin Martin is a handy third banana, and brings brute strength, long kicking, and a killer ‘don’t argue’ to the table. In only his third season, there is little doubt that he will be causing headaches for opposition coaches for many years to come.
All three are now resting at full-forward after they run through the middle and have kicked 28.23 between them in 2012. The sub rule has been embraced at Tigerland, and turned into a strength that few other clubs possess.
On the next tier of mids reside Nathan Foley and Shaun Grigg, both in career best form, the former doing his best work on the inside and exploding into space, the latter getting loose on the outside more than any player in the AFL. Daniel Jackson is tasked with the run-with role, and while his kicking can disappoint, he’s a master at ‘accidentally’ punching, kneeing and landing awkwardly on opponents.
Chris Newman leads from the back with a lethal left boot, marshalling his troops with the knowledge acquired over 201 courageous games, and his coolness under pressure is beginning to spread to an inexperienced backline.
Reece Conca continues to improve in his second year, and Steven Morris and Brandon Ellis haven’t missed a game yet in their first. Alex Rance is making his critics (of which I was one) rapidly eat their words as his composure develops, while Matt Dea could be the most courageous of the lot, and a neat left-foot user. Bachar Houli provides unstinting run from the back half through the middle.
Dylan Grimes was missing on Saturday, and after only 16 career games is already in the five most important players at the club. You’ll be seeing him take on and beat the best key forwards in the competition for years to come.
Up forward, Robin Nahas, Jake King and Shane Edwards are snapping at the heels of any opposition defender that dares try to run the ball out, and kicking goals when they get their chance. Tyrone Vickery is struggling for impact, but 36 goals in 2011 displayed his undoubted talent, and five tackles against the Hawks shows that he is working hard to regain his form.
Jack Riewoldt has had a quiet start to the year, lacking in confidence despite a few bags of four, not running at the ball-carrier as often as he should be. But six goals on the weekend saw him back to his irrepressible best, and it’s not a bad effort to be one behind in the Coleman medal race when struggling for touch.
The Richmond Football Club is building toward something special, and the famous black and yellow army is just waiting to be unleashed after thirty years of torment. When the Tigers get on a roll, they will be annoyingly vocal, they will be ear-splittingly loud, and they will become insufferable.
And yes, I am one of them.
Round 9, 2012. Richmond v Hawthorn. MCG. Remember it.
This was the day when hope became belief for Richmond, and the roar of the Tiger reverberated throughout the league. It will continue to do so for years to come.
Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for in his mind there is nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.
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