Richmond AFL linchpin Brett Deledio has heard the criticism: he’s soft, can’t cope with heavy tags, isn’t a leader.
And after producing a stunner to help the Tigers sink Port Adelaide by 41 points on Saturday, Deledio isn’t thanking his many critics for the extra motivation.
“You definitely hear it – there’s no doubt about that,” Deledio said after Richmond snapped a three-game losing streak with an 18.6 (114) to 10.13 (73) thumping of Port.
“It’s hard. I suppose you just develop a thick skin. But you have got to be careful not to bite back because that is what they’re looking for.”
Coach Damien Hardwick and Deledio, who has endured a fortnight of harsh criticism, reckon the only way to respond is on the field.
And Deledio’s response on away turf at AAMI Stadium against Port couldn’t have been more emphatic.
Deledio, as acting captain in Trent Cotchin’s absence, provided stellar leadership. And he blitzed Port’s master tagger Kane Cornes, who was shifted from the key Tiger.
Deledio gathered 32 disposals, including 13 contested. He also took 10 marks, laid four tackles and put his side inside their attacking 50 metre arc six times.
And he orchestrated Richmond’s first-quarter blitz of eight goals to two which killed the game as a contest – the Tigers were never threatened thereafter, with Port unable to get within five goals.
“His first game as captain, he led from the front,” coach Hardwick said of Deledio.
“He sets himself an incredibly high standard and he normally delivers. It’s the calibre of the bloke.”
Deledio shaded midfield colleague Dustin Martin (33 possessions) for best-afield honours, while their attacking focal point Jack Riewoldt booted five goals.
A swag of Tigers – Bachar Houli, Brandon Ellis, Nick Vlastuin, Alex Rance, Shane Edwards and Chris Newman – all collected 20 or more disposals.
They helped overcome the bizarre loss of Chris Knights, suspected to have snapped the patella tendon in his right leg while kicking a goal with his left.
Knights’ knee simply gave way with no contact, possibly ending his season.
Richmond also lost Shane Tuck to a shoulder injury in the third term, though Hardwick hopes the gritty midfielder will play against Melbourne next week.
Port, after five wins to start the season, have dropped consecutive games.
“It was a poor performance … certainly our most disappointing result,” said Power coach Ken Hinkley, who added his players panicked under pressure.