Geelong and Richmond: Contenders or pretenders?

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    After five rounds, Geelong and Richmond were unbeaten and sitting pretty in second and third on the ladder respectively.

    The Cats had just beaten St Kilda in arguably their best performance of the season against good opposition, while the Tigers had staged a remarkable comeback that had left their supporters euphoric about the possibilities that lay ahead.

    Fast-forward to three weeks later, a trio of losses for each, and the wheels have fallen off.

    Richmond has won only one quarter in each of their last four matches. They got off to strong starts against Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs but were then outplayed for the last three quarters. Against Melbourne and Fremantle, they had no answers in general play for three terms, before coming home hard at the end.

    That’s four quarters won of their last 16. And while there was one win in there, and two losses by less than a goal where they could falsely consider themselves unlucky, the competition is clearly too even to get away with such uneven performances.

    And don’t let anyone tell you that luck had anything to do with Richmond’s loss to Fremantle on Sunday. As Ryan broke down for us yesterday, the Tigers did everything wrong. It was gross incompetence to not be able to defend a lead from a centre bounce with 20-odd seconds to go.

    Geelong are going through a similar form trough, having only won one quarter in each of their three losses too.

    Richmond have at least lost to top-of-the-table Adelaide, reigning premiers Western Bulldogs, and a Fremantle sitting in ninth having won five of their last six matches. It’s a respectable grouping to lose to.

    The Cats, however, have gone down to Collingwood (currently sitting 17th), Gold Coast (12th) and Essendon (11th). None of that trio are expected to figure in September, and frankly, it would be a surprise if any did.

    Joel Selwood Geelong Cats AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    The 22 that ran out for Geelong on Saturday night contained half a team of players that could charitably be described as jobbers, regardless of how many or how few games they’ve played – Andrew Mackie, Tom Lonergan, Mark Blicavs, Zac Smith, Rhys Stanley, James Parsons, Jake Kolodjashnij, Nakia Cockatoo, Jed Bews, Tom Stewart, and Mark O’Connor.

    It’s a long tail when read out loud.

    A number of the names listed above are from the Cats’ back six, and Geelong just can’t stop teams from scoring against them. Last year, they were clearly the second-best defensive team in the competition, conceding a miserly 70.6 points per game.

    This year, despite their 5-0 start, they are ranked 13th for points against, currently tracking at 95 points per game. Perhaps moving Harry Taylor forward after the loss of Corey Enright wasn’t such a good idea, hey Chris Scott?

    The worst part about this stat for Geelong? They’ve only played one side that is currently sitting in the eight, which is St Kilda. The average ladder position of the Cats’ opponents so far this season is 12th, as the ladder stands after eight rounds.

    The next month is when Geelong’s draw truly stiffens up. It starts with the Western Bulldogs this week and is followed by Port, Adelaide and West Coast. The comfort for Cats fans is the first three of these are at their home base of Simonds Stadium. The Eagles game is in Perth.

    If the Cats aren’t capable of playing their best football more often against this batch of teams, it won’t matter where the games are played.

    There’s some soul-searching to be done, both at Punt Road and Kardinia Park. Both Geelong and Richmond showed what they were capable of in the first five rounds, but have since been found out.

    With sides like Melbourne and St Kilda hungry and on the rise, plus Sydney and Hawthorn gathering some form, their positions in the eight will be under threat before too long. In fact, if results fall the right away, both the Tigers and Cats could be outside the eight after this week.

    The mighty have fallen. The only questions now are if they can bounce back, and how quickly they can do so.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    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 there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (43)

    • May 16th 2017 @ 9:35am
      Bill said | May 16th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      Richmond are pretenders. But of course you knew that all along Cam.

      • Columnist

        May 16th 2017 @ 10:16am
        Cameron Rose said | May 16th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        It all depends on what the realistic aim is, I guess Bill.

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2017 @ 9:40am
      Paul D said | May 16th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Richmond are terrible at pace setting when running in a pack. They’re not used to being at the front & don’t have any idea of what sort of intensity or speed they need to run at. They’ll start doing well again once they drop back to mid-table and are back in the familiar position of looking up at those in front of them they’ll do better

      Geelong – who knows. I think it has to be the coach. He’s let Blicavs drown out there without a role for two months, persists in playing Taylor without a role and can’t seem to settle on team selection & dynamics. You’d think the side would be getting hungry though – 2011 was a long time ago now

      • Columnist

        May 16th 2017 @ 10:17am
        Cameron Rose said | May 16th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        The weight of expectation can be a terrible thing for some clubs. Richmond is one that hasn’t been able to handle it. Melbourne is in the same boat – can’t beat Fremantle or Hawthorn as warm favourites, but then give Adelaide a hiding over there as heavy underdogs.

      • May 16th 2017 @ 11:06am
        Tom M said | May 16th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        Cats as you say Cam have too many players that have too little a impact. Guthrie and Duncan are 2 that geelong fans love to point out as stars but in reality when Danger and Selwood are down these 2 don’t step up.

        • Columnist

          May 16th 2017 @ 1:19pm
          Cameron Rose said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

          I’m a fan of Duncan, and I think he’s having his best season so far. Would be in the running for the Cats B&F at this stage. I think Guthrie has been a victim of his own versatility over the years – he gets asked to play a lot of different roles, and generally does them all well, but has never been able to settle.

          • Roar Guru

            May 17th 2017 @ 12:53pm
            JamesH said | May 17th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

            I agree, but I think it’s harsh calling Blicavs and Cockatoo ‘jobbers’. Blicavs is a B&F winner and Cockatoo is basically their only young player who looks like he has the potential to become elite. I’m not a Cats fan but I rate him highly.

    • May 16th 2017 @ 11:14am
      Tanami Mehmet said | May 16th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

      In the past I would take these two teams and simply judge them against the sides who are still at the top of the table and think the Cats and Tigers are making up numbers. This year I look at the sides above them and ask myself who of them has really proved themselves above and beyond them teams below. In my opinion none have. The Crows, Giants and Eagles have all played some good footy but are all still looking vulnerable. Lets see how the next eight of weeks play out but if it’s anything like the last eight round the finals will be wide open. Even the Cats and Tigers will only need to make the eight and then string a few weeks of good footy together to get into the grand final.

      • Columnist

        May 16th 2017 @ 1:19pm
        Cameron Rose said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

        The year does appear to be shaping similar to last season, when peaking in September will be the key.

    • May 16th 2017 @ 11:36am
      Swannies said | May 16th 2017 @ 11:36am | ! Report

      Richmond are a contender and will finish top 4. We should give some credit to Hardwick here…looks like he can coach after all. Not sure about Geelong though…could struggle to finish higher than 6.

      • Columnist

        May 16th 2017 @ 1:20pm
        Cameron Rose said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

        Is the last 20 seconds against Fremantle a failure of coach or on-field leadership? It is absolutely 100% both. That was a 200% failure.

        • May 16th 2017 @ 1:42pm
          Maths said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

          200% failure? That’s not how math works.

          • May 18th 2017 @ 3:26pm
            Mark said | May 18th 2017 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

            This is Richmond we’re talking about. The rules of the universe must be suspended to even begin to describe how bad they are.

    • May 16th 2017 @ 12:14pm
      Slane said | May 16th 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

      I mentioned in a post last week that I think Geelong and Richmond both have the same problem this season. Their gameplan requires them both to push up the ground and lock the ball in their forward half. This strategy leaves them both particularly vulnerable in the counter-attack. Time and time again we see one turnover by Geelong or Richmond(or one moment of brilliance by their opposition) lead to an uncontested chain of possessions resulting in an easy mark/goal by their opposition.

      Either their players aren’t working hard enough to get back or their zonal defense needs to be restructured to cut off any easy possessions out the back.

      • May 16th 2017 @ 1:20pm
        Gecko said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

        But Slane Richmond have looked a better team after adopting that tactic. Their forward half pressure is much improved in 2017 (partly because they no longer have Vickery). Perhaps it’s just a matter of tweaking the new approach a little.

        I rate Richmond a much better team in 2017 than Geelong. Far, far too many passengers at Geelong. If Dangerfield or Selwood get injured, they’re still a chance for bottom 6.

        • Columnist

          May 16th 2017 @ 1:29pm
          Cameron Rose said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

          The Cats have lucked into a great draw, playing three of the best sides, two of them interstate teams, at home over the next few weeks. If they can find their form again, it can work in their favour.

          Geelong are just so slow though. I guess the dimensions home ground help a bit in that regard.

          As for the Tigers, they’re letting the opposition control the ball. They’ve lost the uncontested possession counts by 73, 110, 74, 49 in the last four weeks. Yes, they’re playing a more direct style, and then trying to lock it in, but it’s not working against the better sides, who are then cutting them up on the rebound.

          • May 16th 2017 @ 5:17pm
            Gecko said | May 16th 2017 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

            But ‘their form’ earlier this year was really just the form of Selwood and Dangerfield. Even if those two did find their form, the Cats remain extremely brittle.

            Re the Tigers, perhaps the tweak that’s required is to better defend the centre square against fast breaks. If the Tigers can’t get numbers back quickly enough to defend rebounding along the wings, that’s actually far less of a problem.

        • May 16th 2017 @ 5:36pm
          Slane said | May 16th 2017 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

          Richmond have done the forward press for years. The difference is that now we transition out of defense with speed and get an inside 50 before the opposition can set up. We used to do the exact same thing but with slow, precise kicking. We are still getting beaten soundly on the rebound. Rance and Astbury are reaĺly doing a great job stopping any contested marks but opposition are taking uncontested marks all the time. The number 1 way to score in the AFL in 2017 is from a turnover and counter attack.

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2017 @ 12:45pm
      Rick Disnick said | May 16th 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

      They struggled last year against mid ranked teams. No different this year.

      Unless a team is infantry better than the rest of the competition, they’ll have their ups and downs. You just can’t ask teams to play finals football every week, nor have a coach not willing to tinker with their squad.

      Scott, in my opinion, is doing just that, playing around with combinations to find his best back 6; whilst finding that extra man up forward — who they desperately needed last year — with some extra mobility i.e Harry Taylor. Is it working? Clearly not, but I’d rather he be experimenting at 5-0 than 3-2.

      The Cats (like may teams around them) do not have the talent of a GWS. They need to find a structure which gives them two-way attacking football. I thought the balance was quite good following the first 5 rounds, but their defensive zone off their half forward line has broken down severely over the past 3 weeks. It could be 1 or 2 players not holding correct lines, player speed or both; consequently leading to an inability to block the centre corridor and wings when teams are counterattacking.

      Scott (I believe) needs to address his offensive press, possibly dropping it back to a more balanced midfield press and use the wings more effectively. It’s hard for the Cats to find this balance since Kardinia Park is so gaunt and lanky. Run-and-gun through the centre corridor won’t work either since they don’t have a solid back 6 who are capable of one-on-one contests, unlike the Bulldogs for example. If they implement this method of attack and fail, the ball can’t be countered on the turnover, which is precisely why Scott won’t play this style of football consistently.

      Offensively, I’d like to see him use the diagonals better. Rather than kicking backwards, he needs more options forward at 30-45 degree angles. This will allow him to play tiki-taka football (which I know he loves) with quicker transitional ball movement, whilst mitigating damage on the turnover.

      My boys always find a way though.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2017 @ 1:18pm
        Rick Disnick said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

        Damn auto spell checker and editor…useless!

        • Columnist

          May 16th 2017 @ 1:33pm
          Cameron Rose said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

          I’m not sure about this experimenting at 5-0 thing. I just think the Cats were flattered by their opening five weeks – getting Fremantle and Hawthorn at their lowest, only in front for two minutes against North, got a bit lucky against a wasteful Melbourne. Let’s see how they go over the next four weeks to determine exactly where they sit and what they’re capable of.

          • Columnist

            May 16th 2017 @ 1:33pm
            Cameron Rose said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

            Also, I agree, the 45 degree kick in-board is the best kick in football. From anywhere on the ground, it creates play.

          • Roar Guru

            May 16th 2017 @ 2:50pm
            Rick Disnick said | May 16th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

            …and that’s exactly why you experiment at 5-0, Cam. I don’t think anyone would have said they were cruising at this point, least of all me. I felt they had good balance in their gameplay — the only reason why they probably stayed in all those matches.

            What Scott needs to do is find his best combinations along with some versatility. Whatever he’s done in the past 3 weeks has probably upset this balance, but it’s needed precisely because I don’t think their first 5 weeks of football is good enough to win in September.

            Despite this, I could make an argument for any team in the 8 being pretenders. Too much flipping on this site for my liking.

            Adelaide — destroyed 2 weeks straight now but they same two teams Geelong beat. Doesn’t matter ‘if’ they were lucky, they did something Adelaide couldn’t…win!

            GWS — just got over the line at home against a team who beat Geelong on their home deck. This team isn’t exactly flying either, despite their abundance of talent.

            WCE — this is the team everyone was bagging out 2 weeks ago as useless…couldn’t possibly win in September.

            Port Adelaide — flavour of the month now, but pretenders after losing to teams above them.

            St Kilda — Geelong comfortably ran over the top of them, but the Saints are now somehow awesome.

            Richmond — wheels fallen off over the past 3 weeks, now completely useless also.

            Western Bulldogs — hardly been convincing as the reigning premiers. Their percentage says it all.

            This constitutes the top 8.

            Your article holds zero weight when you look at the bigger picture.

            Sorry.

            • Columnist

              May 16th 2017 @ 3:17pm
              Cameron Rose said | May 16th 2017 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

              Apology accepted. Thank-you Rick.

              • Roar Guru

                May 16th 2017 @ 3:39pm
                Rick Disnick said | May 16th 2017 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

                That would have made far more sense Cam had the other top 8 teams been in your title & discussion. 🙂

            • May 16th 2017 @ 7:20pm
              Pelican said | May 16th 2017 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

              The article holds weight because the other six sides haven’t just lost three games in a row.

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