Former Eagle Ben Cousins grabbed the headlines – not all for the right reasons – on Saturday night as Richmond added some joy to their miserable AFL season with an amazing three-point victory over Fremantle at Subiaco Oval on Saturday night.
Cousins, returning to his former hunting ground for the first time since being dumped by West Coast at the end of 2007, was caught flipping the bird to a TV camera in the changerooms before the match.
In one of the most entertaining matches of the season, Tigers forward Mitch Morton went from villain to hero, kicking the winning goal in the 17.13 (115) to 17.10 (112) win.
Morton was given an absolute blasting by coach Terry Wallace two weeks ago when his turnover in the dying minutes against Port Adelaide — after playing on — allowed the Power to steal the win.
But the former Eagle made amends in grand style, snapping truly at the 29-minute mark of the final quarter against the Dockers to get the Tigers over the line in front of 35,391 fans.
Morton took a mark close to the boundary line and, like two weeks earlier, played on.
But this time the risk paid dividends as his right-foot snap sailed through the goals.
However, it shouldn’t have come down to that, with the Tigers seeming to be in cruise control after an eight-goal burst saw them leap out to a 33-point lead late in the third quarter.
Cousins endured an eventful night, gathering 25 possessions to go with his goal but also being involved in a number of wrestles as Fremantle attempted to ruffle his feathers.
The Tigers trailed by 14 points at half-time but turned the match on its head with eight straight goals to start the third quarter, sparked in part by Cousins’ 10 touches for the term.
That 19-minute burst gave the Tigers a 33-point lead but the Dockers hit back, booting six of the next seven goals to close to within a straight kick early in the final quarter.
Michael Johnson’s goal while lying on his back in the goalsquare put Fremantle ahead at the 23-minute mark of the final term but Morton’s heroics at the death ensured Wallace celebrated his 500-game milestone in fine style.
Richmond’s second win of the season is sure to ease some pressure on Wallace, although it remains just a matter of time before the 50-year-old is shown the door.
The game was a war of attrition in the first half, with the Fremantle pair Des Headland (hamstring) and Stephen Hill (corked thigh) suffering game-ending injuries, along with Richmond speedster Matt White (hamstring).
Dean Polo copped a nasty knock to his head by Hill but recovered after a brief stint on the bench, while Fremantle teammates Luke McPharlin and Andrew Foster were also feeling the worse for wear after colliding heavily in a marking contest.
The final term was a nail-biter with neither side able to land a killer blow.
Byron Schammer, Dean Solomon, Matthew Pavlich and Matt de Boer all missed gettable shots when the game was at its hottest, while Tigers forward Nathan Brown also sprayed what he would normally kick.
While Wallace wasn’t sure if he would still be at the helm for next week’s clash with the Bulldogs, he said he was keen to continue in the role.
“I’m hoping to be there next week,” Wallace said.
“I will do what the Richmond footy club need me to do.
“We talk on a regular basis.”
Cousins could face a fine over his one-fingered salute but Wallace claimed he did not see the incident.
“To be honest I don’t know anything,” he said.
“Obviously there was word in the rooms but until you have a look at something, I’m talking out of school if I’m talking on something I haven’t viewed.
“I think it’s up to the adjudicators to deal with whatever they need to deal with, that’s not my judgment call.
“We’ll speak internally about how we handle things once I’ve had a look.
“But there’s people in place who handle those sort of things.”
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey said his team was hindered by injuries to Headland, Hill, Michael Johnson and Luke McPharlin.
“Obviously it has an enormous impact, particularly if you get the injuries early,” Harvey said.
“Once again there’s evidence of losing players early and whether we actually have a look at the interchange (and whether we introduce a super-sub format).”