2017 AFL preview series: Richmond Tigers – 10th

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Richmond supporters crave success like children crave junk food. Once they’ve had a taste, the more you feed them, the more they want it.

    But try and deny them altogether, particularly when you’ve modified behaviour so they think it’s coming, and you get wild-eyed, ravenous hysteria.

    If finals, and the journey to them, in 2013, ’14 and ’15 were like illicit drugs to the Tiger army, then 2016 was the horrible comedown. Damien Hardwick and a new look coaching staff under him are tasked with giving the fervent supporter base their next hit.

    A bright and energetic gameplan has been promised, and the early signs are okay. Fingers screeching down a blackboard were preferable to watching Richmond play last year. There was board upheaval, malaise among the membership, and irrelevance was fast approaching.

    Damien Hardwick has committed to letting his team play with more freedom this season, in a tacit admission that he was responsible for over-coaching and paralysis-by-analysis previously. It is clear that content from The Roar played a part in the post-season review.

    The off-season delivered an active trade period, and a restructuring of the off-field hierarchy at Richmond. There is a glint of optimism in Tiger eyes once more. Suckers.

    Richmond Tigers’ best 22

    B Dylan Grimes David Astbury Oleg Markov
    HB Bachar Houli Alex Rance Kamdyn McIntosh
    C Corey Ellis Dustin Martin Dion Prestia
    HF Shaun Grigg Jack Riewoldt Shane Edwards
    F Sam Lloyd Ben Griffiths Daniel Rioli
    Foll Toby Nankervis Josh Caddy Trent Cotchin
    Int Nick Vlastuin Reece Conca Anthony Miles Brandon Ellis

    Emergencies: Shaun Hampson, Jayden Short, Ben Lennon

    Richmond have lost Brett Deledio and Tyrone Vickery, but brought in Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy and Toby Nankervis. The end result is a net gain, in the short, medium and long terms.

    Let’s start with the skipper.

    Richmond Tigers Trent Cotchin

    It’s rare for a player to reach the heights Trent Cotchin did in 2012 as a 22-year-old, and then to stagnate or go backwards through what should be the prime years to follow. He had strong foot soldiers Shane Tuck and Daniel Jackson for company in his Brownlow year, and the addition of Prestia and Caddy could well elevate Cotchin’s game once more, and Richmond’s with it.

    Prestia is a natural ball magnet, as at home on the inside as he is the outside. He just wins the footy, and uses it well enough.

    Caddy was top three for clearances, tackles and contested possessions at Geelong in 2015, and also kicked more goals than any other midfielder. Obviously a certain P.Dangerfield changed the dynamic at the Cats last season, and Caddy will be a better player at Richmond than he was at Geelong.

    Dustin Martin is one of the nuclear weapons in the AFL, who should be primed for his best season. What he gained in disposals last year, he lost in goals, and a more friendly game plan should see his impact levels reach a career high.

    Nick Vlastuin is the other member of a four-man quartet that will be required to balance inside and outside play with resting forward and impacting the scoreboard.

    Like Cotchin, Martin and Caddy, Vlastuin is a good isolated one-on-one player, particularly in the air, and with Richmond lacking some obvious support options for Jack Riewoldt, these four will be required to deliver five to six goals a game between them. Expect to see one of them deep inside 50 at all times.

    Corey Ellis will be expected to stamp himself in a playmaking role, while Shaun Grigg continues to be an important linking member of the midfield. Anthony Miles may see himself squeezed out of the line-up with the new contested ball additions, and runners like Connor Menadue and Nathan Drummond will be hoping to claim a spot.

    Brandon Ellis is at the crossroads as a conservative ball-carrier, and if he continues down that path should be facing VFL time regardless of how many touches he accumulates. Reece Conca is another whose judgement day is fast approaching. In some eyes, it has been and gone.

    Nankervis has designs on the number one ruck spot, which was Shaun Hampson’s last year. The ex-Swan has made a big impression over summer, with his appetite for the contest at ground level, sure hands and neat left foot. Already, he is a more rounded player than Hampson ever will be.

    The Tigers are lacking in tall forward support for Jack Riewoldt, who we know sets a high standard both inside forward 50 or pushing further up the ground. He needs to be averaging three goals and a goal assist per game, and should be splitting his time 70/30 deep versus up-field.

    Richmond Tigers player Jack Riewoldt

    Richmond’s biggest problem this year is going to be relying on Ben Griffiths in a key forward post. Tiger fans have seen glimpses of game-breaking talent across his seven years in the AFL, but they have also seen many games of no impact, and a lack of physical presence that is disconcerting from a man of his imposing dimensions (200cm, 101kgs).

    Ben Lennon has been a disappointment, but is the type of player his team needs as that lead-up linkman between the arcs. If he can’t deliver, and most signs suggest he can’t, then Riewoldt will be required to push up, taking him away from where he can hurt opposition sides the most.

    The Griffiths-Lennon dynamic, and their lack of reliability, could cripple any hope the Tigers have of finals football. Riewoldt will have to deal with double and triple teaming. It may force Nankervis to play as a forward with Hampson moving into the ruck, which is plan B, and creates its own imbalance.

    Sam Lloyd may be able to take some of the lead-up responsibility, and the rotating midfielders mentioned earlier are also key. Many hands are going to need to make light work.

    The Richmond smaller fleet may rise from nowhere to cause problems for the opposition this year. Daniel Rioli has bulked up and looks sharp; Shane Edwards, who is critical to Tiger success when right, might be ready to recapture his best form; and the speedy Dan Butler and Jason Castagna are putting pressure on from underneath.

    Alex Rance will lead the defence. Rarely has someone been as comfortable in their own skin off the field, and rarer still has a key defender delivered so reliably on it. He has the most complete all-round game of any key defender this century, with Matthew Scarlett his only equal.

    The rest of the Tiger backline looks thin.

    David Astbury and Dylan Grimes are both members of Honest Battler’s Anonymous. Oleg Markov was a bright light in a dim second half of 2017. Kamdyn McIntosh will likely find a home as a rangy running type with third defensive tall capabilities.

    Bachar Houli, like Grigg, often has a target on his back among Richmond supporters, theory being that he is a turnover merchant under any hint of pressure. The flipside to that coin is that he is a positive playmaker, and his skillset is suited to a more attacking gameplan.

    Richmond won eight games last season, and finished 13th on the ladder. They should be measurably better based on new players, new coaches, new thinking, and were coming off finals campaigns in the three years prior.

    As for a lot of teams in the lower-mid bracket, the Tigers are capable of surprising and should be in the conversation for finals. If they’re not, Damien Hardwick will likely be executed – metaphorically speaking, of course.

    Then again, they are a passionate, unstable and unwieldy bunch at Tigerland…

    Predicted ladder spread: seventh-12th

    Predicted finish: 10th

    Best and fairest: Alex Rance

    Leading goalkicker: Jack Riewoldt

    All-Australian potential: Dustin Martin, Alex Rance, Jack Riewoldt

    Rising Star candidates: Jason Castagna, Jack Graham, Oleg Markov

    Cam Rose’s AFL preview series ladder

    10th – Richmond
    11th – Collingwood
    12th – Gold Coast
    13th – Port Adelaide
    14th – Fremantle
    15th – Essendon
    16th – North Melbourne
    17th – Carlton
    18th – Brisbane

    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 (33)

    • March 9th 2017 @ 3:23am
      Bill said | March 9th 2017 @ 3:23am | ! Report


      No Cameron. Your boys are coming ninth once again.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 7:41am
        Neil from Warrandyte said | March 9th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

        Haha, one of the modern myths of the AFL. I wonder how many could name the last year Richmond finished ninth without googling it.

      • Columnist

        March 9th 2017 @ 7:47am
        Geoff Parkes said | March 9th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

        Again? Like they last did in 2008 Bill?

        Thanks Cam. That interchange including Conca, Miles and Ellis isn’t exactly going to be keeping other coaches awake at night is it?

        I think the biggest fear for Tigers fans this year is Vickery having a good season at Hawthorn.

        Looking forward to dealing with Carlton and feeling like a contender for a few days.

        • Columnist

          March 9th 2017 @ 7:59am
          Cameron Rose said | March 9th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

          I like Vickery, so I hope he does well at the Hawks, but you’re right Geoff, he was actually a critical part of the Tiges set up.

          Richmond has yet to play well in that Round 1 game against Carlton. Even the wins they have had have been poor.

      • March 9th 2017 @ 9:27am
        David said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Take a look at history, mate, North Melbourne have that position all to themselves.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 11:49am
          Slane said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:49am | ! Report

          This is one that always makes me laugh. I’ve even seen ‘Ninthmond’ written like that’s supposed to be a funny little pun. Meanwhile North Melbourne has finished 9th a whole bunch and North and Ninth are far more similar than Rich and Ninth!

      • March 9th 2017 @ 9:48pm
        J.T. Delacroix said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:48pm | ! Report

        Thanks Bill. Some brilliant original humour there. You’re a real wit. Of sorts.

    • March 9th 2017 @ 7:51am
      Neil from Warrandyte said | March 9th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      The emergence of Nankervis (and improved grunt in the midfield) will be key to any rise up the ladder. Was no coincidence that the Tigers made the eight when Maric was at his best.
      Increased speed across the ground from the likes of Castagna, Butler and Rioli have tiger fans licking their lips.
      I think for the first time in a long time, the recruiting department is beginning to get it right.

      • Columnist

        March 9th 2017 @ 8:00am
        Cameron Rose said | March 9th 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        Nankervis looks a great get so far. Hopefully he can stand up to the rigours of a full season.

        Rioli is a certainty, and it will be interesting to see if Butler or Castagna play as well. Richmond has always lacked speed and pressure in the forward line.

    • March 9th 2017 @ 8:25am
      Pumping Dougie said | March 9th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      I think Richmond’s trade period was excellent. I wouldn’t be concerned about losing Deledio, because his body was becoming increasingly unreliable. And I wouldn’t be concerned about losing Vickery, because it might actually help elevate Griffith’s game. In any case, you should never play those two players in the same forward line.

      Prestia and Caddy are great ins and Nankervis might be okay. They all fill a glaring need.

      Rance is great, but as good as Scarlett? I think it’s too early to make that call. He needs to play well in finals (which I don’t think he has yet, but I could be wrong) and he needs to be more damaging offensively. Both great players, but shaded by Lake for mine.

      Good luck Tiger fans!

      • Columnist

        March 9th 2017 @ 9:26am
        Cameron Rose said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        Yeah, the Tiges did well out of trade period.

        It’s unlikely that Griffiths will step up. Unfortunately, he’s a dumb footballer with no intensity.

        I loved Lake, he is certainly in the conversation. Rance is important offensively.

        • March 9th 2017 @ 11:51am
          Slane said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

          Unfortintely, dumb footballer with no intensity is exactly how I woud described Vickery also.

          • March 9th 2017 @ 1:52pm
            Pumping Dougie said | March 9th 2017 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

            I was thinking the same thing Slane. And Vickery was originally a top 10 pick (a waste).

            Your forward line should function better without both of them there. It wouldn’t surprise me if they both had better seasons.

    • March 9th 2017 @ 9:21am
      Franky said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      So finishing 10th would see Hardwick fired?

      • Columnist

        March 9th 2017 @ 9:24am
        Cameron Rose said | March 9th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        I think he’s contracted for next year Franky, so possibly not.

    • Roar Guru

      March 9th 2017 @ 11:18am
      Paul D said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

      As usual Richmond could do better than their list suggests but won’t, because their coach has all the tactical nous of a bean weevil. At least your defence will be a lot better now Leppa has returned to a level he’s comfortable coaching at.

      • October 1st 2017 @ 4:21pm
        clint said | October 1st 2017 @ 4:21pm | ! Report


    • March 9th 2017 @ 11:26am
      Joe B said | March 9th 2017 @ 11:26am | ! Report

      A rd1 loss to Carlton will see the knives out for Hardwick for the rest of the season. Who has it worse this season, Buckley or Hardwick?

      • March 9th 2017 @ 3:42pm
        tibor nagy (big four sticks) said | March 9th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

        But it is not going to happen JB. Big Jack will kick a bag and Dusty will carve them up.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 9:49am
        Milo said | March 15th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

        Go Blues. Get the pain over with early.

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