Richmond’s choking and Hardwick must accept the blame

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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93 Have your say

    Damien Hardwick just doesn’t get it.

    His team keeps losing the same way, and the rabid Richmond army is furious. They are ropable enough at the losses, most of which are following the similar pattern of giving up big leads before going down narrowly. But the public utterances from the coach are worse.

    After throwing away a six-goal lead against Sydney to go down by nine points, Hardwick explained it thus, “We’ll keep the games close…we’re not going to win games by ten goals…it’s always going to be an arm-wrestle.”

    Richmond supporters are entitled to ask “But…but…why?”

    Why would they not want to turn a 36-point lead into a ten-goal win?

    Why would they not want to beat a very weak and gettable GWS by ten goals after breaking them down twice, to lead by 31 points at quarter time, and then by 31 points again late in the third quarter?

    Why would a 32-point lead over a struggling Western Bulldogs turn into another single figure loss, instead of a big win?

    Respect has to be given to the opposition, yes, but a pattern has emerged. There has to be a mentality at play here, led from the top. It’s a mentality that is clearly seized upon by opposition teams who know they are never beaten against the Tigers.

    There has been another common theme to the three Richmond losses mentioned above. The leads have been developed through an opening term of blitzkrieg football of high intensity, high pressure, and capitalising on the scoreboard.

    Richmond coach Damien Hardwick

    (AAP / Julian Smith)

    The extinguishing of those leads has been on the back of being worn down over the next three quarters, with the Tigers failing to replicate the pressure and finishing from their opening stanza. This is usually coupled with more conservative ball movement, which allows opposition defences to clog up the forward-line, making it harder to generate quality scoring opportunities.

    Against the Bulldogs, Richmond kicked five goals to one to open the game, but kicked only six more for the game.

    Against GWS, it was six goals to one in the first quarter, but only four more goals after that.

    Against Sydney, it was five goals to none at quarter time, but they were only able to kick five more goals across the last three quarters.

    As well as the above, there has also been, and we have to call it for what it is, some good old-fashioned choking. Richmond is not a mentally strong football team. In fact, collectively, they are a mentally weak one.

    Simple set shots are missed when the pressure has been on, from Jack Riewoldt on down. Shanks that gift opposition goals at critical moments, from a variety of Tigers. And let’s not talk about the defensive structure abomination that was the last 20 seconds against Fremantle.

    Of course, these are not new problems at Richmond. These are not new problems under Damien Hardwick.

    Think back to the 2013 elimination final against Carlton. Leading by the best part of six goals, only to be overrun in the second half. Most don’t remember that it was actually the third time that year against the Blues that the Tigers surrendered a lead of five goals or more. History repeats, and repeats, and repeats.

    Think back to the 2015 elimination final against North Melbourne. A 21 point lead vaporised.

    These big stage losses haunt the club still. So much so that they are now seemingly embedded in the Richmond DNA. But they were not isolated incidents. The Tigers have turned many healthy leads into either narrow wins or crushing losses under Hardwick.

    The response from the coach to these performances is usually a variation on “we’ll learn from it and move on.” On Saturday, after the loss to Sydney, it was specifically “We’ll learn a bit out of it and we’ll go forward.”

    Move on, they might. Go forward, they do. Learn from it? Well, there’s no evidence of it so far.

    The best sides are lauded for their will to win, and can often come from seemingly impossible positions to get the job done. Think of Geelong against Hawthorn in all of those “Kennett’s Curse” matches. The Hawks in recent times are another that comes to mind.

    Richmond under Hardwick are the reverse of this. They are never home. They can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in any number of ways.

    Once the Tigers develop a lead, and the opposition kicks a couple of goals in a row, every player on the field and every person in the stands knows what is coming next. The mental weight is proving too much for the team to bear.

    In order for Hardwick to change behaviour, he has to first acknowledge it. It’s time for him to look in the mirror.

    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 (93)

    • June 20th 2017 @ 6:44am
      Darren said | June 20th 2017 @ 6:44am | ! Report

      Cam – some of us remember those 3 come from behind wins in 2013 very well. In fact this week it is at the forefront of our minds.
      My mate phoned me at half time last week from the `G. As fanatical a Tigers fan as you can imagine. I said things going well (4 goals up) – he says it is going to be a nail biter. I couldn’t believe it but it does reflect the psyche you have illustrated.

      • Columnist

        June 20th 2017 @ 1:09pm
        Cameron Rose said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        Every Richmond fan knows it. You have to think that makes its way to the players and coaches too.

    • Roar Guru

      June 20th 2017 @ 8:11am
      Cat said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      But Wayne Carey said Hardwick is the coach of the year …

      • June 20th 2017 @ 8:37am
        Milo said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        If ever there was a time when Sydney became unbackable and all betting agencies should’ve shut up shop on last week’s game its when Carey and Lloyd came out with the ridiculous coach of the year articles in the respective Melbourne dailys.

    • June 20th 2017 @ 8:31am
      Milo said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      So true Cam and have been saying the same all year. We start one way and then often play the more conservative chipping game hoping to save the game … then it becomes mental as well as purely physical. And either that’s bad coaching or bad discipline to the game plan. Either way, as you say the buck stops with Hardwick.

      Honestly don’t think the bloke is a good coach and have been saying this for some years. He’s got to a point that’s beyond him, a bit of Peter Principle if you like. Perhaps ultimately, he’s a really good assistant. This year I think they’ve done well to secure Caracella and Balmey especially and even Leppa must have learnt something out of three years in the hot seat. But if you’re relying on your assistants (as was ostensibly the case last year when they all got sacked and Hardwick remained), what actual value are you bringing?

      For mine the only reason could be is that most of the senior the players love him – he’s a nice bloke – and perhaps the administration is too worried about how to manage those seniors (eg Martin) if he were to go. Not sure if that’s the case, but can you honestly think of any other reason? Surely we’re over the time frame of ‘eating their own’ ? Surely it cant be because of his tactical nous, strategic acumen or man management (“Im not really a people person”)? Where’s the innovation when things go (or more to the point – start to go) bad? Plan B, C, D or E don’t seem to exist in Hardwick’s play book. How many times has say Rance started in the guts or Reiwoldt down back? Sure, changes may not always work but think we need a bit of dare to win which you don’t see him trying either.

      We may yet limp and stumble and somehow find our way into the finals – its that sort of season – but really do we see any real chance of challenging this year or next? Or even winning a final? Like a lot of tiger fans I speak with I’m still very skeptical that we’ve got the right bloke in charge.

      • Columnist

        June 20th 2017 @ 1:13pm
        Cameron Rose said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        It is a funny one. There has been some good and plenty of bad under Hardwick. We’re almost looking at another fifth placed finish, and another elimination final. At least Richmond has an identity again this year. Do I think Dimma is ultimately going to deliver a flag? No.

        • June 20th 2017 @ 3:44pm
          spruce moose said | June 20th 2017 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

          Spot on re: Dimma not getting a flag

          The guardian (i think) did a fantastic article on coaches in the NRL and AFL that basically suggested – with considerable evidence – that a coaches personal premiership window is more or less in the first 5-7 years of senior coaching. Otherwise the other teams and coaches will beat you more than you beat them.

          Of course the statistical outliers exists…mick malthouse, blight, but few others. Especially in the AFL era

          Looking at the past premiership coaches, they all won flags (or in Clarkson’s case, many flags) early. Beveridge, Clarkson, longmire, scott, malthouse (is a mild outlier) Thompson, worsfield, roos, williams…all got there in 7 (except Mick).

          Same in the NRL.

          Lyon, buckley, b scott, eade, dimma are 7+ year coaches. Do ANY of them look like they have a team in the window? Do any of them look like they will in 3 years?

          Get rid of them all and blood someone fresh. Fresh is more likely to succeed

          • June 21st 2017 @ 12:36am
            Don Freo said | June 21st 2017 @ 12:36am | ! Report

            Malthouse should have had 5 with those Eagles teams.

            • June 21st 2017 @ 7:46am
              spruce moose said | June 21st 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report


              That was an astounding list.

            • June 21st 2017 @ 10:19am
              Mattician6x6 said | June 21st 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

              Atleast 3 don ,96 was the big failure imho and 91 @ waverly was unfortunate.

          • June 21st 2017 @ 7:56am
            Milo said | June 21st 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

            Bomber was in his 8th season but its a reasonable point. Hardwick is in his 8th.

            • June 21st 2017 @ 2:16pm
              spruce moose said | June 21st 2017 @ 2:16pm | ! Report


              Dimma ain’t gonna win in his 8th year either….

        • June 21st 2017 @ 10:25am
          Peter Butterworth said | June 21st 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          You have to realise the poor recruiting that the Tigers are finally getting right, but they still need another forward that can kick goals. The backline has improved, as has the midfield! The style of game they are playing this year is much better than in previous years, when they play well they are a hard team to score against! Remember, the forward line atm has boys…not Men…trying to cope with the rigors of AFL football. At least Hardwick is giving them the opportunity…. next thing they need is to recruit a gun full forward and they will be a dominant force!

      • June 20th 2017 @ 1:48pm
        Powerboy said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

        Yeah! Sack Hardwick! I hear Brad Scott is up for grabs next year.

        • June 20th 2017 @ 4:18pm
          col in paradise said | June 20th 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

          maybe the clubs should swap coaches..Scott for Hardwick…both clubs probably have a short term bounce and challenge for the 8….couldn’t do worse than their current attempts. …..the more I think about it this would be a good deal for both clubs !!!…..

          • Roar Guru

            June 20th 2017 @ 4:23pm
            Paul D said | June 20th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

            Richmond needed to do what the Dees did 3 years ago and pinch our preferred candidate with more money. Chris F a g a n would have been a perfect fit to restore faith in a club that has taken a mental battering over the years.

            Glad they didn’t though!

        • June 21st 2017 @ 12:36am
          Don Freo said | June 21st 2017 @ 12:36am | ! Report

          Hinkley should be too.

    • June 20th 2017 @ 8:39am
      Birdman said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      I didnt really see Richmond as a top 8 team this year so I’m giving Hardwick a bit of credit for at least being in the frame but the requisite smarts and composure to ice tight games takes a while to develop – Hawthorn certainly did (see 2010, 2011).

      The next half of the season will be a better gauge of their real development – are they the real deal or the beneficiaries of an inconsistent season.

      BTW they are crying out for a second tall forward big time so cattle rather than coaching might be the issue!

      • Roar Guru

        June 20th 2017 @ 9:39am
        JamesH said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Birdman.

        I don’t think this is something you can coach. Hardwick can come up with all the theories and tactics he likes (and he should be doing so) but the players need to figure out for themselves how to cope with the pressure of a more experienced side coming hard at them late in games. The only way they can do that is through painful experience.

        Most good teams go through this sort of territory, even if it’s not necessarily to the same degree. Richmond had a bit of a false dawn a few years ago, which I think has clouded some people’s judgement because it probably feels like they’ve already been here before. The reality is that this current group has never been good enough for long enough to learn how to win in these kinds of situations.

        The good news for the Tigers is that there is still time for them to experience a couple of tight wins during the season and gain a bit of self belief, which is what they need if they are going to break their finals drought.

        For context, I’m a Bombers fan. I have no love for Richmond but I think they’re a couple of stirring wins away from being a very good side.

        • Columnist

          June 20th 2017 @ 1:15pm
          Cameron Rose said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

          Losing the same way for a long time under Hardwick suggests a mental block.

          The list management / development to have no reliable second tall forward by now is beyond poor.

          • Roar Guru

            June 20th 2017 @ 2:44pm
            JamesH said | June 20th 2017 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

            Whose mental block, Cam? Because I don’t buy that there’s much a coach can do about this particular problem. I’ve been critical of Hardwick but I think he’s taken Richmod further than people thought possible this year.

            If it’s the players’ block then they’re just going to have to learn to get around it the hard way. There’s no easy solution to fix a self-doubt issue.

            Also, nearly half the teams in the comp don’t have a reliable second tall forward – Richmond, Bulldogs (they probably don’t even have one), Geelong, Melbourne, Freo, Carlton, Collingwood, Sydney (Tippet is never on the park) and North (ditto for Waite). Some of them have made do with medium sized forwards like Stringer, Wood and Watts, or stop-gaps like Pederson and Taylor.

            It’s not as if Richmond haven’t invested time in the likes of Vickery, Griffiths and Lennon over the last 5 years trying to get the right combination.

            • June 20th 2017 @ 2:53pm
              Macca said | June 20th 2017 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

              JamesH – the Tigers got beaten by GWS because the Giants were able to score from a kick in after a score review – the coach had plenty of time to ensure a structure was put in place to prevent from happening.

              Against Freo the Tigers kicked a goal with seconds remaining but were scored from the centre bounce – again the coach had plenty of time to implement his preferred structure – yes the players are to blame but the coach was not powerless.

              You are right on the blues not having a second tall forward – but the blues have recruited Silvagni (more a third tall) Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay and Patrick Kerr in the last 2 years to address this who was the last tall forward that the Tigers recruited?

              • Roar Guru

                June 21st 2017 @ 12:30pm
                JamesH said | June 21st 2017 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

                I think you’re vastly overestimating the coach’s ability to put a structure in place on game day. Structures are rehearsed at training – whether or not they are executed in the heat of a game is primarily down to the senior players. They are the ones who should have been screaming at their teammates to get into position for a kick-in/centre bounce. Surely at this level a coach shouldn’t have to be running messages out to his players to get numbers behind the ball and plug the hole in the final 30 seconds?!?

                Across the 2011-2013 drafts the Tigers recruited Todd Elton, Liam McBean and Ben Lennon as key forwards. I don’t think it was unfair to believe that at least one of those three, or Griffiths or Vickery, could become a reliable foil for Riewoldt. In any event I’m not saying that their list management has been brilliant, it just hasn’t been ‘beyond poor’. Rioli and Bolton look likely types, while Prestia and Caddy were important pickups for their midfield.

              • June 21st 2017 @ 1:26pm
                Milo said | June 21st 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

                James H
                Lennon was never recruited as a key forward. He’s around 188cm and that’s not going to make anyone’s definition of key forward. He was recruited as a half forward / goal kicker who could possibly develop into an outside mid.

                For a first round draft pick, (pick 12) its been a disappointing story to date with a mixture of Hardwick refusing to play him as he believes he never works hard enough, and Lennon getting mixed messages from Hardwick (on the rare occasion he is actually spoken to by the head coach) as to what he needs to do to make the team.

                I think the boy has talent but its unlikely he’s going to make it now, as was evidenced when nobody showed any interest in recruiting him at end of last year. Id still like him to be given say four games in a row to see if he can make the grade Id have him in at the expense of Lloyd.

                He definitely played good solid footy after being given a chance towards the end of 2015 but then inexplicably Hardwick dropped him for the EF against North to bring in Conca who’d played only one or two games for the whole year. (Actually I shouldn’t say inexplicable – its Hardwick after all).

                For mine there’s been too many over Hardwick’s tenure that have gone by the wayside for want of a decent development plan. And while you can point at the development team, its ultimately Hardwick’s responsibility as head coach. He has to know where these kids are and assist in every way.

                Oh and no question McBean had the talent but not the desire – just lazy, while Elton just doesn’t have the talent or the footy smarts. The one they’d be more disappointed about was McKenzie (200cm) who chucked it in last year off the back of depression while canning everything about, and everyone at the club.

            • June 20th 2017 @ 5:38pm
              Mark said | June 20th 2017 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

              Sam Reid is Sydneys second tall forward.

              • Roar Guru

                June 21st 2017 @ 12:15pm
                JamesH said | June 21st 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

                True, Mark. I missed him (not sure how – I watched him play live on the weekend!).

          • June 20th 2017 @ 8:22pm
            Philby said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:22pm | ! Report


            List management is only poor if you could have anticipated lengthy injury spells for Maric, Hampson and Griffiths….

      • June 20th 2017 @ 1:44pm
        Gags said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

        As a Hawks supporter I’m happy to send Vickery back to you!!!

      • Roar Guru

        June 20th 2017 @ 3:36pm
        Kaks said | June 20th 2017 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

        I feel you. Seems like Richmond has been over inflated by a combination of their fans and the media, when in reality they really aren’t that good.

        Rance, Dusty and maybe Riewoldt aside, they lack genuine quality across the park and it seem’s like they rely heavily on the three mentioned to win the game for them.

    • June 20th 2017 @ 8:56am
      Milo said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      “…the requisite smarts and composure to ice tight games takes a while to develop – Hawthorn certainly did (see 2010, 2011).” You’re right Birdman and its only taken since 2010 for Hardwick to get to this point. Karmichael Hunt circa 2012 anyone?

      Im not certain the absence of a second tall forward has hurt us so much, at least to date. If anything its allowed us via the smaller fleet to apply real forward pressure and force turnovers in the F50 that we otherwise may not have had. We’d have to be in top echelon this year for F50 turnovers created surely.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 9:06am
        Birdman said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        I agree the smalls have added another dimension this year, Milo but when they drift out of the game Jack gets blanketed too often to be effective- another tall would provide another option that is presently missing.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 9:09am
        Darren said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        Milo you only need to look to one of your greats Jack Dyer for inspiration ‘fast players might get slower but big men don’t get any smaller’ (or something like that). I still think this is relevant. It’s hard to sustain fast break footy and at the end of tight games the tall targets become even more important.

        • June 20th 2017 @ 9:41am
          Milo said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

          I think you’re both right, but my point is that Im not sure there’s been any significant damage to date and had we had a Griffiths there we may not have won the games we did. Ultimately we don’t appear to have the right player to fill the second tall position on the list today.

          • June 20th 2017 @ 11:40am
            Birdman said | June 20th 2017 @ 11:40am | ! Report

            fair enough but with the right second tall (a Gunston/Darling type) Richmond may be able to hold on to leads more effectively.

            I agree you probably don’t have the right player on the list ATM but I won’t insult Richmond fans by suggesting Sam Reid as a solution….

          • June 20th 2017 @ 12:04pm
            Darren said | June 20th 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

            Fair call – it’s not Griffith. You still need the right 2nd tall not just anyone.
            Bulldogs are suffering from the same problem at the moment. You need an out at times and also to give players the confidence to go forward rather than sideways or backwards when things get tight.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 2:14pm
        Gecko said | June 20th 2017 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

        I’d offer 3 weaknesses:

        1. Richmond leaders need to be better at setting up around ball-ups in the final quarter. Currently Martin is good individually but doesn’t organise others. In pressure moments, Cotchin is shaky in his own game and becomes more introverted. Contrast that with the Hawks in their heyday.

        2. I agree with Milo re the absence of a 2nd tall forward actually being a blessing in disguise, especially in the first 3 quarters when their energy – and therefore their forward pressure – is up. A similar absence allowed the Bulldogs to increase their forward pressure and took them to a premiership in 2016.

        But when you’ve got a short forward line, any long kicks in should be towards the boundary line so you can lock the ball in and use the advantage at ground level. When Richmond’s run slows, they need to go wider and scrappier.

        3. Richmond don’t so much need a 2nd tall in their forward line as a Stringer type who is tall enough to bring the ball to ground but agile enough to follow up at ground level. Griffith certainly isn’t this. Their recruiters should be looking at this gap.

        Hardwick, with the right assistant coaches around him, could be a premiership coach. When you’re only a couple of narrow losses off a top 4 berth, it’s time for tweaking not bleating.

        • June 20th 2017 @ 2:19pm
          Macca said | June 20th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

          Gecko – I heard a stat on Sunday that the Tigers are the longest kicking team this year, this would suit the blues as they like teams kicking long into their backline stacked with marking players.

          However when we played you first time around it was the small forwards who really hurt us.

          Any thoughts on how you see this playing out?

          • June 20th 2017 @ 3:25pm
            Slane said | June 20th 2017 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

            Richmond are the shortest team in the comp and also the longest kicking team in the comp. If that doesn’t highlight the disfunctional coaching down at Tigerland I don’t know what will.

          • June 20th 2017 @ 4:50pm
            Andrew said | June 20th 2017 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

            Macca, one player specifically tore us apart in rnd 1 and his name is Dusty. Dusty had one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play and if the blues are any chance, they need to nullify him.

            • June 20th 2017 @ 5:07pm
              Macca said | June 20th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

              Andrew – you are right he did tear us apart but he is very hard to nullify, if it was me I would send the tag to Cotchin because he can be taken right out of the game much easier and go head to head against Dusty with Cripps and Gibbs.

              On the small forwards Castagna, Butler & Rioli all kicked 2 goals and Richmond’s best looked like this according to the AFL match centre; Richmond: Martin, Prestia, Cotchin, Castagna, Butler, Conca

              • June 20th 2017 @ 5:15pm
                Andrew said | June 20th 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

                Could Ed Curnow keep with dusty? 30 possessions and 5 goals is what the damage was round one I’d hate that to be repeated.

              • June 20th 2017 @ 5:21pm
                Macca said | June 20th 2017 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

                Ed was a little under done from memory last time but as I said Cotchin would be the one I would send him to.

                As for Dusty he was devastating last time but I don’t think anyone could have stopped him that night.

                Our side is massively different from round 1 (although I heard a rumour Williamson might be out) and we are playing better football so hopefully we keep it close at least.

          • June 20th 2017 @ 9:05pm
            Gecko said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:05pm | ! Report

            Macca first of all, I’m not a Richmond supporter – I prefer to feel sorry for them.

            I think neither team kicks many goals from contested marking (even when Casboult is pulling them in, he’s not a reliable kick), so they both rely on smalls for their goals.

            It may come down to whether Carlton’s defence can intercept enough of those long kicks into the Richmond forward line and quickly rebound, or whether Richmond can get the ball to ground enough times when it’s bombed in, in which case they’ve got the personnel to lock it in (at least for the first 3 quarters) and play much of the game in their forward half. One more agile medium tall in the Richmond forward line would really help in this regard but I can’t see them filling that gap this year.

            Did you identify other big factors that might decide the game?

    • June 20th 2017 @ 9:08am
      Roger of Sydney said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

      A few things to remember here at about last weeks game.

      The Swans were very bad in the first half so did Richmond blow it or did the Swans finally get their act together. Players like Kennedy etc were all lack lustre. From were I sit I don’t see Richmond did a lot wrong there are not a lot of teams that can hold the Swans when they get there on ballers going. I think Richmond are a far better team than last year, so credit where it is due, did not choke just not much they could do.

      • Columnist

        June 20th 2017 @ 1:17pm
        Cameron Rose said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

        Sydney played much better, but a team that wants to be good simply has to control games from a lead that big. And given the Tiges good recent record against the Swans, they know how to play and beat them.

    , ,