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How can the Richmond Tigers avoid the fate of the Western Bulldogs?

Ryan Buckland Columnist

By Ryan Buckland, Ryan Buckland is a Roar Expert

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    Fresh from a victory in the last game of the year, the Tiger Army is as rampant and rapturous as it has been in a generation. But will the bubble burst as fast as it was inflated?

    Richmond climbed into the top four for AFL club membership in 2012. It was the club’s 12th straight season in the finals abyss, a period which brought two wooden spoons and two finishes right on the precipice of September action.

    But under new coach Damien Hardwick, and with a generation of top draft picks beginning to show their stuff, Richmond finished on 10.5 wins for the year.

    The club embarked on three straight finals campaigns thereafter, their membership surging to 70,800 at the end of 2015 – more than doubling in five short years. Then, some things happened, Richmond crashed to 13th in 2016, and the world may as well have been about to end for Tigers supporters.

    The members held on to hope. That’s easy to do when you’ve got Dustin Martin, Alex Rance, Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt. Where other ‘Big Four’ clubs have seen their memberships trend together with their win totals, the Tiger faithful have been just that.

    From this already high base, Richmond’s membership has swelled following last year’s premiership victory. At last count, 74,976 people counted themselves as members of the Tiger Army, a fresh record still more than a month out from the season proper. The club is expecting a crowd of more than 90,000 on opening night as it unfurls its first premiership flag in almost 40 years.

    Richmond Tigers Grand Final AFL 2017

    AAP Image/Julian Smith

    It’s a similar situation the Western Bulldogs found themselves in at the start of last season, albeit without the gaud of a membership tally starting with a seven.

    The Dogs’ grew their membership from 31,500 to 47,600 between 2014 and 2017, with the tally steadily increasing each year. It’s a similar story no matter where you look in football – there’s no business like premiership business.

    ‘Premiership hangover’ is an overworked term in the league, to be sure. But that view wasn’t helped by the manner in which the Dogs went about their football in 2017 – the year after a drought-breaking premiership.

    Indeed, if one were interested in correlation over causation, you could argue making the grand final has been the ultimate poisoned chalice in this decade. Putting the immortal Sydney Swans to one side, each of Collingwood, St Kilda, Geelong, West Coast, Fremantle, Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs has or looks set to go through a lean patch in the years immediately after playing the last game of the year. It’s flat-out wrong to pin such a complex outcome on one teensy part of an ever-changing equation, but the temptation is clear.

    Still, Richmond has an opportunity to buck the trend. This is how they can, and will.

    The ultimate hangover
    The Western Bulldogs followed up their premiership win in 2016 by missing the finals series in 2017, becoming the first club to do so in nine seasons. Was it a premiership hangover?

    Hawthorn also missed the final eight in 2017, the first time the club hasn’t played in September since Australia was federated. Theirs was a hangover many years in the making; four premierships over an eight-season span, the last three coming in succession. Much of the core of the threepeat side was in place in 2008, albeit in a younger version. Without spoiling a future column, their jaunt outside the eight could be a short one.

    The Hawks might represent the origin story of the ‘premiership hangover’ meme that now forms part of the standard post-premiership conversation for teams. Hawthorn’s 2008 premiership was somewhat ahead of time and somewhat surprising (in the preseason at least). They missed the finals in 2009.

    Point is: we’ve been here once before. And only once. Two instances of a thing doesn’t make it a thing. There’s no such thing as a premiership hangover.

    Still, there is one key parallel to be found between Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs. The Dogs had the least amount of experience on their grand final day team sheet of any team since that 2008 Hawthorn team.

    Hodge-AFL-tall

    AAP Image/Julian Smith

    Young teams, in general, are partial to up-and-down performance; their September performance in 2016 is a testament to the up, and their middle part of 2017 testament to the down. Layer on to that a variety of off-field issues, which we do not need to retrace here, and the seeds of a year that turned out below expectations were planted early.

    On the field, the Dogs tried to change their system. Where amps of pressure at midfield contests, aggression at forward 50 stoppages, and a small forward line was the go during their premiership run, coach Luke Beveridge and his crew went for a more conventional set up in 2017.

    Gone was the fanatical attack on the ball in the centre of the ground, replaced by a zoning system apparently designed to give the Dogs’ options after winning the ball. The problem was there was less ball-winning being done: Footscray went from +11.7 on adjusted contested possession differential in 2016 (ranked second) to +2.8 in 2017 (ranked eighth). The simple ‘see ball, get ball’ mantra was replaced.

    Gone was the smaller forward line look. Instead, the Dogs tried to become more conventional, bringing in Travis Cloke and using two or three tall forwards for most of the year. The club took an extra mark inside 50 per game, and improved its scoring efficiency (scoring on 46.7 per cent of inside 50 trips, compared to 43.5 per cent in 2016). But the club’s scoring accuracy went backwards, hard, suggesting more difficult shots were taken than the front-and-centre forward 50 stoppage style of the year before.

    Personnel availability didn’t help either. The Dogs were hit in both forward and back halves, leading to some draftees and lesser lights getting a look before Beveridge would have liked. Just six players played the full 22 game season, albeit four of them were the team’s core midfield group (Marcus Bontempelli, Luke Dahlhaus, Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter). Opposition teams cottoned on to Jason Johannisen’s importance to the scheme, too, sitting a defensive forward on him from minute one and blunting his run and carry.

    A lot went right for the Dogs in the final month of 2016, and the football gods snapped that back faster than an open palm handball. Many of their on-field challenges can be remedied quickly. A little bit of injury luck here, some delistings and trades there, and usual programming could resume relatively soon.

    After all, the Western Bulldogs are still a relatively young and inexperienced team: 14th for games played, and with the equal third-most players in the sub-25-year-old demographic. The most important part of the ground is where the Dogs are most settled, and there are answers to lingering questions about the forward line group.

    Sunglasses and Advil
    Does the experience of the 2017 Western Bulldogs hold any lessons for the 2018 Richmond Tigers? Most certainly.

    A steady hand at the wheel is most important. Richmond built its 2017 success on the back of system football sprinkled with some individual brilliance. There is no reason for the club to reinvent itself to stay relevant.

    For starters, unlike the Dogs, the Tigers were a much more typical premiership side in terms of age and experience. The club’s grand final line up was almost a year older and had 22 per cent more experience on average than the flag-winning unit a year prior. In the aggregate, Richmond is just the 11th oldest list in the competition coming into 2018, but they have five players over 29 years of age, and three who will qualify for that status before the start of the next football year.

    The Tigers’ most important players are also its oldest. Shaun Grigg, Bachar Houli, Shane Edwards, Jack Riewoldt, Alex Rance and Trent Cotchin all fit into that bracket referenced above. That’s not a slight; that’s how this caper is supposed to work. So, the club doesn’t have the same curse of time that the Dogs possessed after the club won its long-time-coming premiership flag.

    There is less of a need to plan for the future as there was at Footscray following its premiership win. The seat is hot. Football mortality alone should be a solid motivation for this group.

    The Tigers don’t need to change a great deal, either. Their system held up over the course of the year, and arguably performed better once Richmond reached September. The club won nine of 12 quarters played in the finals series, and didn’t lose a quarter in the second half of its three games.

    Their method was clear: a stingy defence, a focus on forcing turnovers, and a nimble forward half to finish off the work. Richmond has the added advantage of a line up stacked with two of the top five players in the game (Martin and Rance), and two others who we at The Roar thought worthy of a spot inside the top 30 (Cotchin and Riewoldt). The club has had these players at their disposal for the entirety of this decade, but something about last year’s system meant each could work to their respective strengths.

    Martin going full atomic superman helped, too.

    Dustin Martin Richmond Tigers AFL Grand Final 2017 tall

    AAP Image/Julian Smith

    Ball movement statistics, collected and held behind lock and key by Champion Data, show the Tigers’ pace of play was driven by their decision making when winning the ball. There was little to no sideways or backwards movement, short kicking or ticky-tack handballs weaving through traffic. Everything was geared towards moving from congested areas to more open areas of the ground.

    They could resist repeat inside 50 entries by their opponents, waiting for the perfect moment to counterpunch. In wins, Richmond averaged 376 disposals to their opponents’ 368. The average side had 398 disposals in a victory, and a differential of +31.1. Similarly, their disposals per minute of possession was 6.7 in wins, compared to 7.4 for the competition at large, and a positively cumbersome 8.9 by the slowpoke Gold Coast Suns. In losses, that blew out to 8.9, a +2.0 differential that was second in the league (behind the Adelaide Crows – a team we will get to no doubt).

    That hints at their key weakness. Teams that could cut off the Tigers’ swift transition tendencies were winning half the battle. But that’s where the defensive prowess comes in – Richmond won a league-high six games (from 13 attempts) scoring less than 90 points. Geelong was the only other team that could win at a decent clip without putting up a big score, winning five from ten.

    It’s eminently replicable. Yes, it requires a commitment from the playing group, but perhaps not in the same way the Bulldogs needed to be committed to win every single ground-ball get.

    Richmond probably won’t tinker too much with their set up anywhere on the ground, and they will run back a scheme which bought them the ultimate success. With that, they will avoid one of the biggest causal factors of the Dogs’ decline in 2017.

    Breaking right
    Where we can give some pause for thought is the potential the injury luck fairy to call in its loan to the Tigers. Richmond’s playing stocks were in pristine condition for almost the entirety of last year, and even when they were not it turned out to be for the better (consider they led the league in marks inside 50, despite playing Riewoldt as a lone tall forward for most of the year).

    Daniel Rioli, an important player given his role and Richmond’s scheme, will begin the year much later than his teammates. My subjective view is missing a preseason in the first few years of a career can have a big impact on a youngster’s output in a given season. A number of players had some minor off-season surgery. Otherwise, it appears as though they have a short injury list once more.

    They are exposed in some areas of the ground. For instance, if Jack Riewoldt was to go down for a reasonable length of time, the club would be forced to turn to a series of untried youngsters to fill the tall forward spot. Any team would struggle with the loss of a star player like Martin, Rance or Cotchin, but Richmond would be more worried than anyone if that came to pass.

    The club has also been given the usual premiership fixture handicap. As we discussed a month or so ago, the Tigers have gone from what was clearly the least difficult fixture in the competition to the second hardest (based on last year’s Pythagorean win percentage).

    Richmond won’t fear it. As the club’s membership campaign intimates, the hunt is on. That’s as much a recognition of the Tigers’ new-found status as reigning premier – a title it has not worn since 1981 – as an attitude built over 12 months of feasting. Hunt they will.

    Ryan Buckland
    Ryan Buckland

    As an economist, Ryan seeks to fix the world's economic troubles one graph at a time. As a sports fan, he's always looking one or two layers beneath the surface to search for meaning, on and off the field. You can follow Ryan here.

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    The Crowd Says (106)

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 8:19am
      Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      All boils down to one thing … err … person … Dusty has to have another career year. Without it Tigers will struggle to stay in the 8.

      I remain completely unconvinced regarding the ‘small ball revolution’. Even Hardwick himself has indicated he’d like to inject more height into the side if the players are fit and in form.

      If you look back at recent premiership winners who largely counted on team defensive pressure they could not maintain it for successive seasons. Its wearing and grueling and requires an absolute 100% buy in 100% of the time. As soon as even one player lets down their pressure the whole thing crumbles like a house of cards.

      I still don’t think the Tigers list is anything special, outside of a few special players (Dusty, Rance, Cotchin and it took all 3 having career/near career years). Much like the Dogs list of 2016, I think all the cards just came together at the right time for them. Good on them for capitalising on their chance.

      • Roar Guru

        February 21st 2018 @ 8:28am
        AdelaideDocker said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:28am | ! Report

        On your last paragraph – I’m inclined to think similarly. The Hawthorn wins in the years before the Dogs weren’t cards coming together, they were systematic, calculated seasons (for lack of a better word). The Bulldogs premiership strikes me as a fluke – a well deserved and memorable fluke – , and Richmond’s win almost has me thinking that way as well.

        I’m not trying to take anything away from the two teams though – they comprehensively deserved their wins – but it’s almost like they won against the grain of every ounce of conventional logic. Looking at it optimistically, that makes their wins even more special.

        • February 21st 2018 @ 9:23am
          mattyb said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

          AD,as a doggies fan I’m not going to run away from your ‘fluke’ claim as it does have some merit.
          It’s also worth considering though our depth that season. In the lead up to the 2016 season I expressed that the depth of our list needed to be considered,and with the extraordinary amount of injuries we had that year this proved very important.

          The VFL/AFL season is a marathon more than a sprint,list depth or going through a season with limited injuries both play a significant part in reaching the ultimate glory.

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 9:50am
          Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:50am | ! Report

          Gotta strike when the iron is hot … good on both teams for doing so but that doesn’t mean they’ll have sustained success.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 11:05am
            I ate pies said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            I think the Hawthorn experience has skewed peoples thinking in regards to winning multiple premierships. It doesn’t actually happen that often, and the norm is actually that teams won’t win multiple premierships.

            • Roar Guru

              February 21st 2018 @ 11:52am
              Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:52am | ! Report

              Sure but some teams remain within the hunt (Geelong, Sydney) and others have fallen away (Port Adelaide, Western) after winning a flag. Teams like St Kilda and Fremantle came close but in a very narrow window and then fell away badly.
              Looking at just flag or not is too narrow a focus.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 9:17am
        truetigerfan said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        Your ‘one man team’ theory is at odds with your ‘absolute 100% buy in 100% of the time’ claim. Maybe Martin won’t reproduce the best individual season ever! Duh. But he’ll still be bloody good. Prestia will be better too. The improvement from Lambert was outstanding and may just continue. In fact there is ‘upsides’ all over the ground. Struggle to stay in the 8? Your flimsy thinking hasn’t convinced me, Cat.

        As for our list not being anything special, need I remind you . . . Adam Treloar. Look a little closer.

        • February 21st 2018 @ 1:34pm
          BigAl said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

          Martin truly had a gifted year in’17 – he received heaps of ’em !

          None bigger than the Norm Smith medal, which if you were really a true tiger, you would acknowledge that it should have gone to Houli ! – then daylight, then possibly Martin…

          • February 21st 2018 @ 5:27pm
            Wobbly said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

            Well Houli, then Rance, then Lambert, then Graham, then Martin in a field of partially influential players.

            Great season and deserving of all the other awards and accolades, just not the Norm Smith.

            • February 21st 2018 @ 6:53pm
              Slane said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

              I disagree. I’ve watched the replay about 10 times now. Watching the first time I thought Houli was fthe best on ground. Every subsequent viewing reinforces Dusty’s dominance. Dusty had an insane game. Every time he touched the ball we had an opportunity to score.

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 1:48pm
          Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

          Not at odds at all. The 100% buy in was during finals. That’s when the Tigers stepped it up. Again good on them. During the H&A season Richmond was nothing special. Largely relying on Martin and Cotchin to win them games. If Dusty falls back to anything resembling 2016 or earlier Richmond lose an extra 3-4 games easily.

          I’m not trying to convince you of anything. I highly doubt anyone could change your opinion of your own team. I am simply stating my opinion. If that upsets you, that is your issue, not mine. This is an opinion based website after all.

          • February 22nd 2018 @ 8:42am
            truetigerfan said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

            Steady on, dude. Not upset here. You have your opinion and I have mine. Simple. Seems you have an issue when people oppose yours.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 12:32pm
        Tanami Mehmet said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

        Can anyone point me in the direction of some stats about the average height of AFL players year on year? My eye tells me midfielders are taller that they used to be in the past, but what are the facts. I realise some sides don’t have a big stay at home forward but if players are taller across the board then surely that counters the idea of small ball.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 3:17pm
        Brian said | February 21st 2018 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

        People forget that the Hawks were on the smaller size as well. Roughead hardly a traditional forward and the heavy forward pressure was done by Breust, Rioli & Puopolo. Just like the Dogs and Richmond the Hawks had an average ruckman, lacked a 2nd tall forward but won through better footskills and converting their chances (Gunston, Dickson in particular). Quite similar to the Dogs and Richmond.

        Its not a surprise really both Beveridge and Hardwick were assistants at Hawthorn. So it may not have been Richmond every year but every recent flag was won by the small-ball high pressure brigade.

        btw does using a certain Dogs forward mean the comment goes to moderation?

      • Roar Rookie

        February 22nd 2018 @ 8:28pm
        Chancho said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:28pm | ! Report

        I have the same feeling too Cat. For me, it’s as if the stars aligned for the Tigers in one half of footy, but they are being heralded as something unstoppable. I liked Josh’s article through the week highlighting similarities of Melbourne to Richmond… but I couldn’t square the context that this Tiges side is a great side.

    • Columnist

      February 21st 2018 @ 8:22am
      Cameron Rose said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      I think one sentence summed up what the Tigers need to avoid – “Gone was the fanatical attack on the ball”. It always comes back to my favourite word – intensity. For all of the numbers and stats, Richmond played at a higher intensity than their opponents for much of the year, and then went into overdrive in September. This was particularly notable in the forward half when we didn’t have the ball.

      “the Tigers’ pace of play was driven by their decision making when winning the ball” – I’d suggest that it was the stripping back of decision making that was a key factor. The idea was to just get the ball forward, at any cost, and let the forward pressure take care of the rest.

      I’m heartened that the noise out of the club in recent weeks has been about playing to our strengths again, and not changing much from last year. People carry on about how the game evolves and everyone needs to change, but I think that’s nonsense on the whole. Richmond finished the year basically a 6-8 goal better side than the next three best teams. It’s a big margin for others to catch up. Better to hone what we’ve already got, and let others change to beat us. Fascinated to see how it plays out. We’re playing with house money this season.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 10:12am
        Macca said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        “Richmond played at a higher intensity than their opponents for much of the year, and then went into overdrive in September.” This is a good point but intensity is very hard to maintain.

        One of the big issues facing the Tigers in replicating that intensity is that they will have had a short pre-season than almost everyone else. Of their first 5 games only Adelaide (who they play in Adelaide) made finals (none of their next 3 opponents did either I assume that things will even out after a month) and I expect at least Melbourne and Hawthorn will be around the finals mark for 2018.

        If the Tigers are slightly off in that first month they could lose to all 3 of Melbourne Hawthorn and Adelaide (and of course the round 1 loss to the blues will have the band wagon emptying of people and filling with manure) and put a lot of pressure on them in the back half of the year where their draw gets significantly harder.

        • Columnist

          February 21st 2018 @ 10:55am
          Cameron Rose said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          All good points.

          The opening month is crucial, you’re right, plenty of danger games there (if we lose to Carlton, I’ll throw out my premiership memorabilia).

          The Dogs were 4-1 last year after winning the flag, but it was misleading. They weren’t playing well, but had a soft opening – Collingwood, Sydney, Fremantle, North, Brisbane. They played four of the bottom six sides, and Sydney started 0-6 in horrible form. Their percentage was only 112 after such a soft run. It caught up with them in then.

          First eight rounds are pretty friendly overall for the Tiges though – should bank wins against Carlton, Brisbane, Collingwood, Fremantle, North. Even if we lose to Adelaide, Hawthorn, Melbourne, that’s still a 5-3 start. Chances are we’ll drop one of the five easier games, but probably beat one of the others.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 11:02am
            Macca said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

            “if we lose to Carlton, I’ll throw out my premiership memorabilia.” That is going to be one of the fun things about this year, Richmond supporters aren’t used to being content with the clubs performance – I can’t wait to see how quickly they revert back to microwaving memberships!!

            With the start the Tigers have and the way their season ends I think they need to be aiming for an 8-0 start, 5-3 would be starting to raise some concerns about being able to finish top 4.

            • Roar Rookie

              February 21st 2018 @ 12:47pm
              Lamby said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

              With the start the Tigers have and the way their season ends I think they need to be aiming for an 8-0 start

              I know I am a Crows supporter, but the chances of the Tigers winning round 2 at Adelaide oval would have to be very, very slim. This is a classic ‘hangover’ team going up against ‘the team that should have won’. There are a lot bruised ego’s and players with points to prove. If the Tigers are competitive in this game then they have a shot of going back to back. But my money is on a fairly big win for the Crows. (I have bet a Tiger supporting mate that the Crows won’t lose to the Tigers in 2018).

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 1:36pm
                Cameron Rose said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

                “the team that should have won” Sorry, something in my throat…

              • Roar Rookie

                February 21st 2018 @ 2:12pm
                Lamby said | February 21st 2018 @ 2:12pm | ! Report

                the team that should have won”

                Sorry, that came out wrong. The Tigers fully deserved to win. They were better coached and played much better on the day.

                What I was doing was trying to show what will be going through a Crows player’s mind before the start of the game in round 2. The differences between teams in the AFL at the moment is only a few %, and it only takes a little bit of difference in intensity to change the result.

                I am very interested to see if you rate the Crows higher than 7th this year Cam!

              • Columnist

                February 21st 2018 @ 4:05pm
                Cameron Rose said | February 21st 2018 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

                Yeah, I know what you’re getting at. I thought Adelaide’s reaction afterwards spoke to a collective mindset that hadn’t actually countenanced defeat, at all. And given how far they’d beaten the Tiges by earlier in the season, it could be understood.

                I’d be interested to see a breakdown of grand final re-matches the following season, to see if there’s a statistical leaning.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 11:23am
            vocans said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:23am | ! Report

            I would think the Tigers will be desperate to win the opening round, and desperation breeds intensity. After that, who knows?

            I think your memorabilia are safe. I don’t believe you anyway :))

            • Columnist

              February 21st 2018 @ 1:36pm
              Cameron Rose said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

              Hehe, I think you’re right…

          • February 22nd 2018 @ 12:52am
            Don Freo said | February 22nd 2018 @ 12:52am | ! Report

            Wouldn’t have thought a win against Freo is a given. Freo went 1 – 1 against the Tiges last season with half the team out. They are all starters this year along with some very juicy new players.

            I think you could get some easy money backing Freo to finish ahead of Richmond this year…and Richmond will do OK.

            • February 22nd 2018 @ 6:47am
              Slane said | February 22nd 2018 @ 6:47am | ! Report

              The only player I can think of that the Dockers were missing in their 104 point loss is Lachie Neale, I’m pretty sure that even Bennell got a game that day. Maybe you can enlighten me as to the other 10 players who were missing?

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 8:45am
                truetigerfan said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:45am | ! Report

                Dream on, Donny boy.

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 9:38am
                Don Freo said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:38am | ! Report

                Sandilands, Walters, Neale, Spurr, Blakely, Apeness, Alex Pearce, Langdon, Grey…Zac Clarke (who was excellent until he couldn’t run and jump any more).

                Just because you can only remember one, doesn’t mean that’s all there was.

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 10:46am
                truetigerfan said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

                Yeah . . . Neale! The others aren’t worth mentioning.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 11:42am
        reuster75 said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

        “People carry on about how the game evolves and everyone needs to change, but I think that’s nonsense on the whole.” You’re absolutely correct and the hallmark of great sides in any sport is that despite the opposition knowing how they’re going to play they still can’t stop them. If you look at the only two multiple premiership winning sides of the last decade or so (Geelong and Hawthorn) neither side varied their gameplan that much throughout their winning run yet opponents were still powerless to stop them. I think teams are becoming smarter now at not just playing ‘follow the leader’ and trying to ape the playing style of the previous years premiers, but implementing a gameplan and then recruting accordingly.

        • Columnist

          February 21st 2018 @ 1:37pm
          Cameron Rose said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

          I think the lesson of the Tigers might not be necessarily small-ball and pressure, but working out exactly what you’ve got on your list, and implementing a style that lets the team be the best version of itself. And then see how far that takes you.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 1:44pm
            Macca said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

            Exactly Cam – to me “small ball” is a complete load of c..p, but the idea that you make a strategy that accentuates the strengths of your list rather than follows what worked for someone else seems like basic logic.

      • Roar Guru

        February 21st 2018 @ 2:01pm
        TomC said | February 21st 2018 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

        I certainly agree about the lesson of the Tigers being to play to your own strengths, instead of trying to copy someone else.

        But I tend to think of ‘intensity’ as being as much a symptom as a cause of success.

        What do you mean by ‘6-8 goal side than the next three best teams’? I don’t know if the Tigers were particularly better than anyone in the top 6.

        • Columnist

          February 21st 2018 @ 4:08pm
          Cameron Rose said | February 21st 2018 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

          Just the winning margins in the finals, and the manner in which Richmond broke them all. A bit of a throwaway line, but more pointing to the fact that I think they have every right to go again with the same formula.

          • Roar Guru

            February 21st 2018 @ 4:59pm
            TomC said | February 21st 2018 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

            Cheers.

      • Roar Guru

        February 21st 2018 @ 11:49pm
        hairy fat man said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:49pm | ! Report

        It’s a big margin for others to catch up
        The Tigers hit form at the right time, just like the Bulldogs in 2016. There wasn’t much between the top sides in either 2016 or 2017, and that could well be the case in 2018. That there’s any real “margin” between Richmond and the rest of the competition is an idea that only exists between the ears of Richmond supporters.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 8:48am
      truetigerfan said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      With driven leaders and genuine competition for places in the starting 22 the Tiges won’t fall like the Doggies. All teams’ systems require 100% buy in and we’ve showed we have that mental strength. Players who drop off will be replaced by players who are capable and desperate for their chance . . . this is a luxury the Tigers haven’t had for decades. Carna Tigers!

      • February 21st 2018 @ 11:06am
        I ate pies said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        That’s what everyone said about the Dogs last year.

        • February 21st 2018 @ 11:46am
          truetigerfan said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:46am | ! Report

          Tigers have more ‘soldiers’.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 8:48am
      mattyb said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      At the Western Bulldogs we won our premiership by finding form at the right end of the season and then got a home state GF against an interstate side despite finishing 7th on the ladder.
      At the Tigers they won their premiership by finding form at the right end of the season and then got a home ground GF against an interstate side despite finishing 4th on the ladder.

      Can the Tigers reproduce the form and luck? Definitely.
      The biggest challenge for the mighty Tigers this season is going to come from Melbourne or possibly Essendon.

      The extra experience at Richmond is going to help. If Martin can keep his head in the right place and if Richmond can get into the finals they are a big chance to go back to back in yellow and black.
      How the other Victorian clubs go is going to be a major factor in this however.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 11:07am
        I ate pies said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

        Our form was pretty good at the start of that 2016 season too.

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 12:02pm
          Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

          First 7 games straight at your home ground and 11 of 13 in Melbourne before the Dogs bye sure didn’t hurt.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 2:41pm
            Another Paul said | February 21st 2018 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

            Haha, that’s funny, this must be the most obvious statement on here. Of course it helped but that’s what playing at home is meant to do. If you don’t capitalize on it then you’re never going to be a threat. It’s like saying the cats play better at home but any form they show there can’t be counted because they’ve got an advantage.

            • Roar Guru

              February 21st 2018 @ 3:08pm
              Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

              The difference is most teams get their home games spread out throughout a season. and all those Etihad games weren’t home games. Some were ‘away’. The point is its much easier to bank up a bunch of wins when you don’t have to travel AT ALL for the first two months of the season.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 10:52am
      tim said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

      Er did you call them Footscray – the VFL died a long time ago.

      The idea that only the MCG can hold a big enough crowd, take away the MCC members and the Victorian AFL members and you have roughly 55,000 seats left. Easily accomodated by Adelaide and Perth, not far off at the SCG, not sure about the Gabba.

      It’s time to move the Grand Final.

      • Columnist

        February 21st 2018 @ 10:55am
        Ryan Buckland said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:55am | ! Report

        Writing “the Western Bulldogs” and “the Dogs” repeatedly gets a bit boring.

        • Roar Pro

          February 21st 2018 @ 12:52pm
          anon said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

          Just call them Western.

          That’s their name. They rejected Footscray. Don’t want to be called it.

          They want to be known as Western.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 8:43pm
            BJ said | February 21st 2018 @ 8:43pm | ! Report

            Western – pretty weird considering there are five teams west of them.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 10:57am
        Macca said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        “take away the MCC members and the Victorian AFL members and you have roughly 55,000 seats ” Why would you take them away?

        “It’s time to move the Grand Final” There is just the little issue of the contract that runs for the next 20 years.

        • February 21st 2018 @ 11:09am
          I ate pies said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

          We should take away AFL members and West Coast and Fremantle members from the Perth stadium then too; how many seats are left?

          • Roar Guru

            February 21st 2018 @ 12:07pm
            Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

            Don’t most grounds have ground members? SCG seems to have an SCG membership. There is the Adelaide Oval Football Membership too. Etihad has its own membership as well.

            • February 21st 2018 @ 12:32pm
              mattyb said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

              Gene,not sure about Sydney but Adelaide and Perth stadiums are ‘clean’ stadiums for AFL finals.
              It’s certainly an issue well raised by Tim that is going to need addressing sooner or later.
              Docklands members are given access to the MCC/VFL/AFL grand final for some strange reason.

              What we now need to discuss is the best way forward.
              A fair one off game?
              A home and away structure like soccer with combined scores over both matches?
              Best of 3 type series?
              Momentum is certainly growing that we won’t be able to continue with this farcical situation much longer,and it’s certainly hindering the growth of the game nationally.

              • February 21st 2018 @ 1:19pm
                Macca said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

                “Momentum is certainly growing” No it isn’t.
                “we won’t be able to continue with this farcical situation much longer” The shortest time is 20 years and unless another 100k capacity stadium gets built in that time it will be longer.
                “and it’s certainly hindering the growth of the game nationally” No, it isn’t.

                “A home and away structure like soccer with combined scores over both matches?
                Best of 3 type series?” How do either of these options get squeezed into the schedule?

                Can you point to where I sign up for a “docklands” membership?

              • February 21st 2018 @ 2:01pm
                mattyb said | February 21st 2018 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

                Macca,If you’d like to become a Docklands member Google medallion club. I didn’t think you were big on bothering to actually attend games though. How many games did you bother to turn up to last year?

                Momentum for a fair GF is clearly growing each and every year,discussion on the topic has been overwhelming and has increased significantly after each of the last three grand finals,including this website. There was an article on the issue after this year’s GF that had over 350 comments. On Bigfooty the subject now gets thousands of comments,same with Facebook.

                I seriously don’t think the MCG will go another twenty years without some serious redevelopment.
                Poor sightlines,poor atmosphere when not 3/4 full,excessive amounts of restricted viewing areas,poor security technology.
                Melbourne doesn’t deserve to have an outdated stadium for the next 20 years while Adelaide and Perth are watching football in a world class facility. Might be ok for those that only bother to turn up to the occasional game but real footy fans are going to expect far more.

              • February 21st 2018 @ 3:44pm
                Macca said | February 21st 2018 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

                “Might be ok for those that only bother to turn up to the occasional game but real footy fans are going to expect far more.” I wonder why people were willing to cough up $2.5b for TV rights when all the “real footy fans” are at the game?

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 1:41pm
                Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

                So you know categorically that Adelaide Oval Football membership holders have no access to finals at AO? Care to share your source? My source says otherwise.

                Priority on-sale ticket access:

                – AFL finals matches played at Adelaide Oval

                Source: http://adelaideoval.memberlink.net.au/memberhome#tile1

              • February 21st 2018 @ 1:48pm
                Macca said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

                Cat – he really struggles with memberships, he thought the didn’t exist in the VFL days.

              • February 21st 2018 @ 3:10pm
                Macca said | February 21st 2018 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

                ” How many games did you bother to turn up to last year?” I have answered this, why ask the question if you don’t read the answer?

                “Momentum for a fair GF is clearly growing each and every year” No it isn’t.

                “discussion on the topic has been overwhelming and has increased significantly after each of the last three grand finals” Only because you keep raising it every chance you get.

                “Might be ok for those that only bother to turn up to the occasional game but real footy fans are going to expect far more.” Are you suggesting only those people who live in capital cities can be “real footy fans”? Those people playing in the Sunraysia League on a Saturday aren’t real footy fans?

                ” There was an article on the issue after this year’s GF that had over 350 comments” From how many different people and how many of those different people were in support of your opinion?

                “I seriously don’t think the MCG will go another twenty years without some serious redevelopment.” quite possibly – but given it has had 2 stands upgraded since the Southern stand upgrade saw the GF played at Waverley and the Grand Final has remained at the MCG surely this only weakens your argument.

              • February 21st 2018 @ 3:52pm
                mattyb said | February 21st 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

                Macca,how many games a season do you bother to actually attend again? I’m sorry I forgot.
                I thought I explained memberships from the 1990s were for those inside the club or the elite,I continue to encourage all Carlton fans to buy a membership and get along to actual games. That’s good.
                I do love how you follow me around though,you should use your internet dedication to actually attending football.

                Gene,thanks for the link,I was of the belief that AO was clean for AFL finals so I’ll pass the link on and investigate further.
                Which option would you prefer from a Home and Away Gf combined scores or best of 3 series? I understand you’d rather keep it as is and VFL centric but I’d like to genuinely hear your opinion regarding the other options?
                That doesn’t need to mean you approve,but which do you think is best in a worse case scenario so to speak?

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 9:10am
                Macca said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

                “Macca,how many games a season do you bother to actually attend again? I’m sorry I forgot.” So you can’t remember something I told you not 12 hours before this post. And why is it that every time I ask you a simple question you raise this red herring?

                “I thought I explained memberships from the 1990s were for those inside the club or the elite” NO you claimed something, there was no explanation and it clearly isn’t true.

                “you should use your internet dedication to actually attending football.” How would this work?

                “Which option would you prefer from a Home and Away Gf combined scores or best of 3 series?” Could you explain how multiple grand finals fit into the schedule?

                And how old are you?

            • February 21st 2018 @ 6:11pm
              dontknowmuchaboutfootball said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:11pm | ! Report

              There are stadium memberships for Perth Stadium, which provide access for any and every event, but there’s only about 1400 of them.

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 6:34pm
                Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

                I figured most stadiums have them, of course none will allocated as big a section as the MCC. However, I wouldn;t be surprised if those allocations found a way to grow if other stadiums started hosting GF.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 10:57am
      Aflisawesome said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

      I’m not a tigers fan by any mean but I thought they did good at the draft. Jack Higgins should have gone before 17 and was the Tim English of 2017. Balta,Coleman Jones,Naish and excitement machine Baker is arguably one of the best in 2017.

      • Roar Guru

        February 21st 2018 @ 12:09pm
        Dalgety Carrington said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

        Although it is staggering the length of the list of players “who should’ve gone earlier” in last years draft.

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 12:24pm
          Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          Same thing every year. Every team thinks they have the biggest bargains and best buys of the draft. Time will tell. Unforeseen injuries happen. Some will progress faster, some slower. Check back in 5 years.

          • Roar Guru

            February 21st 2018 @ 12:50pm
            Dalgety Carrington said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

            It seems way more pronounced this year though. Probably an indication of how hard it might’ve been to rate the draftees against each other beyond the top few.

            • Roar Guru

              February 21st 2018 @ 2:29pm
              Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

              What I find the most interesting is that this latest draft was supposed to be ‘weak’ or ‘shallow’ yet it seems like all 18 teams have done well and everyone is predicting big things even of players picked in the 40’s and 50’s. Those two observations clash.

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