AFL preview series: Richmond Tigers – 5th

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    After the Western Bulldogs fairytale of 2016, no-one could have predicted that something so special could have been not just matched, but surpassed, a mere 12 months later.

    The similarities were stark. Both teams won 15 games in the home-and-away rounds, with a similar percentage. They each ranked third for defence, but had an attack that ranked no better than mid-table. Both sides got white-hot during September, and finely honed gameplans executed to perfection carried them all the way to premiership glory.

    Richmond became the second half specialists through September, with each of their finals following a similar pattern – grind away at the opposition in the first half, and throw everything at them until they were desperate for the respite of half time.

    Geelong, GWS and Adelaide used those half time breaks to think about what had hit them, and wonder how much more they could take. Richmond used them to re-charge, and then elevate their level.

    Daniel Rioli Shaun Grigg

    (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Richmond won the second half against Geelong by 42 points, winning the game by 51.

    Against GWS, it was a 35-point margin in the second half, in a 36-point game.

    They bettered Adelaide by 39 points in the second half of the grand final, winning the match by 48.

    The Bulldogs suffered from premiership hangover, a time-honoured tradition that follows winning a flag with a young team. Richmond enters 2018 with a list ranked 12th for age and 10th in games played. Can they avoid the same fate?

    B: Nick Vlastuin David Astbury Dylan Grimes
    HB: Brandon Ellis Alex Rance Bachar Houli
    C: Kamdyn McIntosh Dustin Martin Shaun Grigg
    HF: Shane Edwards Jack Riewoldt Kane Lambert
    F: Dan Butler Jacob Townsend Daniel Rioli
    Foll: Toby Nankervis Trent Cotchin Dion Prestia
    Int: Josh Caddy Jason Castagna Jack Graham Nathan Broad
    Em: Shaun Hampson Corey Ellis Reece Conca

    Richmond’s best team above sees no change from the grand final outfit. It’s not unprecedented that an entire premiership 22 will remain on the list the following year, but it is unusual.

    The Tigers only have one 30-year-old on the list at the moment, which is back-up ruckman Shaun Hampson.

    Jack Riewoldt, Bachar Houli, Shane Edwards and Shaun Grigg will all turn 30 through the season, but there is no evidence to suggest their form is heading south. Alex Rance is 28, Trent Cotchin and David Astbury are 27, Dustin Martin, Kane Lambert and Dylan Grimes are 26.

    This is a list where its experienced players, all extremely important personnel, are still in their prime, or close enough to it.

    Pressure, pressure, pressure was the name of the game for Richmond in 2017, and based on their drafting activity, they’re going to go again. There are now 10-12 players that could be classified as small forwards with an ability to apply pressure as their number one priority.

    Make no mistake, the Tigers are going to do what they’re good at. When you sweep through the finals series with an average winning margin of 45 points, why not double down and go again? Make the opposition catch you.

    There was a little bit of talk pre-Christmas about playing Toby Nankervis and Hampson in the same side, but this would be a grave error. They proved last year how overrated ruckmen can be, using Shaun Grigg as a back-up, so why would they go in with two?

    Nankervis can take a nice grab, and is a neat kick, which may seduce the coaching staff into thinking he can play forward as a second tall, but it’s easier to intercept mark around the ground than it is when you are the key target. And he is too lumbering to apply the required fierce pressure.

    Richmond’s list through 2017 was punctuated by good health. The nucleus of the backline, Rance, Astbury and Grimes, didn’t miss a game between them. Brandon Ellis played all 25.

    The pressure forwards, Daniel Rioli, Jason Castagna and Dan Butler, missed two matches between them. Jack Riewoldt only missed a couple as well.

    Jack Riewoldt Richmond Tigers Grand Final AFL 2017

    (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    We can’t underestimate the chemistry between these sets of players at either end of the ground. For the backs, it’s about knowing when you can cover and when you can release. For the forwards, it’s about knowing when to double or triple-team an opposition rebounder, and when to move onto the next target.

    Through the middle, Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin played every game, as did Grigg. Kane Lambert, third in the best and fairest, only missed one match, with Nankervis in the same boat. The engine room was firing on all cylinders through the year.

    Richmond used 38 players in 2017, an unusually high number for a successful side. Only two clubs used more, the rebuilding Gold Coast and Carlton. Adelaide, by comparison, used 31. It’s a great sign for the Tigers depth that they were able to expose a lot of their list while still winning enough games to finish third.

    Corey Ellis will get opportunities this year, possibly from as early as Round 1. The club hierarchy want him to graduate to become a best 22 player, and he was an emergency for the grand final, so wasn’t far away. Reece Conca is usually picked when fit, he’s a Hardwick favourite.

    Anthony Miles and Sam Lloyd have proved themselves at the highest level, and are waiting in the wings as depth players after tearing up the VFL last year. Jayden Short was unlucky to miss September after playing 16 games. Shai Bolton is electric, and is next in line for a pressure position up forward.

    In the depths of Richmond’s despair in 2016, I wrote a piece imploring Damien Hardwick to free the players up, “release the guns” as it were. The entire list was overcome with paralysis by analysis, and were playing the ugliest, most stagnant, uninspiring football imaginable. Hardwick obviously identified the same weakness in himself and his team, corrected it, and is now a Tiger legend.

    Jack Graham Richmond Tigers AFL Grand Final 2017

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    It has been almost cult-like the way all Richmond people in club land, players and staff, have spoken about a premiership forged in the fires of connection with each other. They obviously found a way to form an impenetrable bond, with Hardwick at the forefront.

    If everyone involved can ensure the magic of this link is maintained, a hangover should be kept at bay, and there’s no reason to think the Tigers can’t be a contender again.

    Prediction – fifth

    PS – Long time readers of The Roar will know I barrack for Richmond. I put the Tigers in fifth so as not to be accused of one-eyed parochialism, but we all know they’re going to finish on top, probably not drop a game, and win the grand final by a record margin.

    Yellow and Black = Back to Back.

    Cam Rose’s AFL ladder prediction
    5: Richmond Tigers
    6: Melbourne Demons
    7: Greater Western Sydney
    8. Essendon
    9. Hawthorn
    10. Collingwood
    11. Western Bulldogs
    12. St Kilda
    13. West Coast
    14. North Melbourne
    15. Fremantle
    16. Brisbane
    17. Carlton
    18. Gold Coast

    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 (75)

    • March 13th 2018 @ 5:50am
      Dinga said | March 13th 2018 @ 5:50am | ! Report

      I get the bad feeling that if one of the big 4 go down, but especially Rance or Dusty then we’ll turn into a Ross Lyon team unable to score. That being said I’m really disappointed you didn’t point out the guaranteed dynasty of the next 3 grand finals as a real Richmond supporter should have.

    • March 13th 2018 @ 7:27am
      Neil from Warrandyte said | March 13th 2018 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      Had a feeling that you’d have us lower then we should be Cam, but grateful you are honest enough to include your ‘p.s’ statement which is probably about right 😉.
      What is scary about the tigers this year is their depth all over the ground. All these youngsters who played in the VFL grand final are desperate for senior finals action themselves now- Short, Menadue, Lloyd, Miles, Moore, Bolton, Stengel, Markov and C. Ellis.
      Conca can’t get a break with injury and he’ll also be determined to break into the senior team as his time may otherwise run out.
      It’s a great time to be a tiger fan!!!

    • March 13th 2018 @ 7:33am
      I ate pies said | March 13th 2018 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      The doggies fairytale was way better than Richmond’s.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2018 @ 11:28am
        Paul Dawson said | March 13th 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        Richmond’s was an autobiography though, the dogs had theirs ghost-written by the umpires

        • March 13th 2018 @ 12:25pm
          I ate pies said | March 13th 2018 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

          You really don’t know much about football do you.

          • Roar Guru

            March 13th 2018 @ 12:36pm
            Paul Dawson said | March 13th 2018 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

            About as much as you do about humour

            • March 13th 2018 @ 3:17pm
              I ate pies said | March 13th 2018 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

              That’s humour?

    • March 13th 2018 @ 8:08am
      tim said | March 13th 2018 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Richmond peaked when it mattered last year. Hawthorne were experts at this. The question is can they back it up. Applying manic pressure takes energy and is very difficult to maintain for a whole season let alone multiple seasons.

      Either Richmond finds a way to make the top 4 or they won’t get another flag.

    • March 13th 2018 @ 8:09am
      JustAnotherVoiceOnTheInternet said | March 13th 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

      Whilst I don’t see the Tigers going down the path of the Bulldogs, I do think that being the hunted each week will have an effect, that being missing the top 4.

      Their pre-season form has been ominous, and they clearly tried to send a message that there will be no premiership hangover though. Anyway I have a always liked the Tigers so won’t be too upset if I’m wrong.

      My predictions:

      5th: Richmond
      6th: Adelaide
      7th: Port Adelaide
      8th: Essendon
      9th: Hawthorn
      10th: Collingwood
      11th: Western Bulldogs
      12th: St Kilda
      13th: West Coast
      14th: Fremantle
      15th: Brisbane
      16th: Carlton
      17th: North Melbourne
      18th: Gold Coast

      Ps: How good are those elimination finals!?

      • Roar Rookie

        March 13th 2018 @ 8:52pm
        Sachit Dassanayake said | March 13th 2018 @ 8:52pm | ! Report

        They are amazing! Although if that does end up happening, not sure if Essendon will be able to break it’s finals win drought XD

    • March 13th 2018 @ 8:15am
      Davo said | March 13th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      Cam your selling your side short. So much depth besides tall forwards but whom needs them after last year. Main weakness I see is if Riewoldt goes down as they don’t have a like to like replacement. Also I don’t see how any of the other top four sides have improved significantly from last year. Sydney light on ruckmen, Adelaide loose Lever Cameron, Giants less depth and who know of the big three will get on the same park at the same time for Geelong.

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