Don’t like the game? Blame Richmond’s pressure

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert


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Popular article! 4,978 reads

    The state of the game is the talking point of the week, as Ryan Buckland wrote about yesterday. Negativity abounds around low scoring, blowouts and scrappy play.

    This sort of talk is standard every season, but it usually takes place in the bye rounds when there are fewer games to draw our attention, and the matches are spread out so each has more focus. Any example of the above is highlighted more than usual.

    This year, the negativity has come early, possibly off the back of the Friday night game between the Western Bulldogs and Carlton. Friday night is the most watched game of any round, and this one wasn’t pretty.

    Scheduling the Blues in marquee slots of Thursday and Friday nights three times in the first six rounds was an own goal of Terry Antonis proportions from the AFL, so they only have themselves to blame. The Victory midfielder was able to make amends on Saturday night, but the AFL media are unlikely to let up.

    Ryan suggested that Richmond is partially responsible for the current trend that has seen more games be seen in a less than flattering light, and it does seem to be the case.

    The Tigers lit a fire in the last month-and-a-half of 2017, and blazed all the way to a famous premiership off the back of unprecedented levels of pressure.

    Richmond Tigers Grand Final AFL 2017

    Tigers players react after winning the AFL grand final. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    The gameplan was as unsophisticated as it gets in today’s world of over-coaching – defend wide when under pressure, then kick, push, prod, nudge, whack, scrap the ball forward at all costs, and get in the face of the opposition until they crumble.

    In their last 16 matches, Richmond have a 14-2 record and are averaging 103 points per game. On paper it’s stunning, but the Tigers’ method ensures games are unattractive to many eyes. Their very essence is to deny teams the ability to play pretty football, and they get ugly in order to enforce it.

    Good defence used to be about good defence, and attacking was a completely different weapon. Now, at least in Richmond’s case, offensive construct is almost completely based off the defensive method.

    Richmond’s scoring comes when the game breaks their way, and the opposition crumbles. Then they drive a truck between the holes have opened in the opposition. Then, they dazzle.

    The reason football appears to be less aesthetically pleasing than ever before is because there is currently no answer to pressure.

    St Kilda under Ross Lyon and Collingwood under Mick Malthouse had pressure as their trademark, giving birth to the phrase ‘frontal pressure’. It felt like it was coming from one direction, and was about coaching tactics. Richmond’s pressure is 360 degrees, all over the field, and seems more about individual application, which is frenzied.

    Given how successful the Tigers were, waltzing through September with an average winning margin of 45 points against three top four sides, it was only natural that opposition teams would look to copycat.

    A common theme among Richmond’s opposition during this time has been that they just didn’t play well. But if the Tigers play well, it means the opposition simply can’t. And they usually play well.

    Sides across the league are now focussing on applying pressure, and are getting better at it. By virtue of this, it’s getting harder and harder to play aesthetically pleasing footy.

    What this also means is that intensity and mindset has never been more important in AFL football. It’s why we’re seeing such swings in form.

    Sydney beats Geelong down at the Cattery missing Lance Franklin and Dan Hannebery, a week after going down at home to Adelaide missing their own stars. The Crows themselves rose up for that effort after getting trounced by Collingwood at their own home fortress.

    Applying such fierce pressure is also physically and mentally demanding, especially so for teams that are a bit late to the party. The Tigers have been doing it for over a year now, and are well conditioned.

    Remember, this time last season was when Richmond were getting overrun in matches against Adelaide, Western Bulldogs and Greater Western Sydney. Now, they are routinely storming over the top of teams that are limping to the line, rarely finishing with a fully fit 22 by the end of it.

    Could it be that Richmond isn’t necessarily better than everyone else, as common wisdom has dictated in the last fortnight, but that they can be relied upon to play at a high intensity every week, and deliver on their gameplan? The Tigers can be trusted in a way few others can.

    Pressure, when applied ferociously, is unbeatable. Richmond has unlocked the secret, and is delivering on it. When on song, there is a joy to what they do, and they are a pleasure to watch.

    Most teams can’t deliver in the same way, and are too limited when under pressure themselves. By copying the trend, they’re actually falling further behind, and thus look ugly while doing it.

    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 (94)

    • May 1st 2018 @ 6:37am
      big four sticks said | May 1st 2018 @ 6:37am | ! Report

      They can try all they like but we are the gold standard, and they are mere pretenders.

      It’s still Tiger time folks!

      • Roar Rookie

        May 1st 2018 @ 7:12am
        48points said | May 1st 2018 @ 7:12am | ! Report

        Calm down man. Yes we won and we celebrated. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s a new year and we have to do it all over again.
        So stop acting like a Collingwood supporter. Or one of those idiots who don’t take sport seriously but say they do because there ego gets hurt when they’re left out of the conversation, Essendon supporters.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 1st 2018 @ 9:46am
          Sachit Dassanayake said | May 1st 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

          I think that’s aimed at a *certain* Essendon supporter. Not gonna name names *cough cough* Harry *cough cough*

      • Roar Guru

        May 1st 2018 @ 7:46am
        Peter the Scribe said | May 1st 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

        It’s a long season to work you guys out big four sticks. One of the 17 other coaches will find the switch that dims the Tiger lights, it’s just a matter of time.

        • May 1st 2018 @ 9:20am
          Geoff Foley said | May 1st 2018 @ 9:20am | ! Report

          Win the ball at stoppages and bounces- it’s that simple, on paper anyway.
          As Richmond prefer to play like a reactive soccer team (think Italian catenaccio from the 1980’s) who put numbers behind the ball and then break into the space at speed, they will be beaten if they lose the stoppages and have to play one-on-one footy. Playing on a smaller ground than the G does it too, with a quick rushed hack from the centre going inside 50 rather than still being 60-70 metres out and giving time to reset.
          Problem is even without a dominant ruck, they are so good at reading the tap that getting on top there is very difficult.

          • May 1st 2018 @ 9:39am
            Slane said | May 1st 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

            Richmond doesn’t play with an extra man behind the ball. The play with an extra man at the coalface. That’s why they are so good at winning the clearances despite losing the hitouts. Fast ball movement that can evade the Richmond pressure/outnumber almost always ends up with an uncontested mark inside 50 to their opposition.

            • May 1st 2018 @ 12:42pm
              Kris said | May 1st 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

              Which is why Rance is their most important player.

              • May 1st 2018 @ 4:13pm
                Slane said | May 1st 2018 @ 4:13pm | ! Report


                When the opposition has the ball Richmond tosses players at the contest to create the outnumber. Whenever one player is beaten the next one shuffles up to maintain that numerical advantage. It is statistically unlikely for a team to win enough contests against the outnumber to advance the ball into a scoring position (particularly at the bigger grounds). However, Richmond are extremely vulnerable if a team can either win enough contests or move the ball swiftly/precisely with kicking and marking.

              • May 1st 2018 @ 9:52pm
                1der said | May 1st 2018 @ 9:52pm | ! Report

                Jack Reiwoldt is their most important player. Games are won when the ball is in the forward 50.

          • May 1st 2018 @ 11:37am
            Observer said | May 1st 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report

            We constantly get beaten at stoppages and lose the clearances. Where we win the ball is once the other team have posession of it.

          • May 1st 2018 @ 12:44pm
            murph said | May 1st 2018 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

            so simple hey? richmond lost the clearances all of round 1-4.

            • May 1st 2018 @ 9:24pm
              1der said | May 1st 2018 @ 9:24pm | ! Report

              Richmond have a winning game plan and has improved on that formula from last year. They are clearly way out in front as flag favourites.

              Their game plan evolves around setting up to win the next contest at which they are currently the masters.

              Premiers in 2017 with the worst disposal efficiency and most clangers per game for the season. Ranked in the bottom 3 for kicks, handball, disposals and last for uncontested disposals. Ranked last for hit outs and below average for clearances, centre clearances and stoppages.

              Check out their numbers to date with regard to areas that they were poor at last year. Currently the number 1 team for centre clearances and inside 50’s.

              All this and Dusty is just taking a back seat and cruising in 2nd gear at the moment. Plenty of work to be done by the challengers.

              • Roar Guru

                May 1st 2018 @ 9:27pm
                hairy fat man said | May 1st 2018 @ 9:27pm | ! Report

                Richmond are one snap of Dusty’s leg away from also-ran status.

          • May 1st 2018 @ 1:09pm
            Chris said | May 1st 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

            Catenaccio has been around since door-bolts were invented. Pardon the play on words. it was invented in the 1930s by a dour defender but perfected by a South American who coached in Italy Helenio Herrera who had at his disposal perhaps the greatest defender of all time apart from Franz Beckenbauer…a certain Giacinto Facchetti. How do you break it down? The way Brazil tore down Italy in the 1970 World Cup Final…Exquisite wingers like Jairzinho and Rivellino make these guys look like hacks. So, where did Buckley get it wrong? He needs Fasolo or Elliott or both on the pitch and another brilliant flanker or forward pocket to break them up, just like the two aforementioned Brazilians. The use of wide and attacking players unbolts the door!!! Where are the flankers like Stevie J and Didak? Besides Total Football can bring these rogues undone. How?In Total Football, no player is fixed in his nominal role; anyone can assume in the field the duties of an attacker, a midfielder or a defender, depending on the play. Man-marking alone was insufficient to cope with this fluid system. Hence, there is a need for fluid skilful and attacking-minded players who go for goal and not aim for set shots like Collingwood did on Sunday. Fast and furious play with daring flankers breaking up the dead logs…Total destruction of Catenaccio and ridiculizing the game’s impostors. Simple! P.S. Poor planning on Sunday…dare I say!

          • May 1st 2018 @ 1:42pm
            Ron The Bear said | May 1st 2018 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

            So far wide of the mark as to be laughable.

            The sudden concern for the state of the game is due to broken – no, smashed – football paradigms. For some reason, many people expected Richmond to “do a Bulldogs” and fall off the perch this year.

            Richmond is generally a good team to watch, indulging in more “showtime” footy than other teams. Look elsewhere – e.g. at the flairless, flaccid Carlton brand – for teams that are dragging the standard down.

        • May 1st 2018 @ 12:43pm
          Chris said | May 1st 2018 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

          Peter, the issue is very simple. They have the physiques to last the game longer than we do. We are the walking wounded after two quarters of pressure football. Have we chosen the right players to platy this rugged and demanding game? I fear not. Our guys looked decidely underrmanned and undersized. The Tigers looked much bigger in height, muscle, shoulders and girth. They may come back to the field if the demands of the game catches up with them. It’s a case of who has the biggest fittest and able-bodied troops come September. Their jumping out of the blocks like a steam train reminds me of 2011 and it won’t last. It never does. Look at Barcelona, Man City and Bayern. They won their leagues comfortably but are nowhere in the Champions League. All sport is defined by timing and fitness apart from skill. We have skill but lack fitness. Look at all the undersized blokes on our list; Elliott, Fasolo; Brown;Aish; Broomhead; Stephenson; Blair; Maynard; Langdon; Sidebottom; Murray; Kirby etc. They are not Premiership size footballers. Talented and willing they are, but not Premiership material. That is the truth of the matter in a nutshell.

          • May 1st 2018 @ 3:21pm
            Slane said | May 1st 2018 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

            Pretty sure Richmond are the shortest team in the league..

          • Roar Guru

            May 1st 2018 @ 6:03pm
            Peter the Scribe said | May 1st 2018 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

            Come on Chris, we were off a four day break buddy.

            • May 1st 2018 @ 8:46pm
              Tdz said | May 1st 2018 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

              And? The Tiges were off a 4 and half day break from a more challenging game.

        • May 6th 2018 @ 11:33pm
          William Vassiliou said | May 6th 2018 @ 11:33pm | ! Report

          Get off the turps

    • May 1st 2018 @ 7:28am
      I ate pies said | May 1st 2018 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      I think you’ll find that the Bulldogs started that trend in 2016. Richmond just copied them.

      • May 1st 2018 @ 11:21am
        Birdman said | May 1st 2018 @ 11:21am | ! Report

        hear hear – the doggies won a flag with their own version, the tiges have adapted their own version.

        I blame Paul Roos and his Swans

        • May 1st 2018 @ 12:22pm
          I ate pies said | May 1st 2018 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

          The original culprit was Terry Wallace, but Paul Roos definitely made it mainstream. Then Ross Lyon used it to strangle the life out of the game.

        • May 1st 2018 @ 12:33pm
          Kangajets said | May 1st 2018 @ 12:33pm | ! Report


          You beat me too it , the Paul Roos version of the swans were savage at tackling and intent on nullifying the opposition before grinding out wins . Hence the grand finals against the eagles were intense low scoring gsmes .

        • Roar Guru

          May 1st 2018 @ 1:19pm
          Dalgety Carrington said | May 1st 2018 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

          Well, as IHP said yesterday Terry Wallace really brought numbers around the ball into prominence as a tactic and it has just evolved from there. Clarkson had his own substantial part in feeding the evolution too.

          • May 1st 2018 @ 2:34pm
            Birdman said | May 1st 2018 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

            Wallace’s ‘innovation’ was flood the zone around the ball carrier with extra numbers but Roos put a bit more structure to it and yes it’s evolved from there.

            I’m not sure the Henny Penny response from the media this weekend is any different from certain points over the past few seasons when the question “where is footy at’? has been asked regularly.

    • May 1st 2018 @ 9:02am
      mike said | May 1st 2018 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      Not sure I accept the idea that a team so dominant is not actually the best. Unfortunately in the AFL the quality of lists tends to be judged on the where players went in the draft, i.e. the form of 18 year olds against other 18 year olds.

      As an example of why this is wrong, this year Richmond has added unheralded Jayden Short back into the team. Not a high draft pick but can kick 50+m with both feet, handballs well, tackles well, essentially has skills that many higher ranked (at the time) 18 year olds don’t and never will.

    • May 1st 2018 @ 9:15am
      Aligee said | May 1st 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      To understand why Richmond play like this we must revisit the past.

      In 1998 a fourth I/C player was introduced.

      In 1998 according to the website i will link there were 11, 713 hitouts, a 60 % increase from the previous year
      in 1997 there were 7,438 hitouts
      In 1996 there were 7,264 hitouts
      In 1995 there were 7,124 hitouts and so on and so forth, i gather you get the picture, stoppages increased exponentially in 1998 and therefore hitouts rose.

      Quite clearly I/C has clogged up the game and has allowed more refreshed players around the ball.

      I blame Kevin Sheedy for his continuous (at the time) constant asking for more I/C players.

      As we know Sheedy is an Ex Richmond legend, therefore i blame Richmond.

      • May 1st 2018 @ 11:03am
        I ate pies said | May 1st 2018 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        Excellent logic. In all seriousness, going back to 21 players would definitely help.

        • May 1st 2018 @ 11:36am
          Aligee said | May 1st 2018 @ 11:36am | ! Report

          From those stats it appears the fourth I/C player tipped the scales and coaches realised they could afford to keep constant and increased pressure around the ball.

          From memory Sheedy wanted 8 I/C players or something ridiculous, although being the master coach he was (irony here!) he didn’t realise that unlimited I/C would not speed the game up but actually bog it down.

          One look at those stats and the AFL should have started to wind back I/C in the early 2000’s.

          Increased or unlimited I/C leads to more players around the ball, more tackling and stoppages, more scragging, ugly play, rolling mauls, more emphasis on quick hands leading to dodgy handballs etc.

          • Roar Guru

            May 1st 2018 @ 1:26pm
            Dalgety Carrington said | May 1st 2018 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

            The logic is back to front.

            Whatever role interchanges played in the genesis of numbers-around-the-contest-footy, the winning effect it has is undeniable and coaches will now find a way to enable their teams to have as many around the contest for longer regardless of the interchange limits.

            What is likely to result from radically reducing interchanges is increases in the number of poor decisions, poorly executed skills and exaggerate the impact of elements like the bye and 6-day breaks.

    • Roar Rookie

      May 1st 2018 @ 9:27am
      Pedro The Fisherman said | May 1st 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      Richmond’s secret is that the players now believe that they are the best and play accordingly! That is very “Hawthornesque” of them.

      • May 1st 2018 @ 11:23am
        Birdman said | May 1st 2018 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        their confidence levels are def. Hawthorn-like.

        They just believe they will win if they keep doing the same thing

        • Columnist

          May 1st 2018 @ 11:34am
          Cameron Rose said | May 1st 2018 @ 11:34am | ! Report

          This is true. The confidence in each other is off the charts.

          • May 1st 2018 @ 11:44am
            Baz said | May 1st 2018 @ 11:44am | ! Report

            dont put too much praise on them, just yet.
            they still havent played gws, cats, swans, port, wce…

            • Roar Rookie

              May 1st 2018 @ 1:24pm
              Lamby said | May 1st 2018 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

              Richmond have only played one top 4 side, and they lost! AND we are getting up to 18 months without an injury to a top 10 player – or more than 3 or 4 players at a time.

              • May 1st 2018 @ 3:22pm
                Slane said | May 1st 2018 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

                The Crows aren’t top 4 😉

                The Hawks on the other hand…

    • May 1st 2018 @ 10:03am
      paulywalnuts said | May 1st 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      Very difficult to maintain mentally and physically, that sort of manic intensity. Be interesting to see if the Tigers can sustain it. The Bulldogs couldn’t. Port with their albeit very different “run and gun” in 2014 (which very nearly took them to a flag) couldn’t. These things can catch other teams on the hop, but I’m not sure it’s a recipe for sustained success.. Rightful favourites, but a long year ahead.

      • Columnist

        May 1st 2018 @ 11:36am
        Cameron Rose said | May 1st 2018 @ 11:36am | ! Report

        I think they’ve created a culture where they thrive on the intensity. A couple of premiership players getting dropped last week is also a nice reminder of depth, and the VFL is also in good form, so the intensity should stay up.

        • Roar Guru

          May 1st 2018 @ 1:37pm
          Dalgety Carrington said | May 1st 2018 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

          It is a very interesting approach to a season. A lot of contending teams, particularly more seasoned teams/coaches, have approached the season looking to build their form and intensity over the season and hit peak intensity near finals.

          Richmond instead seem to have gone straight to fourth gear, maybe looking to bypass the risk of getting stuck in any post-premiership-doldrums that they might not be able to extricate themselves from.

          From what I’ve heard they seem to have totally embraced and incorporated sports psychology approach into their footy department as a central plank, which maybe gives them greater confidence in being able to sustain a peak performance level.

          • May 1st 2018 @ 1:56pm
            truetigerfan said | May 1st 2018 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

            Hate to tell ya’, we haven’t got out of 2nd gear yet!

            • Roar Guru

              May 1st 2018 @ 3:35pm
              Dalgety Carrington said | May 1st 2018 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

              Ahhh those mythical extra gears. It’s a bit like the amp that goes up to 11 when all the others just get to 10.

              Have we had one of those articles from Richmond yet, the ones that seem to come out every year where a coach or a player from a team that’s hitting their straps proclaims “bad news everybody, we still can improve parts of our game”?

              • Roar Rookie

                May 1st 2018 @ 4:39pm
                Mattician6x6 said | May 1st 2018 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

                A Nigel tufnell reference, like it dal

              • May 1st 2018 @ 4:58pm
                truetigerfan said | May 1st 2018 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

                Who said anything about extra gears? Not me. No need to get hoyty-toyty and high and mighty as is your want. If you think any team is operating to their full potential yet you’re dreaming! Another pontification?

              • Roar Guru

                May 1st 2018 @ 8:41pm
                Dalgety Carrington said | May 1st 2018 @ 8:41pm | ! Report

                Ha. To quote another great thinker….Potential is like your bank balance, you always have much less than you think.

                Anyways, sometimes you’ve just gotta toyt your hoyt, you don’t ask why.

          • May 1st 2018 @ 3:24pm
            Slane said | May 1st 2018 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

            Have you read Konrad Marshall’s book? I keep recommending it to everybody. I’ve never read a footy book that gives such a clear insight into the psychological development of the players. Everybody at the club cannot speak highly enough of their mindfullness training.

            • Roar Guru

              May 1st 2018 @ 8:44pm
              Dalgety Carrington said | May 1st 2018 @ 8:44pm | ! Report

              Not yet, heard quite a few lengthy interviews with him and the book sounds like an amazingly intimate and open account of their season and journey to the flag. It’s on my list.

      • May 1st 2018 @ 11:42am
        Observer said | May 1st 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

        Interestingly enough I don’t think we really maintain a “manic pressure” game. We simply adhere to the structures that the coaching staff have developed and play roles, the team all back each other in.

        Where as if you look at teams who have played us since about round 16-17 last year what tends to happen is THEY are forced to play a manic game, and can’t sustain it. We’re running out games like we’re fresh out of the blocks in the last quarter typically. During the first three quarters against teams we have often let in plenty of easy goals, as well as conceded plenty of frees and 50m penalties.

        All that stuff seems to disappear after 3/4 time.