Last week’s forecast went down like a tonne of bricks, so lets save part II of my Carlton list analysis for another day and stick to the game tonight, shall we?
For the third time this season the reigning premiers leave Victoria. It hasn’t worked out so well in their previous outings, going down by six goals to the Crows and the best part of eight goals to the Eagles.
As good as the Tigers are, they haven’t been the same away from the MCG, and now they’re without their superduperstar Dustin Martin. You have to go back to round 22, 2014 for the last time Dusty missed a game – that was the only game he’s missed since the start of 2013.
Port Adelaide will be grateful for the Brownlow medallist’s omission.
For all the hype of the preseason, the Power have thus far been pretty much the same mid-table team they’ve been for the past couple of years. They’d love to get a big scalp and launch into the second half of the season.
To do that, they’ll need to bring their A-game.
The Tigers’ combination of forward pressure and defensive structure has brought many a team undone in the past 18 months.
Richmond are scoring 73.5 points a game from turnovers this season, clearly the most in the league – Melbourne are second at 66.4. Unsurprisingly, more than half of those points are coming from forward-half takeaways – 38.5, also the best mark in the league.
One of the keys to negating that powerful turnover game is to minimise the influence of Richmond’s other superduperstar, Alex Rance. Rance is averaging an outrageous and league-leading 11.5 intercept possessions a game this season – he was second in the league at 9.4 last year.
It’s easy to say teams need to make Rance accountable, but it’s much easier said than done. What makes the 2017 All-Australian captain special is that he always backs himself to read the play better than his nominal opponent; he’s never afraid to leave his man. It doesn’t hurt that he has the likes of David Astbury and Nick Vlaustin at his side.
But the Crows did manage – for a half at least – to make Rance accountable to Josh Jenkins, with the big Crow booting four first-half goals.
It helped that Richmond had to worry about Mitch McGovern and Taylor Walker as well.
Port Adelaide don’t have quite the same firepower as the Crows did back in the days when they were remotely healthy, but in Charlie Dixon, Justin Westhoff and Jack Watts they have three dangerous tall targets who’ll require attention. Plus there’s Robbie Gray and Chad Wingard, both of whom are nightmare matchups, Gray in particular.
Port would love for Dixon to demand Rance’s attention. The Power giant is all but impossible to stop one-on-one on his day. Unfortunately for Port Adelaide, it hasn’t been Dixon’s day for a while. He has just seven goals in 10 games this season. Granted he did a fair chunk of ruck work in Paddy Ryder’s absence, but for Dixon to go 10 games without a two-goal performance isn’t good enough.
At the other end, the Tigers have a reputation as a smallball attack, and that’s true in a sense. Richmond thrive on groundballs and are demons defensively. They’re also No.2 in the competition – behind Melbourne – for marks inside-50.
They’re not necessarily bombing it in and outreaching their opponents – though Jack Riewoldt is capable of that – more often it’s finding players in space in transition.
Port Adelaide’s back six might be undersized, but they’re the top-ranked team for conceding marks in their defensive-50, giving up only 7.7 marks a game. Tom Jonas is having an outstanding year and deserves to be mentioned in the mid-year All-Australian teams that are doing the rounds.
The Power shouldn’t be too troubled in the air, but they’ll need to be on their game in transition, which is probably a big part of the reason Ken Hinkley has called Jasper Pittard into the side for just his second game of 2018.
West Coast cut the Tigers up in Perth with precise kicking. Port might prefer to run in waves. Whatever they do, they need to be quick and smart about it.
Too often in Round 11 the Bombers chose to switch the ball against Richmond – a fine tactic – but were too slow or too unwilling to bite off the next kick forward and open the ground up.
Once they hesitated, the Tigers strangled them, and quicker than you can say “what the hell has Jake Stringer drawn on his chest?” the game was over.
Between Dusty’s absence and the venue, this has the makings of a good contest – please give us a good contest. I just can’t see these Tigers dropping three straight road games.
I’m tipping Richmond by 11 points.
That’s my Friday night forecast. What’s yours?