Another Friday night blockbuster, another heap of talking points for this highly entertaining start to the season.
The ladder leaders got found out as they succumbed in disappointing fashion to a second-half Richmond comeback and suddenly “The Tigers are back”.
The game was all about the second half, where one coach worked some magic and the other one didn’t. How Dimma turned Tom Lynch from a man with so little confidence in front of goal (he was passing off sitters) to dominating and kicking multiple goals was just one remarkable part of things.
The Tigers’ pressure was the bigger part but, for me, most of what happened sits on the Dogs. They simply couldn’t cope with that pressure, either in the heat of battle or in the coaching box. The players, instead of showing enough composure to back their ability, resorted to hoofing the ball long out of defence to try and relieve the pressure, gifting possession straight back to the Tigers over and over again.
The Dogs didn’t have a possession in their forward half for the first two-thirds of the third quarter.
While that may be a testament to Richmond’s pressure, it is arguably inexcusable for a team with so much talent to be unable to move the ball forwards. Many Fox Footy pundits have been saying the Dogs are the best team in the competition after their first few weeks – as an aside you simply can’t say that when they hadn’t played any of the top sides (Port, Melbourne, Tigers) until last night – but for the Dogs not to be able to find their way out of defence and move the ball up the field was as frustrating as watching their coach not doing enough to change things up.
Where were the coaching moves to help out the under siege defence? Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch ran riot up forward so why not bring Aaron Naughton back onto one of them to see if that could relieve some of the pressure?
The Dogs still have targets up forward without Naughton, who still butchers plenty of set shots. Or why not tell his players to try the short kicking game the Swans used to tear the Tigers’ defensive structure to pieces? Why not try something else? Anything other than hoof it in panic straight back to the Tigers.
It was an impressive show from Richmond but the Dogs and those who have put them up as the best going around got a full reality check after the smaller ones in recent weeks. They struggled to beat GWS, being firmly held for three quarters until GWS’ young side got too tired to maintain their level in the last quarter; they were matched by Gold Coast in the second half of that contest and they got belted in the second half by the Tigers.
They simply aren’t quite as good as many people thought they were.
But the real kicker is the click-bait, sensationalist, knee-jerk reaction journalists and pundits racing to be the first to say “The Tigers are back” and “The Tigers are still the team to beat”, such as David King saying “The Tigers are back” on Fox Footy after the game last night and Riley Beveridge writing “Have no doubts, Richmond is still the team to beat this season” in his afl.com.au match report.
In one sense, of course they’re the team to beat! They’re the reigning premiers! It’s a no-brainer that they’re the ones to beat.
But in the other sense, the best team sense, they’re not ‘back’ because they never went away. Saying ‘they’re back’ is disrespectful to Port Adelaide and to Melbourne. The Tigers got beaten in a fierce contest by the best team of 2020 – and still the best team in my opinion, Port Adelaide – and they got smashed by Melbourne in another fierce contest.
The Dogs simply weren’t good enough to cope with the Tigers’ pressure, which the Tigers brought last week against the Dees and against Port before that, but Port and the Dees were good enough. With interest.
None of this is to say the Tigers aren’t good enough to beat Port and the Dees later in the year. It’s to say they weren’t good enough to beat them right now, and beating the Dogs does absolutely nothing to alter that.