AFL

AFL 2016: The Richmond six who could hold the Tigers back

Richmond's hopes of a breakthrough finals win - and even a premiership - hinge on improving their depth, with official data showing their bottom-tier players have the fifth-worst rating of any side.

In a year where coach Damien Hardwick will have to prove he deserves a contract extension, much could depend on the development of players such as Kamdyn McIntosh, Taylor Hunt, Dylan Grimes, Sam Lloyd, Jake Batchelor and Ben Griffiths. Analysis by the AFL's official statisticians, Champion Data, said the six players were ranked 17-22 at the club.

Heartbreak: Last year's elimination final loss to North was a bitter disappointment for the Tigers.
Heartbreak: Last year's elimination final loss to North was a bitter disappointment for the Tigers. Photo: Getty Images

"These six players have the fifth-worst rating, wedged right in between Melbourne and Gold Coast. The only four teams ranking worse for this measure all finished in the bottom four of the ladder last year," the report said.

The bottom four clubs last season were Essendon, Gold Coast, Brisbane and Carlton.

In their 2016 prospectus, Champion Data ranked Ben Lennon and Steve Morris outside the Tigers' best 22.

Midfielder McIntosh, midfielder-tagger Taylor Hunt, defenders Grimes and Batchelor and forward Griffiths were ranked "below average", while Lloyd, a forward, was ranked "average".

Advertisement

In deeper analysis, it was found "the Tigers' bottom five players all rate well below the AFL average compared to everyone else's bottom five players".

"It's an area that requires improvement. Compare [last] year's grand finalists, Hawthorn and West Coast, and they don't have one player in their best 22 to rate below the AFL average," the prospectus said.

Below average is classified as being in the bottom 35 per cent of that particular position in the league.

Griffiths and Reece Conca were surprise inclusions in last year's elimination final against North Melbourne, replacing Lloyd and Lennon.

However, the Tigers do boast four "elite" players, while their top eight players combine for the fourth-best rating, behind only Fremantle, Hawthorn and Sydney. 

Key forward Jack Riewoldt, defender Alex Rance, half-forward Brett Deledio and midfielder-forward Shane Edwards were ranked "elite", while the top eight included the "above average" Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin, Anthony Miles and ruckman Ivan Maric.

A player is considered elite if ranked in the top 10 of that position.

The analysis said "there are 10 other teams in the league desperate to have the Tigers' problem".

"They have superstars, that's rare. Now they need to find and develop depth players to bridge the gap."

Former Carlton defender Chris Yarran will help add depth and potency, for he was ranked above average.

Another area the Tigers may need improvement is in their ability to kick goals. Their slower but more precise ball movement last season, largely introduced from round seven, contributed to an average of only 89 points a game from that moment, and 87.7 overall for the season  - the 10th-best return.

While the Tigers did boast the third-tightest defence, conceding only 71.3 points a game, Champion Data points out 15 of the past 16 premiers have scored more than 100 points a game on average.

The Hawks and West Coast, grand finalists last season, each averaged more than 100 points.

Hardwick, who has overseen a complete rebuild since 2010 but has lost three straight elimination finals, could be made to sweat for a new contract.

The Tigers have preached stability under chief executive Brendon Gale and president Peggy O'Neal, but supporters were stung by last year's loss to the Kangaroos, when selection and game-day tactics were questioned.

Gale said on Monday Hardwick had "enormous upside" and the club had "enormous faith" in him but would not be drawn on when a call would be made. Hardwick's immediate future is expected to be a talking point at the Tigers' February board meeting.

The Tigers do not expect media scrutiny and public speculation to impact on Hardwick's focus.

CHAMPION DATA RANKINGS

Elite (top 10 per cent in that position in the league): Brett Deledio, Jack Riewoldt, Shane Edwards, Alex Rance

Above average (top 35 per cent): Ivan Maric, Trent Cotchin, Bachar Houli, Dustin Martin, Chris Yarran, Ty Vickery, Nick Vlastuin, Anthony Miles

Average (middle 30 per cent): Troy Chaplin, Shaun Grigg, Brandon Ellis, Reece Conca, Sam Lloyd, Kane Lambert

Below average (bottom 35 per cent): Taylor Hunt, Steven Morris, Shaun Hampson, Jake Batchelor, Dylan Grimes, Ben Griffiths, David Astbury, Kamdyn McIntosh, Ben Lennon

Source: Champion Data AFL Prospectus 2016. Available now.