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Greatest of all Tigers

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Young Richmond star Trent Cotchin is the best of the modern breed.

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RICHMOND'S administration believes the club's progress has long been stymied by what it refers to as a "Messiah complex." The Tigers don't want to repeat the pattern of making one individual — player, coach or president — "the one" who will deliver them from decades of mediocrity.

Hence, it was a touch surprising to hear Damien Hardwick, in an unguarded moment, compare Trent Cotchin to Chris Judd and Wayne Carey, players who were regarded as Messiahs.

But in speaking of Cotchin's abilities, Hardwick was on safe ground. Cotchin isn't prone to getting ahead of himself. The coach might be reluctant to praise Jack Riewoldt for kicking 10, knowing that Jack can enjoy the adulation. He doesn't have to worry about how Cotchin will receive high praise, criticism or hype.

Young Tigers star Trent Cotchin.

Young Tigers star Trent Cotchin. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Hardwick also happened to be speaking the truth. Cotchin is comparable to Judd at around the same age, and his range of talents — ball-winning, evasion, balance, skills on both sides — are similar to Gary Ablett's. He is en route to becoming the most accomplished player to have represented Richmond since the great Kevin Bartlett.

No Richmond player since KB has seemed quite as unstoppable and consistent as Cotchin, who leads the AFL Coaches Association's award and, if the umpires are willing to give votes to a team that loses in the last two minutes, will be among the placegetters in the Brownlow.

Like most champion onballers, Bartlett's greatness lay in his high possession rate and constancy of output. The same is true of Cotchin, who has Bartlett's knack for playing forward, but would never be labelled hungry.

Richmond legend Kevin Bartlett.

Richmond legend Kevin Bartlett.

Of the players who have shone brightest since Bartlett, Matthew Richardson is easily the people's favourite — the one who gave the fans a reason to keep turning up. But Cotchin is well-placed to overhaul "Richo", since he has few obvious weaknesses. He kicks either foot, can win the ball in close, marks strongly overhead and has a turn of speed. While not as explosive as Judd or Ablett junior, he still runs 20 metres in under three seconds, the benchmark for "quick" in the contemporary AFL.

Triple Brownlow medallist Ian Stewart defined the ability "to stand up in heavy traffic and make a decision" as the difference between very good and "great" players — read midfielders. Cotchin passes the Stewart test, having a gift for making the right split-second calls with the ball while under duress.

Richardson, who played two seasons with the teenage Cotchin, reckons the midfielder will improve further in the coming years, given that injuries to his Achilles have limited his training load. "His fitness will only get better," Richardson said. "He's only done one [full] pre-season."

Former Tigers key forward Matthew Richardson was always a match-day drawcard.

Former Tigers key forward Matthew Richardson was always a match-day drawcard. Photo: Vince Caliguiri

Richardson has been impressed by Cotchin's ability to play as a forward. "I didn't realise how good he could be as a deep forward taking marks." An assistant coach from a rival club suggested that this ability to mark and kick goals as a forward might eventually see Cotchin surpass Judd in his prime.

Dale Weightman, like Richardson, spent most of his 274-game career in poor teams. Weightman, now Richmond's relationships manager, predicted Cotchin's prospects of playing in superior Richmond sides would help him rise further in due course. "He is only going to get better when we get stronger as a group," Weightman said. "He has got virtually all the ingredients to be one of the all-time greats of Richmond."

Weightman nominated three players as standouts from his time at Tigerland: Bartlett, Geoff Raines and Richardson (Royce Hart was before his time). Raines won three best and fairests (1978, 1980-81) in a relatively strong Richmond era, but his exit to Collingwood and subsequent career at Essendon and Brisbane has eroded his standing.

Cotchin will win his second best and fairest this year and, barring significant injury, should end up with several Jack Dyer medals. He will be the next Richmond captain when Chris Newman finishes.

Bartlett won five best and fairests, played 403 games and booted a staggering 778 goals. He played in five premierships. But he wasn't the Messiah because the Tigers had Francis Bourke, Hart, Kevin Sheedy, Dick Clay et al sharing the billing.

Cotchin, similarly, isn't the answer at Punt Road. Just a large part of it.

21 comments

  • Feelin' the Cotchin love - pound for pound in the top 5 players in the league. Always in the contest and willing his way through traffic, creative and fast with feet and hands, great vision and balance, very hard to beat one on one either on the ground or in the air

    Commenter
    cardtrader
    Location
    Richmond
    Date and time
    August 16, 2012, 8:55AM
    • Pound for pond top five players in the league?! He wouldn't even make Collingwood or the Swans top five, let alone the leagues. He's ok, not top five in the league at all!

      Commenter
      FWOZ
      Location
      Saints
      Date and time
      August 16, 2012, 11:14AM
    • @FWOZ Combine his skill, consistency and impact on games with his on and off-field leadership and you get the heart-beat of a club.

      As someone that watches several games live every week I can tell you he would definitely be in the top 2-3 players at most clubs, and number one at some, including the Saints and Swans. They don't have any week-in-week-out stars, just good overall team structure and game plans. Well the Swans anyway.

      If you don't believe me, check the AFL coaches association awards, or if you prefer to see what the umpires think you could just wait until 24th September about 10.45 pm

      Commenter
      cardtrader
      Location
      Richmond
      Date and time
      August 16, 2012, 12:03PM
  • As a tiger supporter this article worries me. Every time a player is talked up something bad happens. Hope Cotch isn't jinxed now.

    Commenter
    Basil
    Location
    Hobart
    Date and time
    August 16, 2012, 9:10AM
    • I've been saying for 18 months that Cotchin's the best rover wev'e had at Tigerland since the great KB. People remind me about Dale Weightman who was a wonderfully skilled player, but the last 5 years of Dale's journey were saddened by frustration and Dale constantly being reported. Cotchin is class and with him, the future at Tigerland finally looks very bright

      Commenter
      manny
      Location
      willowgrove sth
      Date and time
      August 16, 2012, 9:20AM
      • Wow a pic of kb hand balling - who would have thought of it ever happening?

        Commenter
        Jimbo
        Location
        Near Tokyo
        Date and time
        August 16, 2012, 9:49AM
        • He is baulking before having a snap on goal.

          Commenter
          kepler-22b
          Date and time
          August 16, 2012, 10:22AM
      • When Crowley bear hugs this kid for 120 minutes this Saturday let's hope the green maggots blow their whistles.

        Commenter
        Crowley
        Date and time
        August 16, 2012, 10:05AM
        • Cotchin will go very close to winning the Brownlow. Even in some of the close losses he was a standout. 5+ BOGS. He is the Tigers next captain and the right man to lead the Tigers young guns. The future, this time, looks very bright for the Tigers. With this years finals nigh on impossible I can't wait for next year already.

          Commenter
          Andy
          Location
          Tigerland
          Date and time
          August 16, 2012, 10:42AM
          • Ahaaaaahaaaaa, best since Bartlett at Richmond? WOW! Given the bunch of amatuers posing as pro footballers who have rolled around Punt Road for the last thirty years that is a back handed compliment. In any other half decent team he would be a reliable and competent midfilder, at Richmond he is the messiah, sad really, but funny too! LOL.

            Commenter
            FWOZ
            Location
            Saints
            Date and time
            August 16, 2012, 11:12AM

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