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Richards mounts a strong case for defence

FOUR back-line players won their club's best and fairest awards last year - West Coast's Darren Glass, St Kilda's Sam Fisher, Geelong's Corey Enright and Port Adelaide's Jack Trengove, who tied for his.

Others went close. Bob Murphy (Western Bulldogs), Jared Rivers (Melbourne), Josh Gibson (Hawthorn) and Nathan Bock (Gold Coast) were runners-up, all playing predominantly in the back half of the ground.

Which goes to show that while the clubs are not perfect in rewarding their defenders, they are at least on to it. They know that it's hard to find a premiership team that did not have a strong back six. They know that when they play against, say, Hawthorn, they need someone to take the job on Lance Franklin. And that if he does it well, like Ted Richards did for Sydney on Sunday, they are a long way towards winning the game.

The AFL almost certainly does not properly reward all the players on the field, and in particular men who play in the back half of the ground. The Brownlow Medal has been known colloquially in recent years as ''The Midfielders' Medal'', for no player from outside the centre square has won since James Hird in 1996.

On Sunday in Launceston, Richards kept Franklin goalless. In the previous game between the teams, last year, Franklin kicked six and monstered Sydney, who used Heath Grundy to mark him.

In trying Richards, the Swans were testing another method that worked to a tee, and had a huge influence on the game.

Richards did not win the medal that was given away that day. Josh Kennedy got that for his work in the midfield, and Kennedy deserved it, too. But let's not forget the Ted Richardses of the world. Football is too inclined to do that.