AFL Round 11 Essendon vs Richmond at the MCG.
Jason Winderlich flies for a mark in front of Reece Conca. Photo: Pat Scala
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has conceded his team is "mediocre", delivering a furious spray at his players after their 50-point thumping at the hands of the Bombers during the annual Dreamtime at the G on Saturday night.
Hardwick refused to hold back in the rooms after the defeat, and was still clearly angry when he attended the post-match press conference. "It's really disappointing," he said. "We're a really mediocre football side."
He said a team that performed the way it did deserved to hear to what he thought of them. "We're making mistakes we shouldn't be making at this level."
A clearly agitated Damien Hardwick has a couple of words with Daniel Jackson during the game. Photo: Pat Scala
The Tigers came crashing down to earth after last week's 113-point win against Greater Western Sydney, having been held to just three goals at three-quarter time.
Essendon took control of the game from the first siren, the Tigers still goalless at the first break, and struggled all night under the weight of the Bombers' physical pressure. Hardwick was full of compliments for the opposition, saying their ability to hunt the ball simply couldn't be matched by his side.
In front of one of the biggest crowds of the season - 74,664 - both teams entered the game just two positions apart on the ladder. Essendon made a late change when key defender Michael Hurley withdrew from the selected side, replaced by Joe Daniher, who finished the game with three goals.
Richmond spearhead Jack Riewoldt, who had a day out against the Giants last week, was starved of opportunity this time and kicked three goals, all in the final term when the result was a foregone conclusion.
Essendon coach Mark Thompson said his team's fifth win of the season was a big improvement on its recent form, the first time the Bombers had passed 100 points since their round three thrashing of Carlton. Thompson acknowledged that coming out strong against the Tigers was a crucial part of his game plan.
"We wanted to start well [and] put a lot of pressure on them. It was a good plan, well executed," he said.
Thompson talked up speculation about whether Fletcher would continue next year, saying as long as the 39-year-old continued to play the way he did against the Tigers, there was no reason he shouldn't go on in 2015.
"He was outstanding [tonight]. It would be good to see a 40 year-old player out there," Thompson said.
Hardwick said although "the buck stops with me", the whole team had some soul-searching to do in order to regain some respect for their supporters for the rest of the season. "We owe it to our footy club to win as many games and get some points on the board," he said.
He refused to be drawn about his future, after a season that has so far produced just three wins, but emphasised the need for everyone to "work our backsides off". Confidence was a key area to work on, he said, adding that this was one of the club's more "challenging" times.
"We've got to get some respectability back," he said.
Richmond's next three games are against teams in the top eight - North Melbourne, Fremantle and new joint flag favourite Sydney. Given that, the Tigers could well be just 3-10 in win-loss terms after 13 rounds.