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Richmond on verge of something special

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Robert Walls

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Saints v Tigers in clash of the up-and-comers

From the St Kilda training ground in Seaford, Rohan Connolly delivers his tips for round 10 of the AFL season.

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IT'S a big night for the Tigers. Centre stage at Etihad Stadium against a rejuvenated St Kilda. Milestone games for Jack Riewoldt (100) and Shane Tuck (150). Rave reviews all week for their demolition job against Hawthorn. And you sense Tigers coach Damien Hardwick wouldn't want it any other way.

In other big games this year, Richmond fell short against Geelong, West Coast and Essendon. But not by much. They needed a big scalp and got it last week against the Hawks. Now all eyes will eagerly watch tonight's outcome. A win puts the Tigers 5-5 and a genuine chance to play finals for the first time in 11 years. A loss and September action will be unlikely.

Hardwick has built up the confidence and skills of this current team. The Tigers lead the competition in disposals. The coach encourages his players to keep the ball moving with lots of share. Players feel good when they are getting a lot of leather, and they are exciting to watch. The big improvement in 2012 has been the all-over-the-field defensive efforts. Last year, Richmond was too loose, conceding on average 108 points a game. Only two teams (Port Adelaide and Gold Coast) conceded more. This year, the average score against is down to 87. It appears the blowouts of the past are gone.

Trent Cotchin in action in Richmond's win over Hawthorn this season.

Trent Cotchin in action in Richmond's win over Hawthorn this season. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Recruiting has been specific at Richmond during Hardwick's tenure. Over the past three seasons, the senior players brought into the club have been given definite roles and plenty of time to blossom. Shaun Grigg filled roles at Carlton. Now he is strictly a hard-running midfielder. His ability to cover enormous ground is being used to the max, and he now leads the AFL in uncontested possessions. The knock on Bachar Houli at Essendon was that he butchered the ball. The Tigers have settled him as a running defender. With an average of 22 possessions a game and disposal efficiency close to 80 per cent, he is doing a fine job. Steven Morris arrived at Punt Road via West Adelaide, and the courageous 23-year-old hasn't missed a beat. He can be a dashing rebounder or lock down on dangerous types such as Cyril Rioli.

After just nine games, big-hearted Ivan Maric has won over the Tiger faithful. Last year, Richmond's ruck situation was dire. Andrew Browne and Gus Graham just didn't measure up and Maric had fallen out of favour with the Crows, playing just six senior games. Under the tutelage of premiership ruckman Brendon Lade, Maric is now in career-best form. He ranks second in the AFL for hitouts to advantage, and leads the way at Tigerland for contested marks. The big fellow can also go forward and kick a goal. Watching him closely last week against the Hawks, the thing that stood out was the team spirit he engendered. He was forever encouraging his mates. He gifted a goal to Robin Nahas when he didn't have to. He did 90 per cent of the centre bounces, Ty Vickery did the rest, and as his understanding develops with Trent Cotchin, Nathan Foley and Shane Tuck, so too will their clearance rates.

So far this season, the Tigers have fielded just 27 players and of these, 15 have played every game. That's good, because with a settled combination comes confidence, understanding and, above all, predictability. Richmond is getting to the stage where it knows what's required and its improved skill level gives it every chance to succeed.

41 comments so far

  • Woweee. Never read so many Tiger articles in one week.

    Lets not get a head of ourselves now... the reason we have only played 27 players is we don't have too many others that can step up and play at AFL level. Depth is a bit thin.

    Commenter
    cardtrader
    Location
    Richmond
    Date and time
    June 01, 2012, 8:26AM
    • Have you been keeping an eye on the VFL cardtrader? We have 6-8 players both (young and established) who are pushing for selection and Todd Elton seems to be coming along nicely. It the weaker sides of old Miller, Brown or Gus, White, Webberly, Mcguane, Addam Maric, Conners etc would be walk up starts for the senoir Richmond side but its currently quite strong and tough to break into.

      Commenter
      Mick
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      June 01, 2012, 8:42AM
    • Let me get this straight...

      We know that teams outside the 8 at the end of round 8 rarely play finals, and we're going into round 10 with Richmond sitting 12th.

      Last week they played the 8th ranked side, this week the 7th. These are not big scalps

      Explain to me exactly when and why anyone should be excited about Richmond?

      Commenter
      Captain Courageous
      Location
      Goal Square
      Date and time
      June 01, 2012, 10:06AM
    • @Captain Courageous

      Cool story bro.

      Oh, and FYI... Hawks were ranked 6th last week. They ended up 8th after being destroyed by Richmond.

      Everyone likes an underdog with spirit and the conviction to learn, improve and inspire. Not to mention pay homage to an incredible loyal fan base.

      That in itself is a reason 'why' to be excited about Richmond. And now is as good a time as any.

      Commenter
      LP
      Date and time
      June 01, 2012, 11:50AM
    • Well said Captain. Tiges supporters can be excited because they can finally see something emerging. Media-types hyping things up as they skip from one 'big thing' to the next every week should be taken with a massive grain of salt.

      Commenter
      Azz
      Date and time
      June 01, 2012, 11:52AM
    • Captain Courageous Location Goal Square Date and time Jun 1, 2012, 10:06AM

      Tiges supporters are excited bcause they aren't the easybeats of the last few years. But I reckon that I can speak for many; we have had these false dawns before and are guarded about getting too carried away. Tomorrow is a key because the saints won't be caught napping, are very good at Docklands and are playing good footy.

      Commenter
      kepler22b
      Date and time
      June 01, 2012, 11:55AM
  • Geeezzz - One big one and Tigers are Premiers. Can't wait to see the Mighty Saints bring 'em down to Earth with a thud tonight at the Dome of Doom. Go Sainters.

    Commenter
    Chris J
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    June 01, 2012, 8:44AM
    • Hmmm, I must have read a different article, the one that I read said that if the Tigers win tonight, they could get some finals action after 11 years.....how you got premiers from that? Maybe its because the Saints came sooo close a few times in the last few years, but close enough is only good enough for atom bombs and hand grenades.....best part is that the Saints are favourite for tonite.....just like the hawks were last week.......Tigers ain't the easybeats anymore.........

      Commenter
      shemp
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      June 01, 2012, 9:54AM
    • Yeah the old lady saints supporters with the woolen brankets over their legs, ticking the record for each goal - Yeah! They spell DOOM. Saints are soft my friend, led by Captain Softie himself.

      Commenter
      James
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 01, 2012, 11:23AM
  • I was over in Melbourne for the Tigers win over the Hawks last week and as a Richmond supporter for nearly half a century, I must admit that it truly was an intoxicatingly euphoric experience. But now that my feet are back the ground in Perth, I am reminded that the Tigers' record is 4 and 5 and that we are playing a side tonight who we haven't beaten for a decade. Let's laud the undeniable improvement, but please Tigers, do not get ahead of ourselves. If we lose tonight, our season will be on emergency oxygen supplies.

    Commenter
    Western Tiger
    Location
    Perth, WA
    Date and time
    June 01, 2012, 8:49AM

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