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Richmond reaches fork in the road

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Tigers hit a new low in 2014

Richmond have come to a "very significant fork in the road in terms of the bigger picture", according to senior AFL writer Rohan Connolly.

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Richmond has had some embarrassing losses over the years, but few would have rankled with the faithful as much as Saturday’s defeat against Melbourne.

It wasn’t the margin, obviously, the Tigers were still within a kick with only a few minutes to play. Not necessarily even the opponent, the Demons’ improvement from last year to this is becoming more apparent by the week.

But the result on a day when the club was supposed to be honouring the memory of Tom Hafey, the coach who not only landed four of Richmond’s 10 premierships, but essentially instilled the values of hard work, determination and the “Eat `Em Alive” ethos that was once second nature at Punt Road, was particularly hard to swallow.

Bachar Houli is pursued by Geelong's Travis Varcoe.

Bachar Houli is pursued by Geelong's Travis Varcoe. Photo: Pat Scala

As is this unpalatable truth: Less than halfway through the season, Richmond can already forget about the finals. Now three games outside the eight, the Tigers could turn on a major form reversal and still have far too many rivals for September ahead of them in the queue.

Over the next five weeks, they take on Greater Western Sydney, Essendon, North Melbourne, Fremantle and Sydney. Only in the first will they start favourite, and even the most optimistic Tiger couldn’t possibly envisage a return from that block of more than two wins. Take even that and you’re left with a win-loss record of 4-9. And that equals game over.

Just how a team that finished last season just half-a-game outside the top four has fallen this far appears to have even coach Damien Hardwick perplexed, but statistically at least, the problems are everywhere.

Troy Chaplin battles on the bottom of a pack.

Troy Chaplin battles on the bottom of a pack. Photo: Pat Scala

Richmond’s disposal has gone south big time, its ranking for effective kicks has fallen from first in 2013 to 10th, disposal efficiency from third to ninth.

Its stoppage work in an offensive sense is a mess. Last year, the Tigers ranked first on the differentials for points scored from stoppages - 349 points more than their opponents for the season. Currently, that figure is in the red, and the ranking is 12th.

Richmond has worked hard under Hardwick to lift its hard-ball credentials. In 2013, the Tigers were ranked second on the contested ball differentials. Now, they are 14th. 

Tigers Shaun Grigg and Shaun Hampson collide in friendly fire during round two.

Tigers Shaun Grigg and Shaun Hampson collide in friendly fire during round two. Photo: Getty Images

The quick ball movement when the Tigers were at their best last year has also vanished. Last season, they ranked seventh for playing on after a mark, now 15th.

Their forward line issues go way beyond Jack Riewoldt’s struggles. The lack of support for the spearhead isn’t reflected only in goalkicking returns, but the fact Richmond’s scores per inside-50 average ranking has fallen from fourth to 15th.

Its defence, meanwhile, in which Troy Chaplin in particular hasn’t been able to exert nearly the same influence as previously, is starting to buckle under the strain, the equivalent scores from inside-50s against ranking also going from fourth to 15th.

The wrap.

The wrap.

That’s a snapshot of the problems. And the solutions? Well, Richmond may well be coming to a very significant fork in the road, a point that in terms of the bigger picture it has to either hold firm with its strategy and refuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater, or concede defeat and effectively start again.

The Tigers’ recruitment of more than a dozen players from other AFL clubs, coming during a period when the fledgling Gold Coast and GWS were picking the eyes out of the national draft, is a double-edged sword.

Had Ivan Maric been performing the structurally critical role he performed last year in the ruck, had established stars Trent Cotchin, Brett Deledio and Dustin Martin at least held their form collectively, and had the likes of Brandon Ellis, Nick Vlastuin and Reece Conca gone to another level to join them, the “foreign legion” would be playing the necessary support roles they performed adequately enough in 2013.

But none of the above has materialised this season. That’s increased the pressure on the likes of Shaun Grigg, Bachar Houli, Ricky Petterd and recent arrivals such as Shaun Hampson and Matt Thomas to raise their personal bar higher. The sceptics would suggest all have merely proved why they were let go from their original homes.

The optimistic view is that for Richmond, this is a bump in the developmental road, one that even great teams of the modern era such as Hawthorn and Geelong have faced. That not only will Ellis, Vlastuin and Conca get there, but there will be more troops on the way to help them. Hold your nerve, will be the mantra internally.

But are the likes of the largely untried Matt McDonough, Ben Lennon, Todd Elton, Kamdyn McIntosh, Liam McBean and Anthony Miles going to develop anywhere near quickly enough for the so-called journeymen to be phased out and the upward trajectory resumed before the simmering discontent of the fan base consumes a plan five years in the making?

Hardwick and the Richmond hierarchy must be desperately hoping so. Because the alternative, to effectively tear up the blueprint and start again, is a story almost everyone connected with Punt Road during the past three decades knows all too well.


AS WE SAID … IN 1980!

Why does football continue to embarrass itself with episodes that might have been avoided with a little clear thinking? Exhibit Z in this long-running saga is the siren controversy at Adelaide Oval last Thursday night.

For some context, consider the infamous goal to North Melbourne’s Kerry Good to win the 1980 night grand final, his mark taken several seconds after another siren the umpires had failed to hear.

And consider particularly then VFL general manager Jack Hamilton’s subsequent comment that we needed to hook the umpires up to the siren to avoid a repeat. Obviously these things take time.

So here we are, 34 years later, going over the same territory.  “Can we try and tie the siren mechanism or use the umpires’ communication system to make sure we are delivering some sort of sound to the ear of the umpire at the same time as the siren is pressed?” AFL football operations manager Mark Evans asked the other day.

Yes, Mark, you can. So how about we actually do it this time?


The great bumping debate of 2014 continues, the clash between Essendon’s Michael Hurley and Sydney’s Dan Hannebery the latest incident to fuel the fire.

Much of the same arguments apply as to the Jack Viney incident which preceded it. As Swans’ coach John Longmire put it, his player had two options – to lead with the head, or two completely jump out of the way.

If players start doing the latter, we really can just about call our game something else altogether. But are we also now paying a more frequent price for another rule change a couple of years back?

Many of us thought the sliding rule an over-reaction to Gary Rohan’s broken leg in early 2012. It’s not like broken lower limbs and serious knee injuries were frequent from such slides as Lindsay Thomas’. We also made the point at the time we could far more frequently see two players attempting to keep their feet coming from opposite directions at the same height.

Doesn’t that equal far more clashes of head with upper body? Would have thought so. But at least we’ve cut down on a freakish broken leg once in a blue moon.


You suspected even as people were proclaiming Gold Coast a finals chance in 2014 that they didn’t really believe it, the Suns having still finished last season 14th and three games out of the eight.

But the current ladder doesn’t deceive, Gold Coast are only outside the top four on percentage only with four wins on the trot and their first quarters against North Melbourne and now St Kilda among the most potent we’ve seen from any side this year.

Consistency over four quarters is still an issue, but a midfield featuring Gary Ablett, Jaeger O’Meara, David Swallow, Dion Prestia, Michael Rischitelli is the envy of most rivals, and up forward, the Suns continue to look potent.

A win over the Western Bulldogs this week at home would make it seven, with perhaps another five needed from the remaining 13 games. And after the Suns’ last month, that has to be very do-able.

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AFL 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all

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