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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.

AND WHILE I'M AT IT ...

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?

HEADS UP ON SLIDE RULE

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.

SUNS EYE SEPTEMBER

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.

Related Coverage

2014 Home and Away

Round 1
Fri, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
COL 46 vs FRE 116 Report Stats
Sat, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
GWS 99 vs SYD 67 Report Report Stats
GCF 87 vs RIC 69 Report Stats
Sun, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
CAR 87 vs PTA 120 Report Stats
Thu, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE 119 vs ADE 81 Report Stats
Fri, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NTH 60 vs ESS 99 Report Stats
Sat, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
HAW 139 vs BRI 91 Report Stats
STK 68 vs MEL 51 Report Stats
Sun, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
WCE 134 vs WBU 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Thu, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC 98 vs CAR 86 Report Stats
Fri, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
ESS 86 vs HAW 90 Report Stats
Sat, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
STK 95 vs GWS 88 Stats
PTA 127 vs ADE 73 Report Stats
FRE 87 vs GCF 39 Report Stats
SYD 69 vs COL 89 Report Stats
Sun, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 68 vs GEE 93 Stats
MEL 30 vs WCE 123 Report Stats
WBU 54 vs NTH 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
HAW 137 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
Sat, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
WBU 100 vs RIC 98 Report Stats
ADE 71 vs SYD 134 Report Stats
GCF 114 vs BRI 61 Stats
WCE 83 vs STK 58 Report Stats
COL 76 vs GEE 87 Report Stats
Sun, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS 79 vs MEL 47 Report Stats
NTH 97 vs PTA 90 Report Stats
ESS 138 vs CAR 57 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 72 vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 58 vs MEL 81 Report Stats
PTA 159 vs BRI 46 Report Stats
GWS 83 vs WBU 110 Report Stats
GEE 107 vs WCE 32 Report Stats
GCF 49 vs HAW 148 Report Stats
Sun, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD 48 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
STK 50 vs ADE 136 Report Stats
FRE 113 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Thu, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 63 vs RIC 106 Report Stats
Sat, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 93 vs NTH 58 Report Stats
SYD 92 vs FRE 75 Report Stats
WCE 56 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
ESS 65 vs STK 81 Report Stats
Sun, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE 137 vs GWS 72 Report Stats
MEL 78 vs GCF 86 Report Stats
WBU 91 vs CAR 119 Report Stats
Mon, 21 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 106 vs HAW 87 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 83 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
STK 79 vs BRI 82 Report Stats
FRE 61 vs NTH 74 Report Stats
Sat, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
GCF 134 vs GWS 94 Report Stats
CAR 92 vs WCE 89 Report Stats
MEL 38 vs SYD 69 Report Stats
Sun, 27 AprTimes shown AEST
WBU 83 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
RIC 52 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
PTA 107 vs GEE 67 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 70 vs COL 104 Report Stats
Sat, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 175 vs STK 30 Report Stats
GWS 97 vs PTA 132 Report Stats
ADE 67 vs MEL 70 Report Stats
BRI 44 vs SYD 123 Stats
ESS 73 vs WBU 65 Report Stats
Sun, 04 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 77 vs GCF 120 Report Stats
GEE 81 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
WCE 54 vs FRE 73 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 107 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sat, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
PTA 94 vs FRE 76 Report Stats
BRI 57 vs ESS 65 Report Stats
MEL 83 vs WBU 99 Report Stats
Sun, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
WCE 188 vs GWS 77 Report Stats
Mon, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 69 vs CAR 101 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Thu, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 76 vs COL 55 Report Stats
Fri, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 64 vs SYD 114 Report Stats
Sat, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 74 vs MEL 91 Report Stats
NTH 125 vs BRI 38 Report Stats
FRE 96 vs GEE 64 Report Stats
Sun, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 87 vs GCF 125 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 111 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
Sat, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
GWS 41 vs RIC 154 Report Stats
COL 109 vs WCE 101 Report Stats
PTA 100 vs HAW 86 Report Stats
Sun, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
GCF 119 vs WBU 74 Report Stats
CAR 81 vs ADE 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Thu, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 148 vs GEE 38 Report Stats
Fri, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 54 vs COL 140 Report Stats
Sat, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 75 vs PTA 95 Report Stats
BRI 98 vs CAR 91 Report Stats
ESS 104 vs RIC 54 Report Stats
Sun, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 109 vs GCF 77 Report Stats
WBU 51 vs FRE 89 Report Stats
HAW 94 vs GWS 87 Report Stats
WCE 44 vs NTH 82 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 107 vs CAR 102 Report Stats
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs WCE 79 Report Stats
PTA 129 vs STK 59 Report Stats
WBU 87 vs BRI 95 Report Stats
GWS 66 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 74 vs SYD 109 Report Stats
FRE 90 vs ADE 50 Report Stats
NTH 116 vs RIC 88 Report Stats
Mon, 09 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 28 vs COL 61 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 85 vs FRE 105 Report Stats
SYD 98 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
WCE 103 vs GCF 100 Report Stats
BRI 80 vs GWS 125 Report Stats
ADE 109 vs NTH 73 Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 133 vs STK 37 Report Stats
COL 98 vs WBU 106 Report Stats
ESS 77 vs MEL 78 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs SYD 62 Report Stats
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 128 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
HAW 115 vs COL 86 Report Stats
GCF 118 vs GEE 78 Report Stats
FRE 105 vs BRI 22 Report Stats
ESS 101 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 100 vs CAR 92 Report Stats
STK 70 vs WCE 103 Report Stats
MEL 66 vs NTH 107 Report Stats
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Round 15
Fri, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89 vs ESS 80 Report Stats
Sat, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 116 vs GCF 63 Report Stats
STK 73 vs RIC 117 Report Stats
FRE 88 vs WCE 81 Report Stats
SYD 106 vs GWS 60 Stats
BRI 70 vs NTH 66 Report Stats
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
WBU 91 vs MEL 85 Report Stats
ADE 99 vs PTA 76 Report Stats
COL 91 vs CAR 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 108 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sat, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 79 vs BRI 54 Stats
GWS 72 vs ADE 140 Report Stats
GCF 80 vs COL 75 Report Stats
MEL 34 vs FRE 97 Report Stats
PTA 60 vs ESS 62 Report Stats
Sun, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 151 vs STK 66 Report Stats
WCE 51 vs SYD 79 Report Stats
GEE 69 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ADE 92 vs HAW 104 Report Stats
Sat, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 36 vs GEE 102 Report Stats
NTH 92 vs STK 33 Report Stats
WBU 94 vs GCF 66 Report Stats
BRI 64 vs WCE 76 Report Stats
SYD 122 vs CAR 51 Report Stats
Sun, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 126 vs PTA 106 Report Stats
ESS 103 vs COL 39 Report Stats
FRE 136 vs GWS 60 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 109 vs NTH 86 Report Stats
Sat, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
STK 118 vs FRE 60 Report Stats
GWS 87 vs GEE 94 Report Stats
Sun, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 72 vs MEL 69 Report Stats
WBU 94 vs ESS 101 Report Stats
Fri, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
WCE 42 vs RIC 59 Report Stats
Sat, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI 110 vs GCF 56 Report Stats
HAW 104 vs SYD 94 Report Stats
Sun, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 82 vs ADE 98 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Thu, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE 83 vs CAR 78 Report Stats
Fri, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 79 vs ESS 57 Report Stats
Sat, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 105 vs WCE 136 Report Stats
RIC 89 vs GWS 62 Report Stats
GCF 117 vs STK 64 Report Stats
NTH 79 vs GEE 111 Report Stats
Sun, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 51 vs BRI 74 Stats
HAW 107 vs WBU 45 Report Stats
COL 76 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 95 vs ESS 77 Report Stats
Sat, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 51 vs NTH 126 Report Stats
CAR 97 vs GCF 58 Report Stats
HAW 115 vs MEL 65 Report Stats
PTA 58 vs SYD 84 Report Stats
GEE 81 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
Sun, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 63 vs ADE 168 Report Stats
STK 99 vs WBU 122 Report Stats
WCE 126 vs COL 66 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR 76 vs GEE 82 Report Stats
Sat, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 127 vs STK 56 Stats
GCF 47 vs PTA 56 Report Stats
ESS 77 vs WCE 74 Report Stats
COL 56 vs BRI 123 Report Stats
ADE 69 vs RIC 79 Report Stats
Sun, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 111 vs WBU 61 Report Stats
MEL 34 vs GWS 98 Report Stats
FRE 110 vs HAW 91 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 140 vs CAR 37 Report Stats
Sat, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 101 vs ADE 94 Report Stats
ESS 108 vs GCF 89 Report Stats
GWS 67 vs COL 75 Report Stats
WCE 119 vs MEL 53 Report Stats
HAW 94 vs GEE 71 Report Stats
Sun, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 48 vs FRE 106 Report Stats
WBU 67 vs SYD 130 Report Stats
RIC 98 vs STK 72 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56 vs HAW 121 Stats
Sat, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR 90 vs ESS 90 Stats
FRE 105 vs PTA 97 Stats
SYD 65 vs RIC 68 Stats
NTH 123 vs MEL 93 Stats
GEE 143 vs BRI 81 Stats
Sun, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
GCF 99 vs WCE 151 Stats
ADE 141 vs STK 62 Stats
WBU 109 vs GWS 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 1
Fri, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 104 vs GEE 68 Report Stats
Sat, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 93 vs FRE 69 Stats
NTH 93 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
Sun, 07 SepTimes shown AEST
PTA 132 vs RIC 75 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 2
Fri, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 92 vs NTH 98 Stats
Sat, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 83 vs PTA 105 Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 3
Fri, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 136 vs NTH 65 Report Stats
Sat, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 97 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 4
Sat, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 74 vs HAW 137 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Home and Away
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Sydney Swans 22 17 5 0 142.88 68
Hawthorn 22 17 5 0 140.78 68
Geelong Cats 22 17 5 0 113.77 68
Fremantle 22 16 6 0 130.40 64
Port Adelaide 22 14 8 0 129.92 56
North Melbourne 22 14 8 0 117.04 56
Essendon 22 12 9 1 106.34 50
Richmond 22 12 10 0 105.77 48
View all
 
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