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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.

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AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78 vs RIC 105 19:20MCG
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 13:40MCG
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 16:35ANZ
BRI 74 vs COL 86 19:20G
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 19:20ES
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 13:10ES
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 18:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 13:45MCG
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 14:10SO
COL 63 vs ADE 90 16:35ES
GCF 76 vs STK 104 19:20MS
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 13:10SS
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 15:20MCG
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 19:50MCG
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 13:45MCG
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 14:10Adelaide Oval
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 16:35SCG
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 19:20ES
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 19:20G
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 13:10AS
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 15:20SS
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 11:10NZ
ESS 49 vs COL 69 14:40MCG
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 17:40SO
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 19:40Adelaide Oval
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 20:45Domain Stadium
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65 vs WCE 118 13:10G
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 15:20SS
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45 vs COL 120 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76 vs GEE 85 13:45MCG
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 14:10SCG
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 16:35MS
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 19:20ES
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50 vs FRE 118 13:10MCG
STK 80 vs ESS 82 15:20ES
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 19:50MCG
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 13:45BA
WBU vs STK 14:10ES
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ADE 17:10MS
MEL vs SYD 19:20MCG
FRE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs BRI 15:20ES
PTA vs WCE 16:40Adelaide Oval
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Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs STK 13:45Adelaide Oval
HAW vs MEL 14:10MCG
CAR vs GWS 16:35ES
SYD vs GEE 19:20ANZ
WCE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
RIC vs COL 15:20MCG
BRI vs PTA 16:40G
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Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE vs CAR 19:50ES
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs WCE 13:45ES
GWS vs ADE 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs COL 16:35MS
HAW vs SYD 19:20MCG
FRE vs NTH 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
PTA vs RIC 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 5 5 0 0 151.10 20
Collingwood 5 4 1 0 147.53 16
Western Bulldogs 5 4 1 0 104.75 16
Hawthorn 5 3 2 0 149.86 12
West Coast Eagles 5 3 2 0 145.92 12
Sydney Swans 5 3 2 0 118.26 12
Adelaide Crows 5 3 2 0 111.40 12
GWS Giants 5 3 2 0 102.87 12
View all
 
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