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Tale of reality versus reputation

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Jack's back as Tigers burn Hawks

Our footy experts review Richmond's big win over Hawthorn and Collingwood's costly triumph over Adelaide.

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THERE are several good stories out of every weekend of AFL football. Not so often do arguably the two biggest emerge from the same match. But that was the case at the MCG on Saturday.

You could argue about which was the better yarn - Richmond's power-packed performance or the extent of Hawthorn's laziness and sloppiness. Both, however, in the context of the 2012 season, appeared far more significant than merely delivering another winner and loser.

First, to the positive. If the Tigers haven't yet officially arrived, they have definitely grabbed their luggage from the overhead lockers and are standing impatiently in the aisle, waiting to disembark. Damien Hardwick's team has managed to score the odd upset over the past couple of years, but Richmond hasn't beaten a team as highly rated as the Hawks so emphatically for a long, long time.

Roaring: Tigers Jack Riewoldt (left) and Ivan Maric (No. 20) celebrate Steven Morris' first AFL goal.

Roaring: Tigers Jack Riewoldt (left) and Ivan Maric (No. 20) celebrate Steven Morris' first AFL goal. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

And it was the circumstances of the victory that spoke just as loudly as the crushing 62-point margin. The full extent of Richmond's midfield capabilities was on show, the roll call of Trent Cotchin, Brett Deledio, Dustin Martin, Nathan Foley and Shane Tuck all on song, and even the Hawks' biggest names simply unable to match it.

Ruckman Ivan Maric has become a real key to Richmond, bringing the stars into the picture more consistently with his hitouts and his strong presence at the stoppages. But there's a fair bit more besides. The weakness in both contested ball and clearances that was holding the Tigers back even early this season is being corrected, and Richmond won both against the Hawks, the contested stuff handsomely.

The defence, so often an Achilles heel, is vastly improved, a tremendous understanding developing between the back six. Steven Morris is an important addition, Alex Rance is growing in maturity by the week and was superb on Lance Franklin on Saturday, while Ben Griffiths, with his booming kicking, is the latest fillip.

There's a lot more to like about the offensive side of Richmond's game, too, Jack Riewoldt's six goals against the Hawks more the icing on the cake than the whole cake. Jake King has become a really important defensive forward and genuine goalkicker and there's more goals being produced from the midfield contingent, either in that role or, as Martin and Cotchin are beginning to do consistently, while ''spelling'' up forward.

It's all about balance, and Richmond is finding a lot more of it. It's also about consistency of effort, and perhaps that's the greatest single pointer to the Tigers' improvement. Even in defeat this season they've been close to the mark, avoiding those morale-sapping thrashings that smack of immaturity that, in experience terms across the board, the Tigers still are.

Perhaps that made Hawthorn's lack of effort even more stark. What is becoming patently obvious, though, is the gap between perception and reality with a side making a habit of becoming the AFL's great tease. And some telling signs that there are too many Hawks too satisfied with their reputations.

Put aside for a moment Franklin's chronic inaccuracy and Cyril Rioli's ''deliciousness'' masking an average of just 14 disposals and an engine insufficient to exert a badly needed explosive midfield presence. Both are important factors in the Hawks' largely unconvincing form this season.

But just as worrying for coach Alastair Clarkson is the manner of his team's four losses, three in which they led at half-time before being overhauled by hungrier, harder opponents. The pivotal area each time was the midfield, where opponents who'd been beaten early wrestled control away from the Hawks' seasoned crew.

In Saturday's fourth defeat, Hawthorn trailed at the long break, but came off with plenty of hope after an important late goal from Rioli. When Jarryd Roughead kicked the first of the third term, there was the expectation they'd trample over the Tigers. But every Hawthorn punch was answered with one just as lusty. And the tell-tale sign that it had all got too hard for the Hawks came in Richmond's five-goal rush at the start of the last quarter.

Hawthorn plays North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and Brisbane before a round-13 bye, then Carlton, GWS and Western Bulldogs. The natural expectation is for the Hawks to win at least five, and possibly all six. Interestingly, Clarkson himself used the ''E'' word a couple of times post-game on Saturday. The Hawks hadn't anticipated being 5-4 at this point, he conceded. ''We had the expectation that we'd be high up the ladder and challenging seriously,'' he said.

It's a dangerous word in football, expectation. Perhaps it's time Hawthorn forgot about what is supposed to be the case, and deal with what actually is. And that's a so-called premiership fancy that has a win-loss record only a fraction better than 50 per cent, and which clings to a spot in the top eight by a very slender thread.

66 comments

  • Onya Tigers. Loved your win over the weekend, which was nice enough to silence the pure arrogance of Hawks fans. Hodge being out is killing the Hawks. Mitchell is having to shoulder more of the work, and Sewell and Lewis are not the most polished mids. They're lacking a real run and carry type. Oh well.

    I find it funny too that Corey Enright is Rioli's kryptonite. Beats him every time

    Commenter
    Julius Seizure
    Date and time
    May 28, 2012, 1:25AM
    • Franklin is a product of the Hawthorn fans (and AFL promoters) pumping him up for too long. He goes down very easily in the contest for a 196cm 102kg bloke, and too often seeks out the easy hand-ball receive in the goal square. Hawks fans have cried blue murder too often when he falls over rather than ever question his effort. His dive against the Cats late last year in the dying stages at the G (in front of Lonergan) was case and point. Replays showed no contact and the staged 'hands in the air maneuver', yet Hawks fans were crying that Buddy was 'robbed'. If he had of contested he would have marked the ball and ended the Hawks shameful trot against the Cats. Lance should be brilliant, but sadly is the barometer to Hawthorn's under achieving. Doesn't matter, Buddy Balls and his t-shirt brand are are selling well I hear.

      Commenter
      Al
      Location
      Souf Yarra
      Date and time
      May 28, 2012, 10:09AM
    • Firstly, Corey Enright doesn't play for Richmond, secondly, go back and have a lok at the 2008 GF, when Rioli, a first year player, dominated Enright, to the point where Enright was screaming at his teammates for some help.

      Commenter
      Dan
      Location
      Adelaide
      Date and time
      May 28, 2012, 10:23AM
    • My point about Enright was an observation not directly linked to the weekend's game. But as the Dawks have lost EVERY encounter against the Cats since 2008, and won 2 flags in the meantime, and Rioli has done very little in those games, it's fair to say Enright owns Rioli, just like Geelong owns the Dawks

      Commenter
      Julius Seizure
      Date and time
      May 28, 2012, 1:00PM
  • I'm a mad hawks fan, but we cannot make the finals let alone win the premiership unless we a) win the contested possies, b) become less reliant on cyril and buddy to kick miracle goals and c) cyril and buddy start doing the normal things too, regularly.

    Commenter
    lrosegaijin
    Location
    yokohama
    Date and time
    May 28, 2012, 3:03AM
    • Yeah Cyril's miracle goals on the weekend both standing on his own in the goal square

      how tough we're those.....

      The worst is channel 7 blowing smoke up the blokes ass they made it sound like he was the greatest player ever on the weekend, but he's really just an average plodder who kicked a few chip goals and does 1 or 2 highlight reel things every week to pretend like he's still relevant and Bruce and co fall for it

      Commenter
      Greg
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 28, 2012, 9:07AM
    • @ greg

      "how tough we're those"?

      Tougher than it is to spell correctly mate for you, that's for sure!

      He's not an average plodder, what he does do is quality, but I question his capacity to regular produce the level of output of others. A greater level of output, more consistently is required.

      Commenter
      blogster
      Date and time
      May 28, 2012, 9:51AM
    • @ irosegajin. Without making this a blog. Anywhere nearby where I can get some real footy conversation? Am hanging out for some....
      Looks like the tiges had a great game. There seems to be something different about them compared to previous years. But won't crow too much and put the mocchas on them....

      Commenter
      Jimbo
      Location
      Near Tokyo
      Date and time
      May 28, 2012, 9:59AM
    • Blogster
      There aren't any spelling mistakes in there, not sure where you went to school.

      If someone produces very rarely that is the very definition of average plodder. Like I said he did a few highlight worthy things on the weekend and that's about it, got toweled up by a bloke playing his 8th game (Morris's goal the other way was the very definition of quality Cyril should watch a video of that)
      His 2 goals were very soft standing around waiting for a cheap possession in the goal square.

      Commenter
      Greg
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 28, 2012, 12:09PM
    • @ greg

      "how tough we're those"?

      I believe the word you are after is 'were'. "We're", is a contraction of 'we are'.

      You were saying?

      Commenter
      blogster
      Date and time
      May 28, 2012, 12:31PM

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