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Toothless Tigers

Date

Michael Gleeson and Matt Murnane

Touchy subject: Jack Riewoldt found the going tough against Carlton.

Touchy subject: Jack Riewoldt found the going tough against Carlton. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

THEY have one of the most exciting full-forwards in the AFL and one of the most promising centre half-forwards. They should be among the most potent forward lines, but this year the Tigers have been toothless.

The problem is Jack Riewoldt has been missing in action, Tyrone Vickery has been desperately out of form, and back-up forward Brad Miller has offered little, which has created a self-perpetuating cycle for Richmond where the poor form of one exacerbates the problems of the other.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick yesterday admitted he was troubled by his out-of-form forwards, but also pointed out it had not been a season for any tall forward yet.

Brad Miller is spoiled by Paul Bower.

Brad Miller is spoiled by Paul Bower. Photo: Pat Scala

''They're not playing to their potential,'' Hardwick said of Riewoldt, Vickery and Miller, admitting he had considered dropping one of the trio already this year. ''The funny thing about it is that the key forwards in general [have been down]. I think the leading goalkicker is on 13 goals this year, which is just over three goals a game.

''So overall there hasn't been a great deal of goals kicked by the key forwards. I think [Josh] Kennedy kicked a bag of seven, but he's on 11 for the year. So I think it's club-wide where key forwards aren't firing. We've got no doubt our guys will come through it, [and] hopefully deliver a blow this week, which would be nice.''

Riewoldt has kicked just six goals in four games after booting 78 and 62 goals in the past two seasons. His scoring accuracy of 40 per cent is the worst of the top 50 goalkickers. He booted 4.3 in the first-round loss to Carlton, but most of his goals came late in the match once the result was known. He took six marks against Melbourne in round three, but just two or three in the other matches.

Riewoldt remains the primary target for Richmond's midfield going inside 50, but his scoreboard output (not just his own scores but his score assists) is down from an average of 24 points a game last year to 18.8 points a game. He is taking fewer marks but has won 16 ground balls inside 50 this season, which is the most of any player, and he ranks sixth for disposals inside 50.

The result of this misfiring forward line has been that last year Richmond ranked third for scores from forward-50 entries; this year it is 14th.

Hardwick remains troubled by the defensive work Riewoldt is doing or, rather, not doing. ''His defensive area of his game is [what] we're probably a little bit concerned about,'' he said.

''The goals will come. I think he kicked … two out on the full. But if he keeps working on the defensive aspects and the intensity of his work-rate, that's where he'll get the results on the scoreboard.

''He can play better. There's no doubt about that.''

In part, Riewoldt's form line is a product of the quality of some of the opponents he has confronted. Ben Reid (Collingwood), James Frawley (Melbourne) and Tom Lonergan (Geelong) are all tailor-made to play against Riewoldt, each of them being taller, quicker and stronger.

He has also been hurt by Vickery's poor form as sides have been able to sag off Vickery in the belief he won't hurt them and concentrate on Riewoldt.

Riewoldt and Vickery both had extensive surgery in the off-season: Riewoldt had five operations but was back in full training by Christmas, while Vickery had shoulder surgery. Some at the club believe Vickery has yet to recover the confidence in his body since the surgery when flying for marks.

Riewoldt has normally played from behind a lot due to the fact he reads the ball better than most defenders and either runs at the pack to mark or he folds back towards goal and catches the defender out.

This year, though, he has been playing from behind more often, yet not been able to exploit his advantage.

Despite his lack of speed, he has a good leap and good hands and so marks over the back of packs rather than body-on-body with an opponent. His opponents have taken to playing him closer and keeping body contact.

Riewoldt has been criticised for poor body language, but that appears a relic of petulance in more recent years which has now made him an easy target for this criticism when his form is down.

''It's pretty hard to dull Jack's confidence on the field. He's fine,'' Hardwick said. ''He knows his form will turn around.''

Hardwick said he contemplated changing the mix in the forward line by dropping one of the tall forwards but had so far resisted the temptation.

''It's something that has come up,'' he said. ''Certain sides are playing three key forwards, some are playing two.

''But the hard thing about us this week is that with the Cox-Naitanui double, it's very hard to play with a smaller forward line when they've got four talls at the other end. So it's probably something that we haven't spoken about this week.''

Richmond has only won one game this year after a taxing early season draw which Hardwick admitted had him ''screaming throughout the night, for the first three nights'', when the AFL released the draw late last year.

''We've just got to make sure we try to get over the top of one of these sides and hopefully this is the week versus West Coast,'' he said.

13 comments so far

  • The problem is that the Tigers forwards have been overrated by the media. Friends of mine who are Tigers supporters don't rate their forward line as much as sections of the media do. Miller is well past his prime and can only ever provide 'encore' support, Vickery has barely VFL pace and stamina as well as poor goalkicking technique and Riewoldt's second and third efforts are typically lacking.

    Not a Tigers supporter myself, but an idea from left-field is they could play Dustin Martin from time to time as a pack-crashing half-forward. Has the aggression, body strength and the booming kick. That would allow Riewoldt to stay near the square where he is most dangerous. Houli also could also play on a HF flank and be a 2-3 goal a game player, but the problem is the Tigers don't have the depth to be flexible enough.

    Commenter
    Forever ninth
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    April 27, 2012, 11:34AM
    • As a Tiger supporter, can I just thank you basing your opinions on the opinions of others! Ty Vickery at his best has the potential to be a game winner. He's an accurate kick too, when he's playing well. The issue so far this year is that he's been well out of form. Jack too is well out of form, but in form, is one of the most dangerous forwards in the game. You don't win a Coleman medal, especially in a team that lost most of it's games that year, if you can't play.

      As for the Dustin Martin idea, ummmm how do I say this politely.....Dimma Hardwick thought of that one a long time ago! Dusty plays in the forward line regularly, pretty much since he started in the AFL, and is a very difficult boy to match up! He'll be brilliant when he 'grow's up'!

      All I'm saying, is watch us play before you judge the team!

      Commenter
      Mr Plow
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 12:57PM
  • Miller is just filling space until another tall forward develops, either Griifiths or Arnot. In fact I'd bring in Griffiths for Miller right now.
    Vickery could do with a spell in the VFL but taking on West Coast this week (Cox & Natinui), he'll get a reprieve.
    Reiwoldt is out of form yes, but rarely gets a crack at a contest one-on-one any more.

    Commenter
    Jeff
    Location
    Westmeadows
    Date and time
    April 27, 2012, 1:37PM
    • Arnot's short - what are you on about?

      Also check the photo of Miller and you'll see another part of the problem so far this year - Bower's hand is across Miller's head, should get a free kick for that, but it doesn't happen for Tiger forwards.

      Commenter
      cardtrader
      Location
      Richmond
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 4:38PM
    • Sorry, meant Elton not Arnot.

      Commenter
      Jeff
      Location
      Westmeadows
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 5:17PM
  • Watch Riewold and see Matthew Richardson in his early days. Too busy arguing with umps and looking for frees. Richo lost ten years of his career being petulant. Really came good at the end when he just concentrated on the ball. Hope the same doesn't happen to Jack.

    Commenter
    kepler22b
    Date and time
    April 27, 2012, 2:23PM
    • I find it impossible to vote in that poll. At the moment it looks like Jack has no idea when/where to lead so instead asks for the ball to be bombed to a pack to he can jump on top of it.

      If Jack can turn his form back to pre-concussion levels, he will kick 70+ and be AA again. If he keeps playing like he is now (and if Vickery returns to '11 form and Griffiths can remain injury free), Jack will be lucky to avoid a stint at Coburg. Who knows.

      Commenter
      The Shire
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 2:33PM
      • Gees the media come up with some utter nonsense sometimes. Being critical of the Tigers on the back of playing Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong in the opening 4 rounds is nothing short of ridiculous.

        Tigers have been competitive in all these games and unlucky not to win a couple. The one easy game they have had (Melbourne) they walked away easy winners.

        Expect to eat your words as the season rolls on Gleeson and Murnane. This article is nothing but a troll......

        Cheers,

        Two eyed cats supporter.

        Commenter
        what_you_got
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        April 27, 2012, 2:34PM
        • As a tigers fan, I don't think the authors got much wrong given that the article was about the forward line. The forward line has been poo.

          Thankfully our midfield, back-line and overall team play are vastly improved. If our forward line had been as good we would be 3 and 1 so far this season, if not 4 and 0.

          Commenter
          The Shire
          Date and time
          April 27, 2012, 3:53PM
        • Will have to agree to disagree then The Shire...it seems to me that these reporters are ignoring the massive improvement the Tigers have made this year and only focusing on what they perceive as a negative because of their 1-3 win-loss.

          Perhaps the most significant of these improvements is that they no longer rely on a gun forward like Riewoldt or Richo to kick a bag and win them a game of footy. Look at the cats and pies at their best....Mooney and Hawkins were bit players when it came to scoreboard pressure. It was a team effort that flattened the opposition week in week out. Richmond is starting to look very likely with a plethora of gun midfielders coming through who are improving all the time. Keep your heads up Tiger supporters many trolls in the media world just looking for a bite.

          Commenter
          what_you_got
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          April 27, 2012, 5:27PM

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