This was the most generally anticipated game in footy since Round 1. Our winning streak was 6, theirs was 7.
The trick for Eastern-states Tigers was how to fill all of Sunday until the 4.40pm first bounce. Here we went down to the rivulet with 200 other people and picked up plastic and polystyrene remnants from the flood a week ago, and that passed the time nicely.
I bought a one-week AFL Live Pass for this special occasion blockbuster. 5 bucks entitled me to an appropriately phone sized picture of the sun-drenched action from Optus Stadium, Perth. Throughout the game below the picture were stats from the completed Blues v Demons massacre. I never did work out how to get the right stats. I watched in front of the fireplace, squeezed up with the 16yo on my right, and the mini iPad balanced on a couple of cushions at eye level.
After Caddy opened the scoring (free kick to Cotch, messy pack mark that I considered 40/60 payable) – it was one way traffic for the rest of the quarter. I reassured myself that we came back from a similar terrible start against Carlton, but then again that was Carlton. Our outstanding players early were Riewoldt and Edwards. Jack was in everything but missed an easy set shot (as did Martin and Grigg). Sheds was a twisting, turning link man, distributing the ball at impossible angles to his direction of movement like the great farnarkler Dave Sorenson. Cotchin marked outside 50 and telegraphed that he wanted to dish off. Jayden Short has form for this but the Eagles were dozing – he arrived through the centre square and pounded it through for our much-needed second goal. Either side of Shorty’s goal Jack Darling kicked majors, to go with Cripps, Gaff, Kennedy and Willie Rioli. Ominous signs, down 37 -15 at QT. But Elliot Yeo was off injured and looking downcast, that could be helpful.
After the break the ship began righting itself. Sheds opened with an amazing goal. Dusty’s pass into 50 was low and hard like an un-returnable forehand winner down the tramlines. His kicking action was entirely in the horizontal plane. Sheds patted it, tamed it, gathered it and nervelessly straightened up and kicked the goal. Note; he did not draw a man and handpass over the top. He did not head for the pocket so he could checkside it on the run. Suddenly we had the momentum. Nank was taking it up to NicNat. He is such a lovely kick, he delivered it perfectly for Jack to crash the pack and mark. He snuck the kick in, we were 9 points down. Today’s Ruck Chuckles were provided by Martin against Lycett and later Broad against Naitanui.
Jack Darling was paid a mark on the boundary 50 metres out that he controlled practically sitting in a Bunnings chair. His confidence up he approached to kick it checkside, hit the Fat Part Of The Ball™ and it fell into Redden’s hands right in front. It was that sort of day. At the other end our Jack went up for Mark Of The Year an hour early and missed the ball by metres, free kick. Oh we don’t wanna penalise THAT do we?? asked a Fox genius. We were killing them at this point, but still down 44-29. Jack buried Cole in a tackle but was unrewarded. Our entries were frequent, chaotic and unrewarded. Sheds’ hands outstanding, Lloyd spinning through the crowd but no scoreboard progress. 19 inside 50s to 3 for the quarter. The pressure is incredible. With misses and a dodgy rushed behind we creep up to 44-32. Somehow none of this is getting the ball through the big sticks, until the ball flips out of a standing pack at the top of square, and Jack soccers it sweetly through with his left. To be able to think his way through this situation is completely just off the charts in terms of football intelligence yeah OK mate I think he just saw it and kicked it, actually.
25 seconds later Jack made another one. Trying to hook it through as tackled, he changed his mind and managed to just toe it one metre to George who goaled from the square. George (sporting a Tom Libba-ish barnet) had collected Conca’s soccer out of the centre bounce, passed and ran on to get on the end. Best thing he did all day. Nank was working himself to exhaustion. With 12 seconds left he found the ball at his feet and just nudged it away gently like it was a possum in his driveway and he was trying to tell if it was alive. Siren. Scores level. First v second. Capacity crowd booing. How good is footy.
At the time I thought – ‘What a great quarter. Anyone’s game. Yeah bad kicking might bite us later but the momentum’s the thing’. How wrong I was. That quarter was our best chance to put a dent in this mob. Their oversize backline were marking only when we kicked it straight to them, and we did that plenty. For some reason our backline was misfiring and and we avoided that problem by ‘playing off a short pitch’, winning it back across the centre. It was really enjoyable to watch if it was divorced from what came before and after.
I’ll just go with my notes for the 3rd quarter. The AFL Livepass was starting to struggle along with the Tiges.
Conca goals gets KMac cuddle.
Yeo back from the dead, greatest comeback since Gary Lazarus (Fitzroy 1963-70, 132 games).
James Cripps looks like Once In A Lifetime era David Byrne.
Conca flick to Riewoldt.
Cotch stupid 50, then Edwards. Too far back now.
Short again off a very lucky 50 metre penalty.
Astbury on Kennedy = David & Goliath.
Kelli Underwood – boundary duties only – weird.
What I didn’t write was we gave up 7 goals to 3 in the premiership term. And just like that we were 28 points in arrears and our old mate momentum was Back In Town. Our Jack was having an incredible game, but their Jack was having his best of his career. Sheds had faded. George wasted opportunities. Butters was invisible and might miss next week for Rioli. I feel for Stengle that Rioli’s return might cost him a chance.
Martin looked to me to have gone back to the 2016 model. Less trust in his mates – which leads to him doing too much. Cotchin was very solid in adversity. Dylan didn’t have a good game but there was a little moment that showed what great spirit he plays the game in. Gave away a free which sparked a melee but gave the Eagle a little tap later – sorry mate.
There’s lots I don’t understand about footy. Example – we concede the ruck to Naitanui. It is 100% guaranteed he is going to tap it to an Eagle midfielder. We don’t even contest therefore we have an extra man. How in heaven’s name did he repeatedly find a man he could tap to, streaming free in the clear?
Seconds before the final siren Butters demonstrated a fault we have shown all year. 35 out right in front, instead of taking the shot he tried to chip it to Jack. Siren. Jack punched it away.
5 Riewoldt for a genuine 4-quarter effort. Showed real leadership all day. His first votes for the year, incredible.
4 Nankervis gave NicNat a great contest. His workload is incredible.
3 Edwards was at his very best in the first half.
2 Cotchin was down early, missed shots, was in our best when the game was running against us. 7 tackles.
1 Conca is not everyone’s cup of tea but I can think of heaps of clubs who’d love to have him.
Unlucky: Short, Caddy, Martin
10: Grimes, Nankervis
8: Caddy, Lambert
6: Rance, Edwards
5: Lambert, Short, Riewoldt, Conca
1: Townsend, McIntosh, Castagna, Vlastuin
Blair Hartley Appreciation Award:for players who have joined Richmond from another club
(Eligible 2018: Caddy, Grigg, Hampson, Houli, Nankervis, Miles, Prestia and Townsend.)
Anthony Banik Best First Year Player:for anyone who was yet to debut before round 1
(Eligible 2018: Liam Baker, Noah Balta, Callum Coleman-Jones, Ryan Garthwaite, Jack Higgins, Ben Miller, Patrick Naish)
Joel Bowden’s Golden Left Boot:for left footers
(Eligible 2018: Chol, Corey Ellis, Grigg, Nankervis and Houli).
Greg Tivendale Rookie List Medal:
upgraded from the rookie list during the current season
Potentially eligible 2018: Baker, Chol, Eggmolesse-Smith, Moore, Stengle
No votes yet.
Maurice Rioli Grip of Death Trophy:
For the Tiges top tackler
33: Nankervis, Riewoldt