Vote and Notes by Sarah Black (@_sjblack)
I WALKED outside, did a 180, and re-emerged five minutes later with a waterproof jacket and considerably more layers on. Winter’s come back with a vengeance in Melbourne this weekend, one last icy blast before the daffodils bloom.
The very first AFL match I went to was a Richmond-Hawthorn clash, back in 2003. I was nine. It was a night match, and I went with my best friend, Bridgette. Clad in my too-big beanie, I was jealous of her scarf. I was confused by the gold-and-brown/yellow-and-black clash. Richmond won. I’m sure Richo featured.
I wore the same beanie, still slightly too big, to the MCG on Sunday afternoon. The rain cleared and the clouds disappeared on our train trip in, and we walked on slippery bitumen from Richmond station to the G, blue skies above us.
Both sides had a key leader out – the general Hodge for Hawthorn, and our Jack, who visited multiple doctors last week in an attempt to find someone who would let him play. A very Jack story.
I wrote about the Richmond-Gold Coast game in an official capacity last week. It’s a relief to take my unbiased journo hat off and yellow and black it up.
We were surrounded by young Hawthorn supporters. One proudly said he was five years old. He has had three premierships in his five years on the planet. I’ve had two finals wins in 24 years. These kids don’t know the meaning of failure.
The team ran out as per normal, but Alex Rance managed to rein in his manic pace to walk way behind the rest of the team, holding a little boy by the hand the entire length of the ground. It was a nice touch.
I had noted Josh Caddy is the new master of goal-square goals (taking Shaun Grigg’s mantle) after his opening goal, but little did I know what a starring role the former Cat would have.
As a five-foot-tall footballer who lined up at full-forward last week, I’m a firm believer in the tiny forward line. It’s so crazy, it works.
Even the now-beardless Corey Ellis, who shaved five years off his face in the space of a week, calmly slotted two goals in the first quarter. I may be going over the top here (although not as much as the person who created a “Aurora CoreyEllis” meme on Twitter), but there’s more than a touch of Chris Newman about CEllis.
Special mention must go to Shane Edwards, who was most definitely “on”. A leap while on the mark at half-back, an intercept, and then the coolness to feint an opponent and not rush the rebound kick.
A recent Trent Cotchin column asked fellow Tigers which teammate they would allow to go out with their hypothetical daughter. The answer was almost universally Shane Edwards, the “total package”.
Richmond 5.4 (34) to Hawthorn 1.3 (9)
Richmond has a “player’s playlist” over the loudspeaker during breaks at each home match. Jack had selected “Land Down Under”. It’s a very Jack song – the pan flutes are the gleam in his eye, and the sheer ridiculousness of the lyrics, and happy silliness it causes, is a very familiar feeling to watching him play.
It had been a blistering start by the Tiges. The common refrain around the G was simply, “Tackling’s good”, in that understated Australian fashion.
It was more than good. It was manic. The Hawks, general-less, were dithering in defence. Burgoyne had barely touched it, and Roughy was, well, rough in front of goal.
Far be it for me to criticise one of the greatest coaches of our time, but a forward line of Shoenmakers, Duryea and Langford was not a terrifying combination.
The gulf in class between the two sides “second tiers” was no more evident than in Kane Lambert. He’s been in excellent form all year, but his pace, decision-making and execution against the Hawks across half-forward was, to quote my dad, “carving them up”.
It was an unremarkable second quarter, save for “little Ivan’s” first goal. He may be ungainly, but there’s something about Soldo that screams Richmond.
Dan Butler had an eternity, actually walking through a snap kick to an unmarked Soldo in the square. With the utmost concentration on his face, he duly saluted and even David Astbury ran from full-back to congratulate him. All that was missing was a Conca cuddle.
Richmond 6.8 (44) to Hawthorn 2.5 (17)
No other player can increase the volume of the crowd at the G from a five to a ten quicker than Dusty.
Just five minutes of Dusty magic was enough to put the match to bed.
Playing in the goal-square, two goals in five minutes into the crowd at the Punt Road end got the Tiger faithful roaring.
To digress a tad from the play-by-play, Nick Vlastuin has not only slotted in with ease after returning from shoulder surgery, he is in career-best form.
The man called Tigger plays like his namesake, bouncing off opponents, the ground, even seemingly the air when taking intercept marks.
I could write pages on the backline. Dylan Grimes is, quietly (don’t let the opposition know!), one of our most important players. He is restrainedly fearless – rarely does stupidly brave things, but flies for intercept marks like Astbury and dashes through packs like Rance. The best of both worlds, and a rare combination of brains and footy smarts to boot.
Even Nathan Broad, who Simon Wallace on Twitter mentioned is now being called “Broady” in the stands (a very good sign), is improving every game. He’s one of us now.
Richmond 9.10 (64) to Hawthorn 4.8 (32)
It wouldn’t be a comprehensive Richmond victory without the requisite fourth-quarter butterflies.
Two straightforward Richmond misses was enough to get my dad rubbing his head in frustration. We knew what was coming.
An excellent Tim Boyle article on Saturday said if Hawthorn were in trouble, Clarkson puts Roughead into the middle of the ground.
The 250-gamer wasn’t going to let his team lie down, almost singlehandedly getting the Hawks to within 19 points after finally getting a goal of his own at the end of the third.
But these Tigers are different beasts. Nearly every Hawthorn goal was answered by a Richmond one.
And the one to put the final nail in the coffin of Hawthorn’s finals chances?
Nank was an inspired recruit. Last year I briefly interviewed him while he was sitting in a ute at the back of the grand final parade. He was quietly spoken, considerate and matter-of-fact about being an emergency. He also seemed a good 10 years older than me, rather than a year younger.
But on the field, he gets that manic glint in his eye, the essential ingredient of all Richmond cult heroes. He fits the club perfectly.
Richmond 13.15 (93) to Hawthorn 9.10 (64)
Top three is heady heights indeed. No-one’s quite sure how to react, especially with the news of Selwood’s injury and Hawkins and Duncan’s suspensions ahead of this week’s Geelong clash.
We’re in enemy territory. Third versus fourth. And our best chance to beat the Cats since our last win in 2006 (I was in year 7. I’m now 24).
I take great faith from the amount of Richmond scarves I saw on Monday. Let’s do this. Anyone got a ticket?
5 – Kane Lambert. I have it on very good authority not one media outlet interviewed him post-match, preferring the likes of Caddy and the Human Meatball (Prestia). Credit where credit’s due, ran the pants off the Hawks.
4 – Josh Caddy. It was a very Caddy-like performance. Four goals four, 28 touches, just did what he wanted. Highlight the mark on the goal-line, playing on and the unique slip-snap goal.
3 – Dylan Grimes. Argued my case at work on Monday he was more influential against the Hawks than Rance, and I stick by it. A brick wall with fragile hamstrings.
2 – Trent Cotchin. Unheralded attack on the footy, creative in stoppages and nailed a set shot (his weakness) just a few minutes after missing the first.
1 – Dion Prestia. Rest him every second week if this is what we get. Slotting in nicely, although one wag at a packed Richmond station, watching a motorised scooter attempt to go through a barrier, said “that thing’s got a wider turning circle than Dion Prestia.” So, work to be done.
Honourable mention – Dusty. Just because I just really, really want him to stay.
13: B. Ellis
6: Castagna, Caddy
5: Butler, Vlastuin
3: McIntosh, Prestia
Blair Hartley Appreciation Award:for players who have joined Richmond from another club
(Eligible 2017: Caddy, Grigg, Hampson, Houli, Hunt, Nankervis, Maric, Miles, Prestia and Townsend.)
Anthony Banik Best First Year Player:for anyone who was yet to debut before round 1
(Eligible 2017: Shai Bolton, Dan Butler, Ryan Garthwaite, Jack Graham, Ivan Soldo, Tyson Stengle)
1: Bolton, Stengle
Joel Bowden’s Golden Left Boot:for left footers
(Eligible 2017: Batchelor, Chol, Corey Ellis, Grigg, Nankervis and Houli).
Greg Tivendale Rookie List Medal:
upgraded from the rookie list during the current season
Potentially eligible 2017: Castagna, Chol, Moore, Stengle and Soldo.
Maurice Rioli Grip of Death Trophy:
For the Tiges top tackler