Votes and notes by Liahm O’Brien
I look at games in Adelaide with both excitement, nostalgia and fear. It is the city in which I got to see my all time favourite Tiger in Joel Bowden play his 250th game in 2008. It is a memory that I hold in high regard despite the ten goal loss we suffered that day. When I look at Adelaide as a football landmark I see the contrast between the ecstasy and agony involved in our great game. To me, the Adelaide Oval itself is a spectacle of history, beauty and horror. It is a ground that is a homage to the history of the game with its magnificent scoreboard and hill, which are a throwback to the era where Robran and Blight were the faces of South Australian football. It is also the site of some of our absolute worst defeats of this century, namely the 2014 elimination final. The round 6 encounter with the Crows was simply another addition to this ballad of pleasure and pain. Paul Kelly said it best when he sung that “All the King’s horses, all the King’s men, wouldn’t drag me back again”.
Going further than the 5-0 start that we’ve enjoyed in 2017, it was fantastic to see Steve Morris make it back to senior football after suffering an ACL injury in Hobart last year. With many positive vibes going into the game, the final score is somewhat of a bitter pill to swallow. Adelaide’s own success story in Andy Otten set the tone for the game in the first minute, taking a strong contested mark in front of our talisman Alex Rance. He wanted the footy and did everything in his power to get it, a mantra that Don Pyke’s men have followed from the first minute of 2017. Despite this it seemed that we had settled into the euphoria of the first quarter, trading goals with the Crows and out muscling them around the contest. This was no more evident than in the pack mark that Daniel Rioli took at the top of the goal square over the opposition key defenders. It was here that my own optimism grew and many encouraging thoughts raced through my head. In hindsight, there’s only one thought that I wish had come to fruition from the first quarter hysteria. That is, “Blow the fucken siren” as we’d taken a 19-18 point lead. After the second term had started, our hopes of doing football’s unthinkable had been buried in the boulevard of broken dreams that is Adelaide.
A flurry of five minutes by Rory Sloane and Matt Crouch in the second quarter really wrestled the ascendency back for the Crows as they shifted gears for the remainder of the game. This sparked a trend of centre bounce clearances that resulted in continuous scoring passages. Jacobs tapping down to Sloane or Crouch or Douglas. It didn’t matter who. The Crows as a group of 22 had the hunger and the desire to move the ball forward at any cost. When we would bang the ball inside our forward half it was the dynamic brigade of Atkins, Laird and Talia that would move it back the other way at twice the pace that it had previously met them. The result of this was a monumental amount of ball going to the Adelaide forwards with high quality. Walker in particular benefiting from this with a bag of 5 goals. The only real note I was able to make from the second half was that this was essentially a continuation of the tone that had been set by the Crows in the second quarter.
Let it be known that while I am deflated from this result, I think I speak for a majority of Richmond supporters when I say that we are not without hope. 5-0 starts to a Richmond season do not come around often and to see the rejuvenation of a club that looked very lost in 2016 has been great. This is without mention of the fact that that we have done this after trading away one of the best to don the yellow and black in Brett Deledio, a player that had for so long been our barometer. Moreover, I am in awe of the Adelaide Crows. This is a club that has lost a number of key players to free agency, been compromised at drafts and tragically lost a coach… and yet they are fitter, hungrier and more attuned structurally than any other team in the game. Even though we leave with our tails between our legs, we must see next week as an even bigger test for our club. Now our backs are to the wall after what has been an impressive start. The great test comes through how club will respond.
5 – Trent Cotchin: Our skipper proved why he is the man to lead the club. No matter how many clearances the Crows seemed to win, he was battling hard to try and stop the dam walls from bursting. His team highs in disposals (26), pressure acts (33) and tackles (11) are proof that Cotch will do whatever it takes to see his club improve and will do so when he is faced with all kinds of adversity.
4 – Shaun Grigg: One of the more underrated players in the competition, Shaun Grigg had to be an everywhere man and wore the burden of being the tall midfielder. Often having to go up against Sam Jacobs in ruck duels around the ground, Grigga showed just how big his heart is. I’d even go out on a limb and say he is probably our best club man. Week in and week out, he takes on whichever task is put in front of him.
3 – Kane Lambert: Taking a break from his newfound tagging niche, Lambert got involved in both attack and defence, following the lead set by his skipper. His 8 tackles and 17 pressure acts were complimented nicely by his 8 score involvements and late third quarter goal. He really took it up to the Adelaide midfielders and can hold his head high.
2 – Alex Rance: The score line does not reflect the way in which this man played. No matter how many times the ball went inside Adelaide’s forward 50, there was ‘Tross’ to spoil and halve the contest. His 11 intercept possessions were a testament to the way in which he tried to stop all comers from scoring.
1 – Dylan Grimes: In a similar fashion to his backline partner Rance, Dylan Grimes’ performance flew under the radar. Given the tough job of defending Eddie Betts at the Adelaide Oval, he played a dour and ugly brand of football to keep the forward pocket marvel to just one goal and one behind for the game. This was a very encouraging sign in an otherwise torrid affair.
The Benny Leaderboard:
7: Conca, Houli
5: Castagna, Nankervis
4: Grimes, Rance
2: Butler, Vlastuin
1: Prestia, Rioli, B. Ellis,
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)
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:
The club’s top tackler, across AFL and VFL teams
25: Martin, Nankervis, Vlastuin
23: Grigg, Grimes