I have an old friend who’s been following Fremantle FC since the club’s inception. Every time the purple ones traverse the Nullarbor to take on the Tigers at the MCG we meet up and enjoy a pleasant afternoon on the terrace. These excursions have included both occasions where D. Mundy has vanquished the Yellow & Black at the death as well as, from my point of view, some happier contests such as today’s encounter.
Let me preface my report on Tigerish exploits with a couple of Freo-related observations. Firstly, every time I watch big Aaron Sandilands lumbering around the paddock, making everyone else look positively Lilliputian, I find myself wondering about his parents. What kind of creatures could possibly hatch such a man-mountain? I also find myself thinking about a particular photograph by Diane Arbus (see duly bastardised reproduction accompanying this article).
That said, I have to admit that our Nank had about as much success jumping up against the purple giant as might the old folk in Arbus’ picture. Secondly, don’t believe reports that Nat Fyfe was best-on-ground in this game. True, his aerial work was sensational and he won a lot of the pill but, more often than not, his disposal was appalling. In the first half especially we wondered if perhaps he had his left and right boots accidentally laced to the wrong feet. Most of the time the man-bunned one couldn’t kick truly to save himself. In this regard he led his team by example, with Freo players taking it in turns to butcher the ball on a regular basis. My Freo supporting friend had little to cheer about, save for a few passages of fluent play in the third quarter.
When a team manages to kick only four goals in an entire game it’s difficult to weigh up how much this is a product of their own incompetence and how much it reflects the quality of the opposition. Most of the time, Fremantle delivered the ball into their forward line without precision, but the Tiger defenders read the play beautifully and intercepted most of the Freo forward forays with skill and courage. Tall defenders Dylan Grimes, David Astbury and Alex Rance were the best players on the ground in my view, marking everything that came their way and rebounding with alacrity.
The Tiges were most magnificent when they ran in waves, linking up with well- weighted handball and sharp, diagonal foot passes to move the ball swiftly from one end of the ground to the other. This is the kind of football that makes it difficult to identify best players because so many are doing their bit in the chain. Titch Edwards has always been a master of the magic blink-and-you-miss it handball, but now other Tigers are regularly executing the same manoeuvre. Jack Riewoldt has become a great exponent and many of his teammates are also having a go. (I sometimes feel that we might do a little less of this slick handball routine when we’re close to goal and could we please ‘just-kick-the-bloody-thing’, but perhaps I’m just a bit old-fashioned in this regard.)
The other thing to love about the Yellow & Black in this game was their relentless tackling pressure. I take statistics with a grain of salt, but when a team has so much more of the ball than their opposition and still manages to have almost thirty more tackles then we can take that as a sign of great defensive endeavour. Jack Graham is an amazing tackling machine, but all of his teammates bring great manic endeavour to this aspect of the game.
The video goal review episodes in this game seemed ridiculous to me, with goal umpire’s decisions being overturned on the basis of inconclusive and blurry evidence. Here is another practice from the AFL Office of Stupid Ideas, which works hard to keep us all suitably irritated. (Sigh…)
At the end of the game I’m struck mostly by how weird it feels to be following a team that’s actually REALLY GOOD. I pinch myself and wonder how long this’ll go on for. We have a couple of games coming up against stronger opposition, so I guess we’ll see…
5 votes: Dylan Grimes – as courageous as always, with fly-paper hands.
4 votes: David Astbury – took fourteen marks! Enough said…
3 votes: Alex Rance – our own Charles Atlas impersonator, but with better hair.
2 votes: Dustin Martin – not his greatest game, but his precision passing by hand and by foot was a wonder to behold.
1 vote: Bachar Houli – responsible for the game’s best cameo moment, spoiling an opposition mark, paddling the ball forward along the wing and then handballing deftly inboard to set up an early goal in our barnstorming final quarter.
6: Nankervis, Rance
5: Lambert, Short
4: Caddy, Conca, Higgins
1: Townsend, McIntosh, Castagna
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
24: Nankervis, Riewoldt
23: Lambert, Edwards