Australian Rules football can be a beautiful game: fast, skilful and gloriously unpredictable. Unfortunately none of these adjectives apply to the dispiriting spectacle of Tiges vs Saints at the MCG in the penultimate round of an underwhelming 2016 season.
When I was a kid my mother used to caution that if you had nothing nice to say, then it was best you said nothing. Were I to heed her advice in this instance I’d be hard pressed to write a match report any longer than a haiku, which might go like this:
Light up the Fitzroy Gardens
Best play of the day
Because, really, it’s difficult to find many redeeming features from what was undoubtedly one of the worst game of footy I’ve ever seen.
I think it has to be said that, in 2016, the Tiges play a brand of football that is excruciating to watch. We present a style of play that’s entirely un-playful. (Alas, I don’t think there’s any deliberate irony in this game plan.) No-one seems to be having much fun, on either side of the fence.
How does our beloved football team infuriate its long-suffering fans at the MCG on this particular crisp and breezy winter afternoon? Let me count some of the ways:
– We habitually chip the ball around ineffectually, losing ground and momentum until we eventually cough the thing up through an unforced error;
– For some reason, we love to handball to a player who’s under pressure;
– We have no fluency in moving the ball out of defence and no apparent plan for receiving the ball into our forward line;
– We don’t run and block and tackle and inspire each other anywhere near enough;
– On the rare occasions when we do have control of the ball in our forward line we’re usually incapable of kicking it between the big sticks.
Much of the difference between a good team and an average team at AFL level is about confidence and belief. The Richmond team of 2016 seems sadly lacking in this department. Our skills look decidedly second-rate, but I reckon this is largely because the players don’t have a game plan that they properly believe in.
Of course, all of this is just the opinion of one bloke sitting on the side of the fence from which it’s easy to criticise. Aussie Rules footy is a brutal game, and I don’t like to be too harsh. But the truth is, as much as I love the Richmond jumper, I’ve got to the point where I no longer want to watch a team playing such a frustrating, boring and unproductive style of game.
Fortunately, I can at least report a couple of redeeming moments. One of these was the bloke sitting behind me observing that whoever was taking official stats on unforced errors was probably the hardest working person at the game. (It was hard to disagree.) On a more positive front, the other was the display of young Daniel Rioli. Here’s a player growing in confidence and looking capable of developing into a genuinely exciting talent. From my point of view, he produced nearly all of our best on-field moments.
Some final comments:
I wish to exempt Mr Alex Rance from my general criticisms above. He has played all year with a passion and flair that’s beyond reproach. (I think that Jack Riewoldt has generally done likewise, but not in yesterday’s game for some reason.)
Dreamteam points ratings are bullshit. The number of times a player touches the ball matters far less than the quality of what they do with it. Dustin Martin had a lot of the ball yesterday but did nothing much of note. (This is also a criticism I’d make of Brandon Ellis most of the time.)
I wish I understood what has happened to Shane Edwards this season. He’s a player of exquisite skills and lightening reflexes, and I can’t understand why he’s suddenly dropped so much off the pace.
I also wish I understood what Ben Lennon has done to offend the selection committee. He might be a good footballer if he ever got a decent run of senior games. But I guess we’ll never know.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who prays that a miraculous lightening bolt might incinerate those on-field dickheads who parade around with microphones before the game and during the breaks. Their prattle is inane and their enthusiasm is entirely confected. Enough already!
Trudging home through the Fitzroy Gardens after this misspent afternoon, I could at least be grateful for the host of golden daffodils (as Willy Wordsworth once did say).
Malcolm McKinnon has been a Tiger from birth, which is surely a mixed blessing. He often wishes that he cared less about football.