I have decided not to go this game. I am managing my Covid risk, I tell myself. But as it turns out though I can’t go anyway. After two years of the pandemic being out there and affecting everyone else, it arrives in our house. My partner tests positive on Saturday morning and we all have to isolate for seven days.
With my partner unwell and keeping to herself in the front room I am busy keeping the household ticking over. It is with some relief that I hit the couch at 7.25 to watch the Tigers. But how much relief will it be if we get crushed?
This might so easily have been the case. Luckily for Richmond, the Dogs have not been told about “the big sticks rule” where you get six points for a goal and only one for a behind. They fire for goal again and again as if all that matters is registering some sort of score. They dominate the first part of the first term and in no time have their first “point goal” and lead 1.6 to 1.1. Eventually Richmond break away, Bolton marks Riewoldt’s kick, plays on and goals and we’re in front.
Bolton snaps another point shortly after and the Dogs win a free, 30m out, right in front and miss. Just before the break Naughton snaps and goals and they’re in front.
Quarter-time score: Richmond 2.2.14 to Western Bulldogs 2.7.19.
I can only think how lucky we are that they didn’t kick straight and bury us. But our attacks, when they’ve come, have been exciting and fluid and have resulted in actual goals.
Early in the second term Picket marks a clearing kick and goals from the 50, his kick straight, high and handsome. This is a good spell for us, in which luck plays no small part. Castagna marks and wins a 50 under the new “still-like-a-statue” rule. Not wanting to make it look too easy he does a weird, play-on snap and goals from 15m out.
We win another of those 50s, this time against Naughton, and Presti, back in the side and looking good, goals from 30 out. Lynch then plays his best two minutes of footy in the last two years. He takes a good grab on the wing and gives the footy to Bolton who gives it to someone else who kicks goalward where to where Lynch has run. He marks and goals and the Tigers are looking very sharp.
Macrae gets one back for Footscray before a piece of Richmond play that brings tears to my eyes. Cotchin wins a great one-on-one scrap and taps the footy to Balta who takes off like a Clydesdale freed from the plough.Embed from Getty Images
He has one bounce and bombs it into the forward line where Lynch tries to mark, can’t quite get it, turns, gathers the loose footy and goals from close range under very close attention from the Doggies’ defence. It’s old-fashioned Richmond footy, one contest to the next and so on down the ground. It’s great to see Lynch moving so well and taking his chances and we’re four goals in front.Embed from Getty Images
The Dogs still don’t know about the six-points-for-a-goal rule and Naughton misses again at the other end and it’s 7.3 to 3.10. The runner goes out and explains the rule to Naughton who goals from the free kick after Short kicks out on the full.
Half-time score: Richmond 7.3.45 to Footscray 4.10.34
Richmond have been very good, especially the defence which is without most of our Premiership Heroes except for Short and Broad. Those two have been good – I’ve been very impressed with Broad over the past two seasons, he plays with a lot of skill and vision and plenty of toughness too. But the new defenders – Rioli, Tarrant and Gibcus – have also held their positions.
We have our noses in front, but the Dogs’ inaccuracy has put us there. If they keep getting the ball forward and start kicking straight they will swamp us. Sure enough the third term starts badly when Bontempelli marks and goals after we’d left him all by himself. Then Shedda is caught holding the ball and I worry that he’s starting to look slow. The Dogs go into attack from the free kick but Bontempelli misses. They’ve now kicked 5.12 to 7.3.
There follows a passage of blood and guts so wonderful that it’s censored. The Dogs try to switch play across their backline but Baker flies in and spoils, Lynch gathers the loose footy, straightens up and goals.Embed from Getty Images
Lynch and other Tigers rush to thank Baker for his work and to check that he hasn’t bled to death. Channel Seven rush to an ad and so we don’t see the gory aftermath. But after the ad someone says “he split his head open” and the camera is on him for half a second as he is treated on the bench. It looks like someone has upended a tin of red ink on his head, then it’s back to the un-bloodied players on the ground.Embed from Getty Images
Had this been a Shakespeare play rather than the AFL, the King, striding across the ‘G would have gestured to Baker on the bench and said “What bloody man is that?”
Sadly, after this English gets a quick reply for the Dogs who are not going to go away and are slowly learning the finer points of scoring in Australian footy.
Richmond go into attack again, Castagna marks on the 50 and kicks it to Riewoldt who can’t mark. The ball spills loose, Footscray try to clear it but Bolton blinks through them like a ghost, grabs the footy cleanly, turns in the pocket and kicks it on his left just inside the boundary. It sails high right over the goal umpire’s head and you wonder is there anything Shai can’t do? There is some similarity to Dusty’s ridiculous goal at the end of the GF in 2020. The stealing of the footy, the quick turn, the evasion, the outrageous ambition of attempting a shot from so tight an angle.Embed from Getty Images
Naughton ices this particular cake for us by missing again and soon it’s 9.4 to 6.14. They’ve had seven more scores than us – and very few have been rushed behinds – and we lead by eight points. Castagna has a good chance with an empty forward line in front of him but he misses. The Dogs kick the footy out on the full, Cotch takes the free and Lynch takes a big grab 45 out on a 45 angle. He kicks perfectly and we’re still in front with less than five minutes left in the third term. So, the most pessimistic thing you could say is, we’re doing better than we were against the Saints.Embed from Getty Images
Baker, back on the ground with his skull fused with superglue, does some great work in the middle and gets it to Balta who kicks long and wide. It’s not a great kick at all but Riewoldt marks right next to the behind post and kicks the goal. We lead by 20 with 2.45 left in the quarter.Embed from Getty Images
Some poor Richmond disposals result in another mark to Naughton but only a rushed behind results. Again Richmond can’t clear but then Treloar misses.
Richmond attack and Riewoldt marks on the 50 with 16 seconds left. The siren goes and the umpire kindly explains what he is allowed to do – that is, he can’t play on. Many, many years ago when Jack was perhaps still a teenager, I watched him on the telly in a game against the Saints. If I’m not mistaken, he had a kick after the siren from a similar distance that could have won us the game. And what made me so sad was not just that his kick fell short – I sort-of expected that – but that he kicked a drop punt. It was well-known, even then, that his kicks just didn’t go that far. But he didn’t even try a torpedo to get that extra five or ten meters that was required. And I thought, I know it’s old-fashioned, but shouldn’t players at least know how to try a torp when it’s their only hope?
Evidently, Jack had heard my silent lament and tonight he shapes up to kick a torp. I don’t think much of the kick off the boot – it looks like it’s going wide and falling short – but in the magical way of the spiral it straightens up and goes much further than it needs to. It’s a goal and Jack becomes the 21st highest-scoring player in Men’s AFL-VLF history, or something and is mobbed by his team-mates.
And it’s the last change and the Tigers are up by four goals.Embed from Getty Images
Three-quarter-time score: Richmond 12.5.77 to Footscray 6.17.53
Dunkley starts the last quarter well by kicking into the point post. At the other end a ferocious tackle from Toby wins him a free and he goals from close range. Soon the last term is half over and we still lead by five goals and then Parker, also playing well, wins a holding-the-ball free and goals from 30 out. Is this the sealer? Are we safe now, 37 points in front? The way we coughed up leads against Carlton and the Saints means we can’t relax until there are fewer minutes left than our lead in goals.Embed from Getty Images
And soon this blessed time arrives, six minutes left and we lead by 38 points.
Then Presti marks a clearing kick on the 50, hands it off to the un-tagged Short who bombs it from 55. We’re up by 45 points and are running away with it. Treloar kicks a sad, late goal for the Dogs. Hunter is gifted a 50 for time-wasting against Baker but he misses from 25 out. Then, to make all the Dogs feel better, Riewoldt marks and kicks a point after the siren.
Final Score: Richmond 15.9.99 to Footscray 7.19.61
There are many pleasing things about this win. Our make-shift defence has done very well. Ben Miller in his third game has been good and the old hands, Broad, Short and Rioli, have all stood up. Presti has had a great return to the side, 30 possessions, 10 of them contested and a goal. Pickett has played one of his best games for us. Bolton has been brilliant and Lynch and Riewoldt have had their best games in a long time. Baker has had another very good game and his head-splitting heroics would be immortalised had he lived in a less squeamish age. Parker has played another good game too, as has Cotch. I could name the whole side, as is generally the case when Richmond play well and win.
The Dogs’ kicking for goal is what kept us in the game early and perhaps won it for us in the end. But what really hurt them was how well we used the footy when we had it.