Home » Richmond finals chances, premiership dynasty, Fox Footy AFL 360, On The Couch

Richmond finals chances, premiership dynasty, Fox Footy AFL 360, On The Couch

by archyw

For five years, Richmond dissections on the Monday night TV disappeared.

But after Friday night’s loss to St Kilda, which saw the Tigers muster a paltry two goals, Damien Hardwick’s troops were back on top of the agenda for the wrong reasons.

Yet while the list of doubters has grown significantly in recent days, there’s still a glimmer of hope the dynasty isn’t over yet … the emphasis being on ‘glimmer’, though.

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The Tigers were a shadow of their premiership selves against the Saints, losing by 40 points at the MCG on a night where Noah Balta and Nathan Broad were added to their lengthy injury list.

Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy told Fox Footy’s On The Couch the Tigers were in the midst of an “amazing fall from grace” and that pundits and fans would’ve walked away from Friday night’s game thinking: “How could they have got so low?”

Triple premiership Lion Jonathan Brown said it was an “un-Richmond like”.

“It was something that we really haven’t seen for the last five years. Their effort was lacklustre. They looked nervous around the ball,” Brown told On The Couch.

Richmond press conference | 06:18

“The Richmond system, it’s been a chaotic system and very much a ‘move the ball forward’ system that always stood up well in wet conditions. But slippery conditions on Friday night, it just didn’t stand up at all.”

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THE DOUBTERS HAVE EMERGED … FINALLY

It’s a credit to the Tigers that pundits have held their judgment until Round 15, such is the faith and respect the club has earnt over the past five seasons.

But after Friday night’s performance, many commentators have seen enough – and declared the Tigers out of the premiership race.

“I don’t think they can win it now,” Brown said.

“They’ve got a lot of problems – too many problems for me that they can win a premiership.”

As the Tigers traipsed off the MCG turf on Friday night, AFL 360 co-host Gerard Whateley said he put a line through them for 2021.

“I must admit I looked down and thought ‘it takes either a vivid imagination or blind faith’ (to see them winning the flag) at that stage in the cold reality straight after a loss like that,” Whateley told AFL 360.

“When you put their body of work together against the other contenders and against the mid-pack – where they actually probably belong, their results say they belong in this mid pack – and you start to ponder, it’s actually not about the trophy. It’s about making sure they’ve got a lane to compete for it in the finals.

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“I would want to see them next year. I don’t think they’re finished, but I don’t think they’re winning the flag (this year).”

Melbourne champion Garry Lyon pointed out that recent AFL dynasties had stopped after three flags, pointing to trio of premierships won by the Brisbane Lions of early 2000s, the Cats of the late 2000s and early 2010s then the Hawks of the mid-2010s.

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“They’ll need to be at their very best to defy history – that is everything going for them,” Lyon told On The Couch.

“But what we’re watching, what the numbers are telling us is that they’re not at their best and a long way from it.”

‘ALARMING’ STATS

The numbers, as Lyon pointed out, make for concerning reading.

Champion Data statistics, revealed on Fox Footy’s On The Couch, showed how much the Tigers have been struggling defensively in recent weeks.

Since Round 8, the Tigers are ranked ninth for points against from turnovers, 15th for both points against and opposition score per inside 50 and, most notably, 17th for points against from stoppages.

Speaking of stoppages, that’s where the reading becomes grimmer. The Tigers, since Round 6, have been ranked 17th for points from clearance differential and 18th for clearance differential.

“That’s not the profile we’ve come to see from Richmond,” Lyon said.

“We’ve sat here and said they lose centre clearances but don’t really panic too much because they’re so good in the back-half at winning it back. But now the back-half is vulnerable as well and they’re getting scored against – and it all just gets a bit messy.”

Riewoldt rallies the troops after loss | 00:36

Brown added the clearance numbers were “alarming”, especially as the Tigers’ stoppage work was so crucial during their successful 2020 finals campaign.

“It hasn’t been a great strength in that last three or four years, but when they’ve played some ordinary football, they got their stoppage game going – and lifted them to that premiership,” Brown said. “This year, that’s really dropped off again.

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“Apart from the St Kilda game in Round 5 where they dominated them, they’ve been cleaned up around stoppages. Also their ball movement concerned me against St Kilda, that really stood out for in slippery conditions the other night. They just couldn’t move it.”

LACK OF HUNGER?

What isn’t as tangible is determining just how determined the Tigers are to win a third straight flag.

Brown said hunger still shouldn’t be an issue as the Tigers’ 2021 campaign is “still alive”, adding the club was “on the cusp of history”.

But St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt suggested the playing group mightn’t be as dogged as previous seasons.

“Their big catchcry all pre-season was ‘humble and hungry’. But I think Damien Hardwick would have a right now to the group to actually question their hunger,” Riewoldt told Fox Footy’s On The Couch.

Damien Hardwick, Senior Coach of the Tigers. Picture: Michael WillsonSource: Getty Images

“That’s human nature. When the other variables aren’t changing (personnel and gamestyle), I think that’s a natural place to go.

“Only they (the players) can answer that question, whether they are still as intense in their desire to go again.”

AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson said he also had doubts on the Tigers’ hunger, based off their inconsistent performances and inability to string wins together.

Robinson pointed out how Richmond responded to its Anzac Eve loss to Melbourne with a 22-point win over the Bulldogs in Round 7 before suffering a 63-point loss to Geelong the next week.

“When you win three flags or have a run of sustained success with whatever you do in life, there’s an expectation that you can still do it … and footy will always find out those who are hungry or not,” Robinson told AFL 360.

“What we’re seeing in this team is these incredible highs and too many bad lows and a lot of in-between football, which is not premiership football.

“I’m seeing teams who are harder and tougher and hungrier going at Richmond. Richmond have lost their invincibility … The invincibility, the aura – Richmond have lost it.

Round 16: The current state of play | 04:21

“So teams are going out there going: ‘No, we can get you. You’re only human and we’ll go at you hard, because you’ve been going at us hard for four years. We’re now going to go at you hard and see how you like it.’

“And guess what? The Tigers aren’t liking it.”

WHAT MUST CHANGE?

From a hunger and attitudinal perspective, skipper Trent Cotchin can set the tone for Tigers for the rest of the year, according to Brown.

In the aftermath of the loss to Saints, Brown said Cotchin was “trying too hard” to assert himself on games – a point Brown on Monday night elaborated on.

“He’s almost affronted,” Brown said of Cotchin.

“Trent Cotchin is going to have to really lead the Richmond players, especially the senior players, with controlled aggression, keep his frustrations from boiling over. Right now he’s on the verge of boiling over.

“The challenge is now that all of a sudden teams stand up to you and your ego takes a bit of a hit and it’s almost like ‘how dare you come at us, we’ve been the champions for four years’. So Trent, more than anyone in that side, needs to show controlled aggression and lead them through that with calm and coolness and composure.”

Richmond is 1-6 with a percentage of 75 against top-eight sides this season. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

Perhaps the more immediate change can be at the selection table, particularly around their key-position stocks with Tom Lynch and Toby Nankervis due to return from injury soon.

“They’ve got to sort out the balance of the big men. The other night they looked too tall,” Brown said.

“They definitely need Nankervis back and then I think they go with a smaller ruckman.

“To me, the DNA of Richmond has been that smaller team that just overwhelms you with pressure.

“I can’t see a forward line with Lynch, (Jack) Riewoldt and (Callum) Coleman-Jones – it just seems too big for me.”

CAN THEY DEFY THE DOUBTERS?

Despite Friday night’s loss, the Tigers remain inside the top eight and are well positioned to play finals, thanks in part to Hawthorn’s shock win over the Giants.

According to foxfooty.com.au’sThe Run Home, the Tigers have the fourth-easiest run home.

But their top-four chances are essentially shot – and winning the flag from outside the top four is incredibly rare.

“People say they’ve got an easy draw, but I don’t think they’ve got an easy draw,” Brown said.

“Collingwood can be hard to score against, Brisbane and Geelong two weeks in a row – two top-four teams – Fremantle over in Perth is a tough challenge and GWS, who they’ve had problems with apart from the Grand Final, playing them in Sydney.

Dejected Richmond after losing to the Saints. Picture: Darrian TraynorSource: Getty Images

“They’ve got to win six of eight and then they’re going have to win four straight finals.”

Even if the Tigers do make finals, the fact they’re 1-6 with a percentage of 75 against top-eight sides this season is concerning.

Robinson said it “would be the one of the great premierships if they win it, but it’s not happening”.

Usually they would’ve flicked the switch and moved into flag-winning mode by now. That hasn’t happened yet.

But there’s still time – and as Riewoldt pointed out: “They can get on a roll like no one we’ve ever seen.”

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