Janet Linn reporting for AFANA from the MCG, Melbourne
After a nightmare week in the media spotlight, beleaguered Richmond Tigers coach Terry Wallace found no salvation in Sunday's must win game against the Melbourne Demons. Week-long headlines prophesying Wallace's demise should Richmond fail to produce a winning performance were read by all it seems except the Melbourne football team. Twenty-two players, most in their fledgling years of AFL football, ran on to the MCG in red and black Melbourne guernseys. The youthful Demons came with but one aim - to play the best brand of football they could muster. Not only did they turn a deaf ear to the roars of the Tiger Army, they turned the footy tipping world upside down in a display of character football for which the Tigers had no answers. At last the starved Demons have something to build upon for the future.
Before the game began, both Melbourne and Richmond had moved off the bottom of the Ladder to make way for the Fremantle Dockers who have also struggled to get past an abysmal start to the 2009 season. In the first quarter at the MCG, the skills on display were certainly those of two of the bottom sides with clangers and turnovers the order of the day. The game began with a free kick to Richmond before the ball had even been bounced. Melbourne player Matthew Warnock was reported for striking Tom Hislop who received a 50 meter penalty and passed the ball to Mitch Morton who registered the Tigers first major. Matthew Richardson and Brett Deledio squandered easy opportunities before a Nathan Brown free kick brought up Richmond's second goal. Both teams mishandled the ball early but poor skills became the order of the day for the Tigers and the Demons were able to gain momentum through some very messy Richmond turnovers and skill errors. Brad Green and Nathan Jones scored six pointers for Melbourne and there were some very gettable shots wasted as Melbourne racked up a total of four "posters" (when the ball hits the goal post) for the quarter. At the quarter time break three points separated the two sides.
Melbourne broke the game apart in the second quarter, dominating the center possessions and moving the football quickly into their forward line. Brock McLean, Matthew Bate, Brad Miller and Colin Sylvia combined well in an eight goal onslaught by the Demons. Richmond seemed completely overwhelmed by the deluge as the Melbourne players played constructive team football, marking everything that came their way, finding space to lead, kicking to a loose man, running hard and looking for opportunities to score. It took Richmond over half the quarter to score but when they did it came through a handpass from veteran Richardson to first gamer Andrew Collins who kicked his first goal in AFL football. They repeated the play minutes later for Collins' second goal and a Richo assist. With only 13 points separating the teams, it appeared the Tigers had revived but it was to no avail. Lynden Dunn and Matthew Bate goaled for the Demons to return the lead to 25 points and a Brad Miller snap on the siren made it a 31 point margin at the long break.
An early third quarter goal to Michael Newton and an inspirational goal by Aaron Davey made Richmond's task look impossible with the Demons' hard running and fierce endeavor giving them an unbeatable edge. The quarter was interrupted by an unusual accident. One of the central field umpires was injured and had to be carried from the ground and the diversion seemed to refuel the Richmond tank. Young Tiger Robin Nahas sparked a revival with a handy goal assist followed by a magnificent solo effort on goal, narrowing the margin to 27 points. When Melbourne gave away a 50 meter penalty resulting in a goal to Richardson, Tiger fans saw some light at the end of the tunnel but another shocking turnover in defense gave Newton an easy shot on goal and the quarter ended with Melbourne 28 points ahead. Richmond had more disposals for the quarter than the Demons and for the most part their performance was better but they could not make an impression on the scoreboard. Melbourne looked set to score their first victory since Round 20, 2008.
Richmond opened the last quarter with three chances to goal before back man Kelvin Moore finally slotted through a much-needed major. With the Tigers intent on a comeback, Melbourne steadied with goals from Neville Jetta and Ricky Petterd to get back to a 26 point lead. Brett Deledio made something out of nothing to narrow the margin to 21 points with six and a half minutes remaining. The Tigers had their chances with Riewoldt and McGuane goaling but missed shots from Richardson and Morton summed up the Richmond players' day. It was a case of much too little, much too late. Melbourne ran out winners by eight points although this small margin did not reflect their better play and superior attitude.
In the final analysis, Melbourne showed determination and turned it into belief. Richmond showed a fragile psyche and turned a golden opportunity to kick start their season into humiliation, putting the club into the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Tigers were a sorry sight leaving the ground and coach Wallace, grim-faced and no doubt confounded, is left to face another week of heavy scrutiny from within and outside the football club.
Scoreboard Melbourne 2.6 10.7 13.11 14.16 (100) Richmond 2.3 5.6 9.7 13.14 (92) Best Melbourne C Sylvia, M Newton, A Davey, C Bruce, B Miller Richmond J Bowden, N Foley, M Richardson, A Rance, A Collins
Article last changed on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 8:39 AM EDT