Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval
AFL football fans around the world dread Round 22. If their team does not make the Top Eight, there is no more serious footy action until the following April. Prior to this round, Richmond had appointed Damien Hardwick as their new coach for 2010 and, with a major clean out predicted, Tiger players were playing for their future at the club. In contrast, the Eagles had won three out of their last four games and had their sights set on finishing the season strongly in front of a capacity home crowd.
Following a scrappy and congested start, it was Richmond's enigmatic Jordan McMahon who scored the first goal. It wasn't until halfway through the quarter that the Eagles finally managed a goal of their own after a strong mark and conversion by Ben McKinley in the pocket. West Coast dominated the contested ball, covering the big ground with speed and determination. They kicked three unanswered goals with Richmond players looking inept and tentative at the ball. As the siren sounded to end the first quarter, the Eagles had a useful 23 point lead.
Within the first few minutes of the second quarter, Dean Polo had made a horrible tactical blunder. He tried to play on after bringing the ball back into play after a point but crumbled under the pressure applied by the West Coast forward, deliberately running the ball through for a rushed behind. The AFL changed this rule specifically to prevent this style of play and the resultant free kick gave Mark LeCras a gift goal from ten meters out. After this blooper, the Tigers seemed to wake up from their slumber for a time and in their best passage of play so far ran the ball the length of the ground. Brett Deledio finished off with a superb snap on goal and the visitors had their tails up. Richmond began to win the clearances and started to run in earnest. When they kicked the next two goals to make it three in a row, there was a sense of excitement around the ground. Unfortunately the tiger in their tank was short-lived. The Eagles took control to score the next five goals and effectively put the opposition away. At the end of the first half the Eagles had a commanding 33 point advantage.
West Coast were out of the blocks quickly as the third quarter got underway. Brent Staker, quiet to this point, kicked two goals to inspire his team. Richmond could only manage a single behind for the quarter and looked as if they wanted the season to be over right there and then. They offered only token resistance with their tackling pressure non-existent and their ball skills sub-standard. In addition, Richmond's midfield players failed to drop back and support their defenders who were under siege. When sides are down and players are playing for their professional lives, thoughts of individual survival can prevail over supporting a team-mate. "Lower the lifeboat, I'm in it," appeared to be the dominant thought amongst the Tigers as the game progressed. The Eagles had it all their own way and broke away to kick the last four goals of the quarter. It was six goals to nil as the siren sounded and firmly hammered the nails into the Richmond coffin.
With a lead of 72 points to start the last term, the only interest was to see if the Eagles could break their all-time winning margin of 96 points. To their credit, Richmond sensed that while the game might be lost, there was still some point in fighting for pride. They held their own over the next 25 minutes but LeCras put his final stamp on the game with two brilliant goals. One of these goals summed up the depths to which Richmond's skills could plummet. A wide awake LeCras intercepted a poorly executed McMahon kick-in and goaled over the head of his dazed opponent.
It was another disappointing effort from the Richmond players who finished the season as they started it. A team that promised much before the season and widely tipped to finish in the Final Eight, they got a belting from Carlton in the very first game and never recovered. The Eagles, on the other hand, lifted towards the end of the season, producing some excellent efforts. They take a young, blooded and raring to go team into next year and can head into the pre-season with high hopes for the future.
Scores West Coast 4.8 9.14 15.18 17.23 (125) Richmond 1.3 5.5 5.6 6.9 (45) Best players West Coast M Spangher, C Fletcher, N Naitanui, S Hurn, M LeCras Richmond B Cousins, B Deledio, S Edwards, R Tambling, D Jackson
Article last changed on Sunday, August 30, 2009 - 10:14 AM EDT