Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
A buoyant Richmond side, fresh off its first victory for 2012, headed to the fortress now known as Simonds Stadium (formerly Kardinia Park) in Geelong to take on the reigning Premiers in one of football’s toughest tests. Geelong is so hard to beat at home that it recently had an unbeaten run at “the Cattery” that extended from 26 August 2007 to 27 August 2011. To further intimidate the visiting Tigers, the home team unveiled its 2011 Premiership Flag prior to the first bounce as the crowd finally took their seats after a power outage had shut them out of the Stadium.
As the game commenced, a strong swirling breeze had the Premiership Flag flying firmly. Geelong had no hesitation in kicking with the wind after winning the coin toss and wasted no time in getting the ball forward into the 50 meter arc. It was Mathew Stokes who banged home the first goal of the day within 30 seconds of the first bounce. Richmond steadied the ship, splitting the contested possession with their Geelong opponents until Brett Deledio broke free, took a few bounces and delivered the ball with a long kick to Ty Vickery who held a solid contested mark. Vickery kicked truly for Richmond’s first goal and scores were tied at one goal each. Richmond used handball and run into the breeze while the Cats opted for a longer kicking game with it. Geelong skipper Joel Selwood launched a long goal from outside 50 meters before an interchange infringement gifted Richmond’s Ivan Maric a goal for the second time in as many weeks. Richmond hit the lead at the 12 minute mark through a Jack Riewoldt goal, but another 50 meter penalty – awarded this time in Geelong’s favor – gave Josh Hunt the easiest of goals, once again tying the scores midway through the first. Tom Hawkins, known by Geelong fans as “the Tomahawk”, bobbed up for another goal and in spite of blustery conditions the scoreline showed seven goals without a single miss! Reece Conca was the first to blot the goal-kicking copybook for the Tigers and at quarter time in a great contest, Geelong led by six points.
Richmond Coach Damien Hardwick would have been hoping for a high scoring quarter with the wind at the Tigers' backs. Never underestimate the local knowledge of the home team however as the Cats had the first goal on the board with a sweet snap from the hard running Paul Chapman. Geelong continued its early quarter dominance winning the clearances and using pinpoint passing to keep the ball away from the Tigers. Trent West hit the post for the Cats with a shot on goal, then a great run by Steven Motlop had him launching a shot on goal from around the 50 meter line. The kick looked great off the boot but the wind knocked it down, allowing James Podsiadly to mark and goal again for the Cats. The first 10 minutes of the quarter was all Geelong who now led 6.2 to Richmond’s 3.1. Brad Miller marked for Richmond in range of the goals but missed badly before young Dustin Martin snapped an attempt that managed only a behind. The Tigers had worked their way back into the game but were having a mountain of trouble with their attempts on goal. The Tigers continued their attack but missed on three consecutive goal attempts from Martin, Newman and Deledio. The next 10 minutes was a see-sawing battle that had Geelong working hard into the wind, while Richmond continued to squander their chances to narrow the gap. After numerous forward forays without success for the Tigers, the home team made them pay dearly for a poor defensive error with a Hawkins to Stokes goal. After a first quarter when the players defied the breeze with some unexpected accurate goal-kicking, the Tigers had completely butchered their opportunities up forward, ending the quarter without adding a solitary goal to their quarter-time tally. While Richmond had matched Geelong in hard ball gets and contested possession, the Cats had control 7.3 to 3.6 as the half-time siren sounded.
After a few thousand meat pies and cold beers had been consumed by loyal supporters of both teams during the break, the game recommenced with the Tigers needing to be diligent in their defense to keep the scoreline close if they were to be any chance of scoring an upset victory. The first few minutes saw the Tigers linking up well to fashion a couple of attempts on goal, however once again their goal shooting let them down. At around the five minute mark however, ex-Melbourne small forward Addam Maric crumbed a possession and shot out a handball to pint-sized Robin Nahas who finally goaled for the feisty Tigers. It was then Geelong’s turn to miss an opportunity as debutant George Horlin-Smith completely mis-timed his kick and sent the footy out of bounds on the full. The Tigers continued to press into the breeze with Shaun Grigg continuing his solid form as he romped through the center of Simonds Stadium, taking three bounces before delivering another goal for Richmond. The Tigers had pegged the gap back to just seven points and the Geelong faithful were starting to get a little nervous. Just when it looked like Richmond had momentum, a crucial midfield turnover led to a Selwood kick that was delivered with skill to an open Mitch Duncan. Duncan didn’t let his skipper down, goaling from around 40 meters out to keep control for the Cats. Miller had a chance to help the Tigers edge closer but another poor finish meant the visitors once again had to settle for a minor score. Geelong stalwarts Chapman and Johnson then bamboozled the Tigers' defense to combine for another Geelong goal approaching the 23 minute mark of the quarter. Despite the conditions there was some good contested footy being played and after a comedy of errors in the Tiger forward line, Nahas won a free kick which he duly converted to help the Tigers stay in touch. As the last break approached, Nahas bobbed up again to feed team mate Daniel Jackson for another Tiger running goal, and the margin was back to an even goal. Before Richmond fans had time to high five each other in response to the Jackson goal, the Cats got it right back from a sweet 50 meter running effort off the boot of Motlop. At three-quarter time, Geelong led by 12 points and an intriguing last quarter was on the cards. Richmond would be coming home with the aid of the wind, even though both teams had somehow managed to score more freely against the wind than with it so far.
In the final quarter the game was played in close quarters with Geelong having vast experience in how to play “lock down” footy to minimize the effects of the breeze. With no goals after five minutes, it was Tiger substitute Matthew White who earned a free kick and banged the resultant kick through the goals from 50 meters out. More tough footy was on the menu as each team worked hard for the all-important next goal. A forward thrust had Richmond midfielder Nathan Foley in possession and he put on the afterburners to escape the defensive pressure before snapping truly for another Tiger goal to tie the scores. The rest of the quarter was a lesson in how to play smart, aggressive and defensive footy and Geelong players are without doubt the masters at this game plan. While Richmond worked tirelessly to lay the death blow on the reigning Premiers, Geelong would not wilt. The Cats forced contests all over the ground until their Tiger counterparts made an error, and at the 14 minute mark it was Allen Christensen who broke free to kick the all-important game leading goal for Geelong. The Tigers continued to run but turned the ball over with poor decisions in their forward line. Corey Enright, having a slow start to the season by his lofty standards, managed to intercept two major Richmond thrusts late in the game to seal victory for the Cats. When the siren sounded, the cool Cats had eked out a 10 point victory over a just as determined but less skilled Tiger outfit.
Geelong coach Chris Scott would be pleased with his team having their Premiership defense back on track while expecting improvement from some of his key players. The mercurial Steve Johnson is yet to hit his best form as are the hard working Chapman and Enright, while there have been some good signs from youngsters Allen Christensen and Cameron Guthrie. For Damien Hardwick and his young Tigers, it was another opportunity lost. There is no doubt that Richmond is on the improve, but as Hardwick pointed out after the game, solid performances against quality opposition have to be turned into victory. The forward duo of Jack Riewoldt and Ty Vickery has struggled to play at its best, while the Tiger backline appears to be finally coming together led by the fearless Alex Rance and the rapidly improving Dylan Grimes.
Round 5 celebrates Anzac Day as Geelong travels to Brisbane to take on Jonathan Brown and the young Lions, while the Tigers will continue their challenging early season run against the top teams by facing the League leaders West Coast at the MCG.
Scoreboard Geelong 4.1 7.3 10.4 11.9 (75) Richmond 3.1 3.6 7.10 9.11 (65) Best Players Geelong: Bartel, Guthrie, Lonergan, Taylor, Mackie, Selwood, Hawkins Richmond: Foley, Deledio, Cotchin, Nahas, Grigg, Ellis, Tuck
Article last changed on Sunday, April 29, 2012 - 9:25 AM EDT