Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
A cold and dreary Skoda Stadium greeted players from Richmond and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) in a match that was expected to be won comfortably by the Tigers. Whilst the Giants had shown they could compete for periods with the top sides, they had struggled to perform over a full four quarters, clearly tiring as their matches wore on. Richmond, coming off a frustrating loss to a well drilled Fremantle team, was desperate to go into the bye with a win to even its season win-loss record at 6-6.
A sparse crowd of just over 7,500 braved the poor conditions as the ball was bounced to get proceedings underway. The early going saw the Tigers getting the best of the possession count. However the slippery conditions were causing havoc with their fast paced game plan. The first score of the game was registered after a seven minute struggle when Reece Conca missed a shot from just inside 50 meters. The Tigers continued to force the ball inside their forward area but another Conca miss failed to trouble the scoreboard. Ten minutes in and there was just one behind on the board in one of the least attractive games of footy seen this season. In keeping with their Round 11 battle with the Dockers, the Tigers had plenty of the ball but fell down badly in their forward set up. Daniel Jackson decided that picking the footy up was just too hard so instead he soccered through the first goal of the game for the Tigers in the 13th minute. Jack Riewoldt followed with a nice goal from the boundary before the Giants got one back from a free kick directly in front of goal. A poor defensive error by the Giants allowed the red-hot Shane Edwards to kick his first for the Tigers and push them out to a 13 point lead. The Giants started to get the ball forward with fluency but struggled to find targets within goal scoring range. Enter number one draft pick Jonathon Patton, one of the biggest 18 year old boys you will ever see. Built like a mini-Jonathon Brown, “General” Patton imposed himself on the game immediately, marking and goaling from 15 meters out. A second goal to Edwards for the Tigers saw them lead by 14 points at quarter time, in a game that was short on highlights but long on endeavor.
Barely a few seconds into the second quarter, Patton’s partner in crime – Giants forward Jeremy Cameron - received an “off the ball” free kick directly in front of goal. Replays showed that the free was possibly given for some “niggling” by Tiger back man Jake Bachelor, but realistically it may have been the most perplexing free kick paid to date this season. Cameron made no mistake and the Giants trailed by just eight points. While the Tiger defensive players were busy discussing why the previous free was paid, Toby Greene got on with the job and slotted another goal for GWS in quick time. The hard slog in poor conditions was evening the game out, and the Tigers needed to respond. The in-form Brett Deledio won a free right on the 50 meter arc for the Tigers, and he banged home a tidy drop punt to put his team back out by seven points. Richmond then peppered the goals with shots from all angles but could only manage points, while Patton was showing why the Giants made him the top draft pick with some very strong marking in the wet conditions. It took until the 22 minute mark of the quarter for the next goal to be scored and it was the classy Trent Cotchin who marked and finished the job for the visitors. The Giants persisted though, refusing to be muscled out of any contest on the ground. At the 25 minute mark Rhys Palmer goaled to reduce the Tiger margin to 14 points at half time. Richmond should have been further in front but continued to miss chances in front of goal, while the Giants worked hard to stay in the contest.
As the second half commenced it was all GWS, as a 50 meter penalty against the luckless Batchelor gave Phillips a certain goal. At the five minute mark, midfielder Dylan Shiel ran onto a loose ball and goaled to tie the scores. As if this wasn’t bad enough for the Tigers, Jake King was flattened by his own team mate in a marking contest and had to leave the ground for treatment. After a couple of near misses, Riewoldt goaled for Richmond before Edwards missed twice as the Tigers pressed hard to break the Giants momentum. The rain was hammering down by now, making conditions very tough for the players. Neither team could fashion a realistic shot on goal until the 23 minute mark when Riewoldt manufactured a magnificent dribbling goal off his left foot. Daniel Connors, returning for his first game after a series of off-field indiscretions, goaled at the 26 minute mark for the Tigers to give them a handy buffer just before three-quarter time. Tiger coach Damien Hardwick was visibly livid when GWS young gun Cameron took the ball and goaled right on the siren to reduce the Tiger lead to 19 points. While Richmond looked the better team, they wasted numerous opportunities to put the game away. With a few players ailing, particularly Trent Cotchin and Jake King, the fresh legs of the Giants coming from a week off would prove to be crucial in a tense final quarter.
Richmond had two chances to extend their lead in the first few minutes but in keeping with the theme of the day, Grigg and Edwards missed both. When Toby Greene kicked a fantastic set shot from the boundary just five minutes in, Tiger fans once again felt that niggling concern that the Tigers could fall over in a game they were expected to win. Batchelor, who was having a dirty day for Richmond, was subbed off for Brett O’Hanlon in an attempt to get some run back for the Tigers. As the ball was delivered into the Giant’s forward line, Cameron took a great pack mark on his chest and converted the goal. Where Richmond couldn’t kick goals all day, it seemed every chance that the Giants had was converted with ease. Players went in hard without fear of injury as the Giants could see a chance for a stirring win, while the Tigers knew they couldn’t afford to lose if they wanted to play Finals footy in 2012. Three more misses for Richmond and the game was still alive. At the 20 minute mark Giants debutant Sam Schulz marked and put the ball straight through the goals again. With about eight minutes remaining, the margin was just seven points in a very tired Richmond’s favor. Callan Ward had a chance to goal again for GWS but missed to the left, reducing the Tiger lead to just one goal. There might have been only 7500 fans in attendance but they were getting their money's worth in a grandstand finish. The Tigers gave all they had left to stay in front, and when Riewoldt handballed to Connors who goaled it looked like they might hang on. At the 25 minute mark Connors marked again and kicked a very steady goal from 45 meters out to keep Richmond safe and Tiger supporters sighing with relief. Palmer goaled very late for the Giants to make the final margin a very hard fought 12 point Tiger victory.
Richmond had almost blown the game with poor goal shooting, despite having 66 inside 50 entries to the Giants' 35. Conversely, the Giants kicked 12.2 in an amazing performance given the conditions. With two games in heavy weather conditions in consecutive weeks, the Tiger players will be thankful for the week off after a very tough 12 week campaign where they faced every top eight team from 2011. Kevin Sheedy's Giants will rue not being able to manage the win, but will also be very pleased with their first four-quarter sustained effort for the season. Players like Patton, Cameron and Shiel look to be very, very good AFL players who will take the Giants up the ladder very quickly over the next 2-3 seasons. The Giants will also take a renewed confidence into their Round 13 clash against a struggling Melbourne Demons at the MCG.
Scoreboard Richmond: 4.2 6.7 9.14 11.20 (86) GWS: 2.0 5.1 8.1 12.2 (74) Best Players: Richmond: Deledio, Conca, Edwards, Houli, Martin, Ellis GWS: Cameron, Davis, Cornes, Greene, McDonald, Ward
Article last changed on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 6:22 AM EDT