Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
Richmond was living its YOLO (You Only Live Once) creed as the players prepared for a roll of the dice against a tough Fremantle Dockers unit at home. Pre-match the Tigers said they were prepared to throw everything into the Round 21 game and leave nothing on the table in the encounter. There was a bit of skullduggery before the game when giant ruckman Aaron Sandilands replaced Jonathon Griffen who claimed to be injured in the warm-up. It was pure theater as there were rumors that the fix was on right from the start to upset the Tigers’ game plan.
Richmond opened up with a bright start, prepared to share the ball and attack in numbers. Jayden Post was an immovable wall at half back as he marked every ball that came his way and repelled any Dockers’ movement past the center line. Despite the ferocious opening by the Tigers, it was Fremantle’s Captain Matthew Pavlich who scored the first goal after a free kick down the ground. It had taken nine minutes for either team to score a major. Richmond upped the ante to take the lead with the next two goals. Jake King scored their first from a mark 30 meters out and Jack Riewoldt followed up with a gift goal after a King hand pass from one meter out. The Tigers had nearly three times more entries into their forward 50 meter scoring zone than Fremantle at this point of the game and really should have made better use of their opportunities. The Dockers steadied and Matt De Boer made the most of a turnover to run and bounce into an open goal. The goal unsteadied the Tigers' back men who lost all composure when trying to clear the ball. Stephen Hill intercepted one panicky clearance and his straight kick on goal took the Dockers into the first break with a slim five point lead.
Fremantle piled on the pressure after the break, peppering the goals but missing horribly. The game could have been finished then and there had they kicked straighter. Again the Tigers’ backs were uncoordinated, gifting Tendai Mzungu a goal after he was left on his own when three Tiger defenders jumped at a mark and spoiled each other. It was backs to the wall time for the Tigers when Hayden Ballantyne capped off some brilliant flowing play by his teammates to slot a goal. Coupled with the inept play from their back line, Tiger forwards were found lacking in their defensive efforts. The ball was coming out way too easily and rebounding up the ground with great rapidity. There was a sickening injury to Ben Griffiths after he met some friendly fire deep in defense. Griffiths leaped high to mark or spoil the ball when his teammate accidentally tunneled him and he fell on his head. The injury-prone Tiger lay motionless as play was cleared from the area and umpires stopped the game. He was stretchered off the ground and taken to hospital as the crowd rose to their feet and clapped him off in a gesture of respect for his courage. After the bad press from the West Coast versus Geelong game the week before - when Perth football fans were described as the worst in Australia - home crowds will be throwing rose petals down as opponents are carried off the field in an attempt to regain their reputations.
There was an air around the ground that Fremantle was going to tear the game apart but King steadied the Tiger ship with his second goal from a free kick. Richmond started to get its mojo back and could have scored back-to-back goals if Luke McGuane had nailed a couple of uncomplicated shots from straight in front. Brett Deledio showed some devastating skill when he kicked a six pointer from 50 meters out to see the ball take a fortuitous bounce on its end and go through the goals. This goal lifted Richmond who began to run harder and apply more pressure in their forward half. Against the run of play however there was a fast-break opportunity for the Dockers as they cleared the press in the center and transferred the ball to the wing. Michael Walters, quiet so far, soccered the ball out in front of the contest, swooped on it at 52 meters out and drilled a missile on his left foot for a stunning Fremantle goal. When Ballantyne made the most of another Tiger turnover and scored his second goal, there was a sigh of relief from the hometown fans as the margin widened again. Jack Riewoldt, fairly ineffective so far by his standards, brought Richmond back to within 16 points with a mark and straight kick from just inside the 50 as the first half wound down.
Again Fremantle started strongly as the third quarter got underway. With twice as many possessions as Richmond, coupled with the Tigers kicking at just over 50% efficiency, it looked only a matter of time before the game broke open. Chris Mayne made the most of a brain fade by Brad Helbig who was standing a meter or so to the side of the mark trying to guard the center. In the equivalent of a basketball player going “back door”, Mayne walked forward, appearing to be checking where his mark was, but he simply kept going and ran into an open goal. A quick reply came from Robin Nahas when he found himself on the end of a kick out off a congested pack right in front of goals. The status quo was maintained after yet another turnover by the Tiger backs when Ballantyne pounced on the ball and fed it to his skipper Pavlich for a t*t-for-tat goal. The Tigers seemed determined not to be overrun and turned on a burst of great running. Trent Cochin was leading from the front, contesting everything and giving a lesson to his teammates on the value of hard work and commitment. It was rubbing off because suddenly the Tigers made a fast break play out of the half back line. King scored his third as a result while Deledio made something out of nothing to score their second on the trot to bring the margin back to a creditable 14 points. Some slick play by Pavlich and De Boer had the Dockers breathing easier as Fremantle extended the margin to 20 points at three quarter time.
Fremantle made its substitution by taking Zac Dawson out of the game and injecting some more run with Nick Suban. He had an immediate influence on the game when he centered a kick to Ballantyne who marked and goaled. To Richmond’s credit, they fired up and Matt White scored what will be in contention for Goal of the Year. He took possession deep in his defensive area and took off like a Tiger on the hunt. He ran and bounced down the outer wing, leaving multiple Dockers in his wake. White showed real talent to steady after a 90 meter run and drill a straight kick right through the middle of the big sticks. In true captain’s fashion, Pavlich took control when things were critical and played on to advantage from a Walters’ free kick to goal and take the margin out to 26 points in the turn home. A bit of running down the clock shenanigans backfired for the Dockers and allowed Richmond to post a goal after the siren, but in reality the Tigers were never really close enough to challenge and went down by 22 points.
There had been a theoretical chance - based on a series of complex calculations - that Richmond might have made the Top Eight. The dice didn’t roll their way however and the Tigers’ Finals hopes have evanesced on the winds of misfortune after this defeat. Fremantle has worked its way into the Top Eight, a game clear of the fast finishing Carlton. The Dockers take on a red hot North Melbourne outfit in Round 22 in a preview of a possible Finals’ rematch, while the Tiger army can only lament wasted opportunities and hope for better next season.
To view Dave Woodley’s photos from this game, go to http://www.afana.com/drupal5/category/image_galleries/2012_season/home_and_away_games/round_21_fremantle_v_richmond/14-2239
Scoreboard Fremantle: 3.4 7.8 10.12 13.16 (94) Richmond: 2.3 5.4 8.4 11.6 (72) Best Players Fremantle: Duffield, Sandilands, McPhee, Ballantyne, Barlow Richmond: Cotchin, King, Grigg, Deledio, Morris
Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 9:30 PM EDT