Janet Linn reporting for AFANA from Western Australia
In a season-defining win, the Richmond Tigers have come of age, defeating one of the most talented and improved sides in the AFL, the Fremantle Dockers, and recording their third victory in a row. After many seasons at the bottom of the Ladder, the young Richmond side has shown that it is heading in the right direction and that it may well upset stronger and more experienced teams on the road to improvement. Fremantle is the eighth team of eleven coming off the bye, to lose their next game, causing fans and experts to ponder the effects – positive and negative – of the new fixturing, which includes two byes for each teams at various points of the season.
Prior to this match, Richmond had not won a first quarter and had played catch up football as a result. Fremantle was keen to have a win at the MCG, which is a ground they have not had much exposure to. Their pre-game strategies would have centered around tagging brilliant second year midfielder Dustin Martin out of the game and improving their efficiency on goal, unimpressive so far this season.
Fans were treated to a fantastic first quarter contest. Richmond showed early that they were on song with a quick goal to pocket rocket Robin Nahas who has been on fire in the past three games. Fremantle nailed the quick reply after a terrific mark by its own powerhouse small man, Hayden Ballantyne. He passed to Garrick Ibbotson and the Dockers had their first. At the 13 minute mark it was seven points apiece. Fremantle forward Chris Mayne, who has been in sparkling form, had two shots on goal and missed both, letting Richmond off the hook and into the game. More points followed to see Fremantle one goal seven, and with past history (including Grand Finals) showing how wasteful starts to games can cost teams games, this was a worrying sign for the Dockers. New Tiger Bachar Houli (recruited from Essendon) made a great run though the center and followed up with a huge 60 yard kick for a team-lifting goal. It was a tied game at 13 points each. Stephen Hill showed a flash of brilliance with his first impact on the game but his shot on goal missed and Tyrone Vickery missed a sitter at the Richmond end. Vickery made amends minutes later when he was on the end of a passage of play featuring Nathan Foley and Richmond captain Chris Newman. The set shot on goal went straight through the middle and it was the Tigers by a goal. Kepler Bradley proved yet again what an acquisition he has been for Fremantle when he kicked a great goal out of a congested pack in the forward line and the quarter ended with the scores even at 20 points.
Goals were traded back and forth during an exciting second quarter. Hill struck first for the Dockers before Trent Cotchin answered to even the score. Nahas ran hard from Richmond’s defensive zone to be involved again in the forward 50 and post a terrific goal. Nathan Fyfe combined with captain Matthew Pavlich to answer for Fremantle. Cotchin was in the thick of the play yet again when Greg Broughton was penalized for a high fend off and Cotchin made him pay with a goal. Desperate play by the ever-dangerous Ballantyne was the catalyst for a Fremantle revival with goals to himself then Bradley. The Dockers were up by four points when the Tigers decided they were still in the match. Richmond's fan favorite Jake King scored two goals and Vickery contributed another to give the Tigers a 14 point break. Not to be outdone, Ballantyne showed his brilliance, making something out of nothing with a long goal. It was Aussie Rules at its best as the Dockers refused to surrender. In the last two minutes of the quarter Mayne and Adam McPhee goaled to give the Dockers a two point lead going into the half-time break.
Games are often won or lost in the third quarter (dubbed the Premiership quarter) and this match proved no exception. The lead seesawed with great competitive football all over the ground. Shaun Grigg worked hard to get the ball into Jack Riewoldt’s reliable hands and the Tigers had the all-important first goal. Cotchin’s goal on the run from outside 50 was a gem and put the Tigers nine points ahead. A determined Pavlich clearance gave the reliable Bradley a shot on goal and he didn’t let the team down. Nick Lower followed up quickly and the Dockers looked set to threaten when a steadying six pointer to Brad Miller returned the three point lead to the Tigers. Brett Deledio’s inspirational running goal from 60 yards out was the sign that it was game on. Another goal to the dependable Bradley and it was a three point margin again. At the 15 minute mark, Fremantle was forced to activate its substitute, Dylan Roberton, to replace the fiery Ballantyne and the momentum shifted the Tigers’ way. Three late goals to Riewoldt, Graham and Vickery gave Richmond a 20 point break, the largest for the game and their scintillating eight goal quarter set the scene for a huge upset.
Fans were being treated to a great game as the unfancied Richmond gave their all to compete against a more experienced Fremantle team, hopeful of Finals action in September. Richmond exchanged Matt White (who had been shaky after a heavy third quarter clash) for new look substitute Ben Nason. Nason formerly had a head full of blonde dreadlocks but was shorn during the week to raise money for breast cancer in honor of his mother who is battling the disease. The Dockers defended grimly for the first five minutes of the last quarter and although they continued to attack with intent, the Tigers defense stood tall. Two desperate lunging efforts to smother by Batchelor and McGuane deep in the Fremantle attacking zone proved the game changers. Cotchin kicked two goals in quick succession and the Tigers were away. Nahas scored two more for a bag of four in his best game for the Tigers and Houli and Riewoldt chipped in for another goal apiece.
In the final analysis, the Dockers fell victim to the “curse of the bye” and while they tried hard all day, they ran out of legs in the last quarter and were eventually overrun by a hungrier opponent. Fremantle is too good a side not to rebound but with the Western Derby coming up in Round 8 and a long list of injured players, they have cause for concern.
Richmond players have been fierce in recent weeks with their endeavor and their toughness in tackling and running the ball on at all costs, showcasing their surging self-belief. Whether this young side can maintain this intensity remains to be seen but the signs for the club are encouraging. After a long time without success, Richmond members and fans are daring to believe that the Tiger Army will see Finals action in the not too distant future.
Scoreboard Richmond 3.2 9.7 17.7 23.10 (148) Fremantle 2.8 9.9 13.11 14.15 (99) Best players Richmond R Nahas, T Cotchin, S Edwards, B Houli, J Batchelor, N Foley Fremantle A Sandilands, S Hill, K Bradley, C Pearce, M Pavlich
Article last changed on Monday, May 28, 2018 - 5:36 PM EDT