Like many, in the days prior to the First Qualifying Final, the side I wanted the Tigers to play least was Hawthorn. Looking back on it, I was certainly wrong.
While I did think that for Hawthorn to win, there could be no margin for error. They had to play at their best, and they didn’t. But did Richmond make Hawthorn play worse due to the pressure and the intensity of the contest? I think there is a bit of merit to that.
The switch was flicked
We were all wondering whether Richmond could do what we were all hoping, and that was to ‘flick the switch’ after some lacklustre performances by their own lofty standards. Three wins against Geelong, Essendon and the Western Bulldogs, where they only just scraped over the line certainly left Tiger fans wondering what was going on. Were they tiring out or were other teams figuring them out?
But Thursday night reminded fans of September 2017, where manic pressure was evident in every area of the game. Every player played their role and even though some like Nathan Broad and David Astbury were kept quiet, this may have been down to the lack of inside 50s the Hawks had.
Then there were the big guns that stepped up like they needed to, which we will get to in a little while. Key players standing up in big moments, but for Richmond, it seems as if their spine is longer than most other sides. Kamdyn Mcintosh was a first-half hero. Daniel Rioli was back to his best. Even the likes of Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy, who aren’t always seen as in Richmond’s top five, played as well as Tiger fans would have hoped.
The cream rises
Was Thursday Night Dustin Martin’s best game all season? Has he saved it all for September? I’m sure no Richmond fan will be too upset if he has. Dusty was electric. It was ‘2017 Dusty’ all over again, with the Brownlow Medallist taking contested marks, breaking tackles, and hitting targets at will. And how about that goal.
If Dusty plays like this for the rest of the month, I cannot see Richmond failing in their back to back quest.
Dylan Grimes has arguably had a better season than Alex Rance and was super stiff to not make the All-Australian team. He only had 12 possessions, but how good were some of his efforts? Tiger fans love his endeavour and love his willingness for the fight – he rarely loses a one-on-one contest. Two of his marks in particular, when the game was on the line in the second quarter, put him in Richmond’s top three players in my opinion. He is a warrior and players like him are the reason that flags are won.
But while Grimes was good, Alex Rance was fantastic. He led from the front and sitting up on level four allowed me to see that he is the man that directs all the traffic. He is a leader and he is the one who tells those in front of him where to go and who to go to. He, like most of the other boys, reminded us a lot of the 2017 Richmond; and it was great.
Leading from the front
Trent Cotchin didn’t necessarily have a great last six weeks of footy in the home and away season, but as I have said a few times, I have not seen this Trent Cotchin since September last year. He sees a ball that is a 50/50 and turns it into a 70/30 and comes out with the ball on the other end. He is ferocious and committed, and he inspires every other player to do the exact same.
It is no surprise that he won the captain of the year award in a landslide, because he epitomises everything that being a captain means while he is on the field. One of his best games for the season saw him lead his Tigers to a victory, and a week off that will see them rest some sore bodies.
Room for improvement
Since last season, I haven’t been able to accept any mediocrity from the Tigers and this has probably led me to become a little harsh on them. But I watch them every week and have said it for a while, we still have a fair way to go until we are at our best. We do so much right, and little wrong.
I know it is wrong to think we can play perfectly for the entirety of the game, but I feel that most of the goals we concede are because of mistakes that we can avoid making. Dion Prestia’s 50m penalty in the first quarter, giving away free kicks that we don’t need to and junk time goals could have made this margin a little wider. I do think the 31-point final margin flattered the Hawks, and that Richmond could have really extended this margin to above 40 points – a bit like their first final last season. If the Tigers do have extra levels to go, it is scary.
FIRST QUALIFYING FINAL
RICHMOND 2.2 5.7 10.13 13.17 (95)
HAWTHORN 2.3 3.5 5.8 9.10 (64)
Richmond: McIntosh 3, Rioli 3, Caddy 2, Martin, Prestia, Higgins, Edwards, Graham
Hawthorn: Roughead 3, Shiels, Nash, Impey, Mitchell, Breust, Smith
Richmond: Martin, Prestia, Cotchin, Rioli, Lambert, Grimes, Grigg
Hawthorn: O’Meara, Mitchell, Shiels, Smith, Henderson, Sicily
Richmond: Rance (left foot)
Hawthorn: Ryan Schoenmakers (Achilles soreness) replaced in selected side by Daniel Howe, Hardwick (hip), Stratton (hamstring)
Umpires: Rosebury, Deboy, Ryan
Official crowd: 91,446 at the MCG