Was 2018 an aberration?
Sunday’s meeting of 2018’s beaten Preliminary Finalists was a stark reminder of the aberration that season was for both teams. For Richmond, beaten favourites on that season’s penultimate weekend the defeat drove them on to a second premiership in three seasons 12 months later. On the other hand, for the Demons defeat in the Preliminary Final looks to be little more than the high point of a false dawn.
In the 12 months prior to this meeting with Richmond, the Dees have just two wins to their name by a grand total of six points over Carlton. Even more devastatingly, since winning back to back finals in 2018 they have won just six of 26 games. They are the kind of numbers that would convince even the most dedicated Melbourne fans that their run to the Preliminary Final was little more than an aberration.
How the Game Was Won
Just like a sick version of groundhog day for Melbourne fans, their team were once again incapable of finding a way to score. Despite breaking even or better in inside fifty’s (43-39), clearances (25-24) and possessions (322-335) the lack of connectivity between their midfield and forward line was costly.
To put this dysfunction into some perspective from 43 inside fifty’s they could manage just 12 scores compared to Richmond’s 17 scores from 39 entries. If we can beat the dead horse a little further, later in the day GWS managed 18 scores from just 28 entries against Hawthorn.
After two straight defeats, the Tigers played like a team that knew the result mattered more than how it was achieved. As has been their trademark over the last three years, they wore their opponents down with superior desperation and effort. Five goals either side of the half time break would otherwise have wrapped up the contest if not for a string of injuries combining to take the run out of the Tigers legs late.
Three goals to one to open the final term gave Melbourne life but Richmond’s calmer heads prevailed. Tom Lynch and Kayne Lambert ultimately putting the finishing touches on a long awaited and well deserved victory.
What the Coaches Said
Simon Goodwin acknowledged his team’s demise owed a lot to Richmond’s intensity. “I think they pressured us into overusing the ball, there’s no question about that,” he told reporters post-match. “It’s a familiar tale. We turned the ball over forward of centre and they punished us and that was really the game,” he mused.
“Outside of that it was a pretty even contest but they won that turnover game,” he opinioned. But they won that turnover game on the back of their good pressure but also on the back of some of our really disappointing execution. I certainly can’t fault the endeavour of the players, I can’t fault their effort but the execution wasn’t to the level,” he said
Damian Hardwick was pleased but measured about his team’s performance post-match. “I thought we clearly moved the ball a lot better, I thought defensively we were pretty solid behind a couple of offensive turnovers that probably gifted them a couple of goals,” he told reporters. “Some real positives came out tonight but we still have a lot of work to do there’s no doubt about that but the overriding feeling after the game was one of a positive nature.”
He also touched on the injury toll suffered during the match advising that Toby Nankervis and Dion Prestia were felled by syndesmosis, and Trent Cotchin a slight hamstring. His initial feeling was that those players would definitely miss the Tigers next game but was hopeful that Tom Lynch’s suspected broken finger would not keep him out.
“It’s come at a hefty price,” he admitted before looking at the positives “But those boys will be back. We get an opportunity to see some other players fill some roles which excites us. We’ve been down this path before and we’ve dealt with it and I am sure we’ll deal with it pretty well again,” he vowed.
MELBOURNE 3.1 3.2 5.2 8.4 (52)
RICHMOND 3.2 7.3 9.7 12.7 (79)
Melbourne: Hannan 3, Melksham 2, Fritsch 2, McDonald
Richmond: Lynch 3, Lambert 3, Higgins, Rioli, Nankervis, Riewoldt, Castagna, Martin
Melbourne: Gawn, Oliver, Petracca, Langdon, May, Hibberd
Richmond: Lambert, Prestia, Cotchin, Caddy, Martin, Castagna
Richmond: Nankervis (ankle), Prestia (ankle), Cotchin (hamstring), Lynch (finger)