News Caro article: Richmond lacking leadership in tough times

Remove this Banner Ad

Jun 16, 2020
3,692
16,962
Pizza Hut
AFL Club
Richmond
Caroline Wilson
The Age
3 July 2020

Neil Balme's newish and currently part-time role at the Richmond Football Club comes with the unorthodox football title of ''senior advisor''.

When asked about his revised position at Tigerland shortly before the round-three Hawthorn game, the veteran football boss joked on 3AW: "Not that anyone listens to a word I say."

Suddenly though, Richmond's predicament is no laughing matter. All of a sudden, too, the decision to remove Balme and football talent boss Blair Hartley from the day-to-day running of the football club looks at cross purposes with these unprecedented AFL times and the Tigers' struggle to embrace them.

It seems brutal to criticise the club that reinvented itself with such excitement, flourish and wisdom and has been the competition's benchmark for the best part of three seasons.

But as Brendon Gale said on Monday, proving yourself in this game is a week-to-week proposition. Gale added that it didn't take much to bring you back to the pack. Which is where the club finds itself as it prepares to move out of Victoria for a period and - as some critics have enjoyed pointing out - away from the MCG.

Richmond after the season shutdown looks unrecognisable from the club that launched its premiership defence in March. The Tigers of this bleak 2020 winter seem negative, unprepared, unwilling to bring their trademark pressure and at times even searching for excuses.

Each of the 18 clubs was forced to make some tough decisions as they prepared to return for round two and a 2020 season that continues to roll out new challenges. Savage cuts meant that Balme could no longer fall under the football budget and Hartley made way for an assistant coaching/performance role with only 25 off-field staff allowed inside the playing bubble.

That seemed the right way to go for a club in the position to challenge for another premiership. Richmond fought for an extra number but like other clubs failed in their quest. Now, as the club prepares to leave home, it is time to revise that thinking and add an experienced voice to the officials and coaches and other staff who will travel with them. Even if it comes at the expense of a direct performance role.

This is no disrespect to football boss Tim Livingstone or the reigning premiership coach Damien Hardwick, but Livingstone is new in the role he set out to share with Hartley and surely Hardwick could use another football elder given the demands, vagaries and the restrictions of hub life.

The Tigers have fought hard to retain their personnel and the strong culture they established against the realities of the AFL's savage cuts. This has not endeared them to the AFL but the good people and culture remain and season 2020 has months to run.

Which is why Gale should travel with the team as Simon Garlick chose to do with Fremantle. And if not Gale, then Balme or Hartley or both. It was Balme, after all, who stepped in at the end of the 2016 disaster and declared that there was not much wrong with the football club that could not be fixed. And Gale, incidentally, who admitted he should have kept a closer eye on the football department.

When you try to drill down on what Balme actually achieved when he helped oversee so much positive change the simple explanation is that he cut through the blather. When elders at Geelong, Richmond and Collingwood explain his influence they all say that Balme is a voice of simple wisdom and a great person to have around your players and coaches. So why not bring him back inside the tent?

Still the club, with the veteran Balme's blessing, moved to replace him with both Hartley - who has a superb relationship with the senior coach - and Livingstone in split roles so if not Balme, then both current football bosses should be there when the team is struggling.

Whichever way you cut it the club's on-field leaders this week did not show great enthusiasm regarding the prospect of doing their bit for the competition.

Whichever way you cut it the club's on-field leaders this week did not show great enthusiasm regarding the prospect of doing their bit for the competition.

The official leadership group is small. It consists of Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt. For some reason Dylan Grimes, who seemed the natural successor to Alex Rance in leadership terms, was not promoted when Rance retired despite more than holding up his end on the field.

And as it happened it was Cotchin and Riewoldt, the Tigers' two leaders, who cast serious doubt on some of their teammates moving interstate to represent their club in this obstacle-ridden season.

Both footballers were interviewed on Tuesday, 24 hours after Gale had insisted on SEN that the players were "as driven as ever" and "really excited to be playing". Frankly the players did not exactly back up their CEO but instead cast serious doubt on several senior teammates even making the trip.

Most people accept that expectant fathers such as Shane Edwards and Bachar Houli would want to remain at home for the impending births of their children but Cotchin and Riewoldt hinted that other personal issues could force other teammates to take time off. Again if there are players with serious mental health issues lacking the resilience to leave home then that is a matter for the club and should be respected, but the impression left was negative.

As a player Cotchin has not taken a backward step this season and his highlighted comments were admittedly only one part of his interview but they came at a time the competition is crying out for a collective willingness.

This week's fixture setbacks have seen most players take the hint and publicly deliver. Already a pattern is emerging where on-field results are concerned.

Riewoldt has been a champion of the football club and his form is not the only troubling issue facing Hardwick but it is a big issue. He is such an important player that if he is struggling to find the hunger then that compounds the issue.

Player empowerment and the mutual embracing of teammates' vulnerabilities helped lift Richmond to the pinnacle of the competition. But there's a fine line between vulnerability and resilience. Just as there is between structure and flexibility. It's all very well to say the Tigers have lost just two games in a year but that would be to deny the warning bells.

Their season is clearly salvageable but only if the club's leaders embrace the unpredictable nature of the coming months and prove themselves more flexible than they are presenting.

No one is suggesting that Gale, Hartley or Balme are not doing their bit behind the scenes for a team that is struggling. But constant telephone check-ins and zoom conferences are not the same when you're not in the bubble. Sometimes you just have to be there.
 

Roachy8

Premium Platinum
May 11, 2007
12,602
24,280
Sydney
AFL Club
Richmond
Yup - nothing in that article that I would question at all.
Balmey and/or Benny need to wade back in.
(and Grimes should be elevated to VC)

In a weird sort of way, it's almost refreshing to be 'under the pump' at the moment - I reckon it was not just the players/club that were anticipating things to just click back into place this year - certainly we supporters all did too - I know I did.

For the moment, the team should pull back a bit from the 'lovey lovey, care for each other and just have fun' mantra and concentrate on putting their head over the ball, chasing hard and sticking a tackle.

Then it will pretty soon come back.
 

Grrr

Norm Smith Medallist
Aug 16, 2009
5,869
12,233
mildura
AFL Club
Richmond
Caroline Wilson is like a wolf who sees a perceived weakness and goes after it. She never talks about anything other than perceived failings usually at the administrative/coaching level, and goes at it leading the pack. If she talked about footy occasionally then I wouldn't mind, but it is the same with every article or discussion on football programs. She sniffs for blood and rushes in hoping to spook the pack and then goes for whatever she can get.
Just about everyone in football can see why football this year is a bit unusual, why fancied teams are just going and why the underdogs are sitting on top of the ladder. But Caro has to dig for dirt.
 

(Log in to remove this ad.)

db26

Premiership Player
Apr 26, 2007
3,103
6,721
Punt road
AFL Club
Richmond
Other Teams
Aston Villa,A-league
Wilson is one of a few journalists who usually on the ball with her story's and I think she has fair points.The Balme decision is baffling to be honest the head of our football department led it well and success followed hasn't been at punt road for a while. Is it because of covid or salary cap restrictions of staff I don't know , but his experience would be handy now and people will be accountable poor decision for me I just don't understand it ridiculous.
 

SunshineBoy

Brownlow Medallist
Jan 3, 2012
27,301
50,206
Punt Road End
AFL Club
Richmond
Other Teams
Chelsea FC, Victory, All Blecks
Yup - nothing in that article that I would question at all.
Balmey and/or Benny need to wade back in.
(and Grimes should be elevated to VC)

In a weird sort of way, it's almost refreshing to be 'under the pump' at the moment - I reckon it was not just the players/club that were anticipating things to just click back into place this year - certainly we supporters all did too - I know I did.

For the moment, the team should pull back a bit from the 'lovey lovey, care for each other and just have fun' mantra and concentrate on putting their head over the ball, chasing hard and sticking a tackle.

Then it will pretty soon come back.
And yet on other sites they are criticising here, but I don’t see anything in her article thaT is wrong,
 

Tiger Toffee

🏆🏆🏆🏆
May 22, 2014
14,076
43,952
Punt Rd to Goodison Park
AFL Club
Richmond
Other Teams
Everton
Does anyone actually really care about that stuff, anyone who is taking this season seriously needs a new hobby.

Caro is just a perfect example of the ' season must proceed at all costs ' camp.

Anyone who dares not put 100% into saving the season for the good of the league will be hung drawn and quartered, our players are in the ' more important things in life than football ' camp and I have no problem with that but it seems a few do.
 

amc11

Senior List
Mar 26, 2018
201
721
AFL Club
Richmond
Caroline Wilson is like a wolf who sees a perceived weakness and goes after it. She never talks about anything other than perceived failings usually at the administrative/coaching level, and goes at it leading the pack. If she talked about footy occasionally then I wouldn't mind, but it is the same with every article or discussion on football programs. She sniffs for blood and rushes in hoping to spook the pack and then goes for whatever she can get.
Just about everyone in football can see why football this year is a bit unusual, why fancied teams are just going and why the underdogs are sitting on top of the ladder. But Caro has to dig for dirt.
Totally agree and I've also noticed a few times now just how selective Caro is when highlighting something especially Jack has said in response to a direct question without any reference to the question or the context in which it was asked. A lot of people have been very quick to jump on board with happiness over the perceived fall of our potential dynasty and start the finger-pointing, and yet anyone with an ounce of insight can clearly see the results this season will be unusual, contrasting, puzzling, bizarre, unbelievable, fantastic, boring, miraculous, and downright frustrating possibly all within the same game! Our team on Sunday will play their first day game since the grand final last year on the MCG. (I don't count playing at Marvel with the roof closed as a day game.) From next week they will be in a hub situation which clearly in the current climate will benefit our players and their connection plus they will be have the opportunity to play in front of crowds again.

The club culture that has handed fans 2 out of the last 3 premierships will continue to grow and build deep, long-lasting roots to stabalise the club for many years to come. The players who are able to be part of the hub will be involved and those who feel unable to participate for whatever reason will be supported by the club - exactly as they should be without any fallout.
 

Grrr

Norm Smith Medallist
Aug 16, 2009
5,869
12,233
mildura
AFL Club
Richmond
Wilson is one of a few journalists who usually on the ball with her story's and I think she has fair points.The Balme decision is baffling to be honest the head of our football department led it well and success followed hasn't been at punt road for a while. Is it because of covid or salary cap restrictions of staff I don't know , but his experience would be handy now and people will be accountable poor decision for me I just don't understand it ridiculous.
Did she quote Balme, or just take a comment he made about 'nobody listens to a word I say' as evidence. Balme is a master at saying one thing and meaning another. Maybe at his age/in this odd year/give another a go/take a backseat etc, he decided to take a lesser role this year. Did Caro ask, it seems not.
 

(Log in to remove this ad.)

k31th

Brownlow Medallist
Sep 11, 2018
14,850
14,722
AFL Club
Richmond
Other Teams
Storm|V/OzCricket|NBA-P|NHL-P|V8|F1
Caroline Wilson is like a wolf who sees a perceived weakness and goes after it. She never talks about anything other than perceived failings usually at the administrative/coaching level, and goes at it leading the pack. If she talked about footy occasionally then I wouldn't mind, but it is the same with every article or discussion on football programs. She sniffs for blood and rushes in hoping to spook the pack and then goes for whatever she can get.
Just about everyone in football can see why football this year is a bit unusual, why fancied teams are just going and why the underdogs are sitting on top of the ladder. But Caro has to dig for dirt.
I'd call that quality journalism... trying to find the deeper facts instead of quoting the stuff any plonker can see.
 

Grrr

Norm Smith Medallist
Aug 16, 2009
5,869
12,233
mildura
AFL Club
Richmond
I'd call that quality journalism... trying to find the deeper facts instead of quoting the stuff any plonker can see.
Yes but it is always the same, some mini scandal that she has 'uncovered'. Seems it is constantly negative and looking for something that often isn't there. Has she ever written a football story that doesn't revolve around perceived negativity.
 

Top Bottom