- Sep 22, 2010
- AFL Club
- Other Teams
- Chicago Bulls
As usual a very fair and insightful analysis KM. The Tigers through 2017-2020 (ironically I still think that 2018 was the strongest squad of the dynasty) were something of an enigma. When required to nutshell why the Tigers were so dominant during this period, footy analysts tend to relate it to about 4 reasons, yet then find ways to immediately discredit the team in each aspect at the same time.
1. Forward Pressure
Credit - relentless tackling and trapping the footy inside forward 50, particularly by the smaller forwards.
Discredit - analysts refuse to acknowledge the individual brilliance of Castagna, Rioli and Butler (until he went to the Saints, when he finally got some we’ll-deserved recognition)
2. Frantic Footy
Credit - intense attack on the ball across the midfield, wings and flanks creating opposition turnovers. Continuously keeping the forward momentum of the ball going when in possession or even when the footy is in dispute. Forward moving inertia was palpable.
Discredit - the main protagonists of this style - Cotchin, Prestia, Lambert etc never in AA conversation, despite their dominance of matches.
3. Defensive Dominance
Credit - miserly in their allowance of opposition scoring, despite average inside 50’s by oppo. 50-year plus club records broken in scoring restriction. Defensive rebound scoring numbers through the ceiling.
Discredit - only Rance seriously considered as an AA staple, despite the brilliance of Grimes and Vlastuin. Houli got one eventually. Compare to the Cats dynasty when the likes of Scarlett, Taylor, Enright, Mackie, Milburn, Egan etc were always in the AA conversation.
4. Team Management
Credit - the whole was always considered greater than the sum of the parts during this Tiger dynasty. The synergy was brought about by a game plan that brilliantly deployed the perceived limited pieces available eg In spite of Richmond have only 9 AA’s across the five seasons 2017-21 vs 29 AA’s for the Cats 2007-11.
Discredit - Hardwick has never really been compared favourably with the likes of “Clarko genius” or “Lethal master coach”
To address the discredit parts, as they're interesting to consider.
1. Castagna and Daniel Rioli are a long way from 'individually brilliant.' They wouldn't be best-22 for a lot of teams. They're both just role players who provide one function, but respectively provide inadequate scoreboard impact. Butler is the better of the three, and was even during his Richmond tenure as the higher volume tackler but more importantly the more capable from a scoreboard impact perspective. My view is it was a collective team buy-in. Look at Jack Graham and how highly he rates for pressure acts each year. The forwards absolutely bring the pressure, but even further afield Richmond as a team collectively had that buy-in to play that type of football.
2. Cotchin in 2017 played to an All-Australian standard and was unlucky to miss if we're looking at that 2017-2020 set of years, with his play from there dropping progressively with each season. Cotchin I'll credit for being a great captain, but in terms of individual play, in 2019/2020 and certainly 2021, he hasn't played to the standard he once did. Prestia and Lambert I wouldn't have had in that conversation. Prestia was already a known commodity and very good even with Gold Coast, and in a Richmond context a capable third best midfielder, but someone I certainly wouldn't want as my #1 or #2 midfielder or I'd expect my team to be struggling. Lambert was very good and as with Prestia easily an any team best-22 throughout that set of years and a top-15 on any list player I'd also argue and top-10 on most. But that's where I'd be drawing that line on giving each of them credit.
3. Here is where I'll probably differ from the crowd based on what you're saying. I broadly speaking view Rance as overrated. It seems the majority view Rance as a consensus best key defender of the generation which I don't nearly agree with. In terms of impact on winning, I've got McGovern as the best key defender of this generation. McGovern unlike Rance changed the way key defenders today play and has over the years been so dominant you couldn't ever kick a high ball within 20m of McGovern or you could expect him to take an intercept mark. What I do agree with with you on is the contributions of Richmond's other defenders have been incredibly valuable. I spoke about this before, but Richmond's defence as a unit was exceptional and has been the club's foundation of strength. The gameplan did make Richmond's defence look even better, but still as a group, having Houli, having Vlastuin, Grimes, Astbury had some good years even. Jayden Short has been pretty good. Liam Baker when used back has been good. Nathan Broad even is capable. There hasn't ever been that weak link in Richmond's defence, and like a lot of those great teams past, whether it's Hawthorn, Geelong, Brisbane. Each of those teams had a complete defence, and for Richmond, it was that foundation of strength and in the conversation with Geelong in my view for the best defence in paper of those teams.
4. Clarko is the best coach probably in VFL/AFL history to be real. It's not just premierships and winning. But looking at how he developed guys who were drafted late/rookie who never should have been that good. Developing assistant coaches into head coaches and successful head coaches at a historic rate. Pretty much every year it has been either Clarko or one of his former assistants coaching teams to premierships. Following Clarko though, Hardwick probably is probably that next best coach of this generation and I view him favourably to Leigh as winning three premierships with a team that on paper isn't the most talented, but had such an incredible buy-in-to and execution of a gameplan, Hardwick has in my view at least most other coaches beat, at least based on what he helped Richmond do during that four year run.
To me the major issue is that simply put a mass of footy statisticians have shown that winning contested ball has no real relationship with scoring. Clean ball from the contest has a high correlation with scoring. Richmond took that to heart. So our midfield was completely dominant in first ball from clearance, and simply didn't try to win the clearance to any great extent. The whole game plan was unusual and focused on stats that commentators and most observers don't care about. Therefore, the midfield looked poor by normal stats, but was also the strongest midfield in assisting our team in scoring and our defence in defending.
That fell off a cliff in 2021. We'll see what 2022 brings.
The stand rule and interchange limits took a major edge off the tigers game plan + running out of steam. If the club can adapt to this then I see no reason that we will see a return to 2017-2020. But if the rule changes mean that the old game style doesn't work then we're toast in 2022 and it's a rebuild on the run.
In terms of winning finals, winning contested possessions matters and generally is decisive.
Richmond in each of their three Grand Final wins didn't lose the contested possession differential, despite during the H+A losing those counts more weeks than not. That's why Richmond during finals despite only in 2018 being the best team during the H+A as the minor premier and team with the highest % which is generally the best indicator of team strength of play, could win the three premierships. Put Dangerfield into Geelong's midfield in that 2020 Grand Final for more of the game, and the result I speculative would have gone the other way.
It's incredibly rare a team wins a premiership and loses the contested possession battle. West Coast in 2018 won the Grand Final but lost the contested possessions battle. Hawthorn in 2012 won the contested possessions battle but lost the Grand Final to Sydney. The Hawthorn in 2008 lost contested possessions but won the premiership v Geelong. They're the only three instances in the past 15 years.
What Richmond were right to recognise is - most scores come off the turnover, so Richmond's gameplan rightly was focused around maximising that. And it's a winning team focus and allowed Richmond to overachieve relative to the talent on the playing list. In a perfect world though, I'd be striving for something like that while achieving a midfield dominance at the same time. For this reason, I've been so positive towards what Melbourne have been doing because they bring the forward pressure and have the team commitment to it, they intercept behind the ball and they also have the midfield dominance all at the same time. If Melbourne's rebound from defence and capability of scoring off the turnover was on the level of those great Richmond teams, we'd be talking about an All-time level team. It's almost a shame, and people won't widely know his name yet, but Garrett McDonagh if Melbourne drafted him, that would have been an incredible enhancement to their back half as someone who for Melbourne could have been their Daniel Rich equivalent.