Not a bad effort by the lads.Pretty spot on.
AFL 2021: Take a deep dive into Richmond’s prospects for 2021 with our award-winning experts
Some are tipping a Richmond implosion after Damien Hardwick’s rocky off-season. That’s rubbish, Robbo writes. Take a deep dive into the Tigers’ 2021 prospects.
Glenn McFarlane, Mark Robinson and Nick Smart
It’s been an unusually tumultuous off-season for the reining premiers, but what can we expect from Richmond Football Club in 2021?
The team handled the bubble better than any other club last season and emerged with a third premiership cup in four years, but the coach has been in the headlines and the jury is out on how it will affect them on the field.
Can they do it all again? Our experts have their say.
Glenn McFarlanes’ six people who will define the club in 2021:
Damien Hardwick has had a rocky off-season. Picture: Getty Images
■ Damien Hardwick:
Will it be a distraction or not?
We won’t know whether the coach’s off-season marriage breakdown will have a negative impact on team harmony for some time, but the club has done its best to silence the talk.
Hardwick, skipper Trent Cotchin and CEO Brendon Gale have assured fans it won’t be an issue, and we have to take them at their word.
On the field, the triple premiership coach will have to keep his team fresh physically and mentally after being contenders for the past four seasons.
He needs to keep the older players engaged while still bringing through the next wave of young Tiger stars.
If Hardwick can do that, he just might be well positioned to equal Tom Hafey’s club record of four flags as a coach.
Trent Cotchin might be the most important man at Richmond — on and off the field. Picture: Getty Images
■ Trent Cotchin:
Cotchin’s importance to Richmond is two-fold – and growing by the season.
It has been that way since that crucial summer of 2016-2017 when he helped transform the club’s fortunes in a way that helped redefine the Tigers’ captaincy role.
His own vulnerability was on show at times last season, yet he still managed to overcome some issues within the hub to guide his team to more success.
His leadership on the field is self-evident, but his importance off it should not be underestimated, and we saw that in his recent press conference addressing the Hardwick issue.
As a player, he is very different to the young Tiger who won a Brownlow Medal.
His grunt, hard edge and defensive work through the middle has assisted a number of his teammates, including Dustin Martin to get a clear pathway forward.
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Can first-time premier Noah Balta take his game to another level in 2021? Picture: Michael Klein
■ Noah Balta:
He was the Tigers’ only first-time premiership player last season and it wouldn’t surprise to see the defender/ruckman go to a whole new level in 2021.
The Tigers will need him to.
He has fitted seamlessly into the close-knit Richmond defence, but will be required to assist more with the ruck back-up this year.
With Ivan Soldo out for the season due to a knee injury, it means Toby Nankervis will have to shoulder most of the load.
‘Nank’ will need help as he looks to get his body through the season and Balta, along with Mabior Chol, will be crucial in providing a chop out through the season.
Who else, but Dusty — the best player in footy. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
■ Dustin Martin:
If anyone had any doubts about who the most valuable player in the competition is, last year’s Grand Final surely put the issue to bed.
Dustin Martin didn’t solely drag the Tigers over the line against the Cats, but it was the next best thing.
He kept his team in the game when it was almost sliding away, then he ignited the spark the Tigers needed to sweep over the top of the Cats.
Can he get better?
It’s a tough ask, given he has already won a record three Norm Smith Medals, but if he can continue to lift the bar, then heaven help the opposition.
Mr Reliable Dylan Grimes is among the best defenders in footy. Picture: Michael Klein
■ Dylan Grimes:
Grimes is the pillar of Richmond’s defence. Lose him and the Tigers would be in trouble.
It’s been that way for a number of years now as he is their main organiser behind the ball.
His cover for vulnerable teammates sometimes goes unnoticed, but it shouldn’t.
If Balta is needed in the ruck at times this year, it will place even more importance on Grimes’ leadership and direction in defence.
The other player to watch will be Jack Riewoldt, to see whether he can keep father-time at bay.
The 32-year-old copped some heat at stages of last season, yet still finished the year with 33 goals from 21 games.
Expect Tom Lynch to have a better season too, as he has already said he was personally dissatisfied with his own output in 2020.
That’s an ominous message for defenders across the competition.
Riley Collier-Dawkins is among the next wave of Tigers pushing for senior spots. Picture: AAP
■ Riley Collier-Dawkins:
Before you start saying ‘what is this guy talking about’, hear me out on this one.
This isn’t just about Riley Collier-Dawkins; it’s about the next wave of young Tigers coming through who need to test and challenge the more established players.
We saw that with Jake Aarts last year, and he was stiff to miss out on playing in a premiership side.
The next wave in 2020 could include the much-talked talent that is Collier-Dawkins, Jack Ross (who we’ve seen a bit of already), Thomson Dow, Patrick Naish and perhaps even Maurice Rioli Jr.
Trent Cotchin has already said the club’s young players have made an impression the training standards across the summer months
It will also be interesting to see Sydney Stack’s pathway back as he can be an important player for this club going forward.
BEST 22 FOR ROUND 1:
B: David Astbury, Dylan Grimes, Nick Vlastuin
HB: Jayden Short, Noah Balta, Bachar Houli
C: Kamdyn McIntosh, Dion Prestia, Marlion Pickett
HF: Kane Lambert, Jack Riewoldt, Shane Edwards
F: Jason Castagna, Tom Lynch, Shai Bolton
R: Toby Nankervis, Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin
Int: Liam Baker, Jack Graham, Nathan Broad, Daniel Rioli
Emerg: Jake Aarts, Josh Caddy, Mabior Chol, Riley Collier-Dawkins, Patrick Naish, Thomson Dow, Maurice Rioli Jr.
INS: Maurice Rioli Jr., Samson Ryan, Mate Colina (rookie)
OUT: Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (delisted), Luke English (delisted), Jack Higgins (traded to St Kilda), Oleg Markov (traded to Gold Coast), Fraser Turner (delisted)
The Tigers go into 2021 with three flags in four years. Picture: Getty Images
The good: Richmond led the AFL for time-in-forward-half differential and points scored from forward-half turnovers created.
The bad: The Tigers lost the clearance count by four per game – ranked 15th. They only won the clearance count five times – three of them coming during the finals.
Prediction after six matches: 4 wins, 2 losses
Round 1, v Carlton, MCG, March 18
Round 2, v Hawthorn, MCG, March 28
Round 3, v Sydney, MCG, April 3
Round 4, v Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, April 9
Round 5, v St Kilda, Marvel Stadium, April 15
Round 6, v Melbourne, MCG, April 24
Expect the Tigers to get off to a flyer with only two games against 2020 finalists in the first six weeks. The Power (away) looms as the most difficult clash in that time. Carlton won’t be a Round 1 pushover as it has been in the past, while St Kilda did knock the Tigers off in Round 4 last year before being no match for them in a semi-final.
Expected finish: 1st-4th
Richmond is chasing a fifth successive top-four finish for the first time in 46 years, and if Hardwick’s team can keep its motivation levels high, that aim seems to be a given. The Tigers have largely kept their list intact and the squeeze is likely to come on for positions, as a wave of young talent looks to lock in long-term roles while the more recent premiership heroes won’t be giving up their roles without a fight.
An injury to Dusty, maybe, but it won’t be coach Damien Hardwick’s fault if the Tigers falter in 2021. Picture: Michael Klein
ROBBO’S LIKES AND DISLIKES
Herald Sun chief football writer Mark Robinson tackles the Tigers.
What’s not to like? What a team the Tigers are. Tough. Mentally robust. And what a player Dustin Martin is. Yep, someone one day will find a strategy and a player to quell him, but if that doesn’t work, really who will complain? We are amid historical greatness. Still, the Tigers have weapons everywhere. Their back six is the best in the comp, and their back running three — Bachar Houli, Jayden Short and Liam Baker — are the best of their breed. Midfield remains disciplined and key forward Tommy Lynch is in his prime. Jack Riewoldt will continue to play his role, which allows Lynch more freedom from two‑on‑ones.
The so‑called relationship counsellors in footy media are tipping an implosion. If the team slumps, they opine, it will be because coach Damien Hardwick went looking for greater happiness in his life. What rubbish. If the Tigers slump it will because of hunger, or Martin is injured, or the opposition simply gets better. This Tigers outfit looks out for each other and just maybe they go to another level this season. Four from five is better than that famous dental advert that spruiked “fwee from fwee”. Hard to beat again.
Book them into the preliminary final.
The Tigers’ dynasty is still being written. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
BURNING QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Fox Footy experts Nick Riewoldt, David King, Leigh Montagna and Jordan Lewis join Robbo to give their predictions for 2021 on Richmond:
ROBBO: Can they make it four from five?
JOEY: It’s as simple as how hungry are they? Are their bellies full or do they still have the desire to go again? That’s all it comes down to with Richmond. If they’re hungry to chase more success, they’ll be there when the whips are cracking. It’s probably a good question for Jordan. How hungry can you be when you’ve won three out of four?
JORDAN: You are in a sense relying on early season performance that can fuel that desire. Or if you see things slipping away and you’re not performing at your best, then you’re really relying on the individual to try and generate that some other way. They’ve still got the names on paper that perform on big occasions. The year they didn’t win it in 2018 I think was a valuable lesson in timing their run.
ROBBO: Will Jack Riewoldt play 22 games this year, Kingy?
KINGY: Jack will play if he’s fit because Dimma is going to play him. He’s not going to take him out of the team for no reason and Jack will want to perform better than he was. But in the big games, in credit and fairness to him, he’s performed when they’ve needed it most. I think the biggest challenge for the competition is, like it or not, Damien Hardwick has designed a game plan that other coaches are either too stubborn to go away from theirs to counteract. At the moment, when they take control of a game and get momentum, the scoreboard flows. The challenge for other coaches now is to work out what to do with Dustin Martin. How do they play against him, particularly in big games? Because we’ve never seen a finals player like him.
ROOEY: He’s the outlier though. How many times do you do a Richmond game and Dusty almost gets the three votes by default sometimes? Because you look through the Richmond players and wonder, ‘Who’s actually played well for them, yet they’ve still won?’ The prelim final was incredible. They have more off nights and end up winning the game of footy more than any other team I think in history. It’s the system that gets them through. I’m staggered so few teams have tried to adopt their system. So many teams want to control the ball, but Richmond has its own brand and it’s unique. I can’t believe the lack of copycats trying to do the same thing because it stands up.
Can the Tigers do it all again?
ROBBO: Opposition clubs are looking at Richmond and wondering, ‘How do we stop them?’ Is it about stopping Dusty? Would you be able to come up with a way?
JORDAN: I’d want my team to deny them the ball and to deny them chaos. That is easier said than done, but I think the difference between Richmond and Geelong is their belief and self-confidence is huge. When things aren’t going well they stick at it.
KINGY: Denis Pagan used to have a saying where he thought the hardest players to coach were those who have had success because they all know everything. As long as pawns are happy to play like pawns on the chess board for the Tigers, they’ll be fine. But as soon as a couple of them think, ‘I can do more than this’, that’s when the trouble will come. Outside of that, they’ve got a great club.
JORDAN: I see them from fourth to sixth. You can’t measure the hunger for another tilt at it when sides are coming at you again. Every year becomes harder.
JOEY: Yeah, I’ve got them fourth to sixth. I just think there are teams that should be hungrier and should play a style of footy that should be ahead of them in the home and away season.
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ROOEY: I still have them top four. They’ll be there and the same thing will happen again. It’ll be midway through the year and their odds will blow right out because they’ll be sitting fifth or sixth, and when the whips get cracking they’ll time their run again and have another shot at it.
KINGY: Until I can see a team take away the way Richmond plays, I’m going to stick with them.