HUGE challenge for the boys coming up against the premiership favorites. Both sides have been in good form after the bye, with Teaguey giving the Baggers a new lease of life and a sense of belief. A month and a half back, not many of us would have given us any chance, but we're now a big chance to be competitive and push them all the way.
It doesn't get any better than the traditional rivals coming up against each other at the G, with a crowd of 65-70,000 not out of the question on a Sunday twilight. For those of us who were around to see the rivalry from back in the 70's will appreciate the battles we've had over the years.....from the record score to win the 1972 Grand Final, to Balme knocking out Southby and Fowler shirtfronting Big Nick in the 1973 Grand Final.....Helen D'Amico baring it all in the 1982 Grand Final win....and the semi final in 2001 where Kouta went down with a serious knee injury, missing most of the 2002 season....through to the Judd vs Cousins showdown in round 1, 2009....and the Elimination Final in 2013 with Judd leading the revival, and Duigan heading down from the grandstand after munching down a pie as a last minute change, to kick 4 snags and be a match winner.
Just a bit of a collage of a few images that'll jog a few memories....
Anyway, who will win and why....
Out most recent encounters don't work in our favour, so we will have to be at our best to take it up to them. For mine, they have system in their game that has been developed over the past few years that will win games more that they'll lose....regardless of the personnel they have at hand, similar to Melbourne Storm. If everyone know and plays their role, they're more than a 50/50 chance to win. We're probably not quite at that stage yet with our list build and new players coming in along with a new coach....but I see the Tigers as what we'll be in a few years once we have stability with our list and game strategy.
I'm not a huge stats person, so won't go a Dermie type of analysis. For those who are, here are the important stats for the year, courtesy of Footywire (same link as above).
One thing that does stand out though is the uncontested possessions and average handballs comparison shows the outside game they play so well once they have the ball....force the turnover and swarm in numbers. Not easy to stop...
How we win
Team selection will be huge on the Thursday night, although again we won't know the final team until the day after. The addition of Jonesy will be vital to combat the twin 'towers' in the Richmond forward line, although Chol has also been up there in recent weeks, giving them three genuine marking forwards. The heat will be on Weiters and Jonesy....and a decision to be made if we go with an extra tall down back. Goddard's game against WCE will largely determine if he'll be retained, although his speed may become an issue with the swarm of Richmond smalls in the forward half. Hopefully Krooz will be back as well.
We need to be mindful of Richmond's relentless pressure and turnover, where they more often than not attack down the middle to open up the forward line. Similarly, we can't just bomb the ball into our forward half - Vlastuin/Astbury/Grimes just eat that stuff for breakfast. We've got to get the ball to the deck if we're not in a position to mark, and let Gibbo and his band of smalls create the pressure to keep the ball in the forward half. Harry needs to start clunking the marks and creating contest overhead, while Levi's form has been fantastic, and needs to keep hitting those packs at speed, and jagging 2 or 3 goals during the course. We've shown that we can create scoring opportunities now under Teague....since he took over the reigns, we're now sitting 4th in the AFL for 'points for' behind the Lions, Eagles and Tiges; ie 3 out of the top 4 teams currently on the ladder.
The midfield battle should be epic, with Crippa, Murph and Ed up against Dusty, Prestia and Lambert right in the guts. Richmond not really a side to tag or 'go with', so Crippa could have a field day. The Oxygen Brothers will also be crucial in running both offensively and defensively on the wide expanses of the G.
How they win
They're not the current premiership favorites for no reason.
They've won their last half a dozen or so games by an average of around 6-7 goals, so are building into the second half of the season. The possibly inclusion of Stack and Nankervis would also help bolster the side.
Richmond play a high pressure game that will eventually wear the opposition down, and open up the game during the second half. Cause the turnover, handball, kick to the spare in the guts, and a goal opportunity is created. The running style of game in waves with players like Rioli, Bolton, Castagna, Prestia and Edwards creates a swarm that can be impossible to defend for the entirety of the game.
The twin towers up forward are starting to gel as a unit, and Lynch has a history of tearing us a new one when he was with GCS.
The defence is also well organised, so if we just bomb it up forward under pressure, it'll bounce back with interest. Even without Rance, Astbury and Grimes have stepped up; and Vlastuin and Houli can carve you to pieces off half back if they're not accountable.
Key match ups...
Crippa vs Martin
Ed vs Prestia
Weiters vs Reiwoldt
Jonesy vs Lynch
Walsh vs Castagna
SPS vs Stack
Plow vs Rioli
H vs Grimes
Levi vs Astbury
JSOS vs Vlastuin
The heart says the Blues by 4 points, the head says maybe that's wishful thinking.