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Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Richmond

Damien Hardwick and Trent Cotchin raise the spoils of victory. Now the Tigers have climbed the mountain, can they stay there? Photo: AFL MEDIA

Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Richmond

Rohan Connolly    

2017 record: 18 wins, 7 losses (1st)

Jack Higgins (Oakleigh Chargers), Callum Coleman-Jones (Sturt), Noah Balta (Calder Cannons), Patrick Naish (Northern Knights), Ben Miller (Subiaco), Liam Baker (Subiaco), Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (Richmond VFL)

Chris Yarran (retired), Ivan Maric (retired), Steven Morris (delisted), Todd Elton (delisted), Taylor Hunt (delisted), Ben Lennon (delisted), Jake Batchelor (delisted)

Pressure. It was the byword for Richmond’s flag triumph, and the Tigers do it better than anyone, swarming opponents and the contest, forcing the ball forward. Their superb finals series took it a step further when they began to more regularly hit the scoreboard from their forced turnovers. Richmond had topped 100 points only four times in their first 20 games. In the last five, it happened four more times, with 91 points scored in the other. That set a new benchmark the levels of which rivals will be spending pre-season attempting to match. Stars. The cream certainly rose to the top in 2017, no words necessary for the excellence of Dustin Martin’s season, Trent Cotchin and Alex Rance finishing top four in the best and fairest and Jack Riewoldt seventh. It’s a quartet of pure class which covers the whole playing field. Evenness. The buy-in to the method from a whole playing group gave coach Damien Hardwick enormous flexibility, no better example than the fact three important members of the premiership 22 – Jack Graham, Jacob Townsend and Nathan Broad – hadn’t played a single senior game between them until round 17.

Until that late-season burst of scoring power, you might have argued the forward set-up. But just one bona fide key forward in Riewoldt with a cluster of terriers at his feet got the job done brilliantly when it counted. Whether Hardwick can afford to go with a similar set-up again or whether Richmond attempts again to work a second key forward into the mix is an interesting poser ahead of next season. Injury to Riewoldt, of course, would also leave the Tigers with not only an undersized forward set-up, but one very light on for experience. But Richmond’s biggest weakness might well be something far less tangible, the tightness of the competition and becoming the hunted rather than the hunter. How the Tigers respond to such relatively unexpected success (given they were coming from 13th) will be a fascinating study next year. The track record of other “surprise” premiers in backing up is poor to say the least, no better example than what happened to the Western Bulldogs in 2017. Fortunately, Hardwick has a successful VFL team from which to choose also, at least half-a-dozen more very capable senior players at hand.

He only played six games in his debut season, but Shai Bolton looks a very exciting prospect who has every chance of becoming a senior regular in 2018. Has genuine X-factor about him, plenty of pace and decent capabilities in the air for his size. An obvious candidate for a small forward role, Bolton has a skill set which may enable him to prove more dangerous on the scoreboard as the Tigers’ other smalls, as valuable additions as they have proved to be.

He’s become one of the game’s hard-luck stories, but time is beginning to run out for big man Ben Griffiths to make his mark on AFL football. Repeated concussions have been the biggest threat to the talented key forward’s football existence, but even prior to that, consistency had been a major issue. In his absence, Richmond’s forward set-up has taken another direction which has worked brilliantly. Last year of a contract coming up, and might well be his last chance.

B: Nick Vlastuin, Alex Rance, Dylan Grimes
HB: Bachar Houli, David Astbury, Brandon Ellis
C: Shaun Grigg, Dustin Martin, Daniel Rioli
HF: Shane Edwards, Jack Riewoldt, Kane Lambert
F: Jacob Townsend, Josh Caddy, Dan Butler
Foll: Toby Nankervis, Trent Cotchin, Dion Prestia
Inter: Jason Castagna, Kamdyn McIntosh, Jack Graham, Shai Bolton
Emerg: Nathan Broad, Conor Menadue, Reece Conca

Very little change here to the premiership 22, in fact, just one, with exciting youngster Bolton coming into the 22 for Broad, whose defensive absence can be comfortably covered. Plenty banging on the door, though, the promising Menadue and the still-untapped talents of Conca perhaps next cabs off the rank.

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