Another week, and more of the same from Richmond. Not only did the Tigers slump to a 2-4 record for the season with a heavy loss to Hawthorn, but some of the goings-on at Tigerland had a strange sense of the familiar to them. The occasional sense of déjà vu is not necessarily an unpleasant feeling, but when it happens constantly it has the potential to morph into a mind-bending dystopia. In other words, do your head in.
It must be getting close to this stage for Tigers fans.
The Hawks never really needed to get out of third gear, such was their domination of the contest from siren to siren, and the 66-point margin really should have been greater but for a couple of late Tiger goals. Richmond was beaten soundly in every statistical category, the only individual positives being a strong performance by David Astbury in limiting Hawthorn forward Jaryd Roughead to one goal, and emerging midfielder Brandon Ellis’ 32 possession effort.
As he often does against the better opponents, Dustin Martin went missing for large chunks of the game. But he turned up with some more new, scary-looking tattoos. Tigers fans must be ecstatic with his performance. If only he could convert this consistent form in the tattoo parlour to consistency on the football field.
In his post-match press conference, Coach Damien Hardwick already had the excuses prepared, citing injuries to Brett Delidio, Alex Rance and Ivan Maric as big factors in the team’s loss. “You take three of our best six players out, we’re going to struggle,” he said. “With Deledio, Rance and Maric, you get those guys back in, it makes us better.”
So there’s the second thing to get Tigers fans jumping for joy – a coach that never seems to run out of others to blame for his inability to turn Richmond into the consistently high performing football club he promised. Those three may have arguably made a difference to the margin on the day, but there’s not a hope in hell that they would have changed the result. Rance in particular would surely be justified in seeking a pay rise based on the coach’s conveniently inflated view of his stature relative to other players at the club.
For all the kudos gained from their finals appearance last year, Richmond again appear to have gone backwards. In 2013 they finished one game outside the top four before being eliminated in a first round finals loss to Carlton. Expectations were that top four was reachable in 2014.
The question could therefore quite fairly be asked of Richmond: was their first finals appearance since 2001 seen by the players as enough of a success to rest on their laurels? The obvious answer is surely not. But the lack of spirit, fight and determination from the Tigers of 2014 indicates that there’s a problem at Punt Road, and maybe some of it lies with attitude.
A premiership hangover may be excused; a grand final hangover is pushing it. But a finals hangover? Not on your life.
Thankfully, after this weekend’s clash with Geelong and then the bye, the Tigers have relatively easy games against Melbourne and GWS. Then, their season defining game will be the Dreamtime game against Essendon the week after. By Round 11, the yellow and black bus will be teetering on the edge of a cliff.
Lose this game, and it could be the beginning of the end for yet another Richmond coach who promised the world to the Tigers loyal yet rabid fans, but in the end may suffer the same fate as his many predecessors.
Yes, the Tigers need to get some key players back, but Damien Hardwick needs to firstly quit the excuses, and secondly come up with a Plan B. Most of all, the players need to show some spirit. And is it too much to ask for players like Dustin Martin to focus on footy?
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