2013 AFL Preview: Richmond

RICHMOND

Since losing the 1982 Grand Final, the Tigers have made the finals twice.

Twice.

In thirty years.

Twice.

Over this period they’ve won 251 games, lost 401, and drawn six. They’ve finished ninth six times.

What I’m trying to say is they’re due for something other than misery.

2012 Key Statistics

Richmond 2012 Offensive
Average per Game Competition Rank
Disposals 380.7 1st
Contested Possessions 145.7 4th
Clearances 38 9th
Inside 50s 56.4 2nd
Marks Inside 50 11.7 9th
Hitouts 39.1 11th
Goals 14.1 8th
Richmond 2012 Defensive
Average per Game Competition Rank
Points Against 88.32 10th
Inside 50s Conceded 46.9 3rd
Marks Inside 50 Conceded 12 11th
Tackles 62 10th
Richmond 2012 Offensive/Defensive Differentials
Total Competition Rank
Inside 50s Opponent Differential(Total Inside 50s minus Total Inside 50s conceded) 210 2nd
Marks Inside 50 Opponent Differential(Total Marks Inside 50 minus Total Marks Inside 50 conceded) -6 tied 10th

What are they great at?

Hold onto your hats, because the following may shock you

Richmond is good at several things.

And I’m not even counting finishing ninth as one of them.

The first thing is getting their hands on the ball. No side had more touches a game than Richmond in 2012. It’s important to note that this isn’t always a good thing, as often it can speak to a side over-possessing the ball, which is definitely something the Tigers are guilty of on occasion. Regardless, they can find the football, now they just have to work on being more efficient with it.

The second thing Richmond excels at is getting the ball forward. Only Hawthorn averaged more forward fifty entries a game than them.

Richmond’s third strong point is contested possessions. Shane Tuck, Trent Cotchin, Nathan Foley and Brett Deledio are all very good contested ball winners.

The fourth thing they excelled at, and probably the most impressive thing, was minimising opposition inside 50 entries. They were the third best in that facet of the game, just, and I mean just, behind Fremantle in second place.

What are they good at?

The Tigers are odd. They are either great at it, or below average at it.

What do they need to improve?

Considering how often they get the ball forward, the Tigers would no doubt be disappointed with the amount of marks inside 50 they take, and the number of goals they score.

Teams often get accused of targeting one player too often with their forward thrusts, and Richmond is justly one of those sides. Jack Riewoldt led the league in goals and tied with Hawkins for marks inside 50 taken per game, and while a lot of that is no doubt due to his abilities, the lack of another tall marking option at Punt Road means the ball is sent in Riewoldt’s direction nearly every time.

The problem with such a setup is everyone knows it. Opposition coaches know to sit on Riewoldt. Doing so makes everything harder for him, and Richmond struggle to punish the opposition for giving him so much attention because the alternative target was Brad Miller. Riewoldt took 83 marks inside the forward arc, and Miller was second best with 21 in just ten games. Trent Cotchin was third. Let me say that again to be clear, Richmond second leading mark taker up forward was a guy who played ten games, and the third was their best midfielder. Riewoldt needs support. It will make his life much easier, and Richmond will be a much better team as a result.

Another area in need of improvement is the defence. Despite conceding the third least amount of forward entries per game, the Tigers were 11th for marks inside 50 conceded, and 10th for points against per game. This is a significant discrepancy.

Despite possessing the likes of Cotchin, Tuck, Deledio, Foley and Martin, the Tigers were slightly below average at stoppages, only ranking 9th for clearances. First round draftee Nick Vlastuin was drafted with this in mind.

What are they bad at?

Statistically Richmond isn’t bad at anything. Their lowest ranking in any of the major categories is 11th. Below average yes, but not anywhere near the bottom.

Points of Interest in 2013

Turning it Around

It’s amazing what investing wisely with first round draft selections can do for a side. For example here is what the Tigers did with their first rounders between 1999 and 2005.

Year Pick Name Games for Richmond Still on List?
1999 3 Aaron Fiora 78 N
2000 9 Kayne Pettifer 113 N
2002 12 Jay Schulz 71 N
2004 1 Brett Deledio 172 Y
2004 4 Richard Tambling 108 N
2004 12 Danny Meyer 17 N
2004 16 Adam Pattison 61 N
2005 8 Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls 13 N

And this is what they’ve done since 2006.

Year Pick Name Games for Richmond Still on List?
2006 13 Jack Riewoldt 112 Y
2007 2 Trent Cotchin 86 Y
2008 8 Tyrone Vickery 54 Y
2009 3 Dustin Martin 63 Y
2010 6 Reece Conca 35 Y
2011 15 Brandon Ellis 21 Y
2012 9 Nick Vlastuin 0 Y

One of those lists is a warning. A hodgepodge of unfulfilled potential, horror picks, and Brett Deledio. The other forms the cream of the Richmond side heading into the upcoming season.

Players from other clubs

Richmond brought in a truckload of players from other clubs this off-season

Troy Chaplin

Chaplin was the biggest catch for the Tigers, having joined via free agency from Port Adelaide. The tall defender played at both full-back and centre half-back for the Power, and was a central component to their defence for seven years.

Chaplin was afflicted by a problem many Port Adelaide players have suffered over the past five or so years. He really struggled to kick on as a player after an impressive start to his career. His decision making and disposal didn’t really improve that much over the years. Let’s just say not many Port Adelaide fans are crying over his departure.

Still Chaplin is a handy, if not spectacular, option in the back half, and should help a Tiger defence that struggled to prevent marks inside fifty despite conceding relatively few entries.

Orren Stephenson

2012 was Stephenson’s debut season at AFL level, and the now thirty year old ruckman didn’t have the biggest impact down at Geelong. Stephenson made only eight appearances for the Cats and was delisted after just one year.

It’s hard to see Stephenson being anything more than a safety net at Punt Road. Maric settled into the number one ruck role with aplomb last year, and historically performs better as the sole ruckman in the side. I doubt the Tigers will go into many games with both in 2013.

Sam Lonergan

Hardworking and unspectacular are two terms that accurately describe the former Bomber. He is likely to serve as depth at his new club.

Chris Knights

Four years ago Chris Knights was one of Adelaide’s best players. He shone after being switched from the heart of the midfield to the half forward flank. This new position allowed him to showcase his booming kick, and he registered 43 goals.

Injury has plagued his career however, and he has never been able to reach those heights again, as he struggles to string more than a few games together before a hamstring injury resurfaces.  In 2012 Knights spent most of the year playing in the SANFL, struggling to break into the Adelaide side even when fit.

Knights was an unrestricted agent come seasons end, and wasted no time finding a new home. At a bargain basement price, Knights is a cheap risk well worth taking for the Tigers. If he can string some games together and recapture some of his form from a few years back, then he could be a dangerous addition to the Tigers forward line.

Aaron Edwards

The Tigers sent pick 74 to North to acquire Edwards. A shortish forward who plays tall, Edwards provides another option for a forward line desperate to provide support for Riewoldt.

Ricky Petterd

Petterd had an up and down career at the Demons, and never really cemented a position for himself. Playing as a third tall both forward and back. So far this pre-season he has featured predominately down back for the Tigers, and is likely to play there if he breaks into the side for the season proper.

Chaplin aside, none of these new recruits are automatic inclusions into the side. Instead most of them represent something Richmond hasn’t possessed in a long while; depth players with experience. By acquiring so many the Tigers are signalling a real finals now mentality. They don’t want to risk missing out on account of injuries and a subsequent lack of depth.

Luke McGuane and Tyrone Vickery

With Miller gone, the onus falls on these two to fulfill tall forward roles alongside Riewoldt.

McGuane in particular is an interesting case. Having spent most of his career in the defensive arc, McGuane was brought into the side and swung forward for the last nine rounds of 2012. The move was a relative success, with the unassuming Tiger averaging nearly two goals a game during this stint. If he can keep up a similar level of output in the coming season, which is admittedly a big ask, then the club’s forward line will look significantly better.

Losing When They Should Win

One of the biggest issues plaguing Richmond is an inability to finish off games when in a winning position. In 2012 the Tigers lost three games by less than a goal after leading at the end of the third term. In another game, against Carlton in round 18, the Tigers lost after allowing Brock McLean to score a winner with only forty seconds remaining. That’s four games where they were in the box seat to win but didn’t. This is a big deal when you consider they finished four games outside of the eight.

The collapse against the Suns in round 16 is one of the more egregious things you are ever likely to see. First they allowed the Suns to establish a six goal lead, something no side who wants to be considered a finals chance should allow. They clawed their way back, and lead by ten points with just over thirty seconds remaining.

And they lost.

Do you know how hard that is? To allow the opposition to score two goals in thirty seconds? It’s impressive in a “how did you manage that?” way.

The Tigers aren’t going to make the finals when they are doing things like this.

2013 OUTLOOK

Are we finally going to see Richmond in September once again?

As impressive as the Tigers have shown themselves to be on occasion, doing so consistently has always been the bigger issue. One week they are world beaters, the next they are letting the Suns kick two goals in thirty seconds. They need to eliminate the latter.

How much the defence improves will be another big part of any September push. The Tigers were great at restricting the amount of forward entries they conceded, but they were still below average in marks and points conceded. This is a big discrepancy, and points to a real weakness when the opposition does manage to send it forward.

Efficiency moving forward is another area in need of improvement if they are going to break into the eight. They were the second best side when it came to forward entries, but ninth in marks and eighth in goals. Providing Riewoldt with support will help this, as it will provide the midfielders with alternate targets and potentially reduce the amount of focus the opposition can afford the Coleman Medalist. The Tigers will be looking to McGuane and Vickery to fill this role.

There is more good news. Richmond’s choices in off-season acquisitions show a desire to address these issues. If Chaplin can rediscover his form from a few years ago then he would be a significant addition to the back six. Edwards and Knights are no guarantees to entrench themselves in the side, but they are risks worth taking with potentially high rewards.

I went through the fixture the other week and had Richmond finishing ninth. That isn’t some perverse joke. It actually happened. The good news for Richmond fans is that is practically pointless. While we have a vague idea of which sides will improve and which will drop off, we rarely know to what degree. The Tigers are on the up, but finals spots are at a real premium, and it’s hard to envision too many of last years finalists dropping out. They’ll be knocking on the door, but may find themselves waiting a little bit longer for it to open.

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