Story of the Summer
The 2014 season for Richmond was very much a season played in halves. After promising so much in the pre-season, they could only manage three wins from rounds one to 14 and several devastating losses, including a loss to Melbourne in a match celebrating the life of club legend Tom Hafey.
But that was where the misery ended.
In what can only be described as a herculean effort, Richmond went on a nine-game winning streak, including memorable wins against Port Adelaide in round 17 and Sydney in round 23. Unfortunately, they were picked apart by a rampaging Port Adelaide in the elimination final, finishing the season in eighth position with 12 wins and 11 losses.
From a player perspective, Brandon Ellis continued to prove himself as one of the best young midfielders in the competition and was rewarded with selection in the All-Australian squad. Alex Rance had another terrific year and was named centre half back in the All-Australian team, while Dustin Martin took his game to a whole new level. GWS discard Anthony Miles was promoted from the rookie list and cemented a spot in the midfield, and Ben Griffiths was more than serviceable as a key forward.
The off-season trade, recruiting, and delisting period was an interesting one. Football fans in general were sent into a frenzy with the news that Melbourne midfielder Jack Trengove was officially sounded out to join Richmond, but that quickly faded as he failed a medical test. They also made plays for ‘retired’ Essendon forward Jason Winderlich and North Melbourne midfielder Levi Greenwood, but were unsuccessful with both players. Looking to improve their midfield depth and speed, the 2014 trade period was a failure for Richmond.
Their efforts at the draft table were pretty good, taking blue-collar midfielder Corey Ellis with pick 12, speedster Connor Menadue at pick 33 and power forward Reece McKenzie at pick 77. The pick of their rookie selections would have to go to Williamstown midfielder Kane Lambert. Having recently been elevated off the rookie list, the 23-year-old will be looking to have an immediate impact in 2015.
Where They Excel
The talent they are building down at Punt Road is scary. Names such as Martin, Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt, Maric, Ellis, Miles, Griffiths, Chaplin, Houli, Rance, Astbury, Vlastuin, Morris and Lennon will form the nucleus of any success that Richmond has in the short and long-term. They’ve added more midfield depth via the 2014 national and rookie draft, so they are more than covered in that area. The players that can play in the midfield, can also play either up forward or down back, giving Richmond greater flexibility across the ground.
Where They Struggle
Consistency. Richmond have shown that when they are focused, they are a force to be reckoned with. However, when they have switched off, they are easily beaten. Their lack of consistency hurt them greatly in the first half 2014, and it was a miracle they were able to switch on from round 14 and win nine games in a row to make finals. An argument could be made that the effort they put in during those nine games may have lead to the lack of effort they put against Port Adelaide in the elimination final, as they looked tired and were unable to match the Power in several aspects of the game.
Finding a genuine second key forward has been an issue for the last couple of years. After Jack Riewoldt was drafted as the heir apparent to Matthew Richardson, it was expected that he and Tyrone Vickery would carry the hopes of the Richmond forward line for a decade. Unfortunately, Vickery has yet to prove that he is capable of holding down centre half forward and he will need to have a big year in 2015 if he is to retain his spot on Richmond’s list. Ben Griffiths offers a glimmer of hope, but will need to continue to develop his game and ensure his body is able to stand up.
The Year Ahead
If they can bring some consistency in their games, Richmond should have another successful year. Their first four games are all winnable, and could position them nicely before they take on Geelong, North Melbourne, Collingwood, Port Adelaide, Essendon and Fremantle before their bye in round 11.
Their second half of the year is a mixed bag that sees them play West Coast and Sydney after the bye, and then several winnable games against Greater Western Sydney, Carlton and St Kilda. Ideally, they’d need to be either in the top eight before round 17, or at least be a game out, as they play Fremantle, Hawthorn, and Adelaide away in a tough three-week stretch. Their last four games sees them play Gold Coast, Collingwood, Essendon and North Melbourne.
They could easily have six wins by round 11, but would probably need seven to be right in the hunt. Stealing a win from a team such as Geelong, North Melbourne or Port Adelaide would have them sitting in the top four and primed for a big second half of the season. Looking at the second half of the year and it would appear if they aren’t in a good position before round 17, the following three games (Fremantle, Hawthorn, and Adelaide) could bring them undone very quickly.
Ladder range: 7-11
B: Nick Vlastuin, Troy Chaplin, Alex Rance
HB: Taylor Hunt, David Astbury, Bachar Houli
C: Brandon Ellis, Dustin Martin, Shaun Grigg
HF: Brett Deledio, Ben Griffiths, Chris Knights
F: Steve Morris, Jack Riewoldt, Tyrone Vickery
Foll: Ivan Maric, Trent Cotchin, Anthony Miles
Int: Reece Conca, Sam Lloyd, Shane Edwards
Sub: Ben Lennon
Follow John Feeney on Twitter: @johnfeeney24