The great Babe Ruth once remarked “the way a team plays as a whole determines its success”.
However, in recent weeks, it has slowly become clear that the success of the Richmond Football Club in 2015 may be resting on the shoulders of one man.
When Brett Deledio was announced as a late withdrawal from the squad that was to face Adelaide in round 19, the attitude of the travelling Tigers faithful quickly dropped from expectation to distraught.
Their fears proved to be within reason, as a resurgent Crows side swamped the sorry Tigers to record a 38-point victory and resurrect their season.
As expected, questions were asked of what the difference was between the side that had beaten reigning premiers Hawthorn the week before in comparison to the pitiful performance in Adelaide.
Unsurprisingly, all signs point to the loss of Deledio.
His three first quarter goals against the Hawks instigated the downfall of the most in-form side in the league, and his stunning disposal efficiency against the likes of Sam Mitchell rubber-stamped his credentials as one of the league’s all-star players.
Statistically speaking, it is interesting to note that his disposal average of 21.7 per game in 2015 is his lowest since 2007. However, improvements on last year’s numbers in terms of marks, goals and tackles are indicative of Deledio’s game becoming integral to the success of Richmond.
Though Damien Hardwick can take solace in having one of the league’s best at his disposal, there is still cause for concern in the fact that the Tigers are toothless when he is missing: in the five games he has missed, Richmond have only won once in 2015. It follows on from them winning just one of the four games he missed in 2014.
This concern is greatly intensified considering if Deledio is missing once more this year, it may well mean the end of Richmond’s 2015 campaign.
So how can the Tigers maintain a backbone if Deledio is out again?
Firstly, getting Shane Edwards back into the side is key. Granted, he is hardly a superstar of the game, but the improvement of his disposal and generally all facets of his game this year has been monumental.
His introduction will also mean adding an experienced head alongside the relatively inexperienced group of Kane Lambert, Kamdyn McIntosh and Anthony Miles, which could prove vital come finals time.
While it almost goes without saying, the midfield engine does need to pick up the slack in Deledio’s absence. While his leadership is stronger than ever, captain Trent Cotchin tends to go missing when tagged, and needs to make a greater impact with his high disposal count.
Lambert, McIntosh and Miles have strung together some solid showings in recent weeks, and cannot afford to drop their form heading into the season’s culmination. Taylor Hunt needs to take his strong numbers and start having an impact, while Shaun Grigg must continue to lead the way with his rich vein of goal kicking form as of late.
Obviously, this formula is far easier said than done. However, given the ease with which the full-strength Tigers breezed by an undermanned Gold Coast on Sunday, signs are positive.
In line with Ruth’s words, the success of the club is slowly being distributed amongst 22 rather than one.