If Richmond are to cement their place in the top eight and actually do some damage come September, Brett Deledio must break the shackles of the tag on a regular basis. Simple stats show that when Richmond win, Deledio plays well, but when they lose, he is unable to break the tag and so his output is largely ineffective. The ball is now in his court, as he holds the key to Richmond’s chances come September.

Football media are very quick to jump on the Deledio-bashing bandwagon after a Tigers loss, and so they should be, as it is our job to scrutinise, and until Deledio gives the media a reason not to criticise his performances, the spotlight will continue to shine bright on him. The discrepancy between Deledio’s performances when the Tigers win and lose is rather significant, and too big for the player of his calibre. When the Tigers win, he averages 25.7 disposals, 16.8 of them kicks, but when they lose he averages 19.6 disposals and just 9.4 kicks.

Stats show that opposition teams place an emphasis on restricting Deledio’s kicking ability, his major weapon. What opposition clubs also aim to restrict is Deledio’s run and carry, and they do this by not only sitting a player on him, but by placing pressure on the entire Tiger midfield so that Deledio is unable to feed off his teammates as easily. When Richmond win, he averages 5.3 inside 50s, but when they lose he averages just 3.0.

This has a domino effect on the entire Richmond team, with the back half lacking Deledio’s run, the midfield lacking his power and the forwards lacking his delivery. For Richmond to consolidate their place in the top eight, Deledio must prevent the dominoes from falling.

It’s safe to say that Richmond are not as reliant on any of their stars any more, but good performances from their stars certainly will not hurt their finals chances. Dominant performances from one or two of their best players may be the difference from winning and losing a final. As we approach the make or break time of the season, the cream should be rising to the top.

Deledio at his best is “close to the best player in the competition,” said North Melbourne coach Brad Scott on the weekend, identifying the midfielder’s importance to the Tigers and able to nullify his performance by clamping Taylor Hine on him, restricting Deledio to just 16 touches.

Over the course of the season you would find that most, if not all opposition coaches in the their mid-week presser, spoke of preventing Deledio to play the way he wanted to play. He has become a target for opposition clubs, and whilst the Richmond midfield could do more in protecting their star man, it is ultimately up to the individual to seize the day and defy the critics.

Over to you, Brett.