The Tigers have lost their way.
This year’s Richmond side is almost unrecognisable from the side which saw the Tigers finish fifth last year, earning the club its first finals berth in 12 years.
They’re sitting on one win and three losses. The loss to the Bulldogs is inexcusable, and even though the Suns have been a bogey side for Richmond since their inception, any side which is serious about finishing in the top four has to beat Gold Coast.
Even their lone win against what has been exposed as a mediocre-at-best Carlton side was less than inspiring, holding off a late charge by the Blues to record a two goal win.
What was dished up on Friday night at the MCG was arguably their worst performance yet. All the key indicators were relatively even – Richmond even won the clearances by 10 and free kicks by seven – yet the Pies had little trouble in recording a 38-point victory.
With Brett Deledio, Alex Rance and Ivan Maric out injured and Trent Cotchin tagged out by the excellent Brent Macaffer, Richmond’s second-tier players had to prove themselves worthy of a spot in the best 22 and they failed to do just that.
Chris Newman, who has fought so bravely for Richmond throughout his career, went missing, Troy Chaplin looked lost when made accountable and Shaun Grigg – put head to head against Dayne Beams – was once again deplorable, intensifying calls for him to be dropped to the VFL.
No single play has summed up a team’s season thus far than one did on Friday night. With just a few minutes elapsed in the first quarter and Collingwood having just kicked the second goal of the game the ball was once again in Richmond’s defensive 50 where Troy Chaplin produced one of the worst individual efforts of 2014 with an attempted tackle on Brodie Grundy. Grundy escaped Chaplin’s clutches with ease and handballed to Scott Pendlebury who kicked Collingwood’s third, giving the Pies a 19-0 head start.
Credit where it’s due for Sam Lloyd on debut – he was excellent in gathering 22 disposals and kicking three goals – but when a 24-year-old medium-sized forward playing his first AFL game is their best player in what was supposed to be a blockbuster there’s clearly got a leadership problem.
The Tigers of 2013 were a quick, exciting team to watch who defended ferociously and were as threatening as any on the counter-attack. On Friday night they were stagnant. 66% disposal efficiency flattered the Tigers in the end – their ball movement was a mess. They recorded just nine score assists against Collingwood – their lowest since round five 2013 when they also recorded nine against Fremantle.
Perhaps the most telling stat to come from Friday is that Richmond, who ranked second for marks in 2013 averaging 98.2 per game, had just 63 against Collingwood – they only had fewer twice in 2013.
The forward line is in need of a serious revamp. Tyrone Vickery does not look to be enjoying his footy and was subbed out with just two touches in 50% game time while Jack Riewoldt, try as he might, cannot single-handedly carry this team. Three goals in three quarters of footy is not good enough and kicking seven in the last when the game was over doesn’t paper over the cracks.
Their reputation as one of the quickest starting sides in the competition is also shot. After leading or being level 18 out of a possible 23 times at quarter time in 2013 Richmond have trailed by 15 or more points on three occasions from just four outings this year – a trend Damien Hardwick must break before the bye rounds.
“I think it’s the biggest hole we’ve been in,” said Hardwick after the loss.
With games against Brisbane away, Hawthorn and Geelong to come and the possibility of sitting on two wins and five losses at the bye a very real prospect, Richmond don’t have much time to dig themselves out of it.
You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattGoss_.