2013 will be the one that got away for Richmond. After teasing a potential top four finish in the later stages of the season, they were ironically bundled out in the first week of finals by ninth placed Carlton.
Richmond has been preaching that the sleeping giant of the competition is awakening. They will need to improve again given the depth of quality in the competition – and Tyrone Vickery is the man to help keep the giant awake.
Consistency has eluded Vickery in his six seasons as an AFL footballer. He has managed just two 20+ game seasons over the journey, where a season-ending shoulder injury in 2012 denied Ty the chance to consolidate his 22 game, 36 goal season of 2011.
Richmond’s fortunes in 2014 will be determined through their ability to find another forward capable of kicking 40+ goals. This Richmond side has the potential to kick big scores, ranked fifth in 2013 in points for. While the likes of Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin can impact the scoreboard through the midfield, Richmond need another consistent goal-kicking outlet inside 50.
Richmond have arrived at the stage of their development where they must start comparing themselves against the benchmark of the competition. Hawthorn had an even spread of goal kickers across the board, with four players kicking more than 40 goals in 2013. Fremantle had Michael Walters, Chris Mayne and Hayden Ballantyne who all managed over 30 goals.
Richmond, in comparison to the top sides of the competition, lack goal kicking depth inside 50. For them to challenge for a top four spot, they cannot afford to rely on Jack Riewoldt kicking a bulk of their score and hope those around him can pinch hit with two or three. Vickery has the tools to become a reliable second key forward.
Statistics from Champion Data show that Vickery had the highest winning percentage in one-on-one contests at the club and was ranked eighth-best amongst the league’s top 25 targets in 2013. He kicked 27 goals to finish second in Richmond’s goal kicking last season.
No one will welcome the arrival of Vickery more than Jack Riewoldt, who for years has been the sole focus for opposition defences. Having Vickery there to kick his two or three goals a game will not only ease the pressure off Riewoldt, but will force opposition coaches to restructure their defensive personnel. This could see Shaun Hampson or Jake King become a goal-scoring outlet.
Vickery’s role in Richmond’s line up will also enable him to play his best football consistently. Richmond acquiring Shaun Hampson in the off-season essentially means he will become the pinch-hitting ruck/forward and will allow Vickery to stay at home inside the forward 50. They have tried in past years to play Vickery as the second ruck, but were rarely successful. Freeing up Vickery from ruck duties will simplify his game.
All that is left for Richmond to become a constant in finals is a second key forward that can deliver on a weekly basis. Vickery has been teasing the Richmond faithful for six seasons now, but if he can bring his best footy week in, week out, the Tigers will put the AFL world on notice.