Following Richmond’s third consecutive elimination final loss, much of the focus was on the disappointing performance from captain Trent Cotchin.
He was held to a miserable nine disposals by North Melbourne tagger Ben Jacobs leading to a number of questions over Cotchin’s leadership and ability to stand up and lead when the going gets tough.
Midway through the 2015 season, retired great Jonathan Brown labelled Cotchin as one of “the two best captains this season” and praised his ability for “sensing the moment and doing special things to lift his team in its hour of need.”
Despite such compliments, Trent Cotchin has never quite been able to reach the heights expected of him. Queries over his ability to not only gather the ball but to hurt opposition sides with his disposal have hung over him for much of his career.
Cotchin himself admitted in August that he hasn’t been able to get there. “It always feels like there’s ways to keep improving and do more and play with a little bit more impact. I haven’t had a heap of four-quarter performances.”
His off-field leadership is tough to question, Richmond are playing the most consistent football in the modern era and have made the finals three years in a row. The club culture, once seen as troubling with the likes of Ben Cousins, Dustin Martin and Daniel Connors making headlines repeatedly, is now considerably more stable.
On the field though, significant questions remain.
His form during his first year as captain in 2013 was inconsistent, but a strong second half of the year saw him grow into the role. He was a shining light in Richmond’s loss to Carlton in the elimination final with 26 disposals and two goals, as he tried desperately to drag his side over the line.
2014 saw a more prolific year for the midfielder, and most importantly, many of his best performances came in games where the captain needed to stand up and deliver.
He received three votes for his performance in the 12 point win over Carlton, two votes in a nine point loss to Sydney, one vote in a high-scoring affair against Port Adelaide and two votes in the 10 point victory against Adelaide late in the season with finals on the line. In the last round of the season against top of the ladder Sydney, he was prolific at 29 disposals in a must win clash.
Finally it seemed, the real Trent Cotchin had stood up and seized the moment. A week later he had 16 disposals and little impact as a rampant Port Adelaide stormed past the Tigers and all of those questions came flooding back.
Despite the Tigers sluggish start to the season, Cotchin began the season in solid form, with the exception of a poor game against Carlton in round one. After seven rounds he was averaging a more than healthy 30 disposals and had played a key role in getting the Tigers over the line in a five point win against the inform Magpies.
However, as Richmond’s season began to recover, Cotchin’s form dropped off. In the next five weeks he averaged only 22.6 disposals. A best on ground game followed though as Cotchin led his side to a hard fought victory against GWS having trailed by 15 points at the final break.
Despite a drop in form, the Tigers were sitting comfortably and a top four spot was a possibility having knocked over the likes of Collingwood, Fremantle and Sydney. It’s not hard to see why the likes of Jonathan Brown were enamoured by the leadership of Trent Cotchin.
Richmond finished the season reasonably well, with the highlights as win over Hawthorn and three convincing demolitions to finish the season.
However, Cotchin’s form was relatively indifferent. Consistency wasn’t a problem for the skipper; instead it was a lack of impact and a lack of the numbers you’d expect from a player of his stature.
Cotchin was prominent in the 83 point victory over Gold Coast and gathered 30 disposals in round 23 against a North Melbourne side that was more of a Werribee side, his first 30 disposal game since round 14.
The nail in the coffin came a week later as Richmond crashed out of yet another elimination final.