If out of curiosity you decided to look up the term recycling on Google after the recent drafting exploits of the Tigers, the chances are you would find a picture of the Richmond Football Club.
The decision by the Tigers to use their rookie selections to acquire the trio of delisted players in Ricky Petterd, Sam Lonergan and Orren Stephenson is one that could well be the icing on the cake for a team that aims to re-enter the September action after more than a decade of absence.
Richmond used three of its four selections in the Rookie Draft to offer a lifeline to three delisted players, 24 year-old Ricky Petterd with pick seven, 25 year-old Sam Lonergan with pick 22 and 30 year-old Orren Stephenson, who lasted only one season at Geelong, with pick 36.
Petterd was initially drafted at pick 30 in the 2006 National Draft by Melbourne and after debuting in 2007, played 54 games and kicked 55 goals with the Demons as a versatile midsized forward. Unfortunately, he found himself on the outer throughout the 2012 season, as he only managed four senior appearances under the tutelage of Mark Neeld.
At times his ability has shone through on the field, three times booting four goals in a game, but inconsistency and persistent injuries have indeed hampered his development. The move to the Tigers could just be the tonic to re-invigorate his fledgling career.
Sam Lonergan’s 2012 season is perhaps best remembered for the heavy tackle he placed on the Blues’ Andrew Carrazzo that forced the Carlton midfielder to miss a hefty chunk of the season. In his 14 senior appearances with the Bombers in 2012, Lonergan averaged a handy 15 disposals per game while laying an impressive 74 tackles at an average of better than five per game.
Lonergan will be a handy acquisition for the Tigers as he showed he is a tough, nuggetty, inside midfielder in his 79 matches at the Bombers after he was drafted from the Tassie Mariners with pick 50 in the 2005 National Draft.
Orren Stephenson was selected as a mature-age ruckman by Geelong only last year, through VFL side North Ballarat. Despite being one of the better ruckmen in that competition, he struggled to make an impression in the senior side, only managing eight appearances in the blue and white hoops. However, he did play a key role in the Cats’ memorable win over long-time rival Hawthorn in Round 19, notching up 13 disposals with 23 hitouts, and he also claimed a spot in Geelong’s VFL premiership side.
Stephenson may well have kept his spot on the Geelong list under different circumstances but was forced aside after the Cats acquired former Kangaroos ruckman Hamish Macintosh during the trade period.
The Tigers’ decision to pick up the three recycled players as rookies, in addition to the other older players they selected through the trading and free agency period in key defender Troy Chaplin and forwards Chris Knights and Aaron Edwards, mean they now have strongly boosted their defence and goal-scoring power while not risking their future needs by wasting their early draft picks.
This is an important strategy as it will provide much needed assistance for Coleman Medallist Jack Riewoldt and improve the development of key defender Alex Rance. With the added flexibility that Petterd, Lonergan, and Knights can provide in the middle of the ground, Richmond seem now well poised to reap the rewards of supplementing its core group of senior players in 2013, with the experienced additions at the club and achieving the goal of winning enough matches to play finals football.
The increased depth to the Tigers’ list will assist in allowing a consistent level of senior experience to be available week after week, even if the club does suffer from a poor run of injuries at crucial times during the all-important home and away season.
It is worth remembering that such a recruiting strategy is not fool proof, given it has backfired at times for other clubs, most notably the Brisbane Lions in 2010. However, given the age of the Richmond list, the previous development that has taken place in the senior group under Hardwick’s coaching and the low-risk nature of selecting players in the rookie draft, the Richmond brains trust can be fully confident that their decision to top up their list, by allowing the club to offer another chance of AFL football to the delisted three, will be a winning one.
If the form of the mature-aged rookies warrants promotion to the senior list during the season, or should the injury curse strike the Tigers in 2013, the added depth of senior talent that is now in abundance at the Tigers will provide a defining factor in the Tigers’ push to make the finals for the first time since 2001.
After all, what the Richmond faithful really want is sustained long-term success and now it appears that at the end of 2012, the Tigers are as well-placed as any Richmond side has been in recent times to achieve this goal.