We learnt a lot from the Tigers’ resounding opening-round win but one thing that stood out is the where the goals came from.
Over the off-season, it is clearly apparent that head coach Damien Hardwick has restricted the forward line. In recent seasons, it was all too predictable to defend against the Tigers. It was usually either Jack Riewoldt kicking a bag or the hapless Tigers would usually be beaten. He may be a Coleman Medal-winning forward but the fact of the matter is that he simply can’t do it all himself.
What was so obvious against Carlton is that the goals came from another emerging forward, Tyrone Vickery. Vickery has had a below par start to his footy career but Richmond’s number one draft pick in 2008 is finally showing some encouraging signs. After having a shoulder reconstruction in the off-season, Vickery is primed for a breakout season.
Vickery has had anything but a fast start to his AFL career. Before this season, he had played just 54 games in four seasons. In his most complete season, he played 22 matches and amassed 36 majors. He showed a glimpse of his potential but unfortunately Vickery only played the nine matches in 2012.
We only have to look at the first game of 2013 to see there has been a sharp improvement on Vickery’s key stats from the season before.
Vickery had 10 kicks in his opening game compared to an average of just fewer than five in 2012. His total disposals count was also up whilst effective kicks and contested possessions were both up on the season before.
Whilst these stats bode well for Vickery, marks inside 50 are one of the true indicators of a fit and firing forward target.
In the opening round, Vickery took a whopping five marks inside 50 compared to an average of less than two in 2012. Even in 2011, his best season to date, Vickery only averaged two marks inside 50 over the course of the season.
This impressive stat was reflected in the goalkicking charts as he booted three straight goals with those five marks.
If we look at the most successful sides over the past few years, two firing forwards is usually the key to success. The likes of Geelong and Collingwood have always had more than one forward target in which they relied upon. The flipside of that is what the Tigers have been guilty of in the past few years. Adelaide, which lost Kurt Tippett and looked lost in its first match of 2013, looked to target Taylor Walker more often than not and it simply didn’t work.
The Tigers have often started seasons with detailed hype but when the going got tough, it was usually Riewoldt who was being relied upon to kick the important goals.
Players such as Robin Nahas are reliable for your one to two goals per game but what the Tigers have been missing is that second forward target to cover for Riewoldt when he isn’t having the best of games.
Even if Vickery doesn’t take the contested grab, he is able to bring the ball to ground by crashing the pack. This inturn brings the small forwards into the equation. His impressive frame will worry many defenders this year as will his solid contested marking capabilities.
In a positive sign for Tigers fans; they won the opening match without their number one target in Riewoldt scoring a major.
Other fans often belittle the Tigers faithful of placing extreme pressure on their side to perform but it may be Vickery who holds the key to a finals berth for the long-suffering club.
The much-maligned Vickery was a first-round draft selection and putting 2011 aside, he has failed to live up to expectation. With Vickery having surgery to correct his shoulder over the off-season, he is able to come into 2013 with a full bill of health. For many media types, they have heralded 2013 as a do or die season for the big Tiger.
Vickery started 2013 in the best possible fashion but it’s imperative that he keeps his blistering start going.
Many have tipped the Tigers to make significant strides this season but this will ultimately rest of Vickery firing. If he can put together a solid season of footy, it will go a long way to ensuring the Tigers make finals.
2013 looms as a big year for Vickery and if he can deliver, it will not just signify a new era for him but for Richmond as a club.