Blueprint For Richmond's Destruction or Just a Red Herring?
In the final round of season 2016, the Tigers took a trip to Sydney, got belted by 113 points and signed off on an extremely deflating 8-14 year.
A little over 12 months later, they won the Grand Final by 8 goals, claiming the first of a trio of premierships over the next four seasons.
While a varied ranged of ingredients has gone in to this Richmond dynasty, intense pressure has been a crucial one, jumping from dead-last in tackles and tackles inside-50 differential in 2016, to 5th and 3rd in those metrics a season later.
They’ve been a fierce, exceptionally-well coached outfit in recent years, yet 10 rounds into season 2021, and Richmond appear a little bit punch-drunk, sporting a 5-5 record and presently stationed outside the top-8.
And it’s those 5 losses we’re going to examine today, as not only have they all come against teams located above them on the ladder, but they’ve all arrived courtesy of very similar themes.
Let’s take a look.
A key feature of Richmond’s preferred style is manic pressure, while using their power of extraction to generate counter-attacking scoring opportunities.
Yet these chances can be denied if you don’t allow the Tigers to get their pesky hands on your wallet.
And a way opponents have countered the Tigers’ slippery fingers this season is by elite disposal efficiency coupled with plenty of marks and an abundance of uncontested possession.
In the 5 games Richmond have won this season they've had a -43 mark differential, their uncontested footy is at -104, while their disposal efficiency has operated at 73%.
When they’ve lost, the mark differential has dropped further to -142, as too has their uncontested numbers (-189), while their disposal efficiency has dropped to 71%.
Whilst Richmond has proved that it can indeed still win when they’re down in these key stats, the numbers are indicating that they’ve struggled to cope when those same numbers have gotten out of hand.
Cut Off The Supply Chain
While the Tigers haven’t been an overwhelming offensive force throughout their dynasty, with league PPG ranks of 8th, 6th and 5th in their premiership seasons, they have had their own unique way of generating scoreboard pressure, the likes of which has dried up somewhat in 2021, with the Tigers currently ranking 11th for total points.
In the 5 games Richmond have won this season, they’ve enjoyed a +94 inside-50 differential and been able to generate a scoring shot on an extremely efficient 49% of those entries. Those numbers have been helped by a +20 and +21 tackle and marks inside-50 differential.
However, the Tigers have been muted significantly when their ever-reliable forward structure has been ripped away.
In the 5 games they’ve lost, that inside-50 number has plummeted to -48, they’re only generating a scoring-shot on 43% of those entries while their tackles and mark inside-50 differentials have dropped to -16 and -25 respectively.
These numbers suggest is that if you’re first able to cut off the supply link and then deprive them of their strengths inside-50, mitigating the threat of Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch, and not allowing their manic tackling intensity either, then you’re a big chance of taking the four points from your Tiger tussle.
Hit them as hard as possible
Finally, beating the Tigers at the coalface in recent seasons hasn’t meant much where Richmond are concerned, as they’ve played a somewhat revolutionary role insofar as how we’ve come to analyse clearances.
With that said, completely pulverising them in this realm in 2021 is producing a different narrative altogether.
While granted, Richmond have experienced rotten injury luck with all of Shane Edwards, Dion Prestia, Nick Vlaustin, Shai Bolton and Trent Cotchin missing games, the reality is those omissions have allowed opponents to jump in and feast, completely ripping the Tigers apart in contested possession and clearances.
In the 5 games the Tigers have tasted victory, their clearance, tackle and contested possession differential numbers have been at an imposing +16, +17 and +30 level, yet when they’ve been beaten, those same stats have dropped to -59 and +11, with their contested possession differential dropping to -110. In fact, the rejuvenated Lions smashed them by 27 in both contested possessions and clearances last week.
While yes, Richmond have been comfortable not dominating in those traditional ‘heat of the battle’ areas, these numbers prove that it’s another thing entirely being absolutely massacred in those stats.
So, is it time to write off the Tigers?
You’re kidding aren’t you?
While this is Richmond’s worst start to a season since 2016, they're living proof that winning premiership is more akin to a marathon than a sprint, looking shaky in previous premierships campaigns, yet coming home like a steam train when it's mattered most.
With that said, and while the Tigers will likely have a better run of injuries over the second half of the season, a blueprint of sorts has been produced in terms of how to potentially conquer this footballing leviathan.
The big question is, will Richmond once again be able to rise and meet the challenge?
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