If I was a smoker, it would have been my immediate go-to at the final siren.
From start to finish on Thursday night, it felt like a basketball shootout where the last team with possession would win.
It was incredible how both teams, for better and worse, leant right into full-blown attack – kamikaze at times.
Ultimately, in September under the bright lights, a team’s best and worst traits are highlighted. For four exhilarating quarters, that was exactly what played out for Brisbane and Richmond.
Every final this year is getting the ‘North Melbourne match review’ treatment, for lack of a better term.
Essentially, everything I do there is transported into September, with the obvious difference of looking at a game from both teams’ perspective instead of just one.
It replaces the Notebook in the $5+ spot for Patrons. Each review will be posted the morning after the game, with early access to Patrons until the evening when it becomes free for all.
Brisbane: The good and bad
Since Round 10, the Lions have been poor defensively and great offensively:
|Round 10-23: Scores from…||Points For||Points Against|
Some people – maybe me! – sat down in front of the TV expecting Brisbane to unveil a renewed focus on their defence; the balanced style from their first nine games which had them as one of the best sides in the league.
Instead it was reminiscent of last year’s finals series where they went all guns blazing in an attempt to paper over cracks. A conscious decision for team offence to be in fifth gear at close to all times. There were passages of play so high risk I was almost watching through my fingers:
The flip side of that was a surprising willingness to accept their lot in a high scoring game. There were so many passages like the following, Richmond allowed to move the ball with the ease of a pre-season training drill:
At this stage I want to pause and give Brisbane the benefit of the doubt. The most likely team in the eight to allow a shootout: Richmond. Of all the potential methods, it made sense to take their chance against the Tigers.
As a hypothetical, trying to play this way against Fremantle would have ended terribly, and the Bulldogs would have overpowered them around the ball.
Nevertheless, to hop back on the credit train, there were individual tweaks with head to head matchups: Deven Robertson tagging Dion Prestia, then Trent Cotchin after the former’s hamstring injury. That gave the remaining Lions midfielders more freedom offensively, knowing they weren’t responsible for Richmond’s prime ball winners.
In part due to that, Lachie Neale was unreal, playing one of the best games of his career:
– 39 disposals (21 contested)
– 15 clearances
– 6 inside 50s
– 9 score involvements
– 95% time on ground (a season high)
When Shai Bolton was forward, Brandon Starcevich cut him out of proceedings, giving Keidean Coleman and Daniel Rich fewer headaches and allowing them to create offence – the duo in Brisbane’s top four players for metres gained on the night.
The loss of Oscar McInerney was balanced out by Prestia’s early departure, which is probably a statement that annoys both sets of fans but is the truth.
Ultimately it looked as if Brisbane approached the game knowing they had to score 100+ to win and played for their lives (or season, which is a more appropriate word).
I’ll throw my hand up and say this style won’t trouble Melbourne or Sydney (injury-dependent).
But as a one-game, opponent-specific approach, it was incredibly entertaining and easy enough to see the logic for it.
Posts are coming thick and fast at the moment. If you’ve missed anything over the last week or so, here are links to catch up:
Friday 2nd: Look Back/Ahead: Adelaide (14th, 8-14, 86.7%)
Thursday 1st: Look Back/Ahead: Essendon (15th, 7-15, 83.2%)
Wednesday 31st: Look Back/Ahead: GWS (16th, 6-16, 84.6%)
Tuesday 30th: Look Back/Ahead: West Coast (17th, 2-20, 59.8%)
Friday 26th: North Melbourne’s end of season list analysis
Richmond: The good and bad
I’ll readily admit the most intriguing sides to me are those who appear to be just past midnight on the premiership clock, and whether they try to wind it back or commit to the cycle again.
It’s why Richmond has had an outsized number of posts from me this year, attempting to plot their future path.
In the Round 3 Notebook, I said the following:
There’ll be some weeks this year where everyone is all, ‘Richmond! That was extraordinary! They’re back!’. There’ll be other times where the reaction is, ‘Richmond? What’s wrong with them? They’re so cooked.’
The average of it all will likely be somewhere in mid-table, depending on player availability. One thing’s for sure – Richmond’s games are going to be a nightmare to tip.
While that ended up true – especially the tipping part – how they got there was fascinating, committing to offence, eschewing defence and with enough IP to carry through … right up until the closing stages of a game.
From Round 7, Richmond had 11 wins, 1 draw and 5 losses. Their biggest loss was six points. Six points.
Lots of people say over the long run the result of close games is essentially a coin flip.
While that may be true, what you can ask for is a team putting themselves in the best position to help that coin land right side up.
In all of these close losses – but particularly the last three to Gold Coast, North Melbourne and Brisbane – you can argue it was Richmond who beat Richmond.
After the loss to North, Damien Hardwick said ‘it’s Richmond killing Richmond at the moment.’ That should be the epitaph for their season because it happened again at the Gabba.
There were so many good things up until the end, and indeed over the year. By nearly every possible measure, it was a successful season. Younger players were unveiled: Gibcus, Sonsie, M Rioli and Cumberland are now best 22 with Baker, Bolton and Balta graduating to mainstays (if they weren’t already there).
The list turned over the right amount of experience without cutting too far: Edwards, Lambert and Caddy all departing from the 30+ crew but still with the likes of Riewoldt, Cotchin, Grimes, Lynch and Prestia (when fit) to shield the youngsters.
If Tim Taranto arrives it helps regenerate their midfield at a quicker rate and adds an extra string to the bow.
The offensive football was breathtaking at times – potentially a David Teague influence – but the defence suffered as a result – also potentially a David Teague influence. Watch the play back that ends their season and so many times it feels like one knock-on, or crunching tackle ends the play.
Instead Brisbane keep swarming forward until heartbreak hits:
My personal view is that for teams not in premiership contention, if they know exactly where they’re at when their season finishes – and have people in place to get better – then it can be seen as a successful year.
That viewpoint comes down to whether you place faith with people in powerful positions. Given Richmond’s history of success in this era, it’d be foolish for me to bet against the continuing retool on the fly.
As we head towards free agency and trade period, a reminder that the plan is to have a post for every move that involves a player: