Look Back/Look Ahead: Richmond

Welcome to Look Back/Look Ahead, a series where every team is analysed in-depth, and their temperature taken. The plan here is to figure out where a team is at with their on-field style and overall list health before transitioning to their most pressing issue, and whether they can solve it over the off-season.

A few days ago this piece was just about finished.

Then news broke of Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto’s desire to get to Punt Road, rendering most of those words obsolete.

Now this piece is written through a different lens – more of a future focus than the season just finished.

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Look Back/Look Ahead will run during the weeks of September, taking us right up to Grand Final day and finishing with the top two shortly after.

$10 Patrons will have exclusive access to these posts for the first 24 hours after publishing and they’ll be free for all after that. Now that we’re into the finalists, here’s the schedule for the top eight:

RichmondTodayWestern BulldogsRead
MelbourneReadFremantleRead
BrisbaneReadCollingwoodRead
SydneyReadGeelongSeptember 27

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With Hopper and Taranto set to be added to the list through 2029, my intrigue from a cap management point of view is how Richmond lay out their deals.

Dustin Martin has two more years of his deal to go, and Tom Lynch three. Theoretically there’s not as much room in the salary cap until they’re both off the books.

Where Richmond find themselves at that point – the end of 2025 – will be a fork in the road. Here it’ll be clear whether Hopper and Taranto as the best two midfielders (while Shai Bolton continues playing a hybrid mid-forward role) is enough to remain in contention, or what else needs to be sorted to give those players the support they need.

Assuming the Hopper and Taranto are back ended to the last four years, how heavily are they? With the salary cap surely increasing off the back of a new broadcast deal, does it make the deals just slightly above average and easier to work around?

Or if, hypothetically, the deals are heavily slanted towards the last two years, does that give Richmond room to go shopping again for a key forward to replace Lynch? I can only imagine the discussions among Richmond’s brains trust trying to sort it all out.

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Posts continue to come thick and fast. If you’ve missed anything recently, here are links to catch up:

Tuesday 13th: Look Back/Ahead: Carlton (9th, 12-10, 108.3%)
Saturday 10th: Semi Final Analysis: Melbourne v Brisbane
Friday 9th: Look Back/Ahead: St Kilda (10th, 11-11, 99.8%)
Thursday 8th: Look Back/Ahead: Port Adelaide (11th, 10-12, 110.3%)
Wednesday 7th: Look Back/Ahead: Gold Coast (12th, 10-12, 102.8%)

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Coming out of three premierships in four years, it was natural to expect Richmond’s list to start transitioning.

A couple of key members retired this year, and it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see 2023 as the last season for Jack Riewoldt, Trent Cotchin, and Robbie Tarrant.

The additions of Hopper and Taranto help midfield issues (more on that in a moment), and nailing the Josh Gibcus pick gives Richmond a 1-2 key defender combination for the next decade.

Key forwards are a looming issue, but the addition of Maurice Rioli and Noah Cumberland has replenished the stocks around them.

Overall 2022 has to be judged as a successful year from a list management point of view given what Richmond discovered (and what’s set to come in).

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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. With all these rumours going around it looks like there’ll be words on the hour, every hour:

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How does the Hopper-Taranto duo change Richmond’s profile?

When news broke of the Giants duo’s intentions, the happiest things in the world were Dion Prestia’s hamstrings.

Nine games in 2020, nine games in 2021, and of Prestia’s 19 games in 2022, he failed to finish four of them (one of those not exactly his fault, to be fair).

These extra bodies in midfield allows Prestia to do the job of one person rather than asking him to do too much, also allowing Cotchin to slide into a role more suited for him at this advanced stage of his career.

But the biggest boost of their arrival is the new look it gives Richmond around stoppages. The Giants have traditionally been a strong stoppage side, with Hopper and Taranto valuable parts of those setups.

Richmond struggled defending from stoppages this year. They were in the bottom four for points conceded from clearances, while offensively they were middle of the pack in total points. It’s not classified information to say dominating in this area hasn’t been a focus area in recent times.

Given Riley Collier-Dawkins hasn’t come on as expected, Thomson Dow only made slight progress this year, and Jack Ross looks like topping out as a solid midfielder at best, there were some holes appearing in the midfield depth chart.

Hopper and Taranto cover up those holes and consolidate Richmond’s midfield for most of the decade. They transform an area of weakness into, at the very least, something neutral – if not a position of strength.

With a stronger profile around contest, it should help shore up some of Richmond’s issues without the ball – they slipped in that area during 2022. We already know there’s no worries at all with their offensive profile.

It’s not a slam dunk acquisition given there is so much time and money committed to two players who aren’t in the very top tier of their position. But with the infrastructure already in place, it’d be brave to bet against them making a massive difference to Richmond’s fortunes in 2023.

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