Prior to the bounce this looked like anything but an even game. In fact, a game of footy between the the under pressure Tigers and the in-form Swans seemed about as fair as a debate between Jacqui Lambie and anything smarter than a piece of fruit. But the great thing about sport is every game starts at nil-all and you never know for sure what will happen next.
Richmond were wearing a special strip raising money for the Allanah and Madeline Foundation and as a tribute to those affected by the Port Arthur Massacre. I thought this was a nice touch, although I’m sure there are still a few conspiracy theorists (probably wearing tin foil hats so government satellites can’t read their minds) who believe any recognition of the Port Arthur Massacre is just an attempt to further erode their “Constitutional,” right (it isn’t actually in the Australian Constitution at all) to own as many high-powered firearms as they want.
The game started as the form line suggested, with the Swans winning a lot of early contests and doing much of the attacking. A slightly tough free kick against Rance for front on contact after a marking contest gave Franklin a set shot which he converted to give his team its first goal. They had their second moments later as Parker won the centre clearance and kicked it forward to where Sinclair looked to have taken a good diving mark. It wasn’t paid but the Swans reacted quicker, with a few quick handballs finding Heeney completely unmarked running towards goal. The Tigers finally managed a forward foray, only for Vickery to hit the post. As the Swans came out of defence, a 50m penalty against Menadue for running through the protected area brought Towers to half forward but outside scoring range- so I thought. Franklin ran behind him and received the handpass before launching a passive kick from 60+ off a few steps that sailed through for a goal.
At this point, some of the Richmond players might have been thinking enviously of Bernard Tomic’s decision to retire eight minutes into a match at the Rome Masters. Certainly this team is hardly known for its mental toughness, so I was starting to worry about the score blowing out like our budget deficit since the Coalition took power and promised to fix it. Thankfully these worries proved unfounded and I was about to be treated to an enthralling game.
They finally scored a goal after Deledio won a centre clearance and kicked it forward without any real target. Richards failed to control or trap it, allowing Riewoldt to pick it up and snap brilliantly on the run with his left foot.
To this point, both teams had been notable with their poor ball movement (especially by foot) and turnovers. This was suiting the Swans, as they seemed much more likely to win the ball back from a disputed situation. As the quarter wore on, Richmond began to improve its kicking, especially using short chip kicks to move the ball around and this seemed to help them blunt the Swans’ momentum. Not that the Swans ever stopped looking dangerous. Great hands through congestion by several Swans saw Hannebery get free and kick long to Towers who was somehow free close to the behind post. He marked and goaled.
The Tigers’ second goal came on the back of two strong marks. The first by Riewoldt, who then turned and kicked long to the goal square where Martin marked.
Not for the first time, the Swans looked a bit lackadaisical in their defensive 50 handballing around close to the line and were caught with it. (The Tigers could have scored several this way but had missed earlier shots). Miles took the resultant free kick and put it through for his team’s third. The Swans were much more effective by hand at the other end soon after, winning a disputed ball with strength and clean hands with Heeney eventually finding Hannebery with space to kick off one step from a tight angle for his side’s fifth.
Richmond would probably have been pretty happy with a two goal deficit at quarter time. They had certainly absorbed the Swans’ early pressure and were now at least getting plenty of the ball themselves to fashion their own attacking chances. Rance was having a typically good game but he tried to break a tackle from Heeney on the wing and was caught holding the ball. Before he could get back, Heeney had kicked it long to Franklin, who- with Rance out of position- had the much shorter Morris to beat. He took the mark and again converted with apparent ease from 50m out just inside from the boundary line. Franklin’s kicking for goal really stood out all night, when so many players on both side were missing easy set shots. Much of the second quarter slowed right down, with Richmond really exercising their control of the ball through chip passing, but struggling to find a target inside 50. In the last few minutes of the quarter the pace of the game changed as rapidly as Bohemian Rhapsody.
Griffiths was to play an enigmatic game in which he was rarely sighted for long periods and then bob up and have an impact. Just before half time he was awarded two slightly controversial free kicks for interference by Grundy (whoever was umpiring at this end paid more free kicks to forwards than the Coalition gives to high income earners, as he had also made some pretty tough calls against Rance and Menadue earlier). In between Griffiths’ two goals, Ellis was the beneficiary of repeated hard work by Miles and marked inside 50 to also convert his set shot.
As a result, Richmond went to half time with the same narrow lead the ALP has in federal polling.
The third quarter began with Richmond continuing to surge, winning clearances and 50-50 contests far more often than they had earlier in the night. They missed a couple of easy set shots in the first few minutes before Lloyd finally kicked one accurately with a snap in general play. From the centre bounce, the Swans finally got the ball going forward and Franklin won another free kick that wouldn’t always be paid (there is umpire Turnbull again) and again kicked truly, giving him four straight for the night at this point. Richmond still seemed to have the better of play and were peppering the goals without converting their chances. This poor kicking began to look as costly as Kelly O’Dwyer’s choice of toaster when the Swans retook the ascendancy midway through the quarter on the back of greater pressure on the ball and were considerably more efficient in front of goal.
Like the Paramatta Eels’ salary cap, Hewett was caught way too high. From 40 metres out with little angle, he went back and nailed his shot. Soon after, Franklin hit Tippett on the lead and the former Crow also kicked truly. I should note I am often quite critical of both Tippett and Hampson, but both had pretty good games today. Grundy hit Franklin on the lead with a hard flat kick that Rance did everything he could to stop, but the kick and Franklin were too good. He marked on 50 and kicked another massive set shot through. The Swans looked to be going into three quarter time with all the momentum when Lloyd (Jake) received a handball and ran through 50 to kick their fifth in a row.
The epic final quarter was intense. Both the rule about ducking into high tackles and sliding in below the knees seem to have pretty much been forgotten. The quarter started with Lloyd (Sam) taking a pack mark in the opening moments and converting from 50. This was the start of another Tigers’ surge. Franklin was caught with the ball in the centre square and the ball got out to Deledio who hit Griffiths (who I had almost forgot was playing, but along with Tippett was going to be a decisive factor in the final quarter) on the lead and the big forward put his kick straight through.
The Swans pressed forward, but Riewoldt worked back hard to help his team and released Rioli to run from half back all the way to an open goal. When the Tigers won the next centre clearance and Griffiths marked it one handed and again converted his set shot, the Tigers were looking like they were about to run away with a memorable upset win. They extended their lead further when Richards made two bad fumbles in defence allowing Rioli to kick his second when the Swans should really have been rebounding towards attack.
Sydney had been looking pretty dysfunctional to this point, but to their credit they rallied superbly with Hannebery hunting the ball with the single-minded determination of the Murdoch Press attacking Duncan Storrar. Jack roved a tap from Sinclair from a boundary throw in and snapped a running goal. Soon after, Hannebery gathered a difficult ball under pressure and hit Tippett at half forward with a perfect left foot pass. He then ran forward into the pocket and marked the return kick before converting with class from a tight angle.
Papley was hit high by Morris (who had been the recipient of a number of frees for the same thing himself) close to goal before a pair of strong contested marks by Parker and then Tippett ended with the big ruck-forward converting an easy set shot. At this point the Swans had a lead of two goals with less than five minutes to go. Despite earlier copping some Peta Credlin-style friendly fire in a tackle, Griffiths was still moving well and he gave his side hope when he beat Richards back towards goal, picked up the ball and took a bounce, before dribbling a shot through from 30m out. The last desperate minutes were pulsating, with both sides looking like they were about to kick a winner only for a last defensive effort to hold them up.
With 40 seconds left on the clock, Towers caught Martin and won a free for holding the ball. With the ball on their half forward line and less than a minute to play I assumed the Swans had the game won. Inexplicably (and I bet for the last time in his career) instead of chipping it to a free player, Towers kicked long to full forward and Richmond scrambled it back out. Riewoldt again won an important contest- aided by the bounce a little- and he got it forward again to Griffiths who then found Lloyd just inside 50. The siren blew seconds later, leaving Lloyd to kick a goal to win the game. The young player who had not had the best of nights stepped back pretty calmly and kicked it perfectly, giving his side a one point win and cueing some emotional celebrations from the Tigers’ players and supporters.
There were a number of good players for both sides, who really stood out because a number of players were having sub-par games. Rance and Franklin both had excellent games playing against one another. Deledio and Miles were both good around the ball for Richmond while Riewoldt had an enormous game, being involved in a lot of the scoring for his team with his marking and tackling. Best on ground for me was Hannebery, who was a bit of a one man team for the Swans at times. His toughness and brilliance had a lot to do with both times when his team surged into the lead.
As for needing a Snickers, Heath Grundy and Ted Richards probably need to share it tonight. Both had games to forget, making uncharacteristic errors that cost their team some goals.