Richmond how sits 1-6 after seven rounds into the season and as such their supporter base appears to have segregated themselves into three distinct groups – full-time supporters, part-time supporters and casual supporters. Given that many don’t give the Tigers much of a chance against the Swans on Saturday night, it is likely that the majority of the crowd, from a Richmond perspective, will be those full-time supporters. The recent history between the two clubs though makes the judgement of many unfounded – Richmond has actually beaten Sydney in four of their past six meetings, three of which were at the MCG.
The recent history is there, but may count for nothing except motivation for the Tigers as they continue to search for their second victory of the season. The return of All-Australian defender Alex Rance will give the Club optimism; that a reversal of fortune can still happen. The Tigers will face the might of the Swans, who are coming off a sixth win in seven games. The return of Rance can’t come a moment too soon for Richmond given he will be tasked with curbing the influence of Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, a key component to the Swans imposing form – a priority for the Tigers along with the crucial battle in the midfield.
Sydney actually has three of the AFL’s top six contested-ball winners at the moment, in star midfielders Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannerbery and Luke Parker. In fact they are the number one contested possession team so far in 2016, averaging 166.4 per game. Perhaps a good sign for the Tigers, Kennedy was confirmed as a late out for the Swans on Friday morning. The Tigers have their own concerns though with key defensive pairing, Kamdyn McIntosh and Bachar Houli both missing through injuries sustained at a somewhat brutal training session on Thursday. Though the Swans will be without Kennedy, their midfield bats particularly deep, with the likes of Captain Kieran Jack and Tom Mitchell also providing first-class back-up; so there doesn’t seem to be any reprieve for the Tigers at all when you consider that.
However, speaking as part of this week’s edition of Roar’s Vision’s Opposition Analysis; Richmond Assistant Coach Ross Smith believes the Tigers have the capacity to match it with Sydney on the inside. Smith says “one area of our game we’ve been really pleased with the last couple of weeks, has been our contested ball”. So although Richmond might not be getting the wins, they are winning the inside battle and Smith believes that this will be important in the Tigers winning their next game. The Swans are also a contested side and have an experienced midfield setup that helps them significantly. It bodes as a good opportunity and challenge for the Richmond midfield setup this week as a result.
Richmond will also need to be wary of the ability of Swans defenders Dane Rampe, Heath Grundy and Jeremy Laidler to take intercept marks. Smith has observed the way that every side that comes up against Sydney is trying to curtail their ability to mark the ball behind. He says “they go for their marks . . . and certainly, it increases your chances of scoring on the turnover if you can mark the ball. They’ve been able to turn defence into attack really quickly off the back of these marks as well. We’ve got to be able to bring the ball to ground . . . we can’t just let them mark.” Given the interesting recent history between the two teams, anything could happen on Saturday night.
What are your thoughts on the game ahead?