Friday, July 10, 2015, 7.50pm AEST, Melbourne Cricket Ground, watch on Seven Network, Fox Footy
Ladder position: Sixth
Season record: 8-5-0
Last five: WWLWW
Ladder position: 16th
Season record: 3-10-0
Last five: LLWWL
GOOD luck with your tips on this one.
Richmond ($1.35 with WilliamHill.com.au), so dominant in some games, so poor in others, and Carlton ($3.20 with CrownBet.com.au), dragging itself off the bottom of the ladder as interim coach John Barker auditions for the full time gig, are two teams that simply love to make life difficult for the tipsters.
It’s hard to say if the Tigers have turned the corner. They’ve looked like they’re going to do it a few times over the past couple of years, before regressing by losing to a bottom four side.
Make no mistake, this is a massive danger game for the Tigers.
Carlton pushed the up and about Western Bulldogs all the way in a 9.10 (64) to 7.11 (55) loss, a tough effort that followed two wins on the trot.
Meanwhile, it took everything Richmond had to get out of jail against the Greater Western Sydney Giants on the MCG, a scrappy match resulting in a 10.18 (78) to 10.9 (69) win.
Down by 15 points at three quarter time, the Tigers looked shot against a GWS side that handled the slippery conditions better and kicked more accurately in front of the big sticks.
But the vastly improved Shane Edwards wasn’t having any of it, booting to final term goals to go with his 24 disposals and leading the way for the black and yellow.
Captain Trent Cotchin was at his inspiring best, collecting 33 possessions with six marks to go with his two goals and seven tackles, while Bachar Houli was a running machine off the half back flank with 32 touches.
Dustin Martin, who is reaching rarified air for the Tigers, was at his powerful best, snagging 10 tackles with his 28 touches and a goal.
The Tigers have won six of their last seven and are now within striking distance of a top four berth – a far cry from their start to the season, which featured four losses in the opening six rounds.
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick was elated after his side’s come back victory and praised his charges’ ability to “win ugly” after the match, singling out Cotchin’s effort.
“I just asked them to respond,” Hardwick said of a three quarter time spray that clearly had the desired effect.
“A young club in their infancy challenged us, I said ‘Let’s see if we can lift our intensity not only to match theirs’ but to go above and beyond’.
“I thought we were really disappointing in our intensity early on and, at various stages I thought they out worked us.
“We just challenged our leaders to respond, and Trent had an outstanding game.
“Our players didn’t have the best day but, at various stages, stood up and had their moments.”
“If we don’t come to play or play anywhere near our best, sides are capable of beating other sides at the drop of a hat.
“We have just got to continue to go about our process, make sure we believe in what we are doing and make sure we get the results we are after.”
Cotchin, charged with striking Giant Zac Williams during the first quarter, was cleared by the Match Review Panel and is free to play against the Blues.
But big ruck man Ivan Maric wasn’t so lucky, copping a week for slugging GWS young gun Jack Steele during the third quarter.
“There is niggle in AFL, guys get upset with each other, and we don’t back down from that,” Hardwick said.
“We like to play within the rules, but we have to make sure we don’t take a backward step.”
Meanwhile, against the Bulldogs, the Blues kicked poorly, but almost stole it, booting the last three goals of the game to send shivers up the supporters’ collective backs.
Nagging lock down man Ed Curnow got off the leash with 28 disposals, as did veteran mid Kade Simpson, while Nick Graham had probably his best game for the club, with 26 – the bad news for him is he has a stress fracture in his foot and is set to miss at least the next three games.
Captain Marc Murphy had 25 touches, as did vastly improved Irish man Zach Tuohy.
Dennis Armfield was the side’s only multiple goal kicker with two.
The Blue baggers have had some good news this week, with a pile of their injured senior players on the cusp of selection.
High flyer Andrew Walker (knee), young buck Troy Menzel (knee), running half back man Sam Docherty (hamstring), midfielder Andrew Carrazzo (toe) and big swing man Sam Rowe (back) are all expected to be available for selection against the Tigers.
And, perhaps the most important in, will be former number one draft pick Bryce Gibbs, who will re-enter the fold after a two game suspension.
Add to that the news that injuries suffered by young superstar Patrick Cripps and utility Andrejs Everitt have been deemed minor and both are expected to be in uniform on Friday night.
“Patty Cripps rolled his ankle on the weekend and although there’s not extensive damage, there’s a little bit of bone bruising, so we will have to test him at the end of the week and see if he can put up with that discomfort, but we’re hopeful that he’ll be able to,” The Blues’ head of football operations Andrew McKay said.
“Andrejs got a knock to his leg and we feared the worst and had it scanned thinking it might be a posterior cruciate ligament injury or something worse.
“But there is certainly no damage to his knee, just a strike to the knee so he’s got a bit of a bruise and is a little bit sore so he’ll be a test and I’m sure he’ll get up and play.”
Match winner: Richmond Tigers ($1.35 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Line: Richmond Tigers -19.5 ($1.92 with CrownBet.com.au)
OK, we’re backing the Tigers in here. Surely they can handle the plucky Blues? This is the sort of game they need to win, and win well, if they want other teams in the league to take them seriously.
On paper, the Tigers are a vastly superior operation. But there’s always that nagging feeling that this is the sort of game that they’ve tended to drop in the past, rocking up to the ground like the win is already in the bag and then playing accordingly. But we reckon that complacency of a bygone era could be a thing of the past. The only team that’s beaten them in the past two months is the rampaging West Coast. Carlton is not anywhere near the class of the Eagles and, despite the fact they’ve managed an improved effort in recent weeks, if they get within five or six goals of the Tigers, they can consider themselves to have done well.
First goal scorer tips
Dustin Martin ($13 with sportsbet.com.au)
Fast becoming one of the most devastating players in the AFL, Martin is a monster, whether it’s in the midfield or up forward. We think the Tigers may try to isolate him one out in the forward line as there’s really no Carlton defender who stands out as capable of matching the strength, speed and power of tattooed beast. Martin has a nose for goal and you’ll see a massive celebration – from both the player and the punters who backed him – if he can slide through the first of the match.
Shane Edwards ($19 with sportsbet.com.au)
Some Richmond supporters believe the vastly improved Edwards would be leading the club’s best and fairest count at this point of the season and it’d be hard to disagree. Despite the likes of Martin, Cotchin and Reiwoldt having superb seasons, Edwards is fast becoming the Tigers’ most versatile player, rotating through the midfield and half forward line. He’s the Tigers’ unsung hero, attracting very little attention outside of the club, finding plenty of the footy in the guts and pushing forward to kick nine goals on the season – including two against the Giants last week. Is equally adept at finishing on the run or from set shots and doesn’t attract the attention of the gun midfielders, like Deledio, Martin and Cotchin, giving him plenty of licence to roam. A sneaky chance to slot the first for the Tiges.
Dennis Armfield ($29 with sportsbet.com.au)
Carlton’s most maligned player was not exactly at the head of the table under Mick Malthouse, but the defensive forward has managed to carve out a little niche under the Barker interim regime. At one point against the Bulldogs last week, Armfield was the side’s only avenue to goal, booting two in a row – albeit one was before half time and the other was 10 minutes into the last quarter. He cops it over a perceived lack of talent, but he does usually start up forward and is capable of kicking a goal or two. If it lands in his zone he’s every chance of slotting the first.
Lachie Henderson ($8 with sportsbet.com.au)
While the shaky Levi Casboult continues to find it hard to put the circumference through the big sticks, Henderson vies with him for Carlton’s number one job in the forward line. We don’t think he’ll be forced into defence, despite the Tigers big forward line trio. We hope he starts deep in the forward line and the Blues’ midfielders do their best to land a few on his head, giving him the opportunity to slot the first goal of the match and make the punters – and us – very happy. His size and strength will be a serious asset in this one, especially if he cops gun defender Alex Rance, as expected.
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