Friday, September 4, 7.50pm AEST, Etihad Stadium, Watch on Seven Network, Fox Sports
Richmond Tigers: Fifth
North Melbourne Kangaroos: Eighth
Richmond Tigers: 14-7-0
North Melbourne Kangaroos: 13-8-0
Last five games
Richmond Tigers: WLWWW
North Melbourne Kangaroos: WWWL
FRIDAY night footy is set to deliver an epic as two in form sides jostle for finals position.
Richmond ($1.23 with CrownBet.com.au) will be hoping it can get over the line against North Melbourne ($4.25 with CrownBet.com.au) and then praying results go its way so it can sneak into the top four and snare the double chance.
The Tigers, currently fifth, can actually finish as low as eighth, so this match is crucial.
Meanwhile, if every thing goes right for the Kangaroos, they can finish as high as sixth and get the chance to host an elimination final.
If they lose, they will probably play Richmond in week one, but there is the potential that they’ll have to travel to Adelaide and face an elimination final against a Crows’ side that is perhaps the form team of the competition if they win.
So to say this game is vital to both teams is a massive understatement.
The Tigers won their fourth match in a row by disposing of a woeful Essendon, 10.14 (74) to 7.5 (47), inaccurate kicking costing them a greater percentage boost.
The 27 point win in slippery conditions was punctuated by 27 disposals to young buck Kamdyn McIntosh, who seems to be growing with each game, and 24 from Brandon Elllis. Pleasing for the Tigers would be that the win was achieved without captain Trent Cotchin and with champions Dustin Martin (18 touches) and Brett Deledio (15 disposals) being down on their usual sparkling form.
Deledio did boot two goals, as did the rejuvenated Ty Vickery.
Coach Damien Hardwick said his team had “grown” in the wake of the victory.
“There’s no doubt the side’s grown, and you expect that over a period of time,” Hardwick said.
“Especially without the captain there, but with Ivan (Maric) and Brett (Deledio) standing up, I thought they were terrific in those areas.
“(With) the maturity of the group, I can’t pat them on the back enough in that area – how we can win a fast, uncontested game, but we’ve also got the ability to play in the arm wrestles as well, as we’ve shown over the course of the year.
“They’ve got a greater understanding now of when and what is required.”
He said the game against North was important, but he could only “hope” the other results go his side’s way.
“We can hope,” Hardwick said.
“I’m not one to do the ladder predictor; I just worry about what we can control, and that’s our game versus North Melbourne.
With Cotchin set to return an tough midfielder Reece Conca also on the come back from a hamstring injury, the Tigers have a near clean bill of health as the enter the finals.
At Arden St, there is speculation that the Roos might rest several players in a bid to avoid a trip to Adelaide (let’s not mention that tanking word).
If the Roos were to rest the likes of premier ruck man Todd Goldstein and gun veterans Andrew Swallow, Nick Dal Santo, Jarrad Waite and Brent Harvey, it would almost make them a scratching from this game.
One man who says he won’t be resting is big forward Drew Petrie and he says the side won’t be trying to lose to manipulate the finals draw.
“No, not in these four walls,“ Petrie said when asked if losing was a better option for the Roos.
”We are just treating it like any other game.
“We want to be a side that has a winning culture and you want to take good form into the finals.
“After the loss to the Western Bulldogs … we need to get a win back and finish as high up the ladder as we can.”
To do that, they’ll need a better effort than they put out against the Bulldogs on the weekend, after they fell by 23 points, 14.12 (96) to 10.13 (73), the loss snapping a seven game winning streak for the white and blue.
Andrew Swallow had 25 touches, but it was Robbie Tarrant who ensured the Dogs didn’t win by more, plucking 14 months and finding it 24 times in a best on ground performance.
Jamie Macmillan had 10 marks and 21 disposals, while former Dog Shaun Higgins, Petrie and Waite booted three goals each as the Roos struggled to find a broad range of goal scoring avenues.
The Kangaroos should welcome back gun small forward Lindsay Thomas, who missed the Dogs’ game with a foot injury and Luke McDonald could also return.
If players are rested, the likes of Kieran Harper, Brad McKenzie and Trent Dumont could be hopeful of a return.
Fun fact: This will be the first Friday night clash between the teams since 2003. They’ve played off against each other 11 times at Etihad Stadium with the Kangaroos winning eight of those games.
The Tigers will be hoping to reverse that trend.
Match result: Richmond Tigers win ($1.23 with CrownBet.com.au)
Line: Richmond -26.5 ($1.92 with CrownBet.com.au)
In round six, North inflicted a third straight loss on a dismal Richmond outfit with a 35 point victory at Blundstone Arena in Tasmania, 16.13 (109) to 10.14 (74). But that was then and this is now. North scraped into the finals thanks to a big winning streak, but the Tigers’ form over the past month has been as good as any one’s and they must be the team to beat here. Especially considering there’s a high probability that a few of the Kangaroos stars might be sitting on the pine for this one. Thomas could be a massive in for North, as he bagged five goals in the victory earlier this season, while Higgins, like he did last week, booted three. Jack Reiwoldt bagged three goals for the Tigers, but it wasn’t enough, reducing the Tigers to a 2-4 record after six games. Fast forward and the Tigers are flying and on the cusp of a top four position. In previous years, we’d have said this is a massive danger game for Richmond. But, with its new found maturity and ability to win the games it is supposed to give us a renewed confidence that they will do the business against North and keep their faint top four hopes alive.
First goal scorer predictions
Jack Riewoldt ($7 with sportsbet.com.au)
The perennial favourite to boot the first goal with bookies and punters alike when Richmond is involved, Jack attack hasn’t set the world on fire this season, set for his worst goal kicking return since 2009. Still, 48 goals is nothing to sneer at in today’s football climate and, the fact that he went goal less for just the second time this season against Essendon last week will mean he will be champing at the bit to come back bigger and stronger. He’ll want to get things going early and its hard to ignore the spear head in first goal scorer markets, even if he hasn’t perhaps been the goal machine of years past.
Dustin Martin ($15 with sportsbet.com.au)
How can you go past the one on one king. Statistics say that you get Dusty one out and he’ll win more often that he loses. Who is going to play on the combative Martin? There’s not an obvious match up in the North line up. Often pushes forward and has snagged the first for the Tigers a few times over the last couple of years. With his higher work rate, look for Dusty to snag an early one.
North Melbourne Kangaroos
Drew Petrie ($9 with sportsbet.com.au)
Big Drew tells us he’s champing at the bit to play on Friday night and won’t be rested. We’re going to believe him, which means we have to include him in our tips for first goal scorer. Is still, after all these years, the prime target for North Melbourne’s midfielders and commands all the attention in the forward line. Only has 38 goals this season, his worst return since his injury ravaged 2010 campaign, but you can’t discount him as a first goal scorer option. Is a beautiful mark and kick for goal and is coming off a bag of three against the Dogs – expect him to slot it if he takes a grab early on.
Todd Goldstein ($26 with sportsbet.com.au)
One out of left field and one that will pay handsomely if it comes off. It’s hard to argue with assertions that Goldstein is the best ruck man in the competition. A running machine, he never stops, rucking the whole game by himself, taking marks all over the ground and winning plenty of hard footy. Not a noted goal kicker, but is capable if he finds himself in the forward line. If the Roos do decide to rest players, then they will be looking for others to step up and perhaps do things they don’t normally do. Will be a nightmare match up for any defender if they do decide to send him inside the forward 50. Just make sure he’s playing before you place this bet…
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