Friday, June 26, 7.50pm AEST, Sydney Cricket Ground, Watch on Seven Network, Fox Footy
Ladder position: First
Last five: WWWWW
Ladder Position: Eighth
Last five: WWWWL
RICHMOND, as it has so often done in the past, once again tortured its fans by crashing back to earth last week, losing to West Coast on its home deck after pulling off one of the great upsets against Fremantle a fortnight earlier.
And things don’t get any easier for the Tiger army ($3.95 with CrownBet.com.au) as they make the trip north to take on the Sydney Swans ($1.26 with CrownBet.com.au) at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the last of the three bye rounds (thank God).
The frustrating Tigers have been equal parts perfect and pedestrian so far this season, mixing some tantalising football that makes you think they’re good enough for a top four finish, with some horrid stretches of play, better suited to the wooden spoon.
It’s a similar story that has plagued this club for many years. Everyone knows they’re capable of winning this match at the SCG, but the difference between being capable and actually getting the job done is acute, when it comes to the yellow and black.
Against West Coast, it was almost the Dustin Martin show versus the Eagles, the hard nut midfielder going mental with three goals in the first half, while racking up 31 disposals, many of them hard ball gets, in the disappointing 13.12 (90) to 10.10 (70) loss.
Martin had great help from the ever-improving Brandon Ellis, who reached the same possession count as the hard man, but the drop off to Brett Deledio and Anthony Miles, who had 24 disposals each, was marked.
Richmond assistant coach Mark Williams says the Tigers expect Sydney to play a vastly different style of game plan to the Eagles.
“They play a lot harder man on man,” Williams said.
“But there’s no doubt we’ve still got plenty of confidence.
“We’ve only been beaten by 20 points (against West Coast) and there are a couple of little things we can fix really easily.
“So we’re really looking forward to Sydney because, once again, they’re a benchmark team.
“If we thought West Coast worked hard, then we’re in for a treat (against the Swans) because we know hard Sydney work and how physical they are.
While the Tiges had their four game winning streak snapped by the West Coast, they did get some good news this week, with the club reaching a superb 70,000 members, breaking it’s record for the fifth year in a row.
CEO Brendon Gale said last year’s record of 66,000 had been smashed.
“The support our members provide us is simply amazing,” Gale said.
“We can never question their loyalty, passion and commitment, both on match-day as they fill the stadiums, and in their support of our off-field endeavours.
“Without their support, we simply could not operate to the level that allows us to be competitive in this competition.
They might have just become only the third club to eclipse 70,000 members, but they still have the tough ask of a dominant Swans’ side that is on a merry six game run without a loss and is coming off an extra week’s rest enjoying the bye last week.
The Swans, fresh off another fruitful trip to Etihad Stadium that featured another win over whipping boy North Melbourne, 14.7 (91) to 10.15 (75), will hope the extra break will give them the impetus they need to get one over the men from Tigerland.
Luke Parker ran rampant against the Roos with 33 disposals and seven tackles, while Jarrad McVeigh had 28 and Josh Kennedy 27.
Superstar Lance Franklin booted four goals and took six marks to go with 16 possessions in the win.
The last time these two teams met, Sydney became one of the Tigers’ 10 straight victims with a thrilling three point decision, 10.8 (68) to 9.11 (65), in round 23 last year, and Richmond has actually won three of its last five matches against the Swans.
The Swans are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their first premiership, but will have to tackle the Tigers without injured hard nut Ben McGlynn, but defender Heath Grundy – fresh off signing a new deal with the club – will play despite hurting his knee against the Roos, while young gun Isaac Heeney is set to play in the twos this weekend.
And while the injury to McGlynn is a concern, coach John Longmire is focussed on the dangers the Tigers’ three pronged forward line of Jack Riewoldt, Ty Vickery and Ben Griffiths proposes for his defence.
“I think they’ve had discussions about playing three talls in the past and they’ve certainly been able to come in and play those roles,” Longmire said.
“Then you’ve got Dustin Martin, who you throw in that mix, who’s a very good contested ball player, and contested mark player as well, so they’ve got a very good balance through there as well.
“We’ve got to make sure our defence continues to be flexible and adaptable, and continue to play a really strong defensive game, and get that balance right between offence and defence.
“Their good players have been playing really well, whether it’s Deledio, Martin as a midfield forward kicking goals in big moments, Jack Riewoldt has changed his role a little bit.
“Their ball movement going forward has been very efficient.
“It took a good West Coast team to beat their run of wins.
“The Tigers went down but they’d be really happy with their form.”
Match result: Sydney Swans win ($1.26 with CrownBet.com.au)
Line: Richmond Tigers +25.5 ($1.92 with sportsbet.com.au)
Do we put our faith in the Tigers? How can we trust them after they beat Freo interstate, then couldn’t back it up against a travelling side on its home ground?
We reckon they can defeat Sydney, but we’re not game to tip against a Swans side on a six game winning streak. So we’re going to back Richmond to play with plenty of fire and spirit and keep this game close in a hostile environment, just holding the line for loyal fans and punters.
Too often it is left up to the Martins, Riewoldts, Deledios and Trent Cotchins to get the job done. If the Tigers even want to get close to their opponent, then they’ll need to find a few of their lesser lights who can stand up. Whether that will happen in Sydney remains to be seen, but it’s a nice thought.
The Swans played off in a grand final last year and, despite being pummelled at the hands of premiers Hawthorn in that match, Sydney is the real deal and will be thinking it should be able to dispose of the Tigers.
First goal scorer tips
Lance Franklin ($7 with sportsbet.com.au)
The default pick for first goal scorer in matches involving Sydney, this guy is still in the best five forwards in the game and, because of that, he demands the respect of punters. Lance seems to bob up with the first one with regularity. His midfielders tend to look for him as a first, second and third option and he’s usually good enough to make good on their faith in almost any situation. Big, strong and quick, as long as the ball gets in his vicinity, Buddy is capable of making magic happen.
Adam Goodes ($12 with sportsbet.com.au)
After claiming he had ‘moved on’ from the boos which have dogged him over the past through weeks, Goodes could be right. Kicked a pair of goals last game and will be buoyed by his improved form after a slump that saw him spend some time in the Swans twos. Was once a champion of the game and, while age is starting to catch up with him, Goodes is still more than capable around the big sticks.
Jack Riewoldt ($8 with sportsbet.com.au)
If Lance is the default pick for the Swans, then Jumpin’ Jack is the Tigers’ monty. Like Buddy, Jack is the focal point of just about everything the Tigers do up forward. But he might not be as much of a shoe in these days, with coach Hardwick preferring a three pronged tall forward line that gives the midfielders more targets in Griffiths and Vickery when they’re looking to stream forward. We’ll still back Jack over those two any day of the week. He commands more respect than that pair together and will therefore command more of the footy. A dead eye dick, if he takes a grab anywhere inside the 50, you can almost count your money.
Shane Edwards ($19 with sportsbet.com.au)
This guys transformation into one of the Tigers’ best players has been remarkable. Always a ‘potential’ guy with lots of upside that struggled for consistency, Edwards has gone to another level this season, versatile enough to play almost any position on the ground. We always thought he had it in him to be a key contributor at AFL level and he really has begun to deliver on his promise. While there are guys ahead of him in terms of who the Tigers kick it to, he did kick 22 goals last year and is capable of a three or four goal night.
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