James Hird: Richmond ball movement the key to victory against Collingwood
JAMES HIRD, Herald Sun
March 29, 2017 7:51pm
TEAMS that finished 12th and 13th last year meet on Thursday night at the MCG, yet it is a blockbuster.
Every season the weight of expectation on these two clubs is heightened by their passionate supporters. Collingwood will slip to 0-2 or both teams will be left wanting with a 50 per cent win-loss ratio.
We anticipate ferocious Richmond pressure and we will see whether it can stand up to a Collingwood midfield as good as any in the competition.
The game is season-defining. Both teams have plenty of questions to answer.
Is Richmond’s commitment to forward pressure and improved ball movement the real deal? Has Collingwood had enough time together to deliver on its midfield talent, while covering for the gaps in its team-based defence?
As with most early season games involving these two clubs, there are multiple narratives.
Will Dustin Martin continue carving up the competition the way he did against Carlton? Can Richmond keep up the fanatical forward and midfield pressure that squeezed the life out of the Blues? Will Collingwood’s ruck and midfield dominate and give their forwards enough opportunities to win?
Off the field, questions have been asked about both coaches. Nathan Buckley and Damien Hardwick are good coaches who have had to build lists in an environment of compromised drafts. That regularly required them to bring in mature-age players, some of whom have worked, others not so well. They will not be too worried about the pressure, but it will affect those around them. The screws will be turned on the loser tonight.
The continuity of a team is affected by player movement. Sometimes we overlook the positive impact of continuity of players.
Premiership teams of the past five years have had at least 60 per cent of their personnel together for three years or more.
This enables them to train and play together and know each other’s playing styles intimately. Hawthorn, the Western Bulldogs and Sydney have all had continuity in their core groups of players.
Not so Richmond or Collingwood.
Buckley, in particular, has had to strip and rebuild his list and injuries have not been kind to him. Both coaches understand that the game demands results. Continuity or not, they both have to win.
The Tigers should win because they move the ball better than the Pies.
They played long and direct and continually shifted the ball off the straight line against the Blues last week. Changing the angles and continuous ball movement makes defending extremely hard. When even the tightest defences have to continually reset, gaps eventually open up.
Richmond’s scored an extraordinary 72 points from forward-half turnovers last week and this week has been dominated by talk about the Tigers new-found forward half pressure.
The reason forward pressure is integral to scoring is because it creates easy shots at goal.
The Tigers’ 34 forward-half turnovers meant they regained the ball in their forward half when the Carlton backline was out of position. Defenders are encouraged to transition into aggressive running patterns when they win the ball. Poor turnovers put them out of position and allow for easy goals.
Richmond typically has been a team that generates scores from defence. The change in emphasis on forward pressure and scores from the forward half should mean higher scores for and smaller scores against if the Tigers can keep up the ferocious pressure with good method.
Collingwood is not out of the contest. It has a strong, intelligent midfield and Adam Treloar, Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom are brilliant with the ball in hand.
Treloar has outstanding hands in close, while Pendlebury’s vision has no peer. Sidebottom releases his teammates into space time after time.
The Tigers boast Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Josh Caddy and Dion Prestia, but Collingwood has the better attacking midfield.
They are better in close with hands and should win more than their fair share of stoppages. This will partially counter Richmond’s ability to create forward-half stoppages, but will it be enough?
Collingwood must convert its inside-50 entries better than last week. If it can do that and replicate Richmond’s forward-half pressure, it can win.
More time in Collingwood’s forward half will mean Martin is more often away from the ball and the Richmond forward half will have fewer chances to apply pressure.
Collingwood is 12 months from being a force in the AFL and lacks the tight defensive set up that West Coast, Hawthorn and the Bulldogs have.
Dustin Martin, improved ball movement and pressure inside-50 will win Richmond the game, which should be a great spectacle worthy of these two proud clubs.