But even with all those concerns, Richmond were still considerably better than the Demons. The biggest difference between the sides was forward-50 entries. It was the same old story for Melbourne, who yet again looked dysfunctional in attack.
No moment exemplified this better than Jack Viney’s rainmaker early in the final term, all too easily mopped up by young Tigers defender Noah Balta, who enjoyed an impressive senior return.
There were other moments of ignominy, including Max Gawn’s defensive turnover straight to Jack Higgins in the first quarter, and Steven May’s collision with Bailey Fritsch in the second term. Yet again it was labour-intensive stuff for the Demons, who look destined for another winter of discontent.
In his 100th game, Kane Lambert was brilliant for the Tigers, with his third-quarter smother of Joel Smith and ensuing goal the type of desperate moment Richmond have been searching for in recent weeks. But with Prestia carried off after twisting his leg under a Kozzy Pickett tackle during the final quarter, and Nankervis looking very lame when he made his way off during the third term, this could be a pyrrhic victory for Damien Hardwick’s side.
KNOW WHEN TO HOLD THEM
It was probably inevitable. The weekend after Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson slammed umpires’ unwillingness to pay holding-the-ball free kicks, there was bound to be an overreaction. So it proved. The most alarming incident occurred early in the second quarter of Sunday’s match at the ‘G. Christian Petracca did the roving at a boundary thrown-in inside his team’s defensive 50, only to be wrapped up immediately by Nankervis. The Melbourne dynamo was pinged for holding the ball, with Nankervis duly slotting the ensuing set shot. The commentariat was up in arms. Speaking on ABC Radio, Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling described the decision as “garbage”. It was the lack of consistency that grated as much as anything. Demon Jack-in-the-box Pickett looked to snare Tiger Liam Baker in the first term, but despite holding onto the ball for much longer than Petracca would the following quarter, Baker wasn’t penalised.
MAKING A POINT
Resilient Tigers star Dylan Grimes had to wipe away the claret on his face after copping a knock during the third term. But the award for the day’s most gruesome injury went to Richmond backman Nathan Broad. The dual premiership Tiger headed to the bench during the second quarter, and when the cameras zoomed in it became clear why he had done so: his little finger was protruding at a right angle. Never mind, Broad had some running repairs and was quickly back out there, playing out the game.
Fringe Tiger Mabior Chol raised eyebrows last year when he displayed a blond streak in his hair. Well he marked his senior return by going one better – depending on who you ask – with an even more eye-catching red streak. Perhaps he is a closet Essendon supporter?
RICHMOND 3.2 7.3 9.7 12.7 (79)
MELBOURNE 3.1 3.2 5.2 8.4 (52)
Richmond: Lynch 3, Lambert 3, Rioli, Castagna, Martin, Riewoldt, Nankervis, Higgins.
Melbourne: Hannan 3, Melksham 2, Fritsch 2, McDonald.
Richmond: Lambert, Houli, Higgins, Balta, Lynch, Martin, Broad, Caddy.
Melbourne: Petracca, Gawn, Hannan, Fritsch, Hibberd.
Richmond: Nankervis (ankle), Prestia (ankle), Cotchin (hamstring).
UMPIRES Gavine, Findlay, Foot, Power.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter