Richmond 2012 Season Preview

INS: Matthew Arnot (national draft), Brandon Ellis (national draft), Todd Elton (national draft), Ivan Maric (Adelaide), Steven Morris (GWS), Brett O’Hanlon (pre-season draft).

OUTS: Mitch Farmer (delisted), David Gourdis (delisted), Mitch Morton (Sydney), Ben Nason (delisted), Troy Taylor (delisted), Will Thursfield (retired).

YEAR IN REVIEW: From six wins in 2010 to eight victories and a draw in 2011. They call that progress, and at Punt Road it is welcome. Damien Hardwick’s second season in charge was focused on getting games in to young players and competing for longer periods. The Richmond style under Hardwick also developed last year; they were keener to use the corridor and attacked dangerously at times from the back half.

GAME BREAKER: Jack Riewoldt is the man at the Tigers. As Richmond tried to find more avenues to goal last year, Riewoldt found life a little tougher. Although, he was battling injury for most of the year. However, he kicked 62 goals and increased his scoring assists. His defensive work is underrated, too, with Riewoldt averaging six forward 50 pressure acts per match. That’s elite.

RISING STAR: Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Tyrone Vickery have graduated from this category in recent years. Now it’s Reece Conca’s turn. If the Tigers are going to be a force they need another batch, headed by Conca, to emerge. The No.6 draft pick of 2010 is a no-fuss customer who is composed, a good decision maker and possesses a bit of class, which has been evident since his AFL debut.

KEY ARRIVAL: Ivan Maric may prove the answer to the Tigers’ ongoing ruck dilemma of season’s past. The former Crow has returned to Victoria after being starved of consistent senior opportunities at West Lakes last season and he’s sure to grab hold of the no.1 ruck spot at Tigerland. Is an aggressive tap ruckman with great athleticism, Maric could make the jump into Richmond’s top five by season’s end.

COACH FACTOR: Already Hardwick’s contract has become a talking point with the coach entering his third season at the helm. It’s hard to imagine it’s finals or bust for the former Essendon and Port Adelaide hardman but he wouldn’t want a slow start to the year. The players and fans have warmed to him despite a winning percentage that hovers just under 33.

STATS THAT MATTER: Richmond showed promising signs last season but there’s still a problem in defence for Damien. Good sides, premiership sides, are built on strength in the back half. Last season the Tigers conceded 109 points per game, ranked 15th in the league, after letting in 107 the season prior. It’s not all about who’s protecting things down back – Richmond’s defenders were dealing with an average of 55 inside 50s a week, the fifth-most in the AFL.

THE VERDICT: 11th. The Tigers are a mid-ranked team that can’t be taken seriously until they make a statement and beat the class sides of the competition. Last year they didn’t beat any of the top six teams and conceded 108 points a game – the third worst defence in the league last year. Their midfield is all set led by the likes of Cotchin, Martin, Foley and Deledio and a developing attack with Riewoldt as the vocal point. Their ruck stocks are now formidable thanks to the signing of former Crow Maric, who will have Graham, Browne and the mature-aged Derickx as backup. The key backs in Rance, Grimes and McGuane struggle to contain the monster forwards, while the running defenders turn the ball over too often. Significant development from the likes of Griffiths, Post and Astbury as potential bookend mainstays is vital, due to their shaky spine. The Tigers will improve but are at least another 12 months away from a finals birth.

Best 22

B: Newman Grimes Rance

HB: Houli McGuane Batchelor

C: Conca Cotchin Deledio

HF: Grigg Vickery Martin

F: Nahas Riewoldt King

Foll: Maric Jackson Foley

I/C: Connors, Ellis, Edwards

Sub: White

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