RECENT history suggests Richmond and September just don’t mix but Tigers fans will be praying this is the year that changes.
Richmond hasn’t won a final since 2001 and hasn’t defeated Geelong since 2006. The Cats got the better of Damien Hardwick’s men in Round 21 so will be buoyant about their chances, but the Tigers’ bumper year has catapulted them into a position to push for their first premiership since 1980.
The winner of Saturday night’s clash will — like Adelaide — only be one more victory away from a grand final appearance.
Geelong onballer Cam Guthrie didn’t join his teammates in the third term, relegated to the bench for the rest of the game because of a calf injury.
But it didn’t hamper Geelong’s ability to continue running with the momentum it acquired at the end of the first half. The Cats started winning more of the ball and James Parson’s kicked the first major of the term, making it three straight for Chris Scott’s troops to reduce the deficit to three, Richmond leading 3.8 (26) to 3.5 (23).
Geelong snuck through three more points before Richmond hit back with two consecutive goals. First Nick Vlastuin made no mistake from a set shot inside 50 then Shane Edwards did the same to make it 5.10 (40) to 3.8 (26) in the Tigers’ favour.
Geelong forward Tom Hawkins responded with his first goal of the game but then vintage Dustin Martin sprung into action.
The Brownlow Medal favourite won the ball in a one-on-one contest, fended off Tom Stewart, ran down the wing, bounced twice then found Jack Riewoldt just outside the arc. He kicked deep towards the goal square and hit an unmarked Dion Prestia, who slotted the ball home for a goal to ensure the Tigers had a 6.10 (46) to 4.9 (33) lead at three-quarter time.
One of the big talking points in the first half has been the disallowed goal taken off Richmond’s Bachar Houli, resulting in a Geelong free kick 29 minutes into the first term.
Teammate Jack Riewoldt was ruled to have illegally pushed his defender out of the way in the goal square as the Sherrin bounced through the big sticks, even though the Tigers forward’s eyes were on the ball the whole time and he was within five metres of the ball — where contact is legal.
Swans premiership coach Paul Roos said it wasn’t a free kick, AFL legend Jason Dunstall said the “Tigers were stiff, no free kick” and Brisbane great Jonathan Brown was fuming at what he believes was a poor decision.
“No free kick, the umpires were here a few weeks ago and they told us the cue is whether the player has his eyes on the man or on the ball,” Brown said on Fox Footy.
“Jack Riewoldt clearly had his eyes on the ball there, that is play on, it’s incidental contact, it’s play on, that is a goal.”
Host of Channel Seven’s AFL program The Front Bar Andy Maher was equally as outraged at the free kick.
Richmond continued the kicking woes we’ve seen to start the game, Josh Caddy recording a poster with the Tigers’ first set shot of the term.
A scuffle threatened to erupt when Brandan Parfitt hit Bachar Houli high with a swinging arm but Richmond couldn’t take advantage of its 50m free kick. The Tigers’ defensive pressure has been elite, which Melbourne legend Garry Lyon said had “spooked” the Cats.
Dan Butler kicked truly for Richmond to extend his side’s lead to 19 points with eight minutes remaining. Dion Prestia is dominating the midfield battle, racking up 14 touches to Geelong captain’s Joel Selwood’s five, raising further questions over whether the skipper has recovered sufficiently from an ankle injury.
Daniel Motlop finally kicked the Cats’ first goal with two minutes to go in the first half, his six-pointer helping the men in the navy and white hoops narrowly avoid a historically awful footnote.
It’s been 90 years since any team has failed to score a goal before halftime and Geelong has only been held goalless at the main break once since 1922.
But despite Richmond’s dominance, a Patrick Dangerfield major on the buzzer meant the Tigers only went into the sheds with a nine-point lead, up 3.7 (25) to 2.4 (16).
“Unbelievable, Geelong have just dodged the greatest bullet of all time,” Garry Lyon told SEN radio, while Eddie McGuire called Dangerfield’s goal “soul destroying” during Fox Footy’s broadcast.
The opening to the match was as electric as the atmosphere suggested it would be. Richmond’s manic forward pressure allowed it to camp inside Geelong’s half and Jacob Townsend slotted the first goal of the match.
Jack Riewoldt kicked a behind soon after and a Geelong turnover following its first foray into Tigers’ territory almost cost it but Dustin Martin’s snap went wide.
Patrick Dangerfield was lucky to escape unhurt after an attempted smother bent his knee at an awkward angle. Richmond’s All Australian defender Alex Rance wasn’t so lucky as an accidental Harry Taylor knee to the head forced him off the ground under the blood rule midway through the term.
Geelong eased into its work winning three straight clearances and recording four straight inside 50s, but it was unable to turn those impact the scoreboard. Both sides were struggling with their field kicking, going at less than 50 per cent efficiency after 15 minutes.