A sold out MCG will greet the Richmond Football Club in its first finals campaign since 2001. They will come against a rampaging Carlton team after securing their finals spot with a thrilling comeback win against Port Adelaide. What makes this match so interesting is their most recent matchup in Round 21 which saw the Blues get up by 10 points in their best win for the season.
Will the Tigers overcome a complete lack of finals experience and make their way into the second week of the finals? We look at what both teams will identify as key matchups to their chances of winning.
Key Individual Matchups
Jarrad Waite v Alex Rance
Could possibly be the make or break matchup for both sides. When Waite is hot, he’s almost impossible to stop. Even though he played a swing role last time and matched up in defence on Vickery, he should be starting forward this time. He is one of the best marks in the game, is hard on the lead and can push up the ground in the big power forward role of the modern game. Alex Rance has had a great end of the year, and was a bit of a surprise exclusion from the 40 man All Australian squad. He has the skills and courage to run away from his man and pick up a lot of marks across the half back line. If Waite ends up going into defence, expect Rance to have a big game.
Jack Reiwoldt v Michael Jamison
With Reiwoldt back in the lineup this week following a precautionary rest for back and knee injuries, expect the key forward to have a big game. Questions in the past about his intensity will be brought to light this week when only a full four quarter two way effort is satisfactory. Get the ball in to him on a hard lead and he’ll be hard to stop, even against Michael Jamison. Last time they played, Jamison was moved to Riewoldt even before quarter time when the big man completely outplayed Josh Bootsma. Jamison’s form since the Richmond game has been a little questionable though, with 6 goals kicked on him by Jay Schulz and Stewart Crameri in his past two games. Not world-beaters of power forwards…. Always one to be a little up and down, he’ll need a big defensive effort to stop Reiwoldt
Brett Delidio v Bryce Gibbs
In a head to head battle around the ground, this will be a great one to watch. With 53 disposals between the two last time they played, both men will be running hard through the midfield all match. Gibbs was close to best on ground in their win over Port Adelaide last week, with 26 touches, a goal and a whopping 9 inside 50’s. From a man who spent the majority of the season adjusting to his new role further up the ground, he certainly has started to find some late season form. For Delidio, his most comfortable spot is coming off the half back line in a loose role. Malthouse won’t allow for this to happen, so expect this battle to occur more in the midfield. Delidio has no issue playing midfield, and given it’s a must win game, expect the superstar to stamp his authority on the game
Probably only second to the Selwood v Crowley matchup this week is Cotchin and Curnow. Curnow did a stellar job on Cotchin in Round 21, keeping the superstar to only 14 disposals. Given that Cotch had hit a bit of a purple patch since the bye, keeping him to such low impact set Carlton’s win up. Like the Selwood matchup, a genuine superstar in Trent Cotchin will have to find a way around this tag for his team to get up. Other tags for Carlton to put in place would probably include one on Dustin Martin. Martin will spend the majority of his time running end to end and picking up a couple of handy goals. A tough matchup for the Blues here, but their tagger needs to be able to float through the midfield whenever Martin goes in. Zach Tuohy took him last time, and kept him to only 10 disposals and no goals. Like Cotchin, he needs to win this battle for his team to have a chance.
For Richmond, given their performance last time, their tags will need to be significantly improved in order to shut down the Carlton midfield. In Round 21, their top performers were McLean, Robinson, Simpson, Walker and Gibbs. Add Chris Judd who will be returning from injury and it becomes a real handful for the Richmond taggers. Daniel Jackson went to McLean last time, for very little impact. McLean went for 27 touches and 3 goals in a best on ground performance. Reece Conca, the other tagger on that day went to Murphy and had a little better success, keeping the Carlton captain to 23 touches, but not having the impact on the scoreboard that McLean had. Of these two, Murphy should be the number one focus, and keeping him quite will go a long way to a Richmond victory. Murph is a big game player though, and will definitely be hard to contain.
Areas to Watch
The big question mark heading into this game for Richmond is their lack of finals experience. How will they handle the big stage? Only four of the Richmond players have finals experience – Ivan Maric, Shaun Grigg, Aaron Edwards and Troy Chaplin – and all of those were with other clubs. Compare this to the Carlton team who are well experienced in finals. They haven’t played a Preliminary Final yet, but they understand what finals footy is all about. Chris Judd has played 15 finals, including 2 Grand Finals, receiving the Norm Smith Medal in 2005 Grand Final, and winning the Premiership the following year. This is one thing that separates the experienced midfield of both teams, and may be a factor, especially early on when nerves are playing their part. We all saw the trouble Carlton had in previous years even winning a final, so don’t be surprised if Richmond has the same difficulty
The great man returns! And what a massive boost it is for his team. Chris Judd is just awesome, and what he brings to his team in terms of experience can’t be replicated. A lot of the young guns, and even players like Bryce Gibbs and Marc Murphy will look to him to lead the way, and he won’t disappoint. In a season where he showed signs of slowing down until his injury, he’ll turn it up again for a must win final.
I’m tipping an upset in this one. For a couple of reasons:
Firstly, Carlton’s finals experience has to count for something. Making the finals for the first time in a considerable amount of time, the Blues lost a tight one to the Lions, followed by another heartbreaker against the Swans in the following year. Only in their third finals attempt did they get up for a victory in a flogging of the Bombers in an Elimination Final. It wasn’t as if in those games they didn’t have the experienced players either, with many of their current squad featuring in those matches. Tight matches are won by a team that keeps its composure for a full four quarters. I can’t see the Tigers giving that the whole match.
Not predicting the Blues to make a deep run in the finals, but now that they’re actually there, they may loosen up and play the brilliant brand of footy they’re capable of. For the entire year, it was all about the Blues failing to live up to all the pre-season hype of Mick Malthouse taking charge. In the end, they got there, albeit on a technicality, but I don’t think they’ll let this opportunity slip. With many of the Carlton players basically playing for their spot next year, all of these players in question will put in a huge performance.
Going from the performance last time they met, the Blues certainly know how to win. In saying that though, the defensive aspect of Richmond’s game was completely absent and they were completely outrun in all areas. Expect the Tigers to put up a much bigger fight, but I don’t think it will be enough to win.
Prediction: Carlton midfield depth will be too strong and power their team into the second week of the finals. Blues by 15