Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt and Collingwood’s Jeremy Howe after the final siren. Picture: Getty Images
Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt and Collingwood’s Jeremy Howe after the final siren. Picture: Getty Images

Have Pies found key to stopping Tigers?

NATHAN Buckley knows how to beat Richmond, and Collingwood has started to set the template for taking down the Tigers.

Buckley and counterpart Damien Hardwick joked in the vacant MCG carpark on Thursday night that they would bin their game reviews of the five-goal deadlock.

But expect Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson to forensically examine the first 30 minutes when his team prepares to take on Richmond next week.

The key to taking down Richmond is ball control, although that's easier said than done against a club hunting its third premiership in four years.

Teams that can frustrate the Tigers by directing the speed and tempo for most of the game stand the best chance of knocking them over.

At quarter-time on Thursday night the Magpies led disposals 88-64, uncontested marks 21-11, centre clearances 4-1 and the scoreboard 25-1.

Midfielder Steele Sidebottom said at half-time the focus was to deny Richmond access to the corridor.

Buckley wanted to avoid a ballistic game of ping pong, and at the first break 15 Tigers had failed to register more than two kicks.

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As the game wore on the Tigers' tackle pressure rose and Collingwood's system fell away.

That was to be expected after three weeks of training although you suspect Buckley was fairly content when he hit the pillow.

That hot start should also serve as a warning to St Kilda, too.

After Round 2 the Magpies have scored 9.3 (57) to 1.1 (7) in first quarters, a percentage of 814.3.

FATIGUE BAD FOR SCORING

The argument for slashing interchange rotations appeared to take a hit on Thursday night. Sorry KB and Nick Riewoldt, but wasn't the aim of cutting rotations to fatigue players?

Wasn't the logic that tired footballers would equate to less congestion? And that would lead to open expanses and more free-flowing football as the ball zips from end to end?

Steele Sidebottom tackles Richmond star Dustin Martin. Picture: Michael Klein
Steele Sidebottom tackles Richmond star Dustin Martin. Picture: Michael Klein

Wasn't the whole concept based on the idea that when players run out of puff their defensive running will fall away first?

Well, on Thursday night players on both teams were so exhausted they could barely kick 40m by the end.

Jack Riewoldt's set shot from 35m in the final term which failed to score was the perfect example, an astonishing result given the final score.

"Ever since we've reduced rotations, scoring's gone down," Hardwick said Thursday night.

"You can reduce them again, but you've got to be careful. You've got to give the game time to work it out."

And on that fatigue factor, good luck to the Western Bulldogs.

The AFL has restarted their season with three games in 12 days, including a trip to Sydney, although you'd back respected fitness guru Matthew Innes to prepare the Dogs for that challenge.

Jack Riewoldt had a set shot for goal that failed to make the distance. Picture: AAP
Jack Riewoldt had a set shot for goal that failed to make the distance. Picture: AAP

SLIPPERY 'G

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick wants to know why the Adelaide Oval "dew formula" works so well compared to the MCG, labelling the wet conditions an "enormous factor" in Thursday night's draw.

Well, perhaps teams should start preparing for wet weather football. The AFL usually fills the MCG with day games during winter, preferring to play games under lights at Marvel Stadium in the colder months.

But in the first block of games the MCG will host Richmond-Hawthorn at night, Collingwood-St Kilda at twilight, Essendon-Carlton at night and Collingwood Essendon at night.

And an observation from our summer sport; in January the Australian cricketers warmed up for an ODI in Mumbai by training with wet balls under lights, because the dew is so heavy in India.

Bowler Kane Richardson even joked that coach Andrew McDonald slept at the ground to monitor Mumbai's dew levels. And the Aussies cruised to a 10-wicket win against Virat Kohli's side.

Jeremy Howe flies for a mark in front of Jack Riewoldt. Picture: AAP
Jeremy Howe flies for a mark in front of Jack Riewoldt. Picture: AAP

STRUCTURE OVER STYLE

Collingwood's backline is tighter than piano wire. It was a key takeaway from the Pies' Round 1 smashing against the Western Bulldogs, and they've now backed that up.

In March the Magpies dominated contested ball, limited supply and were so organised that Jeremy Howe and Jack Crisp probably could've picked off some of the rushed entries blindfolded.

It is a backline that absorbs pressure like a sponge and after two matches it has conceded a miserly 70 points. That's fewer than nine teams, despite playing one extra match.

Darcy Moore has now totally nullified Aaron Naughton and Jack Riewoldt and the chemistry with which they work the ball out of danger seems unbreakable.

The Tigers' back six was equally as stingy on Thursday night, and it's clear no goals are going to come easy against these premiership contenders this season.

But while the organisation, structure and system teams now display in the back half is sexy to coaches, Kevin Bartlett reckons it's an eyesore to supporters.

"Richmond and Collingwood arguably the two best sides in the competition showed that Australian rules football as a spectacle is in serious trouble and has been for a number of years," Bartlett tweeted.

"It's time to take our heads out of the sand and stop kidding ourselves."

Western Bulldogs pitched their attacking gamestyle to Channel 7 boss Lewis Martin last year, and it worked as they won four Friday night timeslots under the old fixture.

As engrossing as Thursday night was, you wonder what the TV execs will be thinking if it's more of the same over the next few weeks.

Richmond went in with one ruckman, Ivan Soldo, to take on Brodie Grundy. Picture: Michael Klein
Richmond went in with one ruckman, Ivan Soldo, to take on Brodie Grundy. Picture: Michael Klein

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Have shortened quarters killed the second ruckman in 2020?

West Coast has dropped Tom Hickey and all eyes are now on whether St Kilda persists with Paddy Ryder supporting Rohan Marshall, particularly with Max King also in the team.

Richmond noted how much more mobile opponent Carlton was in Round 1 after Matthew Kreuzer went down injured, given Levi Casboult had to ruck one-out.

That helped lead to a significant strategy shift as the Tigers dropped Toby Nankervis, preferring to back Ivan Soldo as the lone man against Brodie Grundy.

And it paid off as Grundy failed to exert his usual dominance, particularly in the closing stages when Richmond dominated the clearances.

But what was even more impressive was the job Tom Lynch did pinch-hitting. Lynch looked agile, provided a contest and even won three clearances himself

The Tigers rate Nankervis highly and also think 20-year-old Callum Coleman-Jones will be a player But it might be a tough year if they are stuck behind No.1 man Soldo.

Hardwick said he would be keenly watching how many clubs carry a second ruck into Round 2.



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