Winning may be an art, but there is a certain science to losing a football match too.
Richmond’s MCG clash with Fremantle on Sunday arvo featured every single element from losing’s periodic table, as both teams did their utmost to throw four points away over the course of the two hours.
Of course, every masterclass of losing also leaves a winner, and there is little doubt the Dockers did slightly less to bottle it than their opponents – but that is not to take away from their own marvellous choking attempt too.
Look back over the steps that brought us one of the all-time great displays of not winning.
Don’t turn up for three quarters
This is always a solid losing strategy, as it takes something quite special to play only one quarter of football and win a four-quarter match.
The Tigers barely looked bothered until three-quarter-time, when a Damien Hardwick spray finally got his players out of bed and onto the footy field.
It speaks volumes of Freo’s own losing talents that the Tigers nearly took the points from a game they only played 25 per cent of.
Miss your shots on goal
Richmond’s stirring last-quarter fightback would have undoubtedly resulted in a win had the Tigers taken their chances.
They came home with a real head of steam, but kicked 5.5 in the last quarter, with a number of the behinds from very kickable shots at goal by the likes of Jack Riewoldt and Shaun Grigg,
Kick even one more of those and the comeback is completed, but that’s not how losing is done.
Give away ridiculous free kicks
Matt Taberner had taken a timely, relieving contest mark on centre wing and the Dockers were looking to send the ball forward late in the last quarter.
The midfielders had moved forward, the defenders had pushed up to half-back, and Freo were hoping to get a sealing goal – enter Hayden Crozier.
The TV broadcast never showed a replay, but the umpire insinuated Crozier had slipped a little jumper punch onto the chin of his opponent, 100 metres off the ball and for no real reason.
Taberner had to turn the ball over on centre wing, every single Dockers player was out of position and a couple of stoppages later, the Tigers were in front.
Leave the defensive side of the centre bounce unattended
This is where we start to see some unbelievable losing. Richmond leads with 21 seconds to play, and the ball is in the centre.
The one thing Richmond could not afford to let happen was for the Dockers to get a clean, running clearance and a deep kick inside 50, right?
— AFL (@AFL) May 14, 2017
So how on earth did Lachie Neale find himself with 30 metres of MCG grass in front of him when the stoppage spilled his way? Unfathomable.
Get some bodies in there, for crying out loud!
Let the opposition’s best kick roam free inside 50
Okay, so you haven’t been able to block off the defensive side of the centre square – that must mean you have 15 bodies completely clogging up every pocket of the defensive 50, then?
Oh no. To let any player get five metres’ separation in such a situation is unbelievable, but for it to be David Mundy – THE EXACT PERSON WHO DID THIS TO YOU LAST TIME – is next level.
Poor old Hardwick will be having nightmares about the last 20 seconds of that game for the rest of his life, but for those of us who can appreciate a masterful loss, it was one we’ll happily remember.
Meanwhile, in other Round 8 matches…
Port Adelaide reaped rich reward from their first China expedition, thumping Gold Coast by 72 points in Shanghai.
While the jury will be out for several years yet about whether the concept can work, the 16.14 (110) to 4.14 (38) demolition was a massive result on and off the field for the Power.
The crowd of about 10,118 featured a healthy contingent of locals among the fans who travelled from Australia, along with expats.
Michael Barlow gave the Suns a good start when his scrambled kick was ruled a goal after a score review.
But Port quickly took control and led by 21 points at quarter-time.
They killed off the match with six goals to one in the second term to lead by 42 at the main break.
GWS replaced slumping Adelaide as premiership favourites, although the Giants needed a last-minute goal at home from Steve Johnson on Saturday to see off a spirited challenge from a Collingwood side who have won only two games and sit in second-last spot.
The Crows suffered a second straight loss – this time by 41 points at home to rank outsiders Melbourne – but stay in top spot with a 6-2 win-loss record, ahead of the Giants and West Coast on percentage.
The next six teams are all at 5-3, including ninth-placed Fremantle.
Essendon belied a recent poor run of just one win in their previous five matches by downing tackle-shy Geelong 17.8 (110) to 13.15 (93).
Like Richmond, the Cats have now dropped three games on the bounce after starting the year with five straight wins.
Sydney ended the round with a comprehensive 18.12 (120) to 11.12 (78) win over North Melbourne, while Hawthorn, the Eagles and St Kilda were other winners.
-ABC, with AAP