Sport AFL Punt Rd pretenders may need ‘Dimma’ switch

Punt Rd pretenders may need ‘Dimma’ switch

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After more than three decades of disappointment, you’d think hunger wouldn’t be an issue at Richmond.

But after dropping games against the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne already this season, clearly it is.

Damien ‘Dimma’ Hardwick has been in charge since 2010, and the images that spring to mind when considering that time are losses (although their heroic win in Sydney last year to book a finals spot merits a mention).

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Like that after-the-siren heartbreaker against the Gold Coast. Or their failure to deliver in their past two elimination finals, against Carlton and Port Adelaide respectively.

Their loss to Melbourne on Friday night was all the more galling given they dropped the same fixture last year.

Richmond leave the MCG after Friday night's loss to Melbourne. Photo: Getty
Richmond leave the MCG after Friday night’s loss to Melbourne. Photo: Getty

Most troubling, the issue was effort – far too often the Demons had three or four men around the contest, compared to one or two for Richmond.

Wintry conditions, like those seen on Friday, are footy’s great equaliser, and make hunger a crucial component.

But Richmond turned up on full stomachs, still clearly basking in the glow of their easy win over Brisbane a week earlier.

Their appetite for the contest was, as Hardwick pointed out after the match, “insipid”.

“To put up that second-half performance when you don’t hunt the ball, the side looks stronger than you over the contest – we were fumbling and bumbling away – you’re never going to win a footy game,” Hardwick said.

“It was as poor an effort as I’ve seen from our footy club in a long time. Really poor.”

Speaking to the media on Monday, captain Trent Cotchin put it down to “behaviours”.

“That’s where we’re at as a group. Whether it changes straight away, whether it takes a week or two, it’s just those constant behaviours that will make us a better group,” Cotchin said.

“You never want to disappoint your coach, especially on behaviours that we respect very highly.”

Behaviours – 21st-century football speak for having a dip.

Hardwick has the luxury of a midfield featuring Cotchin, Dustin Martin and Brett Deledio, book ends Alex Rance and Jack Riewoldt, and plenty of good young prospects coming through the ranks.

So what exactly is wrong? Why is this club still turning in efforts like Friday night’s?

Déjà vu: Richmond after their loss to Melbourne in May last year. Photo: Getty
Déjà vu: Richmond after their loss to Melbourne in May last year. Photo: Getty

There can be no question Hardwick has improved Richmond.

But after five full seasons in charge, he’d want to have.

He’s been granted a luxury so many of his contemporaries weren’t: time.

Brendan McCartney, Brenton Sanderson, Guy McKenna, Scott Watters, Michael Voss, Mark Neeld, Brett Ratten, Matthew Primus, Mark Harvey, Rodney Eade, Dean Bailey and Matthew Knights have all been sacked during the period Hardwick has coached the Tigers.

For all the club’s improvements, on the evidence presented so far this season Richmond are still a long way from making the considerable leap to premiership contention.

Ross Lyon likes to say his ladder-leading Dockers are an anytime, anywhere footy club.

Richmond are a sometimes, somewhere, but-only-when-we-feel-like-it club – the kind that drives supporters mad.

Last year we described Hardwick’s job with Richmond as one of the toughest in football.

He’s a man who relishes a challenge, but must be starting to wonder if resurrecting this club is one that is beyond him.

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