OPINION

Don't write off the Richmond Tigers just yet

It is way too early to discount a wobbly Richmond's chances of a tilt at another AFL premiership. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images
It is way too early to discount a wobbly Richmond's chances of a tilt at another AFL premiership. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

With 10 rounds to go the AFL's top eight appears settled, but the race for the premiership is not so clear.

Richmond, the benchmark in the past four seasons, sits in eighth position after losing a pulsating encounter to West Coast.

It would be folly to write off the Tigers after winning three of the past four premierships.

Victoria's COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown has forced them to be on the road for almost a month, and a week's break comes at a perfect time.

Richmond's run home is far from daunting, scheduled to play six of its remaining nine matches at the MCG and only two of its opponents, Brisbane and Geelong, being in the eight.

However, beware the wounded Eagles, who looked in big trouble two weeks ago.

Despite having a long injury list including skipper Luke Shuey, star midfielder Tim Kelly and defenders Brad Sheppard and Jeremy McGovern, they have shown admirable resolve to win their past two games.

As is generally the case in Perth, particularly in games involving West Coast, the home team received the rub of the green from the umpires last Sunday night.

But acting captain Nic Naitanui is in top form, Shannon Hurn and Elliot Yeo have made welcome returns from injury and young Eagles such as Luke Edwards have stepped up in the absence of experienced teammates.

The Eagles-Tigers classic was one of the best games this season and capped off a stunning round.

There was Adelaide's remarkable comeback to defeat St Kilda in Cairns, the first draw of the year between North Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney in Hobart, and excellent wins by Geelong and Hawthorn on the road.

JAI GRABS HIS BIG CHANCE

Jai Newcombe's stunning debut for Hawthorn is further vindication of the AFL's decision to reintroduce a mid-season draft two years ago.

Newcombe, who turns 20 in August, has thrived at the Hawks' VFL affiliate Box Hill under coach Sam Mitchell this year and was promoted immediately after being picked up in the mid-season rookie draft.

The mid-season rookie draft has already produced a premiership player - Marlion Pickett was a key contributor in Richmond's past two flags.

Newcombe's development suffered a setback last season when the NAB League competition was cancelled because of the pandemic.

But the former Gippsland Power player was determined to give himself a chance to play at the elite level and grasped his opportunity after impressing in six games with Box Hill.

The powerful inside midfielder ignited the Hawks to a shock win over Sydney, laying a league-record 14 tackles for a debutant.

Newcombe's rapid development is testament to the faith shown in him by Mitchell, who is doing his aspirations of becoming a senior AFL coach no harm in his first season at the helm with Box Hill.

With former Hawthorn head of football Graham Wright now at Collingwood, Mitchell has been touted as a candidate for the Magpies' senior coaching job.

But the Hawks would be keen to hold onto Mitchell, who might need a few more years as an understudy to Alastair Clarkson before taking on a senior position.

Novak Djokovic was superb at Roland Garros. Photo: Tnani Badreddine/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic was superb at Roland Garros. Photo: Tnani Badreddine/Getty Images

ALL HAIL THE DJOKER

Whether you love or loathe him, Novak Djokovic might have produced his greatest performance in winning the French Open.

In his first Grand Slam final Stephanos Tsitsipas lost no admirers, but the Greek, 22, was overwhelmed in the final three sets by a resilient Djokovic.

The Serb's win gives him 19 Grand Slam titles, putting him one behind joint leaders Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Importantly, Djokovic enjoys a head-to-head advantage over Federer and Nadal and has won each Grand Slam title at least twice - his legendary status is assured.

BUCKLEY HAS PLENTY TO OFFER

Nathan Buckley has coached Collingwood for the last time, but he has plenty to offer the game.

Sadly most supporters had to watch Buckley's final game in charge of his beloved Magpies on TV and he deserves an appropriate farewell at Collingwood's next home match at the MCG.

Buckley's contribution to the Magpies and the AFL in almost three decades has been enormous. He won so many individual honours and deserved to add a premiership medal as a player or coach to his collection after coming so close on several occasions.

As Collingwood's losses mounted and speculation intensified about his future, it became clear his contract would not be extended beyond this season. But he always managed to conduct himself with dignity.

Buckley, who turns 49 next month, is a terrific person and his football IQ is as good as anyone in the game.

He can look at contemporaries such as Brett Ratten and Michael Voss for inspiration in his next step - great players who have thrived at other clubs after being discarded as coaches by their original clubs.

Buckley would be an asset to any media organisation as an articulate, insightful commentator and other clubs should look at him either as a senior coach or in another key role within the football department.

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story Howard Kotton: Don't write off the Richmond Tigers just yet first appeared on The Canberra Times.