Richmond may have exposed Geelong as premiership pretenders on Friday night, but something much more serious was also painfully revealed — footy is in trouble.
The Tigers recovered from a brief fourth quarter scare to climb up to third on the AFL ladder with a 26-point win over the Cats on the Gold Coast.
The game hyped to be a potential grand final preview fell flat right from the start.
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The Cats, the highest scoring team in the AFL this season, kicked just one goal in the first three quarters before the Tigers finished them off to win 7.15 (57) 4.7 (31).
The win sees Richmond on target for a likely qualifying final against the second-placed Brisbane Lions, while the Cats will hold onto fourth spot ahead of West Coast if they can win their Round 18 game next weekend.
In a season where turbulent, congested schedules and shorter quarter lengths have compromised the quality of the spectacle, the calls for dramatic changes to be made were given a shot in the arm by the Cats’ first half struggles.
With the Cats made to look second rate by the resurgent Tigers, footy commentators came hard for the quality of football produced in 2020.
Star radio host Dave Hughes posted on Twitter: “Arguably the two highest skilled teams in @AFL on a fine evening and its one goal to three at halftime. Yuck”.
Former footy reporter Rohan Connolly was also concerned about the game as a spectacle.
“I’m enjoying this match, at least there’s a decent passage of play or two. But anyone who says scoring isn’t a MAJOR issue, come on,” he posted on Twitter.
“One goal in a half from highest-scoring team in comp, the other with three? Scorelines like that will kill the game as a spectacle.”
Other footy commentators were quick to stick the boot into the AFL.
Geelong simply couldn’t find a way to get its star-studded forward line into the contest.
“It’s hard to imagine Geelong being unravelled like they are now,” Bruce McAvaney told Channel 7 during the game.
“They’re a mess at this very minute and that is so incongruous with what Geelong are.”
The Cats’ three-quarter time score of 1.5 (11) was the club’s lowest since 1977, according to foxsports.com.au.
The Cats didn’t kick a goal from their first in the fourth minute of the second quarter until their second in the sixth minute of the fourth quarter when Esava Ratugolea finally kicked straight for the Cats.
It opened the flood gates for the Cats with goals to Tom Hawkins and a second to Ratugolea following quickly to cut the Tigers’ lead to just 16-points early in the fourth term.
Tom Hawkins had a set shot from 20m out on an angle to cut the margin again, but his snap sprayed inside the near posts. Richmond then went up in the other end one minute later and iced the game through a good running goal to Jason Castagna.
The win secures the Tigers in the top four, but coach Damien Hardwick also had reason to be concerned at full time.
Two injuries to star talls leaves the Tigers struggling to cover key positions just a few weeks from finals footy.
In the second quarter, Ivan Soldo was helped from the ground by two trainers after his knee buckled underneath him after he took contact from teammate Noah Bolta.
Soldo fell to the ground and punched the turf with his hands before trainers came to assess the injury.
Richmond announced at half time Soldo would not return for the rest of the game.
He was spotted sitting on the Tigers bench in the third quarter with crutches alongside him.
That bad news was compounded in the third quarter when star forward Tom Lynch injured his hamstring.
Lynch hobbled to the bench and was immediately ruled out for the rest of the game.
Even with the Tigers’ injuries, the Cats failed to wake up until it was too late.