By Howard Kimber and Jennifer Phelan 09:10pm June 30, 13
THE RE-EMERGENCE of Richmond as an AFL powerhouse continued at the MCG on Sunday afternoon as the Tigers convincingly beat St Kilda 17.17 (119) to 8.7 (55) in front of a crowd of 52,184.
The Saints kicked the first two goals of the match and stayed in the contest until early in the second quarter, but from there it was all Richmond as the yellow and black piled on nine of the next 10 majors.
Even such a convincing lead would have seen Tiger fans nervous in recent years, if not thinking that the game could be lost then at least that the margin would be brought back to something much smaller, costing valuable percentage.
But it wasn't to be, and the manner in which they kept stretching the lead was that of a team in serious contention of reaching the upper echelons of the ladder.
Coach Damien Hardwick spoke afterwards of the way the team had matured and found an ability to build leads and hold them.
He also said he was pleased with how the on-field leaders had improved in making decisions that saw them prevail after the Saints got off to a better start.
"The great thing about our leaders is that they're still relatively young. There's still scope for improvement - the guys will learn more as they progress through the ranks," Hardwick said after the 64-point win.
"But they've done a truckload of work to improve in that area and I think they're ticking a lot of boxes at this stage."
The class of the Tigers’ midfield shone through with Trent Cotchin returning to his best form, especially in the opening half, and Dustin Martin, Nathan Foley and Daniel Jackson all having influential roles.
The performance of Foley was hugely encouraging for the Tigers as he continues to head back to the form he enjoyed before injuring his Achilles tendon early in 2012.
Foley racked up 23 touches and kicked two goals to be among the best on the ground.
The hole created by the absence of Ivan Maric was well filled by Tyrone Vickery (18 disposals, 11 marks and a goal) who seemed to relish the added responsibility of being first ruck, while youngsters Brandon Ellis and Reece Conca continued to show growing maturity.
Adding to the Tigers' stocks was the performance of Aaron Edwards. It seemed that Edwards was brought into the club as nothing more than solid back-up should key forwards fall over, but his efforts and attack on the ball and man since being elevated to the seniors four weeks ago have been those of a player desperate to make the most of a third chance.
Winners were much harder to find in St Kilda jumpers.
Nick Riewoldt (22 disposals, eight marks and one goal) gave everything as always, but ultimately lost the ‘battle of the cousins’ as Jack kicked three goals and had a hand in a number of others.
Nick Dal Santo had plenty of the football (25 disposals and one goal) as did Clinton Jones (24), David Armitage (25) and Jack Steven (23). Trent Dennis-Lane was the only multiple goal kicker for St Kilda with two.
It seemed at times that the Saints were intimidated by the ferocity of their opponents as they fumbled the ball or made errors through rushed disposals.
St Kilda coach Scott Watters said he would continue to expose his young players to the big stage.
"When you're put under pressure and young players are put under pressure in particular, and even some senior players, you can become introverted and I guess confidence is a great thing," Watters said.
"Under that sort of pressure I think some of our younger players in particular went in their shell. They need to learn from that.
"It's not going to be the first time early in their careers they go through it but you need to understand it. When that opportunity comes again they need to stand up."
The Tigers were not convincing with their finishing by foot throughout the game, but they made up for it with an intensity that suggests that there is a hunger to take their season to places it has't been for many years.
The win takes Richmond to a 9-4 record and the Tiger Army is starting to save dollars for tickets to finals and not Fiji this September.