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Season review: Richmond

Richmond youngster Trent Cotchin shone in 2011, among the best in almost all the team's wins and succeeding as stand-in skipper late in the year - ${keywords}
Richmond youngster Trent Cotchin shone in 2011, among the best in almost all the team's wins and succeeding as stand-in skipper late in the year
2011 snapshot
Ladder position: 12th; 8W, 13L, 1D
Leading goalkicker: Jack Riewoldt (62)
Leading possession winner: Brett Deledio (563)
Played every game: Brett Deledio, Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin, Bachar Houli, Nathan Foley, Robin Nahas, Tyrone Vickery, Jack Riewoldt
Debutants:  Reece Conca (17 games), Jake Batchelor (16 games), Brad Helbig (10 games)

Stats leaders
Toyota AFL Dream Team: Trent Cotchin (2061)
Kicks: Trent Cotchin (372)
Handballs: Brett Deledio (282)
Marks: Bachar Houli (127)
Hitouts: Angus Graham (331)
Clearances: Trent Cotchin (135)
Contested possessions: Trent Cotchin (261)
Uncontested possessions: Brett Deledio (362)

NAB AFL Rising Star nominees
Reece Conca (round 9)
Jake Batchelor (round 15)

List manager
The first thing the Tigers need is a mature ruckman to complement developing big men Angus Graham and Andrew Browne. North Melbourne's Hamish McIntosh is expected to be high on the club's shopping list. Richmond's forward line and midfield is also in good shape, but it needs tall, skilled defenders.

Games that shaped a season
Rd 2: Richmond 13.17 (95) drew St Kilda 14.11 (95)
Having seen their team almost topple Carlton in round one, the Richmond supporters were up and about after the Tigers matched it with the two-time grand finalists. Daniel Jackson gave the underdogs the lead at the 32-minute mark of the final quarter, but the Saints levelled the contest with two late behinds.

Rd 9: Richmond 16.9 (105) d Essendon 13.11 (89)
The Dreamtime at the 'G match drew a crowd of more than 80,000, and the Tiger army roared itself hoarse as the boys in yellow and black kicked seven goals in the third quarter and snatched a courageous win. Alex Rance was brilliant in the backline as was youngster Dylan Grimes.

Rd 10: Port Adelaide 13.11 (89) d Richmond 10.14 (74)
After their win over Essendon, the Tigers were suddenly knocking on the door of the top eight. But their season hit a snag when they lost to the lowly Power in Darwin in the first of their 'sold' home matches.

Rd 17: Gold Coast 12.13 (85) d Richmond 9.16 (70)
The Tigers' second 'sold' home game was against the Suns in Cairns. On a very windy afternoon, before a sell-out crowd of around 10,000, Richmond suffered its worst loss of the season when it was overrun in the second half by the competition's youngest side.

Rd 21: Richmond 14.15 (99) d Sydney Swans 7.14 (56)
After six consecutive defeats, the Tigers finally broke their losing run when they upset the Swans at the MCG. The win gave the players such a boost that they beat Melbourne and Adelaide in the following two weeks.

What went right
Richmond won more games that it did in 2010, so in that regard the club is heading in the right direction. The Tigers also got plenty of games into their talented young players like Dustin Martin, Reece Conca, Tyrone Vickery and Jake Batchelor. Another bonus for Richmond was that it managed to find some more avenues to goal. In 2010, Jack Riewoldt kicked 78 goals, but Andrew Collins (now at Carlton) was next best with 15. This year, Riewoldt booted 62 goals, while Vickery chipped in with 36 and Martin bagged 33. Four other players - Jake King, Robin Nahas, Trent Cotchin and Brad Miller - kicked more goals than Collins did last year.

What went wrong
Richmond's backline was a patchwork quilt for the much of the year because many of the club's best defenders were struck down by serious injuries. Kelvin Moore had repeated bouts of hip trouble and didn't play at all, while Dylan Grimes seriously injured his hamstring against Essendon in round nine and didn't take to the field again. Another key defender in the making, David Astbury, suffered a dislocated patella and didn't play after round 12.

Most valuable player

Given his tremendous improvement, and the fact he took so much pressure off Jack Riewoldt, key forward Tyrone Vickery would be a worthy nomination in this category. But it was impossible to look past Trent Cotchin. The 21-year-old midfielder, who is the classiest player on Richmond's list, was among the best players in just about all of the club's wins. When skipper Chris Newman went down with a knee injury, he even filled in as captain late in the season, and proved himself a capable leader.

Coach's pet

"He brings everything we are about as a footy club. He's tough, he's resilient, he's competitive - all those sorts of things we look for in footy players." That comment made by Damien Hardwick in March, sums up how much the Richmond coach loves feisty forward Jake King. Even though King has a habit of getting suspended each season, Hardwick loves his toughness, tenacity and ability to apply fearsome forward pressure.

Next big thing

Taken with pick No.3 in the 2009 NAB AFL Draft, Dustin Martin has so far proven to be a more consistent and more damaging player than Tom Scully and Jack Trengove, who were taken by Melbourne with picks one and two. In 2011, Martin played every game for the Tigers, averaging 22.1 possessions.

Needs a big pre-season
A highly-skilled midfielder, Daniel Connors was a regular in the Richmond side during the latter half of 2010 (he had earlier served a club-imposed suspension for heavy drinking), but he was rarely sighted in 2011.

Trading places

Richmond's treatment of 29-year-old midfielder Shane Tuck has been very strange. He was left out of the team during the early rounds of last season, but was consistently among the best players when he was recalled. He again languished in the VFL during the first half of this season, but again excelled when he got the chance in the AFL. A great competitor, Tuck looks a great short-term option for Greater Western Sydney.

What they said
"There's no doubt we've improved. You've only got to look at the youth of our spine - Vickery, Riewoldt, and Rance and Post down back - they're all 22 years of age or under, so that's exciting for our footy club."
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick

In a nutshell

In their second year under Damien Hardwick, the Tigers set out to improve on their efforts in 2010. Judging purely by wins and losses, they achieved their aim.

Overall grade: C+

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs