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Why Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin isn't a great player

Trent Cotchin of the Tigers in action during the 2015 AFL Round 05 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Geelong Cats at the MCG, Melbourne on May 02, 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Unless Trent Cotchin changes his game style, he is likely to remain a good - but not great - player

THE EXPECTATIONS attached to Richmond's Trent Cotchin need to be revised.

He is a courageous ball winner with great skill but he does not hurt the opposition enough.

An ongoing problem for Cotchin is his willingness to kick laterally or backwards rather than moving forward with the ball.

He is ranked 18th in the competition for lateral or backward kicks and No.66 for metres gained in 2015.

Despite his efforts to lift the Tigers on Saturday, the 25-year-old only gained 298 metres, below his season average of 375 metres, from 29 disposals.

That is an average of 10.27 metres gained per disposal.

Too many of his possessions were received from handballs (14) and not enough, when compared to the elite midfielders, were contested (37 per cent).

Classy Cats leave Tigers' season on the line

Last year Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said Cotchin was conscious of the need to move the ball forward more but it appears he has slipped into playing safe football.

Forty-one per cent of Cotchin's score involvements are in turnover chains, ranking him 317th of the 375 players who average at least three score involvements per game.

When the skipper is involved in a chain the Tigers score 27.9 per cent of the time, ranking him 18th at the club.

He has just 19 inside 50s for the season and sits 43rd in AFL rankings. 

The truth is the Tigers need a goalkicking midfielder that breaks the lines (who doesn't?) to put some bite into their side.

They understand that. It's time others did too.

Despite Cotchin finishing top 10 in the Brownlow Medal in the past three seasons, opponents aren't too stressed about him creating havoc.

If the Tigers can find a midfielder who fits their needs – such as the Giants' Dylan Shiel – they should throw the house at him.

They might talk about creating midfield depth but the fact is they have drafted for that in the past few seasons, adding Brandon Ellis, Nick Vlastuin, Ben Lennon and Corey Ellis to the list.

They need midfield brilliance. 

Trent Cotchin and the Tigers have struggled to capture winning form in 2015. Picture: AFL Media

Like about half the competition, the Tigers have the opportunity to take advantage of the new banking system that was introduced to chase a match winner. 

They should use that opportunity because they are a good club with a solid list but they lack, with the possible exception of Brett Deledio, a superstar.

Life has been hard for Hardwick as he has been coach during a period when high draft picks have been taken by the expansion clubs.

He wants his team to play bold, attacking football but the ball movement remains predictable because of the talent at his disposal. 

It's why the Tigers have won the disposal count in four of their five games this season but they only have two wins.

Compare some of Cotchin's numbers on Saturday to Geelong's Joel Selwood, who averaged 15 metres per disposal against Richmond to gain 319 metres from his 21 disposals, 62 per cent of which were contested.

Not only does Selwood win the ball and move it forward, he puts teammates into space. His handball to release Mitch Duncan from a centre clearance in the final quarter was the work of an elite midfielder. 

Duncan gained 501 metres from his 29 disposals on Saturday (17.27 metres gained per disposal) and kicked two goals. 

It's hard not to feel for Cotchin but his lack of penetration means he is a good rather than great player. 

That's no knock on him. It's an explanation for why Richmond might be struggling to turn numbers into wins.

Interestingly enough, Melbourne skipper Nathan Jones said he debated the definition of a good game with his coach Paul Roos in 2014.

Now Jones is gaining fewer possessions but he is a better player, because he is winning the ball in positions more advantageous for his team. 

Jones a better player than 2014, says Roos

Perhaps Cotchin needs to start where Jones was rebooted, by tagging Scott Pendlebury when Richmond plays Collingwood in two weeks, or Port Adelaide's Travis Boak in three weeks.

It's not Cotchin's fault because he is trying his heart out.

The supposed superstar, Dustin Martin, doesn't do enough either, limited by his running power to playing in bursts.

On Saturday, he received 24 handballs en route to winning 26 uncontested possessions among his 33 touches.

When Martin is involved in a chain of possession, the Tigers score 23.3 per cent of the time, ranking him at No.22 at the club.

In 2015 Martin is playing more in the midfield, but the difference between where he gets the ball in a win compared to a loss is stark. 

He gains more possessions in the forward 50 in a win (11.9 per cent) than a loss (4.6 per cent) and fewer in the midfield in a win (81 per cent) than a loss (86.2 per cent).

His defensive pressure in centre clearances is not good enough yet either and he is ranked No.1 in the competition for handball receives.

He is a great one-on-one player when deep forward. He is not a damaging midfielder over four quarters.

Richmond's midfielders have become predictable.

It's time to change things quickly to put the bite back in the Tiger. 

Stats supplied by Champion Data

Stats show Dustin Martin is more effective up forward than in midfield. Picture: AFL Media