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Six things we learned from Richmond v North Melbourne

Highlights: Richmond v North Melbourne The Tigers and Kangaroos clash in the 1st Elimination Final

• Every Kangaroo rated from the elimination final
• Got your boots, Capper? Four burning questions ahead of the semi-finals

1. North Melbourne's time has come
In the most high-pressure contest with so much on the line, the Kangaroos were simply more mature and poised under pressure – and there's every reason to believe that Brad Scott's men can at least match last year's preliminary final appearance.

The knives would have been out for the Roos coach if his side fell short after last week's bulk resting of players, but now that extra freshness could be telling. This group has the tools to challenge any side – a tall forwardline, dominant ruckman, mature defence and hard-working midfield – and their time is now. North should be confident of reversing last year's finals horror show at ANZ Stadium against the decimated Swans this time around. 

 

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2. The weight of history took hold of the Tigers
The post-mortem will be ugly. Richmond's mental frailty in finals was exposed for the third-straight season as the success-starved club slumped to another elimination final defeat. Unlike last year against a rampant Port Adelaide, Richmond had all the momentum early but North hung on, and as the Roos kept coming the deep-seated anxieties of the Tiger Army bubbled to the surface. At the end of his sixth season at the helm, coach Damien Hardwick has to be feeling the pressure of history, with Richmond's finals drought still stretching back to 2001. The devastation and heartbreak was all over the faces of Tiger fans – those who were left – and players at the final siren. It will be a summer of discontent at Punt Road.

• Three years of heartbreaking Richmond elimination final defeats
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3. Higgins' courage matches his class
We all know the Roos recruit is one of the most polished performers by hand and foot running around in the competition, but Shaun Higgins' effort to bounce back from a huge hit from Dylan Grimes could become the stuff of finals folklore. Making the ball their object, both players collided at top speed, with Grimes spinning off from the wreckage in a cartwheel before bouncing to his feet. But Higgins writhed in pain on the deck and had to be helped from the field. It could have rendered him a bit-player for the rest of the match, however he returned only minutes later and produced a strong four-quarter display that will enhance his reputation.

 

4. To rest or not to rest? That's still the question
The Roos brought back 10 important players – nine who were rested from the round 23 clash with the Tigers. So did it work? It's not as simple as offering a definitive answer. For the likes of Jarrad Waite, the move paid dividends, but for fellow veteran Nick Dal Santo it seemingly backfired. Waite justified the decision to recruit him in his outstanding first half, booting three goals, while Dal Santo had just four touches and gave away a crucial free kick to Anthony Miles, who slotted Richmond's fifth goal. Others who seemed to benefit from the rest included four-quarter performers Todd Goldstein, Andrew Swallow, Michael Firrito and Shaun Higgins. However, Scott Thompson and Sam Wright had little impact early but got better as the game wore on, while Ben Cunnington improved after a slow start to finish with 21 touches and a team-high seven clearances.

5. Hardwick got it wrong at the selection table
The Tigers took a significant risk bringing back underdone duo Reece Conca (hamstring) and Ben Griffiths (finger tendon) for an intense sudden-death final and got mixed results. Struck down by repeated hamstring issues, Conca had just two AFL games under his belt this season and started as the sub. He came on midway through the third term for Griffiths – who was held to just four touches, three marks and 0.2 in perfect conditions – and made an immediate impact, running into an open goal to halt the Roos' momentum. Conca's pace was always going to be crucial in the final term as the Kangas came hard. He finished with eight touches but didn't have a big impact. 

 

6. Waite provides more proof Carlton doesn't deserve a priority pick
The Blues have been lambasted for their bid for a priority selection at the upcoming draft. Rightly so, given some of the A-grade talent running around on the first weekend of finals that Carlton let go. Bad management saw Eddie Betts and Jarrad Waite walk out the door of Ikon Park, while Josh Kennedy was traded, and that trio booted 12 goals between them on the weekend. That's not to mention star Crows ruckman Sam Jacobs, Brisbane Lions equal best-and-fairest Mitch Robinson, plus Melbourne small forward Jeff Garlett (40 goals this year) and Tiger mid Shaun Grigg. The Blues' case for a priority pick smacks of a club angling for better compensation in case Matthew Kreuzer also leaves.

 

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