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Match preview: Richmond v Hawthorn

Can Richmond stop the influence of prolific Hawk Tom Mitchell?  - AFL,Richmond Tigers,Hawthorn Hawks
Can Richmond stop the influence of prolific Hawk Tom Mitchell?

SUMMARY
The Tigers suffered their first loss since round 21 last year when they fell to Adelaide by 36 points last Thursday night. Richmond was smashed in contested ball (192 to 144), with coach Damien Hardwick later declaring the Tigers were "out-hunted and out-worked" as well as being beaten in the air and at ground level, with Alex Rance destroyed by Josh Jenkins in the first half. The Hawks are one of four teams to remain undefeated after two rounds following their heart-stopping one-point win over Geelong on Easter Monday. After the Cats came back from a 25-point deficit in the last quarter to level the scores, a point by Jarryd Roughead broke the deadlock with a minute remaining on the clock. There's no denying the Hawks are on their way back to their scary best after a rare finals absence in 2017.  

WHERE AND WHEN: MCG, Sunday, April 8, 1.10pm AEST 

TV AND RADIO: Click here for broadcast guide

LAST FIVE MEETINGS
R20, 2017: Richmond 13.15 (93) d Hawthorn 9.10 (64) at the MCG
R18, 2016: Hawthorn 16.18 (114) d Richmond 5.14 (44) at the MCG
R7, 2016: Hawthorn 21.10 (136) d Richmond 13.12 (90) at the MCG
R18, 2015: Richmond 10.11 (71) d Hawthorn 7.11 (53) at the MCG
R6, 2014: Hawthorn 18.10 (118) d Richmond 7.10 (52) at the MCG 

THE SIX POINTS
1. Match-winning midfielder Dustin Martin dominated in the Tigers' round 20 win over the Hawks last year. He had 32 disposals and kicked two goals in their 29-point victory, playing largely as a forward while Jack Riewoldt was out with an eye injury

2. This game should produce a battle between the competition's in-form midfielders. Hawthorn's Tom Mitchell has averaged 47 disposals over two games and leads the AFLCA champion player of the year voting from Martin, who is fourth.

3. Mitchell was no slouch against the Tigers last year, either. He was the Hawks' best with 35 disposals and a whopping 10 clearances – easily the most by an individual on the field – with the Hawks winning that stat 36 to 32.

4. It was the Tigers' midfield that got the job done on the day with Dion Prestia chipping in with 31 touches and Kane Lambert picking up 30 to go with Martin's haul. Richmond won the contested possessions 146 to 137.

5. The Tigers haven't been as strong defensively in their first two games as they were last year, with an average of 106 points conceded compared to 74 in 2017. Meanwhile, the Hawks have been the No.1 team for inside 50s and equal fourth for marks inside the attacking arc.  

6. Patrick Dangerfield and Martin might have a monopoly on the top two spots in the Schick AFL Player Ratings, but Mitchell is coming for them. In just the past two weeks, the ball magnet has climbed from 31st overall to 23rd.

IT’S A BIG WEEK FOR …
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick. That's two games and two best on ground performances by Tom Mitchell, who has been awarded the maximum 10 votes by the coaches in the AFLCA award in rounds one and two. The challenge of stopping the 24-year-old now falls to the most recent premiership coach. To initiate a hard tag (Jack Graham?) or go head-to-head with Mitchell in the midfield is Hardwick's million-dollar question. 

PREDICTION: Richmond by 12 points.

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