Tim Taranto celebrates a goal during the round 18 clash between West Coast and Richmond at Optus Stadium on July 16, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

FOR ALL the talk of percentage-boosting wins and the advantage of playing a struggling West Coast twice this season, Richmond was made to work until the end for its 38-point win at Optus Stadium on Sunday.   

In a scrap that failed to reach any great heights as a spectacle, the Tigers did what they needed to and continued their push for finals, winning 14.14 (98) to 8.12 (60) and climbing to 11th on the ladder.

Collectively, it wasn't a performance that fired a warning shot to their competitors in the race for the eight, but it included some brilliant individual performances that could prove significant in the Tigers' run home.

EAGLES v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats

Speedster Daniel Rioli was a game-breaker off half-back, using a licence to attack to repeatedly set up forward thrusts and finishing with a game-high 31 disposals and a massive 17 handball receives.


Key defender Noah Balta, meanwhile, handled star Eagle Oscar Allen and kept him without a possession in the first half before the key forward fought back to kick three goals in the most entertaining battle within the game.

Ruckman Ivan Soldo, meanwhile, stepped in for his second game this season and was terrific with 41 hit-outs, just one shy of his career-best, ensuring the Tigers lost little without injured big man Toby Nankervis.  

Ultimately, the Tigers' class players and collective experience split the game open either side of half-time, kicking a run of six unanswered goals to open a 47-point lead halfway through the third term.

In a three-minute burst early in the third quarter that separated the game, Ben Miller kicked a goal out of a forward 50 stoppage, Tim Taranto ripped the ball away from Liam Duggan and converted from long range, and Dion Prestia slotted a running goal from 50m. 

The Eagles kept grinding away and reduced the margin back to 25 late in the final quarter before Richmond stars Shai Bolton and Dustin Martin added the final flourishes for their team with late goals.  


Both midfield stars look to be in ominous form now for the Tigers, with each racking up 23 disposals and two goals, with inaccuracy costing both a bigger haul.

Taranto continued his fantastic season with 27 touches and a game-high eight clearances, while Jacob Hopper made it a strong outing for the pair of former Greater Western Sydney onballers, racking up 25 and seven clearances.


While percentage may not seem necessary for the Tigers (99.8) after their draw earlier this season, they could find themselves in a battle for a top-eight spot with Carlton (111.4) and Sydney (110.3), who have also drawn this season.

The return of some experience for the Eagles and their ability to scrap admirably and fight for everything on Sunday, probably cost Richmond a chance at a significant boost. 

The Eagles were best served by midfielders Tim Kelly (27 and 12 inside 50s) and Dom Sheed (28 and five clearances), while Andrew Gaff impressed after an early injection as the substitute.   


Bolton happy at home
Richmond star Shai Bolton loves playing in Perth. The Western Australian speedster, who produced one of the great individual quarters of this season back in round 13 against Fremantle, returned to Optus Stadium for his seventh game at the venue and continues to deliver fantastic performances laced with excitement. On Sunday, he was electric around goal early, swooping on a forward-half stoppage to kick a first-quarter goal. In the final term, he flew for a thrilling pack mark on the shoulders of Jeremy McGovern. You never know what to expect when you go to the football to watch Bolton, but you always know you will be entertained. 


Short wait for sub Gaff
Moved into the substitute role this week as a circuit breaker for his disappointing form, Gaff was thrust into the game late in the first quarter after Reuben Ginbey's hamstring injury. The wingman, who has been under pressure after his six-possession game last week against Brisbane, received a cheer from the crowd as he ran on and quickly laid three tackles to show his intent was high, finishing with 24 disposals and five tackles. The best way to highlight Gaff's consistency over his career is through his eight top-10 best and fairest finishes. One of the AFL's best wingman in his prime, he earned two All-Australian selections and a further three nominations between 2015-2020. A strong block of football to close out the season would be one of the little wins West Coast have spoken about in a disappointing season.

Shai Bolton and Andrew Gaff during the round 18 clash between West Coast and Richmond at Optus Stadium on July 16, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Darling gets his 500th
In a season like this, the Eagles need to celebrate what they can and the players took the chance to recognise Jack Darling's achievement when he kicked the 500th goal of his career. The premiership Eagle became just the third player in club history to reach the milestone, joining former teammate Josh Kennedy (712 goals) and dual premiership full-forward Peter Sumich (514). Darling, who entered Sunday with 499 career goals, had looked to snare his 500th early in the second quarter but hit the post. He got there late in the third term when Tim Kelly found him inside 50, converting his set shot from the angle and turning to the crowd to celebrate. 



WEST COAST     1.1    2.5     6.8       8.12 (60)
RICHMOND       2.6    5.9    10.13    14.14 (98)

West Coast: Allen 3, B.Williams, Darling, Maric, Long, Duggan
Richmond: Pickett 2, Bolton 2, Martin 2, Taranto, Soldo, Ross, Riewoldt, Prestia, Miller, Baker, McIntosh

West Coast: Kelly, Sheed, Gaff, Barrass, Allen, Witherden
Richmond: Rioli, Balta, Taranto, Soldo, Bolton, Martin  

West Coast: Ginbey (hamstring)  
Richmond: Nil

West Coast: Andrew Gaff (replaced Reuben Ginbey in the first quarter) 
Richmond: Hugo Ralphsmith (replaced Maurice Rioli Jnr in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 40,501 at Optus Stadium