THE TIGERS of old are back – this time with a few new faces.
Richmond made a statement on Wednesday night as it demolished a flat Western Bulldogs line-up by 41 points at Metricon Stadium. The 2017 and 2019 premiers flexed their muscle against a side viewed as one of its challengers, being dominant throughout the 13.12 (90) to 7.7 (49).
>>WATCH THE HIGHLIGHTS IN THE PLAYER ABOVE
The game was set up in the first half, as Richmond jumped to a 20-point lead at the opening change and extended it to 40 points by half-time. The Bulldogs were more competitive after the main break but the damage had been, as Richmond rolled on to its highest score since round one.
In the opening night of the 20-day, 33-game 'Festival of Footy', it was a Richmond's older generation who stepped up to dent the Dogs.
TIGERS RUN RIOT Full match coverage and stats
Dustin Martin (three goals) was best afield in a commanding display, key forwards Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt combined for three goals to find some of their form, while captain Trent Cotchin returned from his hamstring injury to gather 17 disposals.
But the fresh breed of Tigers also stepped up. Richmond had 10 players in the clash with 30 or less games experience, and among them Noah Balta controlling things in defence, Mabior Chol exciting in attack and Derek Eggmolesse-Smith providing good dash.
Richmond was missing nine of last year's premiership stars, including half-back Bachar Houli, midfielders Dion Prestia and Shane Edwards and defensive pair Nick Vlastuin and David Astbury, but its blend of youth and experience added up to an emphatic result.
Jack Macrae, in his 150th game, was one of few Bulldogs to step up to the Tigers, gathering 37 disposals, while Caleb Daniel (22 disposals) and Mitch Wallis (three goals) were also solid. But the defeat will likely leave the Dogs outside of the top eight at the end of the round and facing some questions on their credentials.
The smirk gave it away that Martin was ready for a quintessential Martin night. After taking a grab deep inside 50 in the first term, the Tigers superstar lined up for goal, gave a grin to his opponent and quickly swivelled around the corner to boot his first major of the night. His second was even better, with Martin shredding past a couple of Bulldogs, taking a bounce and calmly snapping another goal that curled through. And then his third … well that was just pure class. Tied up against the boundary line in the forward pocket, Martin slotted the long shot late in the last term, capping his brilliant night. His scoreboard impact (he has now kicked 10 for the year) complemented his 26 disposals in one of his best games of 2020.
Aarts and craft
The replenishment of Richmond's side this year has included some new faces, with Jake Aarts continuing to look and play in the now stereotypical Tiger way. Aarts, who was drafted from the club's VFL side, made his debut earlier this season as a tough, hard-working 25-year-old who does everything to get the ball going his side's way and then to keep it in attack. He has also shown a penchant for hitting the scoreboard, and kicked a career-best three goals on Wednesday night. Aarts isn't fancy but fits the Tiger style and is another example of the club's extreme depth.
Dog of a night
The Bulldogs were outplayed and outsmarted by the Tigers, who held onto the ball more, had a controlled game plan and made the Dogs pay. Luke Beveridge's men bounced back well after their disappointing round six thrashing at the hands of Carlton with back-to-back wins, but the Dogs were on the end of another belting from the reigning premiers. Inconsistency has been a feature of this season but the Dogs have been regular culprits, with the loss to the Tigers coming at a time when their form appeared on the rise. Recruit Josh Bruce's struggles continue in attack, with the former Saint kicking two goals but battling as an inside-50 target.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.1 3.5 4.7 7.7 (49)
RICHMOND 4.3 10.4 11.10 13.12 (90)
Western Bulldogs: Wallis 3, Bruce 2, Vandermeer 2
Richmond: Aarts 3, Martin 3, Castagna 2, Lynch 2, Chol, Pickett, Riewoldt
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Daniel, Wallis, Smith, Williams
Richmond: Martin, Grimes, Balta, Short, Bolton, Cotchin
Western Bulldogs: Suckling (hamstring)