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HERE is what I like about Richmond circa 2015.

When the Tigers went to Perth earlier this year to play the unbeaten Dockers, their best chance to win the game was to put the skates on and play a relentless attacking brand of football – they had to take game on.

That they did to stunning effect. They kicked the first seven goals of the game and kicked eight goals to three in the first term and the game was effectively over at quarter-time.

On Friday night against Hawthorn, their best hope to win was to deny the Hawks the ball, shut down their attacking outlets and force them to kick long to contests down the line. Once again, the gameplan paid off to perfection.

That's the sign of a team that is really well coached and right now, Damien Hardwick is at the top of his craft. To play two contrasting styles of football to register comprehensive wins over two of the flag favourites would suggest the Tigers have now entered premiership calculations as well. 

With wins over the Dockers, the Sydney Swans and now the Hawks, how could they not be. They can win by attacking the scoreboard and they can win by closing it down and playing contested footy. It is the blueprint of a very good side.

Was it the best win of the Hardwick era? Quite possibly. The round 23 win last year over the Swans in Sydney to make the finals was top shelf, as was the aforementioned win in Perth this year. Friday night was equally as good given the systematic dismantling of a side that was in as rich a vein of form as any team in recent memory.


Concerns for the Hawks?

Some of the hype about Hawthorn heading into the Richmond game was just silly and it wasn't helped by stunts such as betting agencies already paying out on a Hawks three-peat.

The road to the flag likely got that much harder for the Hawks, who will likely need to win a final in Perth to progress to their fourth straight Grand Final. 

The thing about Hardwick, even though he left Hawthorn at the end of 2009, is that he knows the club and the coach intimately. He laid out a blueprint as to how to beat the Hawks and not for the first time he succeeded. 

What the great team coaches do any sport is that they self-scout. They might approach someone from outside their organisation and ask, "How would you go about beating us?"

That's a bonus for the Hawks at this time of the year. They can break down how Hardwick went about it and should have Plans B, C and D ready for action when September comes around, although adding to the intrigue ahead of Saturday night's visit to West Coast is that Adam Simpson also spent four years on the Hawthorn coaching staff. He was the replacement for Hardwick. 

But the greater concern might be this. Hawthorn's run into the 2013 finals features tough encounters with Collingwood, North Melbourne and the Swans. Last year it was Fremantle, Geelong and Collingwood (which was still in finals contention) and in both years, Hawk insiders credited the tough run-in to the finals as key contributing factors to the premiership wins.

Only the Hawks would know internally whether they were softened up for Friday night by their bruise-free 24-goal win over Carlton the week before. But there would be some concerns at Hawthorn that the two matches before this year's finals are home to the Brisbane Lions (in Launceston) and a return meeting with the Blues at the MCG.

Forecast this season's final standings with the AFL Ladder Predictor 

Mea Culpa? Not really

A few weeks back this column opined that if Collingwood could knock over Fremantle in Perth, then perhaps the Pies were worthy of discussion as a premiership fancy.

But here's the thing. Anytime you mention the words "Collingwood", "win" and "premiership" in the same sentence, the other words get lost in translation.

The Pies didn't get over the Dockers, despite a gallant effort" and the season has gone pear-shaped once again. For the second straight year, they have turned for home at 8-3 before falling in a deep funk and appear destined to miss the finals once more.

What was alarming on Saturday was how the Pies fell away in the final term, mustering just 54 possessions and kicking a mere two behinds to Melbourne's 4.7. It was as though the crushed expectations over the last five weeks finally took their toll and Collingwood finally crumbled. 

We maintain that Collingwood's list is in good shape but the net result of this season will likely show little improvement, which means that Nathan Buckley will enter 2016 on the coaching hot seat.

It also consigns the Pies to 'Sad Sunday' the final afternoon of the home and away season, which has become the exclusive domain of teams that won't make the finals.

The football gods had their fun this week. The Hawks were brought back to the field after a week of insufferable hype while Melbourne also responded after a week of heavy questioning.

The Demons are in the middle of a massive rebuild and the progress will be incremental. But restricting the Pies to just seven goals from 58 inside 50s was a fine performance and a 13.13 scoreline after just 29 goals the previous four weeks was also a good sign.

The talent is emerging at Melbourne and what Paul Roos should do is just release the shackles for the remaining five weeks. Forget shutting teams down and just take them on. Wins this season over Geelong, Richmond, the Western Bulldogs and now Collingwood have demonstrated that the Demons do have some attacking flair when they're allowed to demonstrate it.

A case in point is midfielder Bernie Vince, whose superb season continued on Saturday with 30 possessions in another best on field performance that suggests he should at least be in the conversation when it comes to All Australian discussions.

Bernie Vince's outing against the Magpies. Source: AFL Live Official App

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Not good enough

It seems a case of two steps forward one step back for the goal review system. 

Two howlers on Saturday reminded us again that the system is not foolproof and remains vulnerable to human errors. 

The first was the obvious toe-poke goal to Adelaide's Matthew Wright that was missed by the goal umpire and somehow not overruled by the video sleuths.


The second was the Luke Russell goal that was called touched on the line by Matt Rosa but again on replay, appeared to have crossed the line before it was touched by the West Coast defender. 

'Appeared' is the operative word here. There was no goal line camera at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night and this illustrates the ongoing problem with the video reviews. Not all grounds and not all games are equal as long as the AFL leaves it in the hands of the match broadcasters to provide the cameras.

From an integrity point of view, it simply has to be the case that the goal review technology is the same at every game, irrespective of the broadcaster. 

The AFL needs to do better, much better in fact, in this respect and with the new TV rights agreements now under negotiation, the AFL simply must include a clause going forward requiring every broadcaster to provide the same match-day technology.

Match results, as we saw on Saturday night, are being affected by the AFL's inconsistent approach to this and it needs to be sorted as a matter of priority.

Some other observations

1. The fixture has opened up opportunities for North Melbourne and Geelong and credit to both, they're both now in the eight. 

The Kangas should be further entrenched after wins over Melbourne and St Kilda in the next fortnight before three big weeks before the finals – Fremantle, Western Bulldogs and Richmond. 

The Cats have some difficult list management decisions ahead of them at the end of the season but the band is back together gunning for one last finals appearance and their next two Saturday nights will be massive – Swans at home and Hawthorn at the MCG.

2. Port Adelaide remains a mathematical chance of making the finals after a commanding win over the Saints on Sunday. They'll have to run the table to make it however, and without tough-as-teak midfielder Ollie Wines, who dislocated his shoulder and might miss the rest of the season. That makes it even tougher for a side that just hasn't really clicked at all in 2015.

3. The good bloke factor was always going to work in John Barker's favour initially when he took over as interim coach of the Blues. And while you can't blame him for what has been a poor fortnight for the Blues given the growing list of players who are unavailable, more thrashings like those handed out by the Kangaroos and Hawks surely decreases his chances of winning the job on a permanent basis going forward. 


Ashley Browne: I can understand the frustration from Collingwood supporters, but that has never been how Buckley goes about things. I'm pretty sure the message would be more blunt and more direct behind closed doors and it's not like the Magpie coach doesn't make the tough call, as witnessed by the axing from Jesse White from the side this week.


AB: Given the considerable list of outs, that might have been Gold Coast's best performance of the year. Rodney Eade has been generally pleased with his team's endeavor over the second half of the season. There was a feeling the Suns would not be an easy out over the remainder of the season and the Eagles were very nearly a major scalp. They would be an early tip to be next year's big improver.