Players react on the final siren of the round 10 clash between Essendon and Richmond at the MCG on May 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

RICHMOND'S "diabolical" one-point loss to Essendon in the final 10 seconds of the match was its seventh defeat by less than a goal since the start of last year.

The Tigers have also drawn twice in that time, with coach Damien Hardwick left frustrated and angry by yet another close defeat.

"It was a horrible game by us, to be perfectly honest. We couldn’t defend 140-odd uncontested marks, it was just diabolical. It was obviously strategy coming in, we saw it with their VFL guys (earlier in the day), but we just couldn’t stop it," Hardwick said.

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"I thought they used the ball, controlled their defence through their offence and we just couldn’t get the ball back, which was incredibly frustrating.


"It wasn't helped by the fact that offensively, we just gave the ball back, 36 turnovers in the front half is just horrendous by nature. We didn't give ourselves an opportunity, we had 60 inside 50s, but we just kept giving the ball back.

"Our disposal and decision making inside 50 or inside the forward half was really poor. We'd give the ball back, then they'd start their uncontested marking chain, then we'd start again. It's a reasonably simple process that we just didn't get right."

The Tigers have been without spearhead Tom Lynch since round five, and with the star still in a moonboot rehabbing a foot fracture, the marking hole he has left will continue to be vacant for quite some time.


Winger Marlion Pickett (184cm) has been trying to play as a key target, and despite his easy leap, doesn't have the presence of the 199cm, 100kg Lynch.

"Yeah, we were (up by 18 points in the fourth quarter), but playing incredibly poorly," Hardwick said.

"[Lynch] is a wonderful player, but he's not back in the short-term, so we've got to find a way. We've got Jack (Riewoldt), who's battling his backside off to be perfectly honest, and if I'm being honest, he probably shouldn't be playing at the moment, he's incredibly sore and he's just tough. He's putting his hand up to play because I need him.


"But we need more. We've got young Samson Ryan who's developing, he probably wasn't at his best tonight, but he had a lot of mates.

"So we just have to continue to find a way and battle through it and other sides are going through it. There's no excuse from our viewpoint, we just have to get better, invest in what we know can work and get to work on it."


Essendon counterpart Brad Scott was relieved after his side broke two negative streaks – 13 defeats by Richmond, and four losses in the past month.

"I think we've been building the belief over a fair period of time. We've been really pleased with our running numbers over the course of the season, and while particularly the last month we've played some good footy without getting the result, we've certainly built some belief in our players that we can run out games pretty well," Scott said.

"I think it was really important (win) on two fronts. One, there's only so long you can talk about effort and playing well. Coaches don't like to talk about the result, because it's the process and system you put in place to get the result, but it becomes hard to keep pushing a message when you're not getting that result.


"But I would never underestimate what Essendon fans have gone through over the last decade, and that streak since 2014, it's been hard for them. I spoke to the players out on the ground post-game, and the presentation had been done, and you look around and the Essendon fans are still there.

"As I said to the players, that's partly because they've gone through a fair bit over the past decade, so make sure we get around and thank them for sticking with us. Hopefully they'll be really proud of the players today."

Scott was full of praise for skipper Zach Merrett, who won the Yiooken Award for his 39-disposal performance.


"As a kid growing up watching Michael Voss play, I thought, 'gee this guy is a generational player', but usually you get disappointed when you see them up close. Then when I went up and saw him, I thought, 'wow, he's better than I thought he was'.

"Merrett fits in that category in terms of, I knew he was a good player, but he's got aspects of his game that I wasn't aware of.

"His defensive pressure, he's got a lot of capability. I knew he was a very good player, but he's a better player than I thought he was. And that's unusual, because usually when you see players up close, you see some of the flaws, but he's got an unbelievable will to win.

"Zach got his just reward tonight."