Richmond’s Shane Edwards celebrates a goal in his 250th game. Pic: Michael Klein
Richmond’s Shane Edwards celebrates a goal in his 250th game. Pic: Michael Klein

Can anyone stop ‘extraordinary’ Tigers?

'Clarko' ripped off his shirt, and 'Dimma' took a punt.

For as much as we raved about Alastair Clarkson's mind games before the Canberra snowstorm on Friday night, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick also deserves plaudits for timing his side's premiership assault to perfection.

After bombing out in last year's preliminary final, the Tigers are cherry-ripe to win another flag three weeks out from finals.

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Richmond players mob Shane Edwards after he kicked a long third-quarter goal. Pic: Michael Klein
Richmond players mob Shane Edwards after he kicked a long third-quarter goal. Pic: Michael Klein

 

The Tigers ripped apart Carlton early in the rain to chalk up their seventh-straight win by 28 points over the Blues ahead of Sunday's massive battle against reigning premier West Coast at the MCG.

Richmond's pressure was back up around ballistic levels and the defence, in particular, showed it is up to the task this September without Alex Rance after another Nick Vlastuin, Dylan Grimes and David Astbury masterclass.

But the best bit might have been Hardwick's big call to rest Dustin Martin.

Hardwick said the superstar midfielder pulled up a bit sore on Friday and instead of wheeling him out in the wet, the Tigers let him a freshen up ahead of crucial clashes against West Coast and Brisbane.

Without him, the Tigers pushed on brilliantly winning the centre clearances 13-4, and remain a chance to finish top-two if they win their last two matches.

 

 

In Martin's absence, Dion Prestia and Shane Edwards took control of the engine room and hard nut Jack Graham had a day out in a forward role, slotting four-straight goals with some clever work inside 50m before the main change.

When you add in wrecking ball Sydney Stack, speedy half back Liam Baker, emerging big man Mabior Chol, livewire Shai Bolton and hard nut Jack Ross, their depth is extraordinary, igniting plenty of robust conversation about what their best 22 is in the weekly match committee meetings.

Ruckman Toby Nankervis also slotted back seamlessly into the senior side after a month in the twos.

So, even without Rance, you could make a strong argument that Richmond is as well-placed to win this year's flag as they were last year, considering they have added ace spearhead Tom Lynch to help partner Jack Riewoldt deep forward.

There may have been some early rust for Lynch but he represents a formidable threat to West Coast, and Jeremy McGovern, as well as the rest of the finalists, from here.

 

Carlton interim coach David Teague was grumpy early, but encouraging Zac Fisher at the final change. Pic: Michael Klein
Carlton interim coach David Teague was grumpy early, but encouraging Zac Fisher at the final change. Pic: Michael Klein

 

LET THEM HAVE IT

We haven't really seen the grumpy side of David Teague ... until Sunday.

The Carlton interim coach needs another scalp to bolster his case to win the senior coaching job but the interim boss was fuming at quarter time.

For good reason, too.

After saying last week the Blues needed to tidy up their ball use, the Blues butchered the footy early in wet conditions, continually feeding the open arms of the sweeping Richmond defensive unit.

By the second quarter Carlton's kicking efficiency was an horrendous 34 per cent to Richmond's 64 per cent as the maturity between the premiership favourite and the cellar-dweller showed up.

So Teague let the Blues have it with a decent spray in the opening two minutes of the quarter time huddle, rounding them up before the assistants got a chance to talk.

It was the way the Tigers then picked apart the Blues on the rebound that was the significant difference in this one.

To be fair, Carlton responded after the first change as Ed Curnow, Dale Thomas, Marc Murphy and Patrick Cripps all lifted in the engine room and Kade Simpson tried his heart out.

But the polish and smarts weren't there, early, and it cost them.

 

Mitch McGovern stripped fitter against the Tigers. Pic: Getty Images
Mitch McGovern stripped fitter against the Tigers. Pic: Getty Images

 

LEANER BRACKETS SHOWS HIS WORTH

His Carlton teammates call him 'Brackets' for the way the No. 11 jumper stretches across the back of his playing jumper.

But Mitch McGovern revealed a leaner figure and produced a couple of high-marking flashes of brilliance in the third term in his AFL return.

McGovern returned from a month out to improve his fitness levels and reeled in a beauty as the rain tumbled deep forward in the second half.

He also tugged passionately at his navy blue jumper to cut the margin to 17 points after slotting his second major from 30mout in the last term.

After the disappointing first quarter, Carlton were much better slotting six goals apiece from the first change onwards.

 

Edwards is chaired off the MCG after his winning 250th. Pic: Michael Klein
Edwards is chaired off the MCG after his winning 250th. Pic: Michael Klein

 

 

RICHMOND 3.2 6.4 8.6 11.7 (73) def CARLTON 0.2 1.6 4.6 6.9 (45)

Goals: Richmond: J Graham 4 J Riewoldt 2 T Lynch 2 J Caddy J Castagna S Edwards

Carlton: M McGovern 2 L Casboult M Gibbons M Kreuzer M Murphy

Best: Richmond: Graham, Prestia, Edwards, Vlastuin, Grimes, Ellis, Lambert

Carlton: Cripps, Thomas, Murphy, Jones, Curnow, Simpson

Umpires: Robert Findlay, Curtis Deboy, Alex Whetton.

Official Crowd: 51,039 at MCG.

JAY CLARK'S VOTES:

3. Jack Graham (Rich)

2. Dion Prestia (Rich)

1. Shane Edwards (Rich)

 

Jack Graham does all the one per centers — and on Sunday hit the scoreboard. Pic: Michael Klein
Jack Graham does all the one per centers — and on Sunday hit the scoreboard. Pic: Michael Klein

GRAHAM, 'SHEDDA' PUT BLUES TO THE SWORD

CHRIS CAVANAGH writes ...

He is in the Richmond side for his tackling and pressure, but Jack Graham again showed there can be a damaging attacking side to his game.

At halftime, Carlton had 12 points on the scoreboard at the MCG.

Graham had 24 points to his name, courtesy of four first-half goals.

Graham is the No.1 pressure player and tackler at the Tigers by a long way - two traits that coach Damien Hardwick loves.

He had a game-high 14 tackles on Sunday - five more than any other player on the ground - and is averaging eight for the season.

But the 21-year-old also knows how to seize the moment and find the big sticks when the opportunity presents.

In his fifth AFL game, Graham booted three goals in the 2017 Grand Final, which was his equal career-high in a match until Sunday.

In an age where goalkicking accuracy is at an lowest, Graham now has 19.4 for his career - a conversion rate of 82.6 per cent.

 

 

Graham's efforts helped set the scene for a Richmond victory in teammate Shane Edwards' 250th match.

In his first 50 games, Edwards won 13 games and did not play a final.

In his last 50 games, Edwards has won 40 games and got his hands on a premiership medal.

Hardwick said last week that outside the club people don't "realise the glorious player" Edwards is.

The fact that Edwards polled just nine Brownlow Medal votes in his first 211 AFL games reflects that.

However, well-earned All-Australian honours came for the first time last year and Edwards' standing at Richmond is only continuing to rise.

"He's a bit like Bacahar Houli, they just get better and better with age," Hardwick said.

Edwards became just the 15th player to reach 250 games for the Tigers.

By year's end he could also be a two-time premiership player for the club.