History hasn’t been kind to Richmond when facing Footscray, especially at Whitten Oval and today was no exception, as the Bulldogs outmuscled and outworked the VFL Tigers to record a 58-point win.
Trailing by 22 points at three-quarter-time, Richmond needed to make every post a winner in the final term, alas Footscray skated away kicking seven goals to one, the final score, 17.7 (109) to 7.9 (51).
The Tigers’ record of 1–6 since re-entering the competition suggests the Bulldogs have always been a tricky proposition for the current ladder-leaders.
In the corresponding game last year, a last-gasp goal from Josh Schache ripped victory from the clutches of Richmond on a balmy night.
Richmond has snapped a couple of hoodoos already this year - beating Casey at Casey and Williamstown at Williamstown - but a victory over Footscray on the road still eludes them.
Melbourne turned on a glorious Saturday afternoon as the Tigers looked to improve its record against its bogey side at a sunbathed VU Whitten Oval.
The Bulldogs are one of the best sides in the competition when it comes to transitioning the ball from its defensive-50 with speed and precision.
In stark contrast, one of Richmond’s main strengths this year has been its ability to thwart its opposition’s ball movement and trap the ball in its front half.
Winning the contested ball, as it always is, was going to key to Richmond getting the game played in its half and on its terms.
Footscray would have been aware of this and brought the heat around the ball from the get-go.
The Tigers were disjointed defensively and not their usual stymie selves in the opening half.
There were two shining lights though for Richmond, with two positional changes. Born out of both experimentation and necessity, proved rather profitable.
Oleg Markov was shifted from defence to attack, playing as the deepest forward he was electric on the lead and damaging with his ball use, netting two goals in the opening half.
Sheep farmers are industrious by nature and Liam Baker proved this to be true after shifting down back to help cover the loss of the athletic and dynamic, Noah Balta.
Balta injured his left quad in the opening term, which forced Richmond the flick the magnets around, which saw Baker deployed in a new role as a defender.
Baker scorched the turf in the first quarter as a wingman and then carried that form into the back-half, showcasing his unflinching courage, football IQ, and an uncanny knack of finding the ball.
The natural footballer could now be bestowed the moniker of utility and exerts his influence on the game in whichever position he plays.
If Baker wasn’t ghosting back with the flight to take a goal-saving mark, he was mopping up any loose ball that was in his vicinity and propelling with purpose.
The budding Tiger patrolled backward of centred like a kelpie herding Merinos on shearing day.
Baker finished the day with a game-high 29 disposals, took eight marks and laid six tackles in what was his best performance at the level for the year.
The Bulldogs upped the ante at the coalface in the second term, streaming forward at will and sneaking behind Richmond’s defensive cover on numerous occasions.
Footscray led by five goals at half-time and gave the Tigers plenty to ponder over the main break.
The Bulldogs seem to unhinge the Tigers and really challenged its defensive mechanism with its ball movement and its urgency and physicality around the ball.
Richmond lifted its rating after half-time, with goals to Luke Nelson and James Fletcher cutting the margin to 18 points and the Tiger Army started to find its voice.
The Bulldogs however kicked the final goal of the quarter courtesy of a handy knock-on by ex-Tiger, Nathan Drummond.
Another former player was a thorn in Richmond’s side, with classy wingman Anthony Scott booting a game-high four goals.
The margin at three-quarter time was not insurmountable (22 points), but you suspected after the way the game had been played, it would take Richmond’s best to topple its hosts.
Footscray snuffed out any chance of an upset with a blistering seven-goal burst in the final term, a quarter where Richmond kicked its only goal as the final siren sounded.
Tom Silvestro relished more midfield time this week and was his usual hard-working self, accumulating 23 disposals, and plenty of kilometres on the GPS.
It ended a tough day for the Tigers who will need to lick their wounds and look to bounce back next week as it welcomes Werribee to the Swinburne Centre on Sunday 14 July.
FOOTSCRAY 5.0 9.3 10.5 17.7 (109)
RICHMOND 3.2 4.3 6.7 7.9 (51)
Footscray: Scott (4), Boyd (3), Dale (2), West (2), William (2), Hayes, Nash, Sweet, Vandermeer
Richmond: Markov (2), Nelson (2), Coleman-Jones, Fletcher, Higgins