In the 19th of a special richmondfc.com.au nostalgic series celebrating Richmond’s 50 years at home at the MCG, Tony Greenberg reflects on Matthew Richardson’s Dog-day dominance in 2004.
Richmond’s 2004 season had started off in promising enough fashion, with the Tigers whipping 2002-2003 Grand Finalist Collingwood by 40 points in a big opening round upset.
The following week, however, Richmond was brought back to earth with a thud, suffering a thumping 59-point loss to Melbourne.
It proceeded to get a lot worse for the Tigers after that, with St Kilda defeating them by 45 points in Round 3, and star spearhead Matthew Richardson sustaining a hamstring injury early in the match.
With ‘Richo’ on the sidelines, Richmond then lost to Geelong by 49 points in Round 4, before being smashed by Adelaide by 75 points in Round 5.
Five rounds into season 2004, the Tigers were on the bottom of the ladder with just one win and a paltry percentage of 66.8.
They managed to dig deep, however, and grab a thrilling one-point victory over Hawthorn in Round 6.
Richardson returned to the line-up for the Round 7 encounter with Sydney at a soggy SCG, and he was the catalyst for another tremendous Tiger turn-up, kicking seven goals straight out of the team’s total of 10 in an outstanding display up forward that inspired the visitors to a 13-point win.
Suddenly, the Tigers were roaring again, and they approached their Round 8 match against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG full of confidence.
Those back-to-back successes had enabled them to jump ahead of the Dogs on the ladder (11th to 13th) and, with Matthew Richardson in red-hot form after his enforced lay-off, they were warm favorites to make it a hat-trick of wins.
Before a small, but parochial Yellow and Black crowd of 33,960, Richardson again proved the difference – in emphatic style!
In his 181st game, ‘Richo’ kicked a league career-high 10 goals to lift Richmond to a 23-point victory over an inaccurate Bulldogs’ side – 15.15 (105) to 10.22 (82).
The first half was a see-sawing affair, with the Tigers managing to take a four-point lead into the main break, mainly due to the Dogs’ wayward kicking.
There were several more lead changes in the third term and the match remained in the balance until deep into the last quarter.
Ultimately, it was Richardson’s dominance up forward that tipped the scales in Richmond’s favor.
The Bulldog just had no answer to his strength, marking prowess, mobility and nous around the big sticks.
His 10th goal, which he kicked late in the game through a superb snap with his left foot from about 30 metres out, at the Punt Road end of the ground, propelled the Tiger Army into a state of sheer bliss.
They roared their approval, chanted Richo’s name, and bowed to his goalkicking greatness.
Richardson finished the match with 16 kicks, one handball, 13 marks and 10 goals (10.3).
Not surprisingly, he was rewarded with the three Brownlow Medal votes for the game.
Here’s how ‘The Age’ reported Richo’s dazzling demolition of the Dogs . . .
“Richmond spearhead Matthew Richardson kicked 10 goals as the Tigers beat the Western Bulldogs by 23 points in their AFL match at the MCG today.
Richardson finished with 10.3 as Richmond won its third straight game and fourth of the season, 15.15 (105) to 10.22 (82).
It was the first time a Richmond player had kicked 10 in a game since Jeff Hogg's bag of 10 against Collingwood in 1991.
Richardson's best previous haul in a game was eight and today's superb performance followed his 7.0 last weekend, when he came back from a hamstring injury to lead Richmond to an upset win over Sydney at the SCG.
The Tigers' season was in turmoil not even a month ago, but Richmond tonight sit in the top eight.
Former Bulldog Nathan Brown also impressed with 30 touches and 3.2, while Joel Bowden rebounded well all game off half-back.
The Tigers led at every change, but the lead changed 10 times until late in the third term and scores were level three times.
The Bulldogs could only manage 1.8 in the first term, setting the tone of their game.
They had plenty of chances to take control and were only two points behind early in the last term before Richmond managed to pull clear.
Bulldogs midfielder Scott West was the leading possession-getter of the game with 35 and Rohan Smith worked hard in defence, although his poor kickout in the last term led to Richardson's 10th major.
In an unusual move, out-of-form Richmond full-back Darren Gaspar started at centre half-forward, acting as a decoy forward and trying to take Chris Grant out of the play.
As speculated, Tigers captain Wayne Campbell was a late withdrawal because of a leg injury, making way for David Rodan.”
Richmond 4.1 8.5 11.9 15.15 (105)
W. Bulldogs 1.8 6.13 8.19 10.22 (82)
Goals – Richmond: Richardson 10, Brown 3, Johnson, Stafford.
Leading possession-getters – Richmond: Brown 30, J. Bowden 29, Tivendale 24, Johnson 23.