Whilst a lot has changed in the world over the past 19 months, Richmond looked like Richmond in its Round 1 clash with Sandringham on Friday afternoon.
The game was played on the Tigers' terms for the majority, as the hosts split it open with a six-goal second term, leading to a 40-point win, the scoreboard reading, 13.17 95 to 7.13 55.
The Tigers kicked off the 2021 VFL season by unfurling its 2019 premiership flag in front of a lunchtime crowd at the Swinburne Centre.
The Zebras have a taste of “Yellow & Black” this year, with its coach, Jake Batchelor and captain, Daniel Coffield, both enjoying careers at Richmond, at AFL and VFL level respectively.
Coffield was part of that 2019 VFL premiership winning side and showcased his traits that were a key part of the Tigers’ premiership success.
There was a feeling-out process in the first quarter, with both sides kicking one goal apiece despite having chances inside 50.
The Tigers led 1.5 (11) to 1.1 (7) at quarter time.
Defensively, Richmond was staunch, stingy and organised, but the Zebras set-up well behind the ball, intercepting a large chunk of the Tigers’ inside 50 entries.
Richmond was able to flip the script in the second quarter.
Jack Ross, the medical sub three times at AFL level including last night, was craving game time and he used the increased minutes very wisely.
The trio of Ross, Riley Collier-Dawkins and Will Martyn led the charge in the second quarter as they swept the ball from stoppages and contested situations at will and the Tigers capitalised.
Richmond’s ability to flick the ball around by hand meant it could transition from the contest to the outside with haste, which allowed it to capitalise and find free targets inside 50.
The Tigers slammed on six goals to one for the quarter and opened a match-winning 36-point lead.
Ross looked a class above with sure hands, a calm mind and worked his fingers to the bone.
The young Tiger bull remains in the contest even if he’s stripped of the ball and is hellbent on winning the ball back and sending it back Richmond’s way.
Ross completed a near-perfect midfield game, finishing with 32 disposals, five tackles, nine clearances, six inside 50s and 12 handball receives.
The Tiger Army has been anxiously awaiting the AFL debut of Collier-Dawkins and after his performance today, they may not have to wait too much longer.
Collier-Dawkins was tagged at times during the VFL practice matches and had to work his way through the extra attention.
Against the Zebras, the bullocking big-bodied midfielder was back to his best.
Collier-Dawkins was rugged and sturdy over the ball and used his speed, and Shane Tuck-like handballs to clear congestion and propel the ball forward.
The burgeoning midfielder collected 30 disposals, laid eight tackles, had six clearances and bundled that with 10 handball receives.
Martyn received a baptism by fire by debuting at AFL level against the Power at Adelaide Oval last week and brought the lessons learnt to the lower level.
Martyn is serene with ball in hand and silky by foot, but also buys in defensively much like Ross and Collier-Dawkins.
The trio complimented each other superbly and fed the likes of Samson Ryan (three goals), Callum Coleman-Jones and Maurice Rioli (two goals) up forward.
Richmond held the clear ascendancy through the midfield in the first half, which Sandringham rectified post half-time.
The Zebras threw Shaun McKernan into the ruck to stiffen them up around the ball.
The Tigers kicked three goals to one in the third term and was provided a further lift after goals to Sydney Stack, Patrick Naish and Rioli.
Stack was welcomed by all in his return, playing roughly 70 minutes across the four quarters and looked lively up forward.
The returning Tiger was unselfishly fed his first goal of the year by Coleman-Jones, who marked on the paint of 50, spotted Stack free in the goalsquare and sent the ball in his direction.
Stack had to outpoint a Zebras’ defender to mark strongly and goaled from point-blank range.
Naish is another budding Tiger that’s banging on the door for an AFL return and will have caused the coaching staff some welcome headaches after his performance today.
The dashing wingman didn’t stop running from siren to siren and capped off his day with a brilliant goal in the third term.
Naish’s goal was pure “Richmond”, stalking the opposition, creating the forward-50 turnover and finishing truly inside 50.
He finished the game with 32 disposals, 16 handball receives, six rebound 50s and four inside 50s along with a goal.
Rioli provided some pure magic in the second half.
The father-son prodigy has been defensively devastating already in 2021 and capped off his hard work with two cracking goals.
The second, a right-foot checkside from 40 metres out, which was superbly assisted by Stack who fed the ball from congestion to Rioli and “MJ” did the rest.
Rioli split his time between midfield and forward, collecting 17 disposals, three clearances, four inside 50s and kicked 2.1.
Ryan is another who has impressed during the pre-season and took that form into today’s contest and built on it further.
He played predominantly forward, kicking a team-high three goals, but the highlight for many would have been his lace-out pass to Coleman-Jones inside 50 that belied his size and stature.
The Tigers’ transition game was first rate, and after creating a turnover between the arcs, they changed the angles, and shifted the ball by hand and foot to Ryan at half-forward.
The rangy big man then wheeled onto his right boot and pierced the ball onto the chest of Coleman-Jones.
It was an impressive first-up win for Richmond who hosts Casey next Saturday at 2pm at the Swinburne Centre as a prelude to the Anzac Day eve clash at the MCG.
RICHMOND 1.5 7.9 10.14 13.17 (95)
SANDRINGHAM 1.1 2.3 3.9 7.13 (55)
Richmond: Ryan (3), Coleman-Jones (2), Hicks (2), Rioli (2), Naish (1), Chol (1), Stack (1), Oakes (1)
Sandringham: McKernan (4), Byrnes (1), Lok (1), Zagari (1)