Pride and petulance: Chris Scott’s critique of the 2017 Richmond flag
Feb 7, 2018
Some of the more attentive footy supporters may be aware of a strange little conversation that occurred on the Monday night following Richmond’s awesome display of tactical dominance over Adelaide at the MCG on grand final day, 2017.
With speed, skill, toughness, and flair, the Tigers powered to the flag – but some weren’t impressed, especially one Chris Scott.
When asked to comment on Richmond’s win by Mark Robinson, on a well-known footy show, he first admitted his envy (which, to be fair, his coach co-panelist Allan Richardson echoed), then felt compelled to give a lecture on the defensive nature of the win.
Scott inferred the win was dour and boring, citing the 2005-06 Sydney vs West Coast grand finals as examples of great contests but poor spectacles.
So if Scott didn’t like the spectacle, one would have to presume his own team would’ve played the game as it should be played last year?
Seeing as finals are the most important and most watched games, and Scott’s assertion that the Swans-Eagles grand finals were boring, let’s start there.
The Tigers played three finals in 2017, as did Geelong – in two of Richmond’s three finals they scored over 100 points, while the Cats couldn’t crack the ton, but did limp to their lowest finals score since 1914, in the quarter-final against Richmond, scoring just five goals.
If one takes the liberty to say most fans enjoy open, free-flowing games over stoppage-ridden ones, then Richmond play a more attractive style of footy, with 42 fewer stoppages in 2017 than Geelong. That’s nearly a game’s worth.
The Tigers also had more bounces and far more metres gained – a clear sign of their running ability – than Geelong, with significantly more rebound 50s, marks inside 50, and a higher percentage. It’s clear one team was playing defensive footy, and it wasn’t the premiers.
In what became a torrid slog down at Simmonds Stadium, Richmond tried all day to run-and-gun and break open the stoppage and zone clamps put on by Scott at the narrowest of AFL grounds, but couldn’t make the game the spectacle it ought to have been.
The Round 21 clash sums up the hypocrisy of Scott’s statement. Richmond went to Geelong to play running footy – in their previous month, they had only scored under 90 points once, whereas the Cats had scored more than 90 only once.
When you support a team, you are compelled to watch them play every week – if nothing more than to see how they go. It doesn’t mean you enjoy the style of football they play, even if you’re happy with the result.
As a Cats fan, I enjoyed watching Richmond’s play more than Geelong’s in 2017. The Tigers had the high-flying athletic exploits of Jack Riewoldt up forward, contrasting with the brute strength and wrestling of Tom Hawkins.
They had speed all over the park and a bold tactical gameplan that revolutionised footy for the better, maximising the space of the MCG to produce electric passages of play.
Geelong had a stoppage-based, defensive gameplan built around trying to shut down space and make the ground smaller, while moving it forward in a measured, safe way.
In the quarters, these two styles clashed and the team that wanted to win by using space and speed, rather than simply clamping down the game with repetitive stoppages, won. It was a win for football and the spectacle of the game.
One coach may have had a ghost of a point in criticising the premiers in 2017, but it wasn’t Scott. Don Pyke’s Crows played blistering, attacking footy for much of last season, only to be overwhelmed on grand final day. Pyke however showed his class and humility in defeat, as Damien Hardwick did in victory.
Don’t get me wrong, Scott is usually a smooth mover in the footy media and the many public events he has to attend. In fact, he’s probably the best spin doctor in the coaching business. It’s perhaps why his comments about Richmond weren’t properly scrutinised. Indeed, if the tables were turned, could you imagine the outcry if Hardwick dared criticise Geelong’s style of play after a grand final win?
Scott has a right to his opinion. Maybe to him, the game looks better saturated with stoppages and where strength in the contest, height, and overall physical dominance rule the day. I prefer watching quick exciting teams that use pressure to win the ball and then break like hellfire.
Ahead of the 2018 season, many teams seem to be heading down the Richmond route of ‘speed kills’, while teams like Geelong and Adelaide will persist with positional, stoppage-based footy and height up forward.
One thing’s for sure: Chris Scott has more pressure on him than ever before, with many pundits already making Geelong their premiership favourite.