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Richmond’s horror season is on life support – but Gold Coast’s dream of a first finals appearance may still be alive.
The Suns inflicted the Tigers’ fifth defeat in the first seven rounds on Sunday, on top of a season-opening draw, to leave Damien Hardwick’s men in 16th spot and with a September place looking increasingly unlikely.
Daniel Rioli handballs while being tackled by Malcolm Rosas.Credit: Getty Images
Richmond now have only a draw and five losses to show from their last six trips to Marvel Stadium, with a tough month ahead – helpfully all at the MCG – against West Coast, Geelong, Essendon and Port Adelaide.
Gold Coast’s 24-point victory, off the back of a six-goal-to-two third term, was their third of the season and second in a row, leaving them a game and percentage outside the top eight after a slow start.
They have beaten the Tigers three times in a row, but had to withstand a last-quarter fightback after leading by as many as 28 points. Ivan Soldo could have kicked Richmond within nine points but opted for a short pass to Tim Taranto that was spoiled away, with Ben Ainsworth sealing the result soon after with a snap.
The Suns’ star key forward Ben King terrorised Richmond with a match-high four goals, while Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell made up for Touk Miller’s absence with strong performances at the feet of dominant ruckman Jarrod Witts.
Ben King kicked four goals in Gold Coast’s win over the Tigers.Credit: AFL Photos
They also had winners down back in the classy Wil Powell and sticky-handed Charlie Ballard.
Richmond sent a clutch of draft picks last year to the Giants to bring in on-ballers Taranto and Jacob Hopper, in a move seemingly designed to maintain their competitiveness in the present.
Taranto, in particular, has excelled – and was their best player again – but the two trades have not translated to on-field success, and there could be more pain to come, given they won’t have any early picks this year.
Making that a greater concern is that Richmond again turned to a high number of players on the wrong side of 30: Dustin Martin, Dylan Grimes, Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt, Nathan Broad and Marlion Pickett.
Tom Lynch, Dion Prestia and Robbie Tarrant would probably all be in the side as well if not for being injured, while Kamdyn McIntosh and Nick Vlastuin will turn 30 next year.
Tale of two problems
There were contrasting issues that contributed to one of the lowest-scoring first halves of the year.
Richmond scored 11 times from a modest 20 inside 50s to that stage, but woeful inaccuracy (2.9) despite a series of gettable attempts ensured they played catch-up for most of the first two quarters.
The misses by Shai Bolton, Liam Baker, Marlion Pickett and Jack Riewoldt were arguably the worst.
Gold Coast, on the other hand, generated 31 inside 50s to half-time, for a total of 4.2, with the connection between the midfielders and forwards often lacking. One of those goals came when Tyler Young shockingly passed the ball to his direct opponent, Ben King, at the top of the goal square. It was the Suns who found a solution in the second half.
Noah Anderson.Credit: AFL Photos
Gold Coast midfielder Noah Anderson loves nothing more than facing Richmond, the team he kicked a nerves-of-steel, after-the-siren match-winner against last year.
The 22-year-old arrived at Marvel Stadium on Sunday averaging more disposals (26) when playing the Tigers than any other club, and proceeded to gather nine touches and a goal by quarter-time.
Anderson’s numbers swelled to 32, nine marks, nine clearances and five tackles by game’s end in a sterling display.
He combined with Matt Rowell, the only player taken before him in the 2019 draft, for 58 disposals, 28 contested possessions and 17 clearances without All-Australian teammate Touk Miller, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
Coach Stuart Dew runs a famously tight on-ball rotation, but Miller’s absence offered greater opportunity for Brayden Fiorini and, to a lesser degree, Alex Davies.
GOLD COAST 2.1 4.2 10.3 11.6 (72)
RICHMOND 1.5 2.9 4.11 6.12 (48)
Gold Coast: King 4, Holman 2, Ellis, Ainsworth, Witts, Anderson, Fiorini.
Richmond: Ryan 2, Taranto, Riewoldt, Soldo, Bolton.
Gold Coast: Anderson, Witts, Powell, Ballard, King, Rowell, Macpherson, Ellis.
Richmond: Taranto, Short, Bolton, Vlastuin, Martin, Baker.
Foot, Fisher, Haussen, Fleer.
23,664 at Marvel Stadium.
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