THIS was the Richmond we all remembered.
Winless since the game's restart almost a month ago, the reigning premiers re-found their rhythm on Sunday. A 27-point victory over Melbourne was just the tonic for a Tigers faithful that could have been forgiven for thinking the 'Dimma Dynasty' was starting to waver.
The 12.7 (79) to 8.4 (52) win under cloudy skies at the MCG was typical of the Tigers of old. Not necessarily easy on the eye, but gritty, tough and mightily effective.
There were no outstanding individual performers, but rather the normal collection of solid contributors as Richmond kicked five consecutive goals on either side of half-time to pull away from Melbourne and re-establish itself as a legitimate force once more.
The only concern for the Tigers, albeit a series of significant ones, was what appeared to be a number of serious injury blows sustained by key players after half-time.
Star midfielder Dion Prestia was helped from the field with what looked to be a nasty ankle injury in the game's dying stages, while captain Trent Cotchin (hamstring) and ruckman Toby Nankervis (ankle) had already been scratched from proceedings earlier in the match.
There could be no fingers pointed at Melbourne's ever-improving midfield for the disappointing patches that spoiled Sunday afternoon for Demon fans.
Max Gawn (22 disposals, 33 hitouts) was the dominant ruckman on the ground, while key duo Christian Petracca (27 disposals, seven score involvements) and Clayton Oliver (26 disposals, eight clearances) were again impressive out of the middle.
However, the connection issues forward of centre that have plagued many Melbourne seasons under coach Simon Goodwin reared their ugly head once again, as the Demons fell to a third defeat in four game to start the year.
Welcome to the '100 Club' Kane
At age 23, Kane Lambert probably couldn't have imagined an AFL career that would include two flags, consecutive top-three finishes in Richmond's best and fairest and the celebration of a 100-game milestone at the MCG to boot. But when he snapped around the corner to kick his first of the afternoon on Sunday, then produced almost a carbon copy for his second later in the match, before putting the icing on the cake with a third in the dying stages – immediately mobbed by his delighted teammates each time – it was the perfect way to cap the occasion. Lambert enjoyed another stunning performance to celebrate a typically understated career, winning 27 disposals, five clearances and kicking three goals against Melbourne. On this occasion, as they so often do not with Lambert, the stats genuinely reflected his importance within this successful Tigers side. Not bad for a player who spent his first six seasons outside of the junior system jumping between VFL teams.
Forward woes stack up for Demons once again
New day, new game, same problem for Melbourne. Once again, the Demons broke even in almost every statistical category they would have targeted before the match. Inside 50s? 43-39. Clearances? 25-24. Contested ball? 116-120. The issue, as has often been the case throughout Simon Goodwin's tenure, was the fact there was no one there to finish off the hard work of its midfielders. From its 43 entries, Melbourne finished with just 12 scoring shots for the matche and tallied only three shots on goal in the entire second and third quarters – a period where Richmond made its ascendency count on the scoreboard. It's an issue that Goodwin must fix. And fast.
Hub life lingers over MCG battle
Sunday's contest was the last to be held in Victoria for the foreseeable future, with every team set to fly interstate this week to continue the season in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the thought of entering a hub cast a shadow over Melbourne's battle with Richmond all afternoon. On the eve of the match, Tigers footy boss Neil Balme revealed that "a couple" of senior players wouldn't join the team in travelling to Queensland on Monday due to family reasons. It will surely add to injury concerns that now include Dion Prestia, Trent Cotchin and Toby Nankervis. The Demons, meanwhile, are preparing for a visit to New South Wales where they will play consecutive matches at Giants Stadium. As the sun faded behind the clouds over the 'G in the dying stages of Sunday's match, there was an overwhelming sense of sadness in asking yourself when – or if – the game would return to its spiritual home again this year.
MELBOURNE 3.1 3.2 5.2 8.4 (52)
RICHMOND 3.2 7.3 9.7 12.7 (79)
Melbourne: Hannan 3, Melksham 2, Fritsch 2, McDonald
Richmond: Lynch 3, Lambert 3, Higgins, Rioli, Nankervis, Riewoldt, Castagna, Martin
Melbourne: Gawn, Oliver, Petracca, Langdon, May, Hibberd
Richmond: Lambert, Prestia, Cotchin, Caddy, Martin, Castagna
Richmond: Nankervis (ankle), Prestia (ankle), Cotchin (hamstring)