2021 AFLW Preview: Richmond Tigers

RICHMOND entered a baptism of fire in its maiden AFL Women’s campaign, but will be hoping for marked improvements in each department after a busy offseason. The Tigers were granted concessions and used them to trade in established players, while also laying claim to pick one in a highly talented draft. After a winless start, the only way is up for last year’s expansion side.

2020 RECAP

The Tigers will remain on the hunt for their first set of premiership points in 2021 after failing to register any last time around. Year one did not exactly go to plan for Richmond, at all, starting with a 34-point drubbing at the hands of Carlton to open the season. While they got within two goals of fellow expansion team, Gold Coast a week later, the newcomers were trounced by over six goals in three of their final four outings. A high-scoring encounter with Geelong in Round 4 yielded 45 points but the Tigers were otherwise impotent in attack, restricted to two goals or less on every other occasion – including a goalless return against St Kilda in the final home-and-away round.

NEW FACES

Importantly, Richmond was able to bring in some experience with means beyond the concessions afforded by the AFL at season’s end. Pick 15 was used to snare inaugural Blue Sarah Hosking, who slots straight into the leadership group. She promises to bring some competitiveness and a hard edge to the Tigers’ midfield, which is heavily dependant on one or two players.

Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan crossed from Collingwood, along with former-Dee Harriet Cordner in a three-way trade which again bolstered Richmond’s stocks. D’Arcy is likely to be somewhat reinvented as a defender in the yellow and black, while Cordner will rotate through the defence and ruck, and Dargan provides some spark moving forward with the potential to play midfield.

First pick, Ellie McKenzie headlined the Tigers’ draft haul and is another who should move straight into the starting side. A tall midfielder/forward with terrific speed, overhead marking and x-factor, McKenzie is a future star of the competition and was long touted as the best player in her draft class. Renowned basketballer Tessa Lavey was selected with pick 43 and Luka Lesosky-Hay got her chance after being overlooked in last year’s intake. Hannah McLaren, the daughter of former AFL umpire Scott, also gets her chance as a replacement for Holly Whitford.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

McKenzie would be a relatively easy choice in this category, as is our selection in Hosking. The former Blue is yet to miss an AFLW game and will be exactly the kind of player Tigers fans warm to immediately. She is a tenacious midfielder who runs hard and loves to get her hands dirty, setting a standard which Richmond largely lacked last year.

Should she be thrust into the centre bounce mix, Hosking will inevitably take a load off Monique Conti in the ball winning stakes and can also work to shut down the opposition’s best midfielder. Should she play on the outer or up forward, her defensive pressure will help lock the ball in Richmond’s attacking half, another area which lacked in 2020. The Tigers’ most high profile signing in the offseason will be looking to repay the faith in full, especially as part of her new side’s leadership group.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

After a lacklustre maiden campaign, it would be easy for other teams to overlook Richmond heading into 2021. The Tigers have added well to their squad and should be far more competitive as a result, potentially allowing them to fly under the radar and sneak up on some highly fancied teams who become complacent. The experience and class of Conti, Hosking, and a fully fit Katie Brennan in midfield will count for a lot of that competitiveness, while some much-needed spark up forward comes through McKenzie and the defence will be bolstered by Cordner. A handy spine is forming for Richmond and is something which could see the second-year side get some wins on the board.

QUESTION MARK

The Tigers were severely ineffective in the forward half last season and while a stronger group further afield will help their cause, the attacking movers have plenty to do to help Richmond kick winning scores. Bar a flash in the pan seven-goal game against Geelong, the Tigers failed to boot over two goals in 2020 and were too reliant on too few. That in itself is another factor which the Tigers will have to address, but more experienced heads will help ease pressure on their top-class talent.

FINAL WORD

Snaring a win will be the primary goal for Richmond in 2021 and from there, the sky should be the limit. It is likely the Tigers will be more competitive throughout games and the season as a whole this time around, with some solid talent added to the squad and greater depth beginning to emerge. Like any good Richmond side, fans will undoubtedly like to see some fight from this emerging team which is now better placed to produce exactly that.

Image Credit: Richmond FC

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