Revamp behind Tiger revival
RICHMOND commissioned a special report from its recruiting staff last summer to help reframe a game plan around its players’ strengths.
In a move that helped kickstart the Tigers’ remarkable resurgence last December, each of the club’s recruiters was asked to provide a full analysis on each player’s best attributes and developmental scope when they were drafted.
Richmond had assembled a new assistant coaching staff late last year, and after a poor 2016 season, wanted to strip back its style of play to a battle plan more suited to its players’ natural strengths.
Talent chief Dan Richardson, list manager Blair Hartley and national recruiting manager Matthew Clarke led the analysis, featuring player-byplayer run downs from fulltime recruiter Luke Williams, pro-scout Nick Austin and part-time scouts Richard Taylor and Francis Jackson.
The report was delivered to the coaching staff and then presented to the players individually at the start of summer as senior coach Damien Hardwick laid key foundations for a shot at premiership glory this season.
The feedback helped form the impetus to become one of the best forward pressure and tackling teams in the AFL, around newcomers Dan Butler, Jason Castagna and Daniel Rioli, as well as delivering more direct and simplified ball movement.
Richmond has risen from 18th (last year) to 4th (this year) for tackles and 13th to 4th for overall pressure, according to Champion Data.
The recruiting report also helped trigger a number of key positional moves that saw a handful of players resume roles from earlier in their AFL or junior careers, helping go back to basics and harness some of their original playing traits.
They included shifting Brandon Ellis from a wing back to a defensive running position where he starred as a junior and Nick Vlastuin from midfield to half-back to help shore up one of the best backline units in the league.
Brownlow Medal favourite Dustin Martin also ditched the free-wheeling in defence to a more damaging role forward of centre, while skipper Trent Cotchin was instructed to become more impactful and aggressive onball.
Spearhead Jack Riewoldt resumed a more natural fullforward role, instead of the constant roaming up the ground from previous seasons.
Internally, the recruiter analysis was hailed as a successful collaboration between sections of the football department after a searing examination of it at the end of last year in consultation with Ernst and Young.