Cometh the hour


On Friday night when the game asked a question of Hawthorn, Luke Hodge provided the answer. When a question was confrontingly put to Carlton on Sunday, Chris Judd showed his teammates how to respond.

When the query was put to Collingwood and Richmond, blank faces stared back and pointed to someone else for an answer.

Just as hindsight makes experts of idiots, finals make park players of home-and-away champions.

On Sunday Richmond knew what Carlton would do. It certainly knew firsthand what the Blues could do, and when it would do it. And yet it was powerless to stop it.

The problem for Richmond at the moment is there were too few of the age, maturity and experience to grasp the moment to reshape the game.

Trent Cotchin tried, Ivan Maric battled, Chris Newman was halted by his body and Daniel Jackson worked as hard as he could too with an ankle injury. Jack Riewoldt’s primary impact was that he kept Michael Jamison up the ground and Brett Deledio was unable to do enough.

For Carlton, when the moment came, it was primarily players of vintage who were the architects of a comeback – Judd, Jarrad Waite, Kade Simpson, Jamison, Eddie Betts (and Nick Duigan exploiting a maturity as opposed to games-played loophole).

In other times such as this during the season, Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs have failed in such moments of demand. But here they proved their mettle in the most exacting of circumstances.

Gibbs spent the entire match in the middle and compiled his best-ever contested possession and clearances numbers – 18 and 12. Gibbs and Murphy have both now played more than 150 games.

Once it had reached the point in the match where to do nothing was not an option and there was nothing to be lost from taking risks, Carlton ran harder ahead of the ball and played the open fast game that Richmond could not stop.

But it could only do that because Judd and Gibbs were winning the ball around the packs.

There was no player there for Richmond capable of halting or redirecting the flow of the game in the manner Judd and others did.

Dustin Martin and Brandon Ellis could be this type of player when, like Gibbs and Murphy, they accrue the number of games needed.

Perhaps, too, Reece Conca, a player the Tigers lost early in the match, unsettling their plans. Conca has the toughness and speed Richmond lacked when the Blues were surging.

The Conca hamstring exposed Shane Tuck to the match far earlier than desirable for a player of his single-paced run and accentuated the decision not have gone with Nathan Foley’s outside carry.

Of course, had Aaron Edwards and others taken their chances in the first half Richmond would have been out of reach of Carlton. But they didn’t.

Sydney, even on the neutral territory at Homebush, has the wizened heads to meet a Carlton push in a way that Richmond could not.

They are not unfamiliar with those moments.

The finals proved that experience is often decisive. It was less relevant when experience met experience in the qualifying finals but proved essential in the elimination finals.

Port Adelaide, too, beat Collingwood with experience. True, it had a youthful look but it was youthful class. Chad Wingard, an old head on young legs, and Ollie Wines, a calm head on enormous legs, are elite talents, but the victory was constructed on the work of Kane Cornes around packs and Domenic Cassisi closing out Scott Pendlebury.

And Heath Shaw literally gave away goals with his knuckle-headed recidivist stupidity.

Travis Cloke was beaten by Alipate Carlile … and his fellow forwards’ inability to get out of his way, and his midfielders’ inability to find players in black-and-white with their disposals.

A phalanx of young Collingwood players was unsighted and its older players could not have the impact Port’s did.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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