Not to put too fine a point on things I'm shitting myself about Sunday's game.
It's exceedingly rare for us to have gone into a game favourite in recent years. I'd say last year against the Eagles was the only time we have gone into a match overwhelming favourites since late 2006 when we started to throw it all way. One day I'd love to be the team listed as 1.05 before the match, lined up against some slop side paying $15 for the win - but not yet.
Right now on Centrebet we're 1.30 for the win and -21.5 on the line. That's about as good as it gets for us, and the news just keeps getting worse for the Tiges. They've been belted from pillar to post for the first three weeks of the season, have a seemingly rancid list and have lost four players due to suspension after Drunken Rampagegate (I don't think the name will catch on). It seems to me like everybody has taken our win over a supposed top four contender, added the Tiges poor form and multiplied by four banned players to come up with us romping it in.
Explain to me how and why we're going to walk all over Richmond. I take all of the above points on board and recognise the great performance we put in against the Pies but there's a minor issue when it comes to winning a footy match that we're going to need to address in order to simply take the points let alone go to town on the allegedly hapless fools in yellow and black. We have to kick a winning score, and so far this year - other than the first quarter when we jumped the Pies - our goalkicking has been limper than the proverbial. It's not so much a lack of targets inside the forward line as a lack of an actual forward line. Somewhere on a whiteboard I'm sure the whole "everybody start at the half-back line and sprint back" move probably looks like genius, and good times can pull it off. I don't know about you I prefer when somebody - anybody - is up there to at least give a contest. And don't get me started on the LACK OF CRUMB - that's the bane of my existence. Look how we won the game last week? Crumb and plenty of it. When the midfield have to do circle work for 30 seconds because there's nobody in front of them, inevitably losing the ball, it means no tall targets, no contests, no ball hitting the deck, no crumb and most of the time no score.
Even Juice, the man with lower approval ratings than [somebody with low approval ratings], could sit up there and create a contest. Maybe he marks it? Maybe pigs fly, but at least it's something. Better than Clint Bartram having to run around like a headless chicken because he's in the centre square and five of his teammates are lining up next to him like they're playing Rugby League.
Then there's the argument that beating Adelaide doesn't mean much. Sure they should have played a prelim last year, but we were still in the mix to play one at 3/4 time of our last game of '06 and look what happened to us since. It's rare, but teams can lose the plot at the drop of the hat and there's every possible chance that's the Crows fate this year. They played terribly in the first half but somehow managed to open up a four goal lead over us. With two players less for most of the game, eventually dropping to one at the last change and none at the final siren they were well and truly run off their feet but still managed to attack so much that Frawley and Grimes have been universally acknowledged as our best players. That says to me we were seconds from disaster.
We should be able to hold Richmond to a puny score, but if one guy breaks free and causes us trouble do you have faith in our ability to go up the other end and kick a big score? I've got faith in the Russian to knock it down, and I've got faith in our midfield clearing it but the last thing I can sit through is another debacle like the Hawthorn game where the ball bounces in and out of the forward 50 like it's coming off a trampoline. Chris Newman might be out as well? Just another reason why we should dominate them - but we need to play at 110% intensity to make sure they don't get any uppity ideas.
It doesn't mean anything for our game, but just consider the fact that Richmond only kicked a point less than us in getting belted by the Swans last week. If there's one thing I can see them doing (and god knows any side who still employ Troy Simmonds haven't got much else going for them) is kicking a few goals. Hasn't happened yet this year, but bloody hell I hope we keep it that way because I'm terrified about our ability to do the same. Twice this year we've been on one goal at half-time. In three games! What the hell is all that about? Missed set shots and a fluky wind last week haven't helped our cause much, but there's no doubt that things aren't exactly rocking along at that end of the ground at the moment.
Then there's the wounded opposition factor. I'm sure if you went back and looked at the history of football and the results of teams in the week they were declared to be "in crisis" it would probably show that they usually get belted, but I guarantee you the first five minutes is usually intense. Look at our start against Geelong in R3, 08 when we'd been beaten to a pulp for the first two weeks and were expected to lose by a thousand. We came out like a house on fire, and even though class won out in the end we weren't humiliated. Now, I'm not suggesting we're even in the same solar system as the Cats, and to be honest the Tiges probably aren't even as bad as we were in the first two weeks of '08 but there's every chance we're going to have to weather the storm of the first five minutes before getting on top.
What we need to do is make like a primary school and slowly strangle the youthful enthusiasm out them until they're depressed putty in our hands. I like how they're toying with replacing players suspended for indulging in a world class punch-up with the guy who went pre-season postal and punched buggery out of three people at a party. Watch out for young Troy if the fists start flying, that's my suggestion.
So, I think we'll win but I wouldn't start counting percentage yet. One thing I know is that the tone of the match will be set right from the bounce. With nothing to lose, and a bunch of players basically trying to save their career in round 4, I wouldn't be surprised to see them try and go the biff before the first bounce. Whether we get sucked into it or whether it ends like that horrible day we tried to rough up the Saints in '06 and got massacred could be crucial. Surely the calming influence of one C. Sylvia (and who would have thought you ever get the chance to write that?) will help.
Dees by 6 goals. If we lose I'm throwing myself out the window. And I only live on the second floor so that's going to hurt.