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List analysis guru Chris Pelchen believes Richmond could have made a call sooner on some of their premiership veterans, but did not err in recruiting ex-Giants Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper.
Interim Tigers coach Andrew McQualter assumes the reins of the AFL’s fourth-oldest and second-most experienced list after Damien Hardwick’s shock resignation this week.
The Tigers’ average age and games played entering round 11 is 26.64 years (behind Geelong, Collingwood and Western Bulldogs) and 108.7 (trailing only the Cats), respectively, ahead of their clash with Port Adelaide at the MCG on Sunday.
Andrew McQualter (left) will step up as interim coach after Damien Hardwick’s shock resignation.Credit: Getty Images
Those are the demographics of a team that typically would be contending for a flag, but Saturday night’s heart-breaking last-gasp loss to Essendon left Richmond in 14th, with three wins and a draw from 10 matches.
Pelchen, who worked at Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and St Kilda, told Money Talks he did not expect the Tigers to play finals this year or next in the post-Hardwick era, but would not be surprised if they rebounded quickly after that.
“Their list is sound without being ready to take another leap forward,” he said.
“They went out to get Taranto and Hopper in the hope of maintaining their standing, and with a better run of injuries, try to compete for a premiership again – but that’s gone awry.
“It certainly hasn’t worked out how they would have planned. Giving up the high draft choices doesn’t read as well now as it potentially did in the pre-season. I wouldn’t say they were mistakes, but it was a high-risk strategy.”
Tim Taranto. Credit: Getty Images
The Tigers’ list is in transition after the club’s extraordinary success between 2017-20 that netted three premierships and a preliminary final appearance, but they are attempting to do so on the run.
That much was obvious when they offloaded picks 12 and 19 last year for 25-year-old Taranto, and this year’s first-round selection and No. 31 in 2022 for 26-year-old Hopper and picks 53 and 63.
Taranto should be leading Richmond’s best-and-fairest award, while Hopper played some strong games before injuring a calf in round nine.
Pelchen rates both players highly and one reason he remains positive about the deals is that he felt the Tigers needed to add to their 24-to-27 age group.
Jacob Hopper. Credit: Getty Images
Shai Bolton, Noah Balta, Liam Baker, Daniel Rioli and Jack Graham join Taranto and Hopper as important members of the mid-20s group.
But Richmond’s struggles this year means that the Hopper deal would currently hand the Giants what is provisionally the fifth pick in a strong draft, although Pelchen said all decisions on future trading were speculative.
Two of the club’s modern greats, Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt, are expected to retire at season’s end, as almost certainly will ex-Kangaroo Robbie Tarrant, which would reduce the number of players older than 30 to six.
Co-captain Dylan Grimes re-signed for another year this month, while fellow premiership stars Dustin Martin and Dion Prestia are also contracted until the end of next season, and Tom Lynch is locked in until 2025.
Nathan Broad is an unrestricted free agent who has been linked with a move home to West Coast, and Marlion Pickett is out of contract but has played every game this year – and discussions are tracking positively for him to be retained.
Nick Vlastuin, co-captain Toby Nankervis and Kamdyn McIntosh also turn 30 in 2024.
“Traditionally, you wouldn’t want to ever have more than half a dozen players over 30,” Pelchen said.
“You need a tapering in your list demographics … what conspired against them was the group was so talented that they held on for longer – usually two or three would fall away as a natural rate of attrition, from form or injury.
“With a little more luck with injuries – Nankervis and Lynch particularly – they could be in a very different position this week, and people would not be having this conversation.”
The Tigers’ best 22-and-under talent includes Josh Gibcus, breakout big man Samson Ryan, Maurice Rioli, Hugo Ralphsmith, Tyler Sonsie, Jack Ross, Judson Clarke, Noah Cumberland and Thomson Dow.
“It’s not the best under-22 group in the competition, but you wouldn’t expect that with where they have [been] picked in the draft,” Pelchen said.
“It’s an acceptable young group, it’s OK, and it’s not a case where they need to start again, but they do need to invest in the draft in the coming years.”
Others without a deal for next year are Ralphsmith, McIntosh, Rhyan Mansell, 2019 first-round draft pick Dow – brother of Paddy – rookies Bigoa Nyuon, Mate Colina, Jacob Bauer, Seth Campbell and Kaelan Bradtke.
2024, or more?
Collingwood high-flyer Ash Johnson is only four matches from reaching a contract trigger that will guarantee his spot for next season, a source familiar with the situation but not at liberty to talk publicly told Money Talks.
Johnson, who lodged his bid for mark of the year with a screamer against Carlton on Sunday, started the year out of Craig McRae’s first-choice team but broke in for round three when Mason Cox went out with a lacerated spleen.
Ash Johnson.Credit: Getty Images
The 25-year-old forward has not looked back, kicking 10 goals in the past eight weeks – not going goalless once – to be an excellent foil for red-hot Magpies spearhead Brody Mihocek.
Johnson’s aggressive aerial play gives Collingwood a different look inside 50, which has helped him maintain his place. He inked a one-year deal in July last season.
Johnson has to play 12 games this year to extend his deal into next season, but his impressive form leaves ajar the option of negotiating a fresh multi-year arrangement.
Race in two for top pick
The race to be the No.1 pick in next week’s mid-season rookie draft appears to be down to two players, recruiters from clubs without one of the top picks believe.
West Coast hold that selection, and the situation would change only if they upset Essendon on Saturday night and make up significant percentage on North Melbourne and/or Hawthorn.
The Eagles’ decision is poised to come down to Gippsland Power forward Ryan Maric, who has long been touted as the pick of the crop after shedding 24 kilograms in two years thanks to his personal-trainer brother’s help, and Claremont forward-ruck Jack Buller.
West Coast interviewed Maric this week, while the Roos, who have the No.2 pick at this stage, have spoken to him as well. He played for, and is training with, the Hawks’ VFL affiliate Box Hill.
The knock on Buller, according to recruiters who spoke to Money Talks, is he is a tad slow, but his marking power has impressed them.
They are among the 11 players who received nominations from multiple clubs to receive AFL medical and psychometric testing. The others are Clay Tucker, Robert Hansen jnr, Brandon Ryan, Ethan Stanley, Flynn Riley, James Trezise, Jaiden Hunter, Mutaz El Nour, Rye Penny and Will Elliott, the son of ex-Test cricketer Matthew.
But being on the medical list has not always been a reliable gauge that a player will be picked in previous mid-season drafts.
Ryan, a 200-centimetre forward who was suspended for three matches last week for an off-the-ball incident, is a polarising figure among talent scouts because of his age (25) and slight frame, but some recruiters think his athleticism would offset any lack of physical size.
Sam Lowson, who was hyped as a potential No.1 pick in the 2019 edition before suffering a serious ankle injury and being overlooked, has re-emerged this year playing for North Melbourne, but no clubs have spoken to him.
‘No rush’ on Parish, Redman
Essendon won’t place any pressure on star free agents Darcy Parish and Mason Redman to make a call on their future soon, football boss Josh Mahoney says.
The Bombers locked away first-round draftee Ben Hobbs last week for another two years after rivals were showing interest, leaving All-Australian midfielder Parish and defender Redman the clear-cut top re-signing priorities.
But coach Brad Scott told The Age on season eve they would give Parish and co space rather than trying to “cajole and manipulate” him into staying at Tullamarine.
Darcy Parish. Credit: Getty Images
Parish said in an interview with this masthead in mid-April that he had a “big decision” to make.
Mahoney said list manager Adrian Dodoro was speaking to the management groups for both Parish and Redman and there had been “good discussions”.
“There’s no rush from our side, or theirs. Brad has said a number of times we need to create an environment where they feel they can become better players,” Mahoney told Money Talks.
“You never know with these sorts of decisions, but we’re confident both players are committed to the footy club and that we’re creating an environment they enjoy and are getting better in.”
Essendon are still weighing up their plans for Wednesday week’s mid-season rookie draft, but they have a vacancy after previously placing Jayden Davey on the inactive list.
“We’re still going through it, but all those discussions are still happening,” Mahoney said.
“It’s a funny mid-season draft this year. The few years previously there were a lot of players [coming off] COVID-impacted years. [It is] possibly not [as strong], but we’ll see.”
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