An early end to the season doesn’t mean we can’t assess the strengths and weaknesses of each AFLW team and their prospects for next year. The Tigers’ report card may be hard for avid fans to endure after a disappointing season, although there is always hope that they may find their feet next year.
2019 finish: -
2020 finish: 7th (Conference A)
In a Nutshell
Richmond’s maiden AFLW season closed with many questions to be answered before 2021. The Tigers endured six consecutive defeats as the inexperience and unevenness of its list, even in comparison to rival expansion sides, was exposed.
Fans could be forgiven for pointing the finger of blame at Head of Football Kate Sheahan and recruiter Lauren Tesoriero. The pair were part of Collingwood’s inaugural season and their list structure at Punt Road was very similar to the Magpies’ initial launch: the signature of high-profile names like Katie Brennan, Monique Conti and Sabrina Frederick came first and the foot soldiers were built around them.
Had the marquee signings fired, Richmond might have gotten away with such a top-heavy approach. Alas, everything that could go wrong for the Tigers did.
Conti (20 disposals a game) and ex-Giant defender Phoebe Monahan (17 disposals and three intercept marks) had brilliant seasons and are in the mix for All-Australian guernseys, but the move of Brennan to the midfield only robbed Richmond of a dangerous key forward. An obviously unfit Frederick managed three goals and the other high profile GWS recruit Christina Bernardi was stretched as a high forward.
Alarm bells were ringing by Round 2 when Richmond capitulated to a Gold Coast side that looked every bit as hungry as the Tigers did incohesive. Thrashings against North Melbourne and GWS followed and the patterns of weaknesses were established.
The Tigers lost clearances by an average of seven and averaged 169 disposals (14th) and just over two goals a game (13th), with their nadir coming in their Round 6 trouncing against fellow expansion side St Kilda, when they became the first side to finish a match goalless.
The future depends on the Tigers’ competitiveness.
Under the weight of relentless defeats, few Tiger cubs were able to gain constructive experience, which goes a long way to explaining why Tom Hunter’s side was outworked and caught off-guard in its set-up.
Key players will include the powerful Grace Campbell, who became Conti’s second-in-command in the midfield, while Gabrielle Seymour and Kodi Jacques loved the scrap in the congestion. Courtney Wakefield’s strong hands and straight kicking were highlights up forward.
A kinder injury run would certainly help: train-on players were named as emergencies as early as Round 3 with AFLW-experienced players Iilish Ross and Holly Whitford combining for just five matches.