Kevin
Sheedy’s savaging of Richmond coach Terry Wallace and the
Tigers’ “ultra-defensive” game plan has ensured it will be the AFL topic of the week. In fact, knowing League
headquarters, an entire set of new playing rules might be in place by next
weekend, with a ban on kicking sideways or backwards.

“If
he (Wallace) wants to play a game of billiards up the back, then good luck to
him,” said Sheedy, who also labelling the tactic “basketball cr*p”. “You
win four points but you will never get anywhere.”

For
those who missed it, Richmond came off a 118-point loss to face the
top-of-the-ladder Crows at Docklands on Saturday. The
Tigers spent three-quarters of the match playing keepings off, chipping
kicks
in every direction but forward for long periods. In the process, they
set a new AFL record for marks taken, although only a few were
contested.

It
was horrible to watch. However, Sheedy has missed the mark with his criticism. This
wasn’t just about the ends justifying the means. Wallace had more ambition.
Such a strategy required plenty of precision passing, and marking under
pressure, and Richmond’s often-maligned skills stood up to the
task.

The
young kids who were humiliated against Sydney a week ago showed they had
the backbone, nerve and actual delivery to pull off the ambitious, ugly and
draining game plan. Wallace has already admitted he wouldn’t want the team
playing like that every week, but he and his players now know they are capable
of playing to instruction.

The
other point to this win was a potential Achilles heel in Neil Craig’s coaching
make-up. The Crows coach hasn’t done much wrong since taking over the team,
with his strange (for the AFL) blend of sports science,
psychology, systems and, oh yeah, football strategy.

No
doubt, next time somebody tries that against Adelaide, Craig will have 15 potential
responses drilled into his team. But as a one-off, his team was frozen – and that
might have started in the box.

Peter Fray

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