Richmond v Geelong

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The stage is all set for a showdown of major September proportions and implications ahead of Round 12 of the 2019 AFL men’s season at the MCG tonight as Richmond and Geelong prepare for their encounter.

The Tigers are almost as depleted as can be and reputable players are dropping like flies at Punt Road, with David Astbury and Brandon Ellis the latest to be claimed as key position player Patrick Naish debuts and speculation abounds over the increased role fellow youngster Noah Balta could be forced to play during the second half of the season as a swingman. After a demoralising defeat against the Roos last Friday night, can Damien Hardwick’s makeshift men muster magic in tough circumstances?

Meanwhile, the red-hot Cats continue to soar head and shoulders above the league and overcame a fast start from the Swans to comfortably see off their Kardinia Park bogey side. It was a case of no Ablett, no worries as the rest of Geelong’s star-studded midfield took up the task with aplomb, capped off by Tom Hawkins’ fourth consecutive bag of four goals. Knocking over a contender in Richmond would do their confidence a world of good before a week off.

Jesse Robertson previews this clash as the Round 12 Featured Game for Play On Radio:

Recent Fortunes

Richmond’s issues were made abundantly clear in the face of a poor defeat to North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium last Friday night, falling away in shocking fashion in the third term to lose by 37 points despite winning the inside-50 count. It wasn’t all doom and gloom with Bachar Houli overcoming early injury troubles to feature heavily with 38 disposals, while Sydney Stack’s performance saw him named the Round 11 Rising Star nominee but losing Astbury at this juncture makes it doubly hard to stop the rampaging Hawkins.

The Cats are the form side of the competition, sitting pretty atop the league’s summit with a seven-game streak and a two-game buffer to GWS, Collingwood and West Coast behind them. Gary Ablett’s absence did little to hamper Chris Scott’s side as they rebounded to defeat the surprisingly lowly Sydney by 22 points at home, an especially important statement after nearly falling critically to the Gold Coast a week prior. Geelong have, however, lost their last three meetings with the Tigers including a meagre effort in the 2017 qualifying final.

Key Statistic

The Tigers rank fifth for inside-50s but second-last for total clearances, made worse by ranking bottom for clearances from stoppages. When they can win the ball out of the middle, their conversion ratio is useful but around the ground they’re being outmuscled, and their cause won’t be helped by the absence of influential runners such as Brandon Ellis this week.

In a week where the disposal efficiency of their star mids was hampered, Mark Blicavs and Tom Stewart were a vision of finesse in the Cats’ success last week with 34 of their combined 39 disposals finding a target, Blicavs chipping in with nine one-percenters while Stewart posted a team-high six rebound-50s. The league’s highest-scoring outfit, bolstered by Tom Hawkins’ 16 goals in four games, also boasts the most miserly defence and with the strength available in the centre, many wonder whether Geelong have again found a premiership recipe.

Prediction

Geelong will go in clear favourites, perhaps with sufficient reason, but there should be no question of Richmond’s desire to compete and continue challenging for what would be a miraculous top-four berth.

Cats by 28.