After their maiden season in the AFLW yielded zero wins, it was a season of massive improvement in 2021 with the Richmond Tigers finding victory in three games across the year.
Heading into the 2022 AFLW campaign, the club has again recruited well through a mix of the trade period and draft to contribute towards greater success and a hopeful rise up the ladder.
While their debut season in the AFLW in 2020 yielded zero wins for Richmond, the team showed massive signs of improvement in 2021, which included the club’s first win, against Geelong at GMHBA Stadium.
The Tigers would win two more games for the season – against Gold Coast and West Coast in consecutive weeks.
While the Tigers didn’t start the season off well – with a 29-point loss to eventual 2021 premiers Brisbane and a 28-point loss to 2020 preliminary finalists Melbourne – the club was able to claw its way back into the competition, and prove its competitiveness to finally build towards marking the win column for the first time.
This was exemplified by narrow losses to 2020 preliminary finalists Carlton (five points), and inaugural AFLW sides the Western Bulldogs (13 points) and Collingwood (17 points).
Katie Brennan reinvented herself as a full-time forward for Richmond last season, and made that spot her own to become the team’s leading goalkicker, scoring 14 goals in nine games.
While she didn’t trouble the goals tally in the first three games of the season – kicking five behinds – she was almost dead-straight from then-on, kicking 14.2 from that point, which included three three-goal hauls.
Monique Conti made it back-to-back best and fairest wins at Richmond, and a third best and fairest overall after also claiming the accolade with her former club, the Western Bulldogs, in 2019.
In 2021, the midfielder averaged 22.3 disposals – 12 disposal games at either end of the season impacting a would-be-larger average – and 11.5 marks per game, as she showed her intent and hunger at all times on the field.
What to look forward to:
The Tigers have come a long way from their inaugural season and they’ll be looking forward to building upon their foundations even more so, given their form in 2021.
The off-season recruiting drive through the trade and draft has again proved the club is intent on bringing in players who have either shown excellence already, or have unused potential.
Poppy Kelly and Maddie Shevlin exemplify this mentality, as both underutilised at their respective former clubs, and can lend helping hands in any position.
The Tigers used pick 48 to secure reigning North Melbourne VFLW best and fairest Meagan Kiely, who should be ready to take the next step, while two first-round picks in Stella Reid and Emilia Yassir are both forward/midfielder prospects and have done well for their respective state league sides.
Winning the signature of Jess Hosking at the last minute during the trade period should prove influential. She departed Carlton to again link up with twin sister Sarah, and the two’s proven connection will come together again.
Utilised as a midfielder who could be used as a half-forward for stoppages around that area too, Jess has improved her disposal output in each of her past three seasons, and can tackle well and hard to enforce free kicks, or even just a halt in play.
While losing a key forward in Sabrina Frederick – who kicked five goals in 15 games for the club – to Collingwood,, Richmond proved it could perform without her, unearthing the likes of Courtney Wakefield (10 goals in nine games) and Brennan as tall targets.
The forward line was assisted by smalls Tayla Stahl (seven goals in nine games) and Christina Bernardi (four goals in six games) which will be the likely formation once again after showing it worked in 2021 to great effect.
Biggest unanswered question:
The Tigers showed they’ve come a long way since that first year, and their three wins, although memorable and including history-making moments, came against the ladder’s bottom three sides.
It remains to be seen how the Tigers perform against sides better-placed above them, despite coming close to finding victory against Carlton, the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood.
While Richmond has recruited heavily in the past for depth across its midfield department to help Monique Conti out, the club might find itself to be a little low on performers across the defensive end.
Even though Harriet Cordner and Sarah D’Arcy held up their own down back, taking on the opposition’s key forwards, averaging over 13 intercept possessions between them, the Tigers still conceded the fifth-highest points against.
Needing to improve upon this and the loss of Phoebe Monahan who was delisted and then acquired by Brisbane, the Tigers re-drafted Akec Makur Chuot, as well as brought in some cover – but just that, if needed.
Two of Richmond’s off-season additions, Maddie Shevlin and Stella Reid have all shown previously at their former clubs they can play in the backline. If they want to nail down a spot, they’ll need to adjust to a full-time defensively minded role.
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It’s a big year for…
There were several players who had breakout seasons in 2021, with coach Ryan Ferguson getting handy contributions out of a multitude of players in different parts of the ground.
However, just like Katie Brennan’s resurgence from midfielder to forward, Gabrielle Seymour too has reinvented herself, taking the mantle as Richmond’s number one ruck after beginning her career as a full back.
Spending more time in the middle, the 25-year-old averaged 11.4 disposals per game – recording just one game under double-digits, in Round 9 – including a career-high 16 touches in Round 1.
While she was called upon at times during the 2020 season to be take the stoppages, it was 2021 where Seymour made the position her own, averaging 14.2 hitouts.
Poppy Kelly joined Punt Road from St Kilda as a back-up ruck, but with the 176cm Tiger solidifying her position, and a handy midfield unit around her, Seymour will only improve as her career continues too.
Richmond’s first game of the 2022 AFLW season also marks the first game of the season overall, when the team travel to Skybus Stadium in Frankston to take on St Kilda under lights on a Friday night.
The Saints finished last season once place below the Tigers on the ladder, but won the same number of matches. It will be a great test to see which side can get their year off to the best start, but also who can prove the edge over the other in their similar levels of experience in the competition.
The two sides didn’t meet during the 2021 season, the one encounter between them dating back to Round 6 2020 where the girls in yellow and black fell to a 39-point loss after scoring 0.3 – a then-lowest AFLW score.
Richmond has never played Fremantle throughout its AFLW history, but will get the chance to in Round 3 when it hosts last year’s qualifying finalists at Punt Road Oval. The Dockers have been a competitive side for the last three years, making finals in each of those seasons.
For the first time in an AFLW season, Richmond and Carlton won’t meet in the regular season, one of three clubs it doesn’t come up against, the others being Adelaide and Collingwood.
The Tigers would’ve fancied their chances against the Blues, having lost by under a goal in their Round 4 matchup last season, following the 34-point loss in their first-ever AFLW game in Round 1 2020.
However, the Tigers do once again come up against the only three teams who they’ve tasted success over in their short AFLW playing history, Gold Coast, West Coast and Geelong, in 2022, all within five weeks from Round 4 to Round 8.
Having shown their capabilities in beating these opponents already, Richmond has the ascendency, and will look to replicate that form and build a winning streak against those sides.
R1: vs. St Kilda, Jan 7 (Skybus Stadium)
R2 vs. Melbourne, Jan 14 (Swinburne Centre)
R3 vs. Fremantle, Jan 22 (Swinburne Centre)
R4 vs. Gold Coast, Jan 28 (Metricon Stadium)
R5 vs. Western Bulldogs, Feb 5 (Whitten Oval)
R6 vs. North Melbourne, Feb 12 (Swinburne Centre)
R7 vs. West Coast, Feb 19 (Mineral Resources Park)
R8 vs. Geelong, Feb 26 (Swinburne Centre)
R9 vs. Greater Western Sydney, TBC (Blacktown International Sportspark)
R10 vs. Brisbane, TBC (Swinburne Centre)
Ins: Jess Hosking (Carlton), Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons), Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne VFLW), Poppy Kelly (St Kilda), Akec Makur Chuot (Richmond AFLW), Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers), Maddie Shevlin (Collingwood), Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
Outs: Alice Edmonds, Sabrina Frederick (Collingwood), Emily Harley, Luka Lesosky-Hay, Akec Makur Chuot, Phoebe Monahan, Cleo Saxon-Jones, Holly Whitford, Alana Woodward
Round 1 line-up:
Entering their third year in the league, the Tigers should be able to, with their off-season acquisitions and a list that’s growing with more experience each game, start to contend with the middle-range teams of the competiton.
Through a more structured game style and plan under second-year coach Ryan Ferguson, the club will benefit from their leaders in Katie Brennan, Monique Conti and Sarah Hosking to control things on and off the field to better place them into winning positions, and a hopeful rise up the ladder.
The team itself is filled with players who can be used to perform a variety of roles and slot into many positions across the ground, leaving no shortage of talent that can pick up the pieces and prove versatile in their game.
Off-season pick-ups Maddie Shevlin, Stella Reid and Jess Hosking, as well as Ellie McKenzie, Maddy Brancatisano, and Brennan can all utilise their skills in this way, making it easier for the side to play around with the magnets if needed to.
If the Tigers can beat those below and around them and contend for that middle section of the ladder, they’ll be able to pick up a couple more wins in the upcoming season.
While it might not be enough for a finals tilt, the side could impact positions around the top six and cause a few upsets, all the while continuing to make and take momentum into the following seasons.
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