04/03/2024

Richmond couldn't shake the injury bug in 2022. (Photo: Richmond FC; Design: Will Cuckson)

While Richmond didn't quite live up to the potential promised by its hot start to 2022, massive injuries made what was another step forward seem worse than it was.

A season marred by injury never quite saw the Tigers reach their pre-season potential. But with another year under coach Ryan Ferguson came an improvement in nearly all areas of their gameplan.

Finishing position: 11th (Three wins, seven losses)

Richmond was looking ahead to a big year, with many pundits tipping the club to be knocking on the door of finals for the first time.

The off-season additions of Jess Hosking, Poppy Kelly, and Maddie Shevlin looked to add more depth to a line up that needed more talent across the lines.

But early season injuries dampened Richmond’s spirits, and despite some strong performances, it couldn’t escape the bottom four.

What worked?

From their first game against the Saints, the Tigers showed off a high scoring, free flowing gamestyle, which resulted in some of the most entertaining footy of 2022.

When it worked, Ferguson’s midfield was unbeatable.

It showed on the scoreboard, with Richmond putting up totals of 61, 47, 68, and 46 at various stages of the year.

The Tigers finished the year with the second highest points for of any non finals side. This dynamic ball movement started from the middle with Gabby Seymour‘s tap and follow up work, Monique Conti‘s elite skills, and Tessa Lavey‘s gut running.

This gave the Tigers a strong offensive presence, with captain Katie Brennan finishing fourth in the overall goalkicking with 14 majors. Christina Bernadi and Tayla Stahl both kicked five.

What didn’t?

While this very open style of play led to a high scoring side, it also led to the Tigers getting high totals put up against them.

Richmond gave up the third highest points against in the competition, behind just Gold Coast and West Coast.

With Harriet Cordner marshalling down back, life was a bit easier. But after she went down with an ACL injury in the loss to Fremantle, the floodgates opened, with the Tigers giving up 77 points.

After injuries also affected the forward line, Sarah D’Arcy had to be swung to the opposite 50, leaving the defensive unit more and more vulnerable. Even in wins, the Tigers gave up 45 points to the Eagles.

Similarly, when Richmond was suffocated by pressure heavy sides like Gold Coast and Geelong, it couldn’t keep up. Limiting that ball movement seemed an easy way to prevent the Tigers from striking.

Who impressed?

Juggling basketball and Aussie rules at the highest level, Tessa Lavey performed excellently throughout both seasons.

The dashing winger missed three games, but was one of the best Tigers in nearly every game she played.

Lavey added a scoreboard presence to her game in 2022, kicking four goals across the season, including a strong two major showing against Melbourne.

With the depleted backline group, Rebecca Miller came into her own as the year went on.

The 185cm full back was not only beating her direct opponent in the second half of the season, but also finding more of the footy. This included 19 and 15 disposal games against North Melbourne and Collingwood, while taking seven marks against the Giants.

Superstars Monique Conti and Katie Brennan were always at their best, with both likely club best and fairest candidates.

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Highs and lows

The Highs

The Round 1 win against St Kilda had many bullish on the Tigers’ finals chances. After putting up a strong fight against Melbourne the week after, they looked on the up.

And while they never quite reached these heights again, it was some of the best footy they’d played under Ferguson.

There was no moment more feel-good however than tall utility Akec Makur Chuot‘s first goal after 20 games.

The first woman of African descent to be drafted in the AFLW, her journey has been well documented. She was delisted by Fremantle after just a year, before sticking it out and being given a second chance by Richmond.

She had previously been used as an intercept defender, but lined up in the forward line in the second half of the year.

Having grown up in Western Australia, she was able to kick her first goal in front of her family against West Coast, in what could only be described as a beautiful scene.

The Lows

Richmond’s injury woes started before the first ball of the season was even bounced.

2020 pick one Ellie McKenzie was ruled out for the early part of the season with what was described as a ‘unique’ calf injury. She had grown extra muscle in the area which required surgery.

Iilish Ross suffered a stress fracture to her leg, placing her on the inactive list for the remainder of the season. Already having suffered an injury-stricken career, it was another blow to her at just 22-years-old.

This was compounded by injuries to Courtney Wakefield, who spent the middle part of the year with her arm in a sling, Poppy Kelly, Christina Bernardi, and Harriet Cordner.

Hannah Burchell and Laura McClelland then both went down in the same match, with Burchell confirmed to have also ruptured her ACL.

Who’s on the move?

Richmond has not yet confirmed any retirements or delistings, nor have any reports come through of players attracting outside interest.

After signing as a replacement player before the start of the season, Beth Lynch should likely keep a spot down in the backline after playing all 10 games.

The Tigers may not need to make many changes to their list at all, with Harriet Cordner and Hannah Burchell set to join the inactive list as they recover from ACL injuries.

Where to next?

After a few seasons of steady improvement, Ferguson looks to be the man to lead the Tigers forward for the future.

With a strong draft last year, Richmond will look to focus on retaining as many of its core group as possible amidst the upcoming expansion.

The Tigers don’t have too many players connected elsewhere. Emelia Yassir came through the Calder Cannons pathway and did feature in Essendon’s VFLW team, so may be one to watch.

The August start on the horizon, however, means the numerous ACLs and long term injuries will hurt the Tigers even more in the short term.

Without Cordner, they’ll have to quickly look to restructure their backline, and improve it before 2022 version two rolls around.

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