Richmond has found itself going from strength to strength across its club record six-game winning streak. But on Friday night against Carlton, the side had to dig deep to get the game back on its own terms.
The first quarter of the back-and-forth tussle was entirely on the Blues’ terms. They managed to lock the ball inside 50, as the Tigers entered their opposite arc just three times.
Daniel Harford’s side was also clinical at winning the ball from the source. They were winning clearances nine to five, led by youngster Abbie McKay to see the Blues up by 19 points at the first break.
But after a slow start, experienced midfielder Sarah Hosking helped to provide the spark her teammates needed to all but lock in a first-time finals berth.
In her first game back after three weeks on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury, she came to life in the second term, having five disposals and four clearances.
Alongside Mon Conti (three clearances to half-time), Hosking helped to create opportunities for the Tigers in a game where they didn’t come easily.
The last time she played, she had a defensive role on Essendon’s Maddy Prespakis, placing a hard tag on her and restricting her to just 11 disposals.
But on Friday, she did all her work on the offensive end, including kicking a goal and generating six clearances and four inside 50s.
“She just jumped straight in and was really hard and tough,” coach Ryan Ferguson said post-game.
“Probably a bit rusty with her ball use, but got better and better as the game went on. Thought she worked through that really well.
“Sometimes you can get complacent [with having] a couple of good players back.”Embed from Getty Images
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This match was the first time the Tigers had beaten the Blues, in another milestone for the club.
Season seven has been one of broken records, as they now continue into the final two rounds with confidence higher than ever.
After dropping their first two matches to Adelaide and Geelong, they’ve held their nerve in down-to-the-wire games every time they’ve been faced with the challenge.
“The composure and the patience of the team… they [Carlton] did jump us, but they had the wind and converted really well,” Ferguson explained.
“To wrestle momentum back and do it bit-by-bit… it was another mature performance. Really proud of how they handled that situation.
“The more experiences you get where you get a good result at the end of the game, it just builds belief.”
Working with Conti and Grace Egan, Hosking’s drive out of the middle brought the forwards into the game, particularly in the second half.
Stella Reid took four marks, providing a handy linking option between the higher-up and deeper forwards. Emelia Yassir also added four tackles and two inside 50s.
But it was Courtney Wakefield who stole the show in front of the sticks, kicking a career-high four goals.
“She was amazing. She’s had games where… I think it was last week or the week before, she played a bit higher up the ground and gave us a real contest. Didn’t kick any goals and was huge,” Ferguson said.
“Tonight, with Katie [Brennan] back in the team, she was able to work really well and get dangerous. I’m glad for her to be able to get a little bag.”
Sitting 6-2, the Tigers have all but locked in finals. Barring a disastrous end to the season, they’ll appear post-season for the first time in the club’s history.
With two rounds left to play though, the coach says they’ll be looking at getting the results first before thinking beyond that.
“We aim for finals, we set ourselves [that goal] at the start of the season, but since then we haven’t talked about it,” Ferguson said.
“We’re going to have a really big challenge against GWS next week, and that’s what we’ll focus on. Good things will come from that.
“Proud that we’re in the situation.”
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