Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has raised concerns over the growing use of extreme defensive tactics in the AFL after his side ground out a dour eight-point win over Sydney on Sunday.
The Tigers piled on three quick goals in the opening ten minutes to put a break on their opponents, but the match quickly descended into a slugfest as rain fell at the Gabba.
The teams managed just three goals between them after quarter-time as the Tigers prevailed 4.10 (34) to 3.8 (26).
It was the second-lowest combined match total in the AFL era, with Richmond unable to capitalise on their inside-50 dominance (53-36).
“It was a horrendous game of football,” Hardwick said post-match.
“It was hard to watch, it was hard to play. It was just incredibly frustrating.
“Unfortunately it’s sometimes how games pan out.
“You have a lot of players in one D50 and they can’t get out and we can’t score.
“We had 50-odd inside-50s for four goals, which is farcical in nature.”
Callum Mills roamed free as a spare man as the Swans resorted to pushing players back to flood their defensive zone.
It was the third time in five matches since the season restart that Richmond have not managed more than five goals and Hardwick was concerned about the spectacle of the game.
“There’s not much I can do, we’re attacking and we’ve got 75,000 people in our forward 50, so it’s pretty hard,” Hardwick said.
“We’ve got to figure out how to negate it because it’s probably happened a couple of times this year and it’s become a tactic in the AFL.
“Fold back mentality is really keeping sides in games and it’s creating the game that we got tonight. It’s not pretty.”
Jayden Short (26 disposals), Kane Lambert (24) and Jack Higgins stepped up for Richmond, who lost five senior players because of injury and family reasons during the week.
Mills (29), Jake Lloyd (24) and Ryan Clarke (23) worked hard for Sydney, while Swans forward Tom Papley (two goals) was the only multiple goal kicker for the match.
Sydney fielded nine players with fewer than 30 games’ experience and their disappointing afternoon was compounded by injuries to Josh Kennedy (knee) and Isaac Heeney (ankle).
Kennedy strained the medial ligament in his left knee before quarter time and sat out the rest of the match, but Heeney played through pain from his first-quarter injury before limping off in the final few minutes.
Sydney’s tough day started with a contentious deliberate rushed behind call on Mills, who was pushed over the goal line by Richmond spearhead Jack Riewoldt.
Mills was penalised anyway and Riewoldt kicked the first goal of the match.
Tigers flag hero Marlion Pickett will be scrutinised by the match review officer for a late bump that caught Heeney high.