No matter what time of year or in what setting, Richmond taking on Collingwood always has the veil of rivalry hovering over the contest.
The fourth practice match of 2021 was a hot game in more ways than one.
With the temperature hovering around 25°C as the opening siren sounded at 10:15am and pushing closer to 30 once the final siren sounded, Richmond and Collingwood hunted the footy and the man from the get-go.
The Tigers clawed their way back from 19 points down in the third term to run out winners by 28 points at the Swinburne Centre.
Collingwood looked set to run away with the contest after kicking its fifth goal in a row early in the third quarter before a resurgent Richmond went on a tear in the final term, running out victors, 14.12 (96) to 9.14 (68).
The Tigers, trailing by just over three goals in the early stages of the third term needed a spark to initiate a turn of fortunes, and they found it in the form of a premier cricket all-rounder.
Brad Melville’s outstanding smother inside 50 set up Riley Collier-Dawkins to break Collingwood’s run of goals. The Tigers’ top-up then kicked his own after the three-quarter-time siren.
With seconds ticking away, the evergreen, returning Bachar Houli hit-up Melville inside 50 and the siren sounded as the midfielder was backing off the mark.
Melville’s set-shot pierced through the teeth of goal and his passionate fist pump and celebration said it all; the Tigers were not withering under the stinging autumn sun.
Bachar Houli’s last game was played under lights at the Gabba for the 2020 premiership, his first game of 2021 had a little less at stake, but you wouldn’t have guessed that by the way Houli attacked the game.
The triple AFL premiership player assumed his role at half-back, and while there were brief signs of rust in the first quarter, those quickly eroded as he went about his work.
All the trademarks that the Tiger Army has grown to love were on display: run and dash; calmness, clarity, courage and the raking left boot.
Houli most importantly got through the game unscathed and looks set to resume his role at AFL-level in the not too distant future.
Melville had a direct hand in the first goal after three-quarter-time as well, setting up Samson Ryan inside 50, and the emerging big man slotted his second major of the day.
The premiership midfielder from Wangaratta sealed the win later in the final term with a hack from congestion skidding through from outside 50.
As the temperature continued on its upward trajectory, so too did Richmond’s pressure and its desire to win, which will hold this young group in good stead as they display the hallmarks of playing the “Richmond Way”.
In the first quarter, the ball sizzled from end-to-end, as both sides defended grimly inside their respective back 50s and struggled to finish off their good work further up the field.
The fact there were just two goals kicked in the first quarter was not through lack of want or desire, and Jack Ross was the poster boy for both.
After being the medical sub for the opening two rounds of the AFL season, Ross looked intent on making up for lost game time.
Ross mauled Levi Greenwood at the opening bounce, he then sought body contact from anyone wearing black and white.
The unyielding midfielder slotted the opening goal of the game after being rewarded for his unflinching attack on the ball and the man.
Ross muscled his way past two Collingwood defenders to draw a free kick for high contact and then converted his set-shot.
The midfield maestro finished the game with two goals, after a thumping goal from outside 50 in the last quarter.
Ryan Garthwaite was another who enjoyed the steamy morning conditions, clunking a handful of marks in the first quarter and providing a strong focal point in the front half.
Garthwaite, a former diligent defender, has brought those traits forward and works just as hard without the ball to win it back for his side.
He was rewarded for his four-quarter efforts as Collier-Dawkins found him free inside 50 late in the match, and he kicked truly.
Patrick Naish has been somewhat of an understudy to the likes of Houli since arriving at the club in 2018 and the dashing wingman relished playing alongside his experienced teammate.
Houli has set a pretty high benchmark for players such has Naish, and judging by his opening half, Naish has his sights set on working to reach those heights in 2021.
Naish’s strengths were on-show; his sweeping right boot; his work rate from contest to contest, and running patterns, be it attacking or defending.
With just two goals kicked in the first quarter, an inaccurate Collingwood led marginally at the first change by five points.
Maurice Rioli then got things off on the right foot in the second term after swooping on a loose ball inside 50 and snapping truly over his left shoulder.
Rioli then enjoyed some midfield time, looking dangerous and clean at the centre bounce and stoppages and keeping the Magpies on their toes between the arcs.
The father-son dynamo could have had three goals up to half-time such were the chances he was creating.
Another player who will look to emulate the feats of Houli is Ryan Mansell.
The zippy and tenacious defender is hard to beat one-on-one, rebounds with verve, and is courageous in his attack on the ball.
RICHMOND 1.2 3.6 7.10 14.12 (96)
COLLINGWOOD 1.7 5.8 8.11 9.14 (68)
Richmond: Ross 2, Ryan 2, Melville 2, Rioli, Collier-Dawkins, Hicks, Martyn, Chol, Olden, Garthwaite, McDonagh