Player focus: Ed Richards

AFTER an injury led to him missing out on Vic Metro selection, the grandson of Collingwood great Ron Richards (whose brother was premiership skipper Lou), has impressed in the last month with his eye-catching runs and his impressive disposal – pushing his name into first round calculations. On the weekend, Peter Williams analysed the lightning red head and watched how he moved and what he did to get a better understanding of the type of player he was, when his side the Oakleigh Chargers went down to Sandringham Dragons on Sunday in the preliminary final.

First quarter:

Ed Richards started on Alfie Jarnestrom at half-back but with Oakleigh looking strong early, Richards was pushed up to the wing. With no much to report in the opening few minutes, Richards hung back from a stoppage in the Chargers’ forward 50 region. His opponent went into the contest and Richards cleverly stayed out, receiving the handball and then arching his back before piercing an effective kick inside 50 to Jack Higgins who marked and goaled.

It would be Richards’ only kick of the quarter, but his burst and effectiveness to hit a target on the run was really impressive. At the next piece of play, Richards was kicking out after a Chargers’ behind and he managed to find his target in Luke Stacker in the back pocket. Richards ran past but looked a bit surprised to receive the ball back and under pressure he had to handball to Riley Jones before the pressure from the Dragons forced the ball out for a throw-in.

The next moment Richards came into contact with the play was in the ninth minute where he pressured Aaron Trusler, forcing him to not take possession cleanly, before Richards was benched for the first time in the game at about the eleventh minute mark. He returned at the 15.30 minute mark and went to half-back to play on Josh Gorman. As he had at the start of the quarter, he pushed up but once he got to the half-forward flank, word came from the bench loud and clear “Ed, stay out” and he moved back in line with three other Chargers’ to zone across the middle of the ground.

At the 17-minute mark, Sandringham kicked inside 50 to Jarnestrom who set sail for home unbeknown that Richards was closing down and the speedster managed to get a hand to him and knock him off balance forcing Jarnestrom’s shot on goal to fall short. He continued to oppose Jarnestrom at half-back for the next few minutes, holding a strong line. At the 19.30 mark, he won a one-on-one contest with Jarnestrom deep in defence and manage to spoil it to a teammate who cleared the football.

At the 20-minute mark, Richards picked up Trusler again but Sandringham had spotted a hole in the Oakleigh defence with Will Walker slipping free. Richards realised at the last moment, darted back to cover Walker but the small midfielder/forward took the mark. Luckily for the Chargers’ defence, their loss in focus only cost them a behind as Walker’s shot hit the inside of the post.

Richards then assumed a role on Walker at the next play and managed to nullify a Dragons’ ball that went deep, and for his last piece of play for the quarter, Richards produced a long, bullet pass outside 50, perfectly hitting his target with rare precision.

Quarter 1 stats: 2 Disposals (1 Kick, 1 Handball), 1 Inside 50

Second Quarter:

Ed Richards again started the quarter at half-back assigned to Jarnestrom although within the first 90 seconds he had pushed up into the stoppage with his opponent. In the third minute, Richards received a handball on the wing, handballed back to Stacker before his teammate was dispossessed and Sandringham kicked the ball forward. A shot on goal from the Dragons resulted in a behind, with Richards taking the kick-out. He kicked long to about the 55m metre mark to hit-up big ruckman Ned Reeves, but he was well spoiled by Joel Amartey.

Sandringham mopped up and kicked long inside 50 where Walker led at the ball, but Richards was up to the task producing a strong spoil and the Chargers cleared the ball from danger. A few minutes later Ed Richards was opposed to Andrew Brayshaw, spoiling his attempted mark and following him into the middle. While on Brayshaw, Jarnestrom had snuck free of Richards close checking and enjoyed the freedom by taking an uncontested mark inside 50 and kicking the goal.

Richards returned to the defensive 50 after the goal to match up on Trusler, and it was not long before a long ball headed in their direction with Richards once again showing his closing speed and strength one-on-one, spoiling Trusler on the lead. As he pushed up to the wing with the press, Richards won the ball under pressure and tried to kick inside 50 but his kick was a scrubber and ineffective.

In the eighth minute, Jarnestrom won the first one-on-one contest anyone had against Richards that day, with very little the speedster could do. The ball was a pinpoint low pass for Jarnestrom to take on his chest and left Richards little chance to spoil. A minute later he took a good mark just outside defensive 50 with a good leap in front of Jarnestrom and produced an effective short kick into the corridor to Lachlan Bugeja.

With the ball up the other end for the next few minutes, Richards was not involved in the play until another one-on-one with Trusler, which Richards won, but he could not quite gather it cleanly and it was forced into a stoppage. He moved into the middle to face Lucas Barrett and moments later Sandringham kicked inside 50 and goaled. At the fifteenth minute mark, Richards was sent to the bench for the second time in the game.

He returned four minutes later to stand beside Andrew Brayshaw at half-back, and Brayshaw marked in front of the defender when Richards was zoning off. A couple of minutes later, Richards received a handball on the wing, then tucked the ball under his arm, took a bounce and kicked inside 50, but unfortunately it landed straight in the arms of Ben King. He returned to the defence where he picked up Walker inside 50 and then moved into the midfield in the last minute of the quarter, standing Geordie Nagle. Sandringham won the clearance with Trusler marking and subsequently goaling just on the siren.

Quarter 2 stats: 5 Disposals (4 Kicks, 1 Handball), 1 Mark, 1 Inside 50, 1 Rebound
Total stats: 7 Disposals (5 Kicks, 2 Handballs), 1 Mark, 2 Inside 50s, 1 Rebound

Third Quarter:

Ed Richards returned from the half-time break and started inside at the centre bounce. He opposed Jarnestrom there and won the first clearance of the second half, albeit a shorter one to the 60m mark. A minute later the most damning piece of play occured for Richards which might not have been noticed for anyone not directly watching him.

There was a throw-in on the wing and Richards was shoulder-to-shoulder with Walker (1:12:18 on the livestream). After Sandringham won possession, Walker darted forward at full speed while Richards jogged behind. The ball was bombed long to the square by Amartey where Walker had continued running and took an uncontested mark about 15m clear of Richards and did not break stride as he ran into an open goal. The piece of play indicated to me that Richards looked to have been caught ball-watching and Walker had taken the opportunity to run forward backing his teammates to win the football and kick it to the dangerous area.

After that, Richards stood in space about 60m out from his defensive 50, helping zone for the Chargers, before resuming his contest with Jarnestrom. He pushed up to help the press inside 50 and was lucky not to be pinged for holding the ball on the wing at the five minute mark when he dove on it and could not get it out. A minute and a half later, Richards pushed forward and took a good mark overhead. He chipped to Charlie Thompson but the pair was not on the same wave length, with the chip designed for Thompson to run onto, but instead Richards’ teammate had stopped running and the ball went past him and Sandringham cleared the defence.

In the eighth minute, Richards went in hard and received a free kick for his efforts, about 25m out on a 45 degree angle. His set shot was weighted to pop through and he registered a goal to his name (1:19:30 on the livestream). A minute later he punched the ball from a stoppage knowing he did not have time to take possession and instead got it clear to the running Sam Harte, before Richards was called to the bench for a break at the nine and a half minute mark.

He returned two and a half minutes later and went back to the half-back flank opposed to Josh Gorman. Immediately he had a clean, one-hand pickup but his kick was rushed. It proved effective however and started the chain of possessions that led to an Oakleigh goal as the Chargers hit the Dragons hard in the third term. Richards was only on the ground a few minutes before being benched again in the fifteenth minute as he had in the second quarter.

Richards returned to the field at the 17-minute mark and opposed Andrew Brayshaw inside defensive 50. He produced a couple of statless pressure acts there without winning a possession and spent another five minutes on the ground before another stint on the bench at the 22 and a half minute mark. His interchange time was about 90 seconds before heading to half-back where he won the football and effectively handballed to Isaac Quaynor. In the dying moments he was at half-forward on Gorman before filling a hole in defensive 50 before the final break. Richards’ third quarter was by far his most productive, making the most of his increased midfield minutes which was reflected in his stats.

Quarter 3 stats: 7 Disposals (5 Kicks, 2 Handballs), 1 Mark, 2 Clearances, 1 Inside 50, 1 Goal
Total stats: 12 Disposals (9 Kicks, 3 Handballs), 2 Marks, 2 Clearances, 3 Inside 50s, 1 Rebound, 1 Goal

Fourth Quarter:

The fourth quarter was a bit of a let-down for Richards, being mostly in the middle but not greatly impacting the contest. He started inside opposed to Andrew Brayshaw and drifted back to be loose on the defensive 50 line. At the two and a half minute mark, he produced a fantastic chase down tackles on Quintin Montanaro on the wing (1:50:27 on the livestream), indicating Richards’ closing speed. A minute later Richards was benched.

He had a long stint on the interchange, spending about five minutes resting before returning in the eighth minute. He burst onto the scene, winning the football and took advantage of a free kick with a quick handball and it lead to a kick inside 50. He returned to the inside against Brayshaw at the tenth minute and and stood his ground well in a marking contest against Brayshaw with his opponent slipping over. Richards took possession cleanly, handballed it off, received it back was tackled but managed to produce an effective handball nonetheless.

He returned to the centre square opposing Brayshaw, but was there for another minute before he was called to the bench once again, this time spending seven minutes on the pine which was a little surprising. Of the first 20 minutes in the last quarter, Richards spent about 12 minutes on the bench which probably points to endurance and the fact he has had little match practice this season due to injury.

Richards returned at the 20-minute mark and went forward for a few minutes but Sandringham was mostly controlling the play at that stage. A couple of minutes later he moved into the midfield to oppose Nagle again, and then Brayshaw at a half-forward throw-in, but without registering another disposal. The siren sounded and Richards had produced a few highlights, he had eventually tired in the final term and unfortunately his team had been eliminated as Sandringham celebrated a terrific win.

Quarter 4 stats: 4 Disposals (0 Kicks, 4 Handballs), 2 Tackles
Total stats: 16 Disposals (9 Kicks, 7 Handballs), 2 Marks, 2 Tackles, 2 Clearances, 3 Inside 50s, 1 Rebound, 1 Goal

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