Young Tiger Dan Butler was outstanding on debut.
Young Tiger Dan Butler was outstanding on debut. JULIAN SMITH

Pack mentality pays dividends for Tigers

TIGERS aren't known for hunting in packs.

But on Thursday night, Damien Hardwick's new breed did exactly that.

Playing with an attack vigour hardly spotted last season, Richmond's fleet of dangerous small forwards set the tempo for how the side would prey on Carlton's mistakes and profit on the scoreboard in a 43-point win at the MCG.

Having been ranked third-last by Champion Data for turnovers created in the forward half of the ground last season, the Tigers made forward pressure an area of focus over the summer.

In the side's season-opening clash, that new game plan was given its first tick of approval.

The Tigers would kick 11 of their 20 goals from forward-half turnovers, with young trio Daniel Rioli, Jason Castagna and debutant Dan Butler leading the charge.

Last season, they averaged only 26 points from forward-half stoppages - 40 fewer than they managed on Thursday night.

Together, they combined to kick six goals between them, also winning plenty of the footy and providing the type of forward pressure that thrilled Hardwick.

"They looked really comfortable at that level," Hardwick said after the match.

"They've also got a lot of improvement left in them as well, which is really exciting.

"We're going to continue to play them, but the consistency is what we're looking for - that pressure they exert on the opposition. If we get that most weeks, we're going to be pretty hard to beat."

In his first senior game, Butler was arguably the most impressive of the three.

The 20-year-old was one of few players on Richmond's list who failed to make his debut last season, but took his chance when he was presented with it on Thursday night.

 

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick. JULIAN SMITH

Having kicked two goals in the opening term, Butler set the Punt Road End alight and finished with 19 disposals and five inside-50s to go with his impact on the scoreboard.

"It was a pretty unbelievable experience," Butler told foxfooty.com.au.

"I had a pretty solid pre-season, but I still wasn't 100 per cent sure whether I was going to play or not.

"I got told at Sunday training. 'Dimma' brought everyone in and told me and the boys went crazy. It was pretty exciting."

Rioli and Castagna, who also finished with two goals each, are also just 19 and 20 years of age respectively.

But their importance on how Richmond is aiming to play this season has already been highlighted.

And, crucially, their ability to make the Tigers a fun outfit to both watch and play for is already on show.

"It's pretty awesome," Butler said.

"We've got myself, Rioli and Castagna up there. We've added a bit of speed, which is exciting.

"We just love being out there, putting on pressure and trying to get on the end of a few."

Should they continue to do that, perhaps the Tigers will build that reputation for hunting in packs.

News Corp Australia


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