It might have been ugly, but Damien Hardwick was delighted with the 13-point win over Essendon that soured Dustin Fletcher’s 400-game milestone.
A dour first half gave way to a more heated conflict in the second with the Bombers slicing the margin to just one point late in the third quarter of the Dreamtime at the ‘G clash before the Tigers steadied to win their third match in a row.
“For us they’re good wins, they’re not pretty wins, but it’s good to win ugly,” Hardwick said after the Tigers improved to a 5-4 record.
A scrappy first half punctuated by skill errors and turnovers from both sides was hardly befitting of the big occasion that played out in front of 83,804 fans.
Young Tigers midfielder Brandon Ellis was outstanding with his 33 possessions earning him the Yiooken Award for best player on the ground, with Shane Edwards also influential.
Trent Cotchin, who kicked two goals in the first term, and Brett Deledio were important throughout, with Hardwick highlighting their value as his side’s season continues to gather momentum.
“It’s a great sign for our leaders to stand up,” he said.
“They’re playing good, consistent football for a longer period of time, which is important for our side pushing forward.
“It’s no coincidence that they’re all in the side playing together and we start to win some footy games. They’re really important players to us. They give us good structure, they give us good leadership on the ground and they’re improving week by week.”
The win strengthened Richmond’s grip on eighth spot after nine rounds, but Hardwick admitted his side still have plenty of work in front of them if they’re to push further up the ladder.
Fletcher had a quiet night and was subbed out with tightness in an adductor muscle in the final term.
Hardwick said that he had instructed his forwards to drag the veteran away from the play, and while he was happy to spoil the party, he paid tribute to his former teammate.
“He’s an incredible player, an incredible athlete and a great fella,” he said.
“You wouldn’t meet a finer man on the footy field – it’s a credit to him and his family.”
The Bombers did themselves no favours with wasteful kicking in front of goal – they booted 1.4 with Joe Daniher putting one set shot out on the full – in the first quarter, with James Hird also lamenting some poor decision making at crucial stages.