Dustin Martin of the Tigers celebrates the win over the Eagles.
Dustin Martin of the Tigers celebrates the win over the Eagles. JOE CASTRO

Rioli magic inspires Tigers to win over Eagles

THE commentator's curse might be the strongest jinx in footy.

How often have you heard an expert talk up a player just before he shanks a kick out of bounds, or makes a similar silly mistake?

Daniel Rioli and the Tigers mustn't believe in curses.

A goal of the year contender in the third quarter from the Richmond young gun - which was pure Rioli magic as footy fans have seen for years - had Fox Footy's commentary team on their feet.

"That is just brilliant football, it'll be in the race for goal of the year," Gerard Healy declared.

"The entirety of this play is phenomenal. If you've ever seen a goal that could inspire a victory, that was it."

Sandy Roberts agreed, suggesting it "might be the spark that lights the Tigers".

It was.

Daniel Rioli magic: Tigers v Eagles
Daniel Rioli magic: Tigers v Eagles

Richmond's 11-point win over West Coast, its third in a row to open the 2017 season, was a statement: "We're here to contend this season."

As a storm brewed over the MCG, the Tigers only got better. Rioli's goal was the turning point and as the game turned into pure wet weather footy the stars in yellow and black proved most valuable.

Rioli had one of the best nine-disposal games you'll see for a while - we've said that plenty of times about Cyril, haven't we? - and in the fourth quarter when the ball was a bar of soap, he looked like he'd just towelled it off before every touch.


Trent Cotchin of the Tigers runs with the ball as he's tackled by Jack Darling of the Eagles, during the Round 3 AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the West Coast Eagles at the MCG in Melbourne, Saturday, April 8, 2017. (AAP Image/Joe Castro) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Trent Cotchin of the Tigers runs with the ball as he's tackled by Jack Darling of the Eagles. JOE CASTRO

"He's a freak," Dustin Martin told Fox Footy post-game. "He's going to get better and better each week."

The other key cog was Martin himself, who now looks a certainty to be in the high single digits on Brownlow night after just three rounds.

Martin played most of last week's win with a fractured cheekbone and even though it was suggested to him that he should wear a helmet to protect the injury, he chose not to on Saturday.

He played like a man who didn't care what happened to his face, too. Dusty had a career-high 15 clearances; only 11 players have had more than that in a game since the stat began to be recorded.

And while the wet weather didn't help his efficiency, Martin finished with 40 disposals with 21 of his possessions contested. He and Rioli were a part of this new-look Richmond that just plays so much faster than its 2016 incarnation.

The Eagles wanted to play tall in defence; so the Tigers ran around the lumbering big men. Rioli, Martin and Dan Butler all kicked two goals showing the success of that tactic.

"If they allow the likes of Butler and Castagna and Rioli to get enough of the football then they're going to be chasing some tails and potentially chasing a score," Gerard Healy said of the Eagles at halftime.

"They're slow. Their strength is in the air. They're not going to beat them at ground level."

They didn't. And it meant the Eagles weren't able to beat the Tigers at all.