Heroes & Villains, R13: Richo's Saintly saviour; little Dog's down day

Richmond just don't lose at the MCG, do they?

After a titanic scrap on a 'classic' Melbourne winter's day, the Tigers were able to do what they seem to do best -- get the choccies at their home ground.

They weren't at their most fluent during Sunday's 18-point win but the victory propelled the Tigers to the top of the ladder -- above West Coast and Sydney on percentage -- and also drew them to within one game of the record MCG winning streak, set by Melbourne in the 1950s.

Richmond now get to put their feet up during their Round 14 bye safe in the knowledge that they have an enormous fear factor at the ground where premierships are won.

Aside from Sunday's ripping contest, Port pushed their finals credentials with a whopping win over an injury-hit Western Bulldogs, the Swans clipped the Eagles' wings at the SCG, Freo embarrassed the Blues at Etihad Stadium, the Saints stunned the Suns and Hawthorn demolished a woefully out-of-form Adelaide.

Here's this week's biggest winners and losers.


Jade Gresham: Could this weekend's biggest hero be anyone other than Gresham?

It's probably overkill to say the St Kilda forward may have saved his coach's job -- Alan Richardson is contracted for two more seasons, after all -- but Gresham alleviated an enormous amount of pressure on the embattled coach thanks to his last-minute snap from the boundary against Gold Coast.

The skilful, ice-cool finish capped off an incredible last-quarter fightback against the Suns, with the Saints booting five unanswered goals after trailing by 31 points at the last break to snatch their first victory since Round 1.

"My overwhelming sense of relief is for our group and our footy club," Richardson said post-match.

"While it wasn't the most convincing victory, it was a victory full of character."

It certainly was, and while the Saints won't be tasting finals this season, as they, and many others expected, Saturday night's victory is one that a club can look back on as the start of something big.

Without Gresham's classy finish, Richardson's feeling of relief would be an entirely different emotion.

Sydney's back six: It was only fitting that on a night when Swans stalwart Heath Grundy was celebrating game No. 250, Sydney's backline shone brightly and proved the difference against West Coast.

The Swans conceded just 57 points on Friday night in what was a 15 point win over the Eagles but it could have been a whole lot different had it not been for their resilient back six who remained composed throughout a barrage of 63 inside 50s.

As always, Grundy did a supreme job on Eagles spearhead Josh Kennedy to keep him to just two goals while Nick Smith, Dane Rampe and Harry Marsh all played well in quelling the influence of the dangerous Mark LeCras, Jamie Cripps and Willie Rioli.

Forgotten man Aliir Aliir was another star in defence in what was just his second game of the season and fifth since the beginning of 2017. Aliir was the No. 1 intercept player on the ground, taking 10 marks and racking up 18 disposals at 83 percent efficiency.

Oh, and did we mention Jake Lloyd? In the absence of Jarryd McVeigh, Lloyd excelled with 28 disposals, 10 rebound 50s and eight marks to be judged the best afield and take home the HMAS Trophy.

Shaun Burgoyne: After 157 games and one premiership with Port Adelaide, not many -- Hawthorn fans included -- would have guessed that Burgoyne would go on to play nearly 200 more games with Hawthorn.

In fact, when he arrived in Melbourne after making the move from Alberton, the man affectionately known as "Silk" was on crutches, recovering from a knee injury which could have ended his career prematurely.

But instead of putting a limit on his recovery and his ceiling, Burgoyne quickly became one of Alaistair Clarkson's most consistent and cleanest contributors.

Burgoyne played his 350th game on Saturday night, moving to equal-15th on the list of all-time games played -- a feat he now shares with the great Doug Hawkins.

The four-time premiership player turn 36 in October, but even coach Alastair Clarkson hasn't closed the door on Burgoyne playing on in 2019 -- a testament to Shaun's attitude and hunger for the contest.

Well done, Silk.


Caleb Daniel: Sorry Caleb, but your effort on Thursday night in Adelaide was absolutely pitiful.

The 2016 Bulldogs premiership player had just five disposals in his side's 57 point loss to the Power -- the fewest touches of anyone on the ground and Daniel's lowest possession tally since he was used as the sub in just his seventh game. What's more? For the first time this season, Daniel failed to lay a single tackle.

With early injuries to star midfielder Jack Macrae and skipper Easton Wood, Daniel needed to help take on some of the load but failed miserably as the Dogs suffered their fourth consecutive defeat.

If it weren't for the plethora of injuries at the Dogs you'd bet Luke Beveridge would drop Daniel back to the VFL after such an effort. You know what? He may still be inclined to do so anyway.

Brendon Bolton: It's tough being the coach of a club which has gone down the path of a complete and total rebuild. At the beginning of Bolton's tenure, sexy words like "journey", "green shoots" and "synergy" were thrown about, keeping fans excited during what was -- in reality -- going to be a very tough period for the Carlton Football Club.

But Bolton needs to give fans a reason to turn up and watch his side play for the rest of 2018. Goalless and down by 70 points at half time in Saturday's mammoth loss to Fremantle, children were pleading with their parents to leave early, a frightening manifestation of the old adage that perennially poor teams will 'lose a generation of supporters'.

And while Bolton's men came out with renewed intensity and hardness after the break, their listless style of play remained incredibly hard to watch. The Blues stuck to their guns, employing the use of slow, chip kicks to poor, wide areas of the ground before a long kick to a contest. Meanwhile, on the turnover and from half back, Fremantle strolled through the corridor with ease.

Bolton made the decision to revert from an attacking game plan to a defensively-minded one after the Blues lost to the Tigers in Round 1 -- a game Carlton lost by 26 points after keeping pace with the reigning premiers until halfway through the last quarter. That night, the Blues piled on 15 goals and used the corridor to dazzling effect despite falling short of victory.

Just 21,430 people turned up to watch the Blues on Saturday -- and they should be commended. But while they are on a long, slow path to building a competitive outfit, the product on the field needs to be more attractive -- or that young family of five might not come back.

Gold Coast's last quarter (again): For those of you keeping score at home, the Suns have now failed to kick a goal in their past four finals quarters.

Yes, the total tally from their last four finals terms stands at 0.2 (2) after they failed to register even a behind during the last quarter in their late, two-point loss to the embattled Saints on Saturday night.

And while their meagre late-game efforts might not have done too much damage in their 108-point loss to GWS in Round 12, or the 85-point loss to the Cats the week before, the Suns squandered a golden opportunity to put four points on the board when they have up a 31-point three-quarter time lead to St Kilda.

Coach Stuart Dew was at a loss to explain the worrying trend; he had to seek answers from the players themselves as to why they couldn't win a game they had controlled for three quarters.

He said his young brigade "physically and mentally froze" under the pressure, but given these fade-outs have quickly become a trend and haven't been an anomaly, Dew himself might want to start scrambling for some answers instead of asking his -- admittedly -- young and experienced team.