The Tigers are here and you should be backing them. They have taken their sweet time but have finally decided to show up in 2017 and are now just three wins away from premiership glory. There’s no denying they have a few mental and physical hurdles to cross before they get there, but their journey through September will be something truly special and you need to make sure you’re on this bandwagon to glory.
Doubt is a black cloud that has haunted Richmond for years. They were never a team that you put your trust in. When it came to the do-or-die scenarios, Richmond could never quite rise to the occasion. At the conclusion of their 2015 season, the Tigers had lost three elimination finals in three consecutive years and it was after that final 17-point loss to North Melbourne that the footy world pretty much just said ‘nah, see you later Richmond’. The following year they finished 13th.
After that, coach Damien Hardwick had all but lost his job and it looked as though Richmond was headed towards a rebuild phase this year. But, here we are, at the conclusion of the 2017 home and away season and little old Richmond has finished 3rd on the ladder, securing themselves a double-chance and practically a home final at the MCG. A year ago, I don’t think anyone, not even the Richmond faithful would have predicted this but, with the inclusion of a couple of new assistant coaches, recruits such as Josh Caddy and young stars making their mark, life’s been brought back into the heart of Tiger Town.
The big question that still floats above the Richmond Tigers is whether or not they can win a final, let alone make it far enough to be in contention for the ultimate prize at the end of September. I think it’s more than possible, but they have the odds and their past stacked against them.
The last final the Tigers won was way back in 2001 where they defeated Carlton by 11 points, securing themselves a spot in the Preliminary Final against the Brisbane Lions. The Tigers ended their season against the Lions by getting belted by 68 points. It took Richmond another 12 years before they even made it to finals again. They finished the home and away season in 5th, but were defeated by 8th-placed Carlton by 20 points. They worked hard in 2014 and scraped into 8th position where they met Port Adelaide in another elimination final. But got smashed by 57 points. However the Tigers didn’t give up, they made the top 8 for a third year in a row and their fans thought surely this was the year they make it passed that dreaded elimination final, however disappointment struck again. They lost to North Melbourne by 17 points. Just to rub a bit of salt into the Richmond faithfuls’ wounds, they backed up 2015’s dismal finals performance with a 13th place finish in the 2016 season.
Although Richmond has continued to disappoint fans year after year, their membership has surprisingly grown. Steadily increasing each year, Richmond now has more than 73,000 members and I think the members have finally stopped being embarrassed about barracking for Richmond and have thrown their support behind them. 2017 is the highest Richmond has finished on the ladder since 1995 where they also finished 3rd. Ironically, they missed out of the Grand Final that year because they were smashed by Geelong in the Preliminary Final. They face Geelong this weekend.
Now that I have stacked the odds completely against Richmond, I’m going to actually tell you why you should trust them to go all the way in 2017. Of the 22 men who ran out against St Kilda last weekend, only 10 of them played in the last final just two years ago. This is a fresh, successful Richmond team that can certainly go all the way. The team is hungry for it, the coach is hungry for it and boy oh boy are the fans bloody hungry for it. We saw it with the Bulldogs in 2016, who came from 7th position to do the unthinkable and win the premiership.
The calibre of talent that Richmond has in its team is outstanding. Brownlow favourite Dustin Martin is averaging almost five disposals more per game this year compared to 2015. The have a Brownlow Medalist leading them in Trent Cotchin, 2017’s All Australian captain Alex Rance heading up their backline and a Coleman Medalist in Jack Riewoldt ready to kick a bag. They have also only lost two of their last 10 games, which just cements how in form they currently are. And now the final piece of the Richmond Premiership puzzle has been put together, the beloved Richmond son we just spoke of Dustin Martin has resigned with the Tigers for another 7 years. A Tiger for life. It has sent such a belief through the footy world that even the most skeptical can now back the Tigers. All Richmond needs to string together is three great games we know they are capable of playing and they will be holding that cup above their heads on the last weekend of September.
Look, I know I’m putting all of my eggs in one basket with Richmond but hey, my beloved Brisbane Lions haven’t been going so well, so I need to believe in someone, right? Everyone knows Australia loves an underdog and AFL fans like jumping on a finals bandwagon even more. Richmond is 2017’s bandwagon and I seriously think we should all hop aboard the Tiggy Train.