After the 2013, ’14 and ’15 elimination final knockouts, it looked as if Richmond would never get over its finals curse. But just two years later – and a failed 2016 campaign firmly in the rearview – the Tigers look more than capable of finally doing damage this September. Let’s discover why:
Dustin Martin announcing himself as one of the AFL’s elite
You cannot deny the on-field influence Martin has had on Richmond this year. He has been the Tigers’ best player by a mile, putting himself in the group of game-changing superstars. As a result of being used purely on the ball with small stints resting at full-forward, Martin recorded new personal bests in kicks, goals, inside 50s, contested possessions, clearances and goal assists in 2017.
It is easy to see why he is expected to take home this year’s Brownlow Medal as a result of his excellence. If Martin can continue his season of brilliance in the finals series it will go a long way in giving the Tigers their own unique September X-factor.
The mosquito fleet
Richmond have unearthed a gem of a small-forward line headlined by Daniel Rioli, along with Dan Butler and Jason Castagna. As a result, the Tigers have some very quick forwards that are ready to pounce once the ball drops to ground. These three also work extremely hard when defending as well – making it a dangerous game when opposition sides try to run the ball out.
Add in the four-to-six goals contributed by these players each week and Richmond are already halfway in getting a winning score of 12-13 goals in finals, given the traditional low-scoring nature of post-season football.
His effort from Round 3 is up against Eddie & Buddy. pic.twitter.com/bIXH8Ybv77
— Richmond FC (@Richmond_FC) September 4, 2017
The stingy backline
Led by the 2017 All Australian fullback in Alex Rance, Richmond have the third-best defence in the competition this season in terms of points scored against. It hasn’t always been up to Rance, though, as Dylan Grimes and David Astbury have been able to hold down key posts and make Rance’s job easier in nullifying the best opposition forward each week.
Alex Rance has been named in his fourth #AllAustralian team.
— Richmond FC (@Richmond_FC) August 30, 2017
Less reliance on star players
No longer do Richmond have to depend on the big four in Martin, Rance, Jack Riewoldt and skipper Trent Cotchin going massive to be in with a chance of winning. The Tigers have had contributions from all across the park when some have been down or held. Players such as Kane Lambert, Dion Prestia, Brandon Ellis and Shaun Grigg have stepped up in big moments when the heat has been on.
— Blue Rock Sports (@BlueRockSports) August 31, 2017
Bang for their buck in recruits
The Tigers’ 2016 off-season recruits in Prestia, Josh Caddy and Toby Nankervis have all delivered strongly in their first season at Punt Road. Prestia has been able to outshine Martin and Cotchin on a couple of occasions this season – notably against North Melbourne and Hawthorn when the Tigers were being challenged. Caddy has floated across half-forward with small stints in midfield and has been a key mover when the Tigers have gone on the break.
Despite Nankervis not dominating in the hitouts, he has been able to provide support at ruck contests after the hitouts covering around the ground almost as an extra midfielder – similar to how Nic Natanui of West Coast, Brodie Grundy of Collingwood and Sam Jacobs of Adelaide have done over the years. While Nankervis still has some development to do to become an all-round ruckman being young in his career, he is more than capable of being useful.
— AFL Feeds (@aflfeeds) August 7, 2017
With these factors taken into consideration, it is clear how Tigers coach Damien Hardwick has created a well-rounded team expected to take the next step and finally fire in September. The black-and-golds begin their finals campaign with a daunting assignment, however, facing off against Geelong Cats at the MCG on Friday night.