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Season review: Richmond

Buy him a Rolex, Alex We dissect the glorious 2017 of the Richmond Football Club in the Wash-Up

In a nutshell

Richmond rose from 13th to first, winning a fairytale premiership just 12 months after the club's board and coach was under threat. The remarkable turnaround saw the Tigers reach their first Grand Final in 35 years and break a 37-year premiership drought. 

Have your say: Give your season verdict on the Tigers using the form at the bottom of this article.

What we said in the pre-season  

The team had little faith in the Tigers after a horror 2016 and predicted a 14th-placed finish. The pressure on Damien Hardwick was at "boiling point" and we said he needed to let an attacking game style flourish to make 2017 a success. A premiership hero in his fifth game, Jack Graham was the recruit we backed to have the biggest impact.

What worked 

A small forward line that came about by accident but became the team's "one wood". Jack Riewoldt played as a sole marking target and was surrounded by small forwards who forced turnovers inside 50 with their relentless chasing and tackling. The structure relied on Toby Nankervis carrying a massive load in the ruck and Josh Caddy chipping in as a marking target when Riewoldt was injured.    

What failed

Stoppage and kick-in structures late in games during a run of close losses in the first half of the season. Against Fremantle in round eight, the Tigers couldn't defend a four-point lead from a centre bounce with 21 seconds remaining. One week later, Greater Western Sydney went coast-to-coast to snatch a three-point win after Nathan Wilson was allowed to play on from a kick in. 

Overall rating: A+

The Tigers found a magic formula on-field and off, playing their best football in September and on Grand Final day. They were deserved premiers. 

Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt celebrate with Damien Hardwick at the club's family day. Picture: AFL Photos

The coach

Damien Hardwick sparked the Tigers' revival when he returned from the off-season intent on focusing on relationships at his club. Through that inspired decision, he built a close-knit group that played with a commitment to each other. He admitted to his flaws and changed, loosening the shackles and telling his players to "just play". Out of contract at the end of 2018, he was named the AFL Coaches Association coach of the year and got consistent performances out of his role players.      

The leaders 

Like Hardwick, captain Trent Cotchin inspired his players to open up to each other and grow closer. By leading in an authentic way and just being himself, his football has flourished. He set the tone with his tackling and attack on the ball and was a star throughout the finals. A re-worked three-man leadership group, with Riewoldt and Alex Rance as joint vice-captains, was hailed as a success.    


Dustin Martin: The superstar midfielder put together what Leigh Matthews called the finest individual season in the game's history. He was recognised as the season's best players by the coaches, players and media, and became the first player to win a premiership medal, Norm Smith Medal and Brownlow in the one season. All while a new contract was negotiated amid feverish speculation. 

Surprise packet

Jacob Townsend: Looked to be on his way out until he was selected as a replacement for the injured Josh Caddy in round 22. Picked as a defensive forward, he kicked six goals and another five the following week to cement his finals spot. His competitive work through the finals was important and he must still be pinching himself.

Townsend's meteoric rise from VFL forward to premiership star was astounding. Picture: AFL Photos

Get excited

Jack Graham: A hard-nosed midfielder who looks built for the finals stage, the first-year Tiger earned a vote in the Norm Smith Medal after booting three goals. Injured for the first half of the season, expect big things from the 19-year-old after a full pre-season.


Reece Conca: Looked destined for a career-best year in the early rounds as a rebounding defender before injury struck yet again. Sidelined between rounds seven and 21 with a foot injury, he returned in the VFL but couldn't break back into a settled team. 

Best win

Grand Final: Richmond 16.12 (108) def Adelaide 8.12 (60) @ MCG

The Tigers saved their best for last, standing up on the big stage and dominating contested ball to outmuscle their more fancied opponents. They became heroes to a fan base that has been through so many lows.

Low point

St Kilda wiped the floor with Richmond in round 16, kicking 9.5 to 0.1 in a staggering second quarter. The theory went that a team that lost in that fashion, eventually by 67 points, could not win the premiership. However, the Tigers treated it as a wake-up call.  

The big questions

After jumping the competition with a small forward line, can the Tigers evolve in 2018 to stay ahead of the game?

Does Richmond trade to strengthen its position even further? A premier that plays in front of massive crowds, it will be a destination club.

How do the unsung role players of the Tigers' premiership back up in 2018? Do they have the talent to shine again?

Season in a song

The Killers ft. Jack Riewoldt (live) – Mr Brightside 

WATCH: Jack's cameo with The Killers

Premiership window

Wide open: They will only get stronger in 2018

Who's done?

Retirements: Ivan Maric, Chris Yarran 
Delistings: TBC
Unsigned free agents: None

How should they approach trade and draft period?

Their prime picks should be reserved for the NAB AFL Draft, and they need points for father-son prospect in Patrick Naish. Then they need to work on retaining depth players like Anthony Miles and Sam Lloyd who will want further opportunities.   

Early call for 2018

Back-to-back premierships is the goal. They have found a formula that works and will be picked apart by the opposition. Will they handle being the hunted?

Tiger fans: what's your season verdict? 

Share your views via the form below and we'll publish the best responses on Tuesday, October 10. 

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