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COMMENT: It's the flag the Tigers should have won

Highlights: Richmond v Collingwood The Tigers and Magpies clash in the first preliminary final

LAST year the Tigers were the surging premiership contenders that nobody predicted. This year they were the unbackable favourites.

It is why Friday night's defeat at the hands of Collingwood was one of the great upsets of the modern era in one of the biggest games of the modern era.

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In front of a crowd of 94,959 rabid fans, the MCG rocked as the Pies overcame the might and power of Richmond to knock out the reigning champs. It was as crushing as it was stunning. 

Richmond's missed shot at back-to-back flags for the first time since 1974 now puts it alongside Essendon in 1999, Geelong in 2008 and St Kilda in 2009 as the ultra-dominant teams of the home and away season of the past two decades who didn't convert it to premiership glory. 

The Pies deserve enormous credit. They overwhelmed the Tigers in the first quarter, beat them at their own game and their brilliant run to the Grand Final will not be understated given the injury challenges they have overcome.

However, it is fair to look at this as the premiership Richmond should have won but didn't – or couldn't.

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The Tigers finished the season two wins and 15 per cent clear on top of the ladder, won their first final comfortably over Hawthorn and had a week off to prepare for the Pies. They hadn't lost at the MCG since the middle of last year. 

They enjoyed another strong run with injury, with their key players Dustin Martin (23 games), Trent Cotchin (22), Jack Riewoldt (24), Alex Rance (24) and Shane Edwards (24) barely missing a beat.

Martin was clearly hindered against the Pies by the cork/knee issue that has prevented him training the past two weeks, but the Tigers have become a team that hasn't relied upon his exploits to win. 

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Dion Prestia and Daniel Rioli were the only major players to suffer injury concerns through the year, but both were back and firing by September. The team enjoyed great continuity and stability: of Friday's line-up, 19 of the 22 played in last year's flag (Jack Higgins, Jayden Short and Reece Conca the exceptions). 

The Tigers will now need to move on from what happened, work out how it happened and where they can get better so it doesn't happen next year.

Richmond's list is so well-rounded and well-built that it doesn't need for anything. What it wants, however, is a different matter.

The Tigers are in the box seat to land the game's highest profile free agent, with Gold Coast power forward Tom Lynch expected to nominate the club as his destination. That announcement could be brought forward to the coming days with the Tigers now out of the premiership race. 

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Richmond doesn't need Lynch right now. Riewoldt won his third Coleman Medal this year, was his side's best against the Pies and has re-signed until the end of 2021. But by then he will be 32 and Lynch will be 28 and in his prime. The move for Lynch is not necessarily based on the present but also the future. 

Will he change the way Richmond tries to play? The Tigers have centred their forward line on Riewoldt and a number of crumbers and pressure players at his feet. But maybe coach Damien Hardwick would need to alter things anyway, regardless of whether Lynch goes there. 

They have a game-plan that is in fashion, but fashion changes every season anyway. After two years, and plenty of copycats, a tweak in style (or in footy parlance, 'structure') may not hurt. 

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A by-product of a successful and healthy list means fringe players will begin to look elsewhere and that appears likely for the Tigers. They may enter next year without the depth currently at their disposal. 

Anthony Miles has met with Gold Coast and the Suns are also interested in Corey Ellis, Tyson Stengle is being targeted by Adelaide, Sam Lloyd has been linked with the Bulldogs. Premiership duo Nathan Broad and Jacob Townsend, tall forward Callum Moore and Connor Menadue also remain out of contract heading into the off-season. 

Two things are certain in Richmond's off-season: the turnover will happen, and the torment of Friday night – and this year's missed opportunity – will last.