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Season review: Richmond

Flag hero who should look elsewhere The highs and lows of the Tigers' season in The Wash-Up

In a nutshell

It was all going swimmingly until the preliminary final. The Tigers finished the home and away season on top with 18 wins, were comprehensive in their qualifying final against Hawthorn, and then it fell apart against Collingwood.

What we said in the pre-season 

Just one of AFL.com.au's reporters tipped the Tigers to win the premiership back in March with another two predicting repeat Grand Final berths, which was somewhat surprising in hindsight given their season-long dominance. They were tipped to finish anywhere from second to sixth, while just one tipped Dustin Martin to win a second Brownlow medal (he finished equal sixth).


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


What worked

Grubby football. Their scrappy, 'get the ball forward at all costs and lock it in with pressure' style largely won out against the possession-focused way of play.

Jack as the lone forward. Won his third Coleman medal with 65 goals and as the single big guy, took his ability in the air to another level.

Jayden Short off half-back. Didn't have a great finals series but shone across the season with his penetrating run out of defence and clean disposal.

What failed

A couple of selection calls in the preliminary final. Martin struggled with his corked leg/knee and David Astbury battled illness. Should they have played? Hindsight says no, but would their replacements have made a difference?

Their ability to win interstate. They played five games outside Victoria and only won one – their round 21 clash with Gold Coast. Didn't hurt them in the end but it still became a 'thing'.

Game plan eventually found out. Not surprising that others tried to replicate the Tigers' swarm but they also got better at countering it when it hit full flight as the year wore on.

Overall rating

B+.

Were the competition's pacesetters for much of the year but falling at the preliminary final stage was a major letdown.

The coach

After winning a premiership and signing a contract extension until the end of 2021, Damien Hardwick entered the season under little pressure and it showed with his jovial persona. Will no doubt revisit the decision to play Martin and Astbury in the preliminary final over summer while he works out how to elevate the Tigers' game plan after the Pies beat them at it.  

Damien Hardwick was philosophical after the Tigers bowed out of the finals. Picture: AFL Photos

The leaders 

Trent Cotchin had a good year and was named the League's best captain by the AFLPA. The 2017 premiership taught him to stop thinking of his role as a burden and instead embrace his position, which continued to make a difference throughout the season as he helped teammates on and off the field.

MVP

Dustin Martin: Started the year well, had a quiet patch mid-season and then stormed into finals ready to take on the best. A corked thigh/knee injury from the qualifying final against Hawthorn robbed him of his best form in the prelim.

Surprise packet

Jayden Short: Finals aside, the emergence of the half-back with a booming kick and ability to break the lines was a highlight. Using the hurt of missing last year's finals to propel him into 2018, Short was one of their best stories this season.

Get excited

Jack Higgins: If you weren't loving this bloke, Richmond supporter or not, before the Brownlow Medal count, you were afterwards. Made a memorable acceptance speech for his remarkable Goal of the Year achievement from a thrilling 20-game debut season.

Disappointment

Jacob Townsend: Went from AFL premiership player to the VFL after being dropped in round 10. Was recalled in round 19 but fell out of the team again two weeks later, only to fracture his fibula in the VFL and end his year in a moon boot. Out of contract, his future is unclear.

Best win

Qualifying final: Richmond 13.17 (95) d Hawthorn 9.10 (64)

Worries over the Tigers' unconvincing form going into the finals was unfounded when Martin led them to an imposing 31-point win. They played it their way and the Hawks – young and old – couldn't keep up.

Best individual performance

Dustin Martin. Round 22 v Essendon

Was awarded three Brownlow votes for his vintage performance that featured 26 disposals, 10 marks and four goals to lead the Tigers, who were missing Cotchin, Astbury, Dion Prestia and Kane Lambert, to an eight-point win. Jack Riewoldt's 10 goals against Gold Coast in round 21 also deserves acknowledgment.

Low point

Pretty easy: the abrupt end to their finals campaign. The Magpies simply beat them at their own game, and every time you thought the Tigers would regroup and return fire, Nathan Buckley's men found another way to hold them off.

The big questions

How will the likely acquisition of Tom Lynch change things?

Do they need more ruck support after Toby Nankervis was shown up by Brodie Grundy in the prelim?

Was the prelim undoing an anomaly or does their game plan need tweaking? And, if so, how drastic does it have to be?

Season in a song

The Honeymoon is Over by The Cruel Sea.

Who's done?

Retirements: Ben Griffiths, Shaun Hampson

Delistings: TBC

Unsigned free agents: Reece Conca (unrestricted)

How should they approach trade and draft period?

There's nothing they urgently require and all their attention will be on securing the "big tuna" Tom Lynch from Gold Coast. They've also been linked to Adelaide's Brad Crouch in a good move that would bolster their inside stocks given they're likely to lose fringe mids Sam Lloyd and Anthony Miles.

Early call for 2019

There's no reason they can't contend again in 2019 given their list demographic and with Lynch expected to be part of a revamped forward structure.  

Tiger fans: what's your season verdict?

Share your views via the form below and we'll publish the best responses on Thursday, October 4. 

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