IF RICHMOND'S stuttering season needed to "get moving", as its triple-premiership coach Damien Hardwick put it earlier this week, then this was the Tigers in a hurry.
An emphatic 86-point victory over St Kilda on Thursday night was the perfect the tonic for a Richmond team peeved, but not panicked, by back-to-back defeats in the early part of its campaign.
The Tigers withstood an early barrage from a Saints outfit up for the contest, answering every challenge on their way to a statement 20.14 (134) to 7.6 (48) victory at Marvel Stadium.
Dustin Martin (34 disposals, five clearances, one goal) was the bullying force in Richmond's midfield, while Shane Edwards (29 disposals, seven clearances, one goal) provided the class as both produced vintage displays out of the centre.
That, in turn, helped the Tiger forwards to fire. Jack Riewoldt continued to wind back the clock with five goals, Tom Lynch and Jack Graham finished with three majors each, while Jason Castagna and Daniel Rioli both hit the scoreboard multiple times.
St Kilda had an early spark, with Hunter Clark (33 disposals, three clearances) performing strongly and with Jack Steele (26 disposals, 10 tackles) competing as admirably as ever in the midfield.
But the reigning premiers, as they do so well and so often, gradually chipped away at the fight of their plucky opponents. The result was a 25-point buffer at the main break of a clash that had seemed relatively even just moment before.
St Kilda's growing worries on the scoreboard were compounded by a groin injury to Jimmy Webster, forcing him to be substituted of the match, which added to the late and untimely omissions of Rowan Marshall (foot) and Zak Jones (soreness) beforehand.
SAINTS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
Moments of respite from the relentless Richmond pressure were fleeting thereafter, as the Tigers piled on five consecutive majors on either side of the three-quarter time interval to drive home their advantage.
An undermanned St Kilda, by that stage, had run its race. If victory over West Coast gave Brett Ratten's side renewed belief in its lofty ambitions for the season ahead, Thursday night surely would have flattened such faith.
Another four consecutive Richmond goals to end the match would then widen an already significant deficit on the night, and a growing gap between St Kilda and the genuine contenders on the ladder.
The perfect Richmond response
After two straight defeats – the first a shock loss to Sydney, the second a humbling at the hands of premiership rival Port Adelaide – this was the reaction Richmond was after. Led by a superstar midfield consisting of Dustin Martin, Shane Edwards, Trent Cotchin and Shai Bolton, the Tigers built the platform for their emphatic victory from the engine room. Richmond dominated St Kilda's onball group in every area, winning the disposal count (+37), the inside-50 battle (+31), the clearance count (+16) and the contested game (+19) on their way to a resounding win. This was all of the club's premiership quality and experience coming to the fore. And right on time.
Still gears for Jack to go through
Last season might have been a quiet one by the lofty standards of three-time Coleman Medal winner Jack Riewoldt, but 2021 promises to be another prolific campaign. A five-goal haul on Thursday night added to four-goal outings against Carlton in round one and Hawthorn in round two, as well as an underrated three-goal performance against Port Adelaide last week. Taylor Walker's resurgence in Adelaide might have stolen the headlines so far this year when it comes to goalkicking veterans, but the 32-year-old Riewoldt now has 17 majors in five weeks and is emerging as a genuine contender for yet another Coleman Medal. Could he become just the ninth player in AFL/VFL history to claim the League's goalkicking award for the fourth time? On this form, don't rule it out.
Pre-game drama as Saints swing changes
There were concerns surrounding Rowan Marshall (foot) and Zak Jones (soreness) on Wednesday, when neither took part in the side's pre-match training session. Those worries over their fitness proved justified when St Kilda took the unusual step of making multiple late changes an hour before the bounce. Both came out of the side, with Luke Dunstan and Paul Hunter introduced. For Dunstan, it was his first AFL appearance since March last year. He returned from form and fitness issues with 16 disposals, while Hunter competed admirably in the ruck. But the early blows on the injury front were soon compounded, when Jimmy Webster was forced to be substituted out of the clash in the second term with a groin problem.
ST KILDA 3.4 4.5 6.6 7.6 (48)
RICHMOND 3.3 8.6 15.12 20.14 (134)
St Kilda: Higgins 2, Lonie 2, Hunter, King, Butler
Richmond: Riewoldt 5, Lynch 3, Graham 3, Castagna 2, Rioli 2, Pickett, Edwards, Martin, Bolton, Aarts
St Kilda: Clark, Steele, Coffield, Battle
Richmond: Edwards, Bolton, Riewoldt, Martin, Graham, Lynch, Cotchin
St Kilda: Jones (soreness) replaced in selected side by Dunstan, Marshall (foot) replaced in selected side by Hunter, Webster (groin)
St Kilda: Long (replaced Webster)
Richmond: Ross (unused)
Crowd: 32,056 at Marvel Stadium