THE TIGERS are back to full strength and starting to purr again.
With triple-premiership stars Dion Prestia and Nick Vlastuin returning from illness on Saturday, a week after Dustin Martin returned from personal leave, Richmond is lurking at the foot of the eight and looking like a threat in 2022.
Damien Hardwick's men are now 5-4 after defeating Hawthorn by 23 points at the MCG on Saturday, banking a third consecutive win, 17.15 (117) to 14.10 (94).
HAWKS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
The Tigers were the best team for most of the game, recording 21 more inside 50s, 21 more tackles and 14 more centre clearances to comprehensively win the midfield battle. But they left the door ajar for a Hawthorn upset late before Jason Castagna and Shai Bolton put the game to bed with two minutes to play.
Seven days after being embarrassed by a depleted Essendon outfit in a fourth-quarter onslaught that saw the Bombers kick eight goals to one to record a famous come-from-behind victory, Hawthorn was gutsy until the end this week.
The Hawks led by a kick at quarter-time – when Jack Gunston landed awkwardly on the siren and was substituted out with an ankle injury – and then kicked the first three goals of the second quarter to open up a 25-point lead, looking unstoppable when Jacob Koschitzke kicked two goals in two-and-a-half minutes.
But just when Hawthorn had all the momentum, Richmond kicked two extraordinary goals out of nowhere. Jack Graham hit a bobbling ball from off the ground as if he was at the Kop End of Anfield, rather than the Punt Road end of the MCG.
Then Toby Nankervis plucked a ball out of the ruck and snapped from the pocket, while Max Lynch hung off him. Ten minutes later, Martin burst inside 50, cut inside with the ball under his arm and snapped a goal to put the Tigers back in front.
From there, Richmond was rarely troubled. Martin built into the game, just like he did last week, looking better the more minutes he banked. Shai Bolton was as influential in turning the game around as anyone on the ground. And Prestia produced another performance that underlined his value to Richmond's engine room, finishing with 28 disposals, eight clearances and 510 metres gained.
While the class of the Tigers eventually overwhelmed Hawthorn, there was a game within the game that was as enthralling as any match-up we've witnessed thus far in 2022.
James Sicily went to Tom Lynch at the opening bounce and rarely left his side for the next 120 minutes. Seven days after Lynch punished Collingwood star Darcy Moore for giving him too much space, Sicily was aggressive with his positioning from the outset.
It was the clash of two heavyweights. Mike Tyson versus Evander Holyfield. Both were among the best players on the ground, despite the influence of the other. Lynch feasted again to finish with four goals from 16 disposals and six marks, but it would have been much worse if it wasn't for Sicily.
Lynch is now six ahead of Carlton star Charlie Curnow in the Coleman Medal with 31 majors on the board after nine rounds, after kicking 17 goals in the last three rounds. After kicking 32 goals in 2020 and 35 last year, Lynch has roared back to his All-Australian best in 2022.
And so has Sicily, who has re-emerged as one the best key defenders in the business after missing 18 months after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.
Hawthorn started the new era under Sam Mitchell with two straight wins, but the Hawks have now lost four on the trot and six of the last seven games.
The Tigers aren't roaring yet, but they have their bite back.
Big moment from Biggy
When Josh Gibcus was ruled out on Thursday after entering health and safety protocols, the general consensus was off-season signing Robbie Tarrant would return to Richmond's back six. Instead of the veteran, Damien Hardwick turned to a rookie who had never played a game. Bigoa Nyuon didn’t let him down. The 20-year-old, who was born in Kenya into a South Sudanese family displaced by war, wasn't overawed by the level. Gibcus is expected to return next weekend, but with Noah Balta hurting his hamstring, Nyuon should hold his place in the back six.
Dustin Martin watch
In his second game back in action, Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin spent most of the game playing across half-forward as he builds his match fitness up after a six-week break. Martin spent a rotation in the middle of each quarter in the first half, but then he burst to life in the third quarter, weaving through traffic before just missing a snap early in the third quarter. Then he kicked one of the best goals of the day, poking a goal on his left from an acute angle at the city end. The 30-year-old finished with 20 disposals and three goals to take another step forward.
Pickett pick-off might be looked at
Two-time premiership player Marlion Pickett may be looked at for a heavy bump on Hawthorn small forward Dylan Moore in the second quarter. Pickett picked Moore off with a well-executed hip and shoulder on the boundary line, just in front of Richmond's interchange bench. The young Hawk got up and played on for the next minute, before Hawthorn's doctor took him downstairs for a concussion check. Moore played out the game, which could work in Pickett's advantage if the hit is assessed.
HAWTHORN 4.4 8.5 9.8 14.10 (94)
RICHMOND 3.3 9.5 12.9 17.15 (117)
Hawthorn: Breust 3, Lewis 3, Koschitzke 2, Wingard 2, Gunston, O'Meara, Lynch, Worpel
Richmond: Lynch 4, Martin 3, Riewoldt 3, Bolton 2, Soldo 2, Graham, Nankervis, Castagna
Hawthorn: Sicily, Newcombe, O'Meara, Breust, Impey
Richmond: Prestia, Lynch, Martin, Nankervis, Bolton, Baker
Hawthorn: Gunston (ankle), Scrimshaw (shoulder)
Richmond: Balta (hamstring)
Hawthorn: Connor MacDonald (replaced Jack Gunston in the second quarter)
Richmond: Shane Edwards (replaced Noah Balta at three-quarter time)