Adem Yze, and Damien Hardwick and Brendon Gale after the 2020 Grand Final. Pictures: AFL Photos

RICHMOND sought to be a mix of Geelong and Sydney as it ventured into life after a multiple premiership dynasty. Instead, it became a combination of Hawthorn and Brisbane.

Pursuing sustained high ladder finishes after exhausting bodies and minds in achieving the ultimate success has always been a high-risk strategy, and the Tigers' crash to the bottom reaches of the ladder in the early stages of the 2024 season will require years of rehab.


There are myriad problems, on and off field. The initial plan to push for more finals series beyond the three premierships of 2017, 2019 and 2020 has failed, and the people who were instrumental to that success simply have no more to give the club.

Evidence of the almighty crash of this club had been mounting, and confirmation came last week with Brendon Gale's long-known plans to exit the Tigers as CEO to take up the same title at the AFL's shiniest new toy, the 19th licence team Tasmania Devils, becoming official.

Gale needs to leave immediately, his public admission on the weekend that he had privately mulled his exit for the past 12 months, and had flagged it with club president John O'Rourke, was both refreshing in its candour but partially worrying for the Tigers, given a new coach had been appointed in that period.

Even if the co-football department bosses in Tim Livingstone and Blair Hartley were hard drivers of the decision to appoint Adem Yze, Gale sat as the club's boss. And now, with Yze struggling to just one win from nine matches, he will soon be reporting to a new CEO. 

None of this is a knock or criticism of Gale, for his integrity could never be questioned. No one shaped the path to all-time great Richmond success more than him. But he has checked out. It is understandable. He has given everything during 15 years in the post.

Brendon Gale and Trent Cotchin after Richmond's win over Geelong in the 2020 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

But decisions that he feels Richmond needs to make in the next few months, including the potential retention of Dusty Martin and Liam Baker as players, may not align with the vision of the person empowered to take over his Tigers CEO responsibilities.

Richmond's future is no longer his responsibility and concern, even if he holds very dear the finalising of funding for a $100 million plan to redevelop Punt Road facilities. And he is already on the clock, and hook, to make the Devils an instant AFL success. That is where is his focus now lies.


Confirmation of the Tigers' dynasty came on a Saturday night in late October 2020, at the Gabba, when they beat Geelong in that year's Grand Final to add that success to the 2017 and 2019 wins.

That season was a battle for all clubs, as it was the first of two consecutive COVID-affected seasons. In a 17-match home-and-away season, Richmond was ninth entering round nine before surging to finish third.

The behaviour and attitudes of players in that year at times angered the AFL, but ultimately, under Gale and coach Damien Hardwick, they were mentally and physically equipped to better handle the stresses and unknowns of that time than their rivals.

Richmond missed the finals the following season and unluckily lost an elimination final in 2022. After nine seasons as president, Peggy O'Neal stood down. In 2023, the lows began to become regular. Coach Damien Hardwick, despite 18 months remaining on a contract, walked out just 10 matches after pleading with club recruiters to add Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper to his roster in the desperate hope of having another crack at a flag.

Hardwick said he was too tired to continue coaching the Tigers on the day in late May 2023 when he announced he was out. Yet 90 days later he wasn't too tired to accept a five-year deal to run the Gold Coast Suns. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Richmond president John O'Rourke, Damien Hardwick and CEO Brendon Gale. Picture: Getty Images

There is no blueprint for AFL clubs to prepare to chase premierships every single season, as the "system", particularly access to high-end national draft talent, is designed to strike clubs which dare to go for it.

But the Cats – with flags in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2022 a Grand Final in 2020 and just three non-finals finishes between 2003 and 2024) – and Swans – with flags in 2005 and 2012, as well as Grand Finals in 2006, 2014, 2016 and 2022, and just three non-finals finishes since 2002 – have got the closest thing to it.

Those two clubs had perfect succession plans at CEO and chair/president level (Brian Cook and Steve Hocking; Frank Costa, Colin Carter and Craig Drummond at the Cats, and Myles Baron-Hay, Andrew Ireland and Tom Harley; Richard Colless and Andrew Pridham at the Swans). Both clubs were able to win premierships with different coaches, too. Mark Thompson and Chris Scott at Geelong. Paul Roos and John Longmire at Sydney.

Richmond is already down the Brisbane post-2004 (after premierships in 2001, 2002 and 2003, and a Grand Final in 2004) and Hawthorn post-2015 (flags in 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and a Grand Final in 2012) path, in having a crack at staying in premiership contention but being unable to master it.

No one should begrudge the Tigers for having a go, just as no one ever has the Lions and Hawks. Their successes were legendary. But all fired and missed after the highest point.

And now there is a lot to fix at Tigerland, at the precise time the main off-field architect will be setting out to create another dynasty at another club, one which will get an abundance of AFL headquarters-issued national draft and list priorities. There's no time to waste in getting started on the repair job at Punt Road.

X: @barrettdamian