THE HARSH lessons learned early in the season are starting to pay off for Richmond, coach Damien Hardwick says, after the Tigers moved into the top four with a crucial win against Greater Western Sydney on Sunday.
Consecutive losses to the Western Bulldogs (five points), Fremantle (two) and GWS (three) between rounds seven and nine threatened to derail the Tigers' season, but they could instead prove the making of a strong run to the finals.
Hardwick said they were hard lessons to learn but they could prove invaluable, with a more disciplined approach to running out games evident once they took a match-winning lead against the Giants on Sunday.
"We spoke about it on Saturday. It's like some of those scars you get, you come back stronger. I think that's what we've learned," a proud Hardwick said.
"Sometimes, as disappointing as it is, the lessons you learn are often best when you're at your worst.
"There's going to be a stage where those games become close again and we will have learnt some lessons from those. Hard at the time, but long-term (they're) invaluable."
Richmond built a 26-point lead deep in the third quarter on Sunday, but it was cut to 14 with less than five minutes to play in the final term after back-to-back goals from the Giants.
That's when the lessons learned earlier in the season came to the fore, with the Tigers avoiding a repeat of the round nine result, which saw GWS steam home with three goals in time-on.
"We probably set up a bit better and we were prepared to lose inside to manage the outside," Hardwick said when asked to compare his team's two fourth quarters against the Giants.
"That probably stemmed our scoring a little bit but we were just making sure we didn't concede goals over the back.
"I think they got one pretty early in the last which made me a little bit nervous.
"But credit where credit's the due, the players fulfilled it pretty well and I thought we held up really strongly in the end."
Hardwick praised the performance of his superstar midfielder Dustin Martin, who had double figure clearances (11) and inside 50s (10) for the second straight week to go with his 31 possessions (17 contested).
Martin lifted after a quiet four-possession first quarter, turning the game in his team's favour with the support of captain Trent Cotchin (27 possessions and seven tackles).
The coach was also pleased with young midfielder Corey Ellis, who earned a late call-up to cover Anthony Miles (knee) and showed class with his nine possessions and three inside 50s.
The Tigers were hopeful Miles would only miss one or two matches after suffering a minor medial ligament strain at training on Friday.
Ben Griffiths will also return to the injury list after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the VFL, continuing a luckless run for the big man, who has suffered extensive concussion issues this season.
"It's disappointing because I watched him last week and he looks a class above VFL level," Hardwick said.
"You start to get him back in your side and his magnet starts to make its way to your board and then this happens.
"I hope for the sake of Ben it's not too serious, but I'll touch base with him later tonight. He's an important player for our group."
Hardwick said half-back Bachar Houli will come straight into the 22 to face Gold Coast next Saturday night at Metricon Stadium after serving a four-match suspension.