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Is Richmond's recent form something to worry about?

The Tigers have struggled on the road this season - and things aren't getting easier - AFL,Richmond Tigers
The Tigers have struggled on the road this season - and things aren't getting easier

TWO LOSSES in nine starts are probably not cause for hand-wringing and hysterics. 

Teams, like players, have bad days. Individuals get tired, form drops can spread through a team, and concurrently, it can all come together at the same time for the opposition. 

But should we have some small concerns about the Tigers after they were brought undone by the rampaging West Coast? 

They're sure to bounce back against St Kilda next week – goods teams generally do - but there's no denying the 47-point loss to the Eagles exposed some minor problems for the premiers. 

1. They've only beaten bottom-eight sides from 2017. 
Yes, you can only play who's put in front of you. But so far, the Tigers have registered wins over last year's bottom sides Carlton, Hawthorn, Brisbane, Melbourne, Collingwood, Fremantle and North Melbourne. Their two losses – to Adelaide in round two and West Coast in round nine – are the only times they've faced teams that played finals last year.

2. Both losses were interstate – with three trips to come before September. 
The 36-point loss to the Crows was at Adelaide Oval and Sunday's was their first trip to Perth's Optus Stadium. Last year's record at venues outside of Victoria was decent; they won four games and lost two, plus a defeat at Geelong's GMHBA Stadium. Still, their form away from home this season can't be ignored, and they have trips to Adelaide Oval (round 12 versus Port Adelaide), Spotless Stadium (round 17 versus Greater Western Sydney) and Metricon Stadium (round 21 versus Gold Coast), on the horizon. 

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3. Their fixture is about to get tough.
Playing a bunch of bottom-eight sides from last year early on had to come with a cost and here it is – from their remaining 13 games, eight will be against 2017 finalists, including double bouts against Essendon and Geelong. And, if you're looking at the ladder as it stands ahead of round 10, they've got five games against teams currently in the top eight, including a red-hot patch of four straight games – two on either side of their round 14 bye – where they'll meet Port Adelaide (away), Geelong, Sydney and Adelaide in the space of five weeks. 

4. They're questionable away from the MCG.
Could they have become "institutionalised" to the MCG as the result of six of their first seven games being scheduled there? Of course, being able to win at the ground is crucial given that's where it will matter come September, but the Tigers have got to win enough games to qualify in the first place. Damien Hardwick smirked after the loss when asked if they were getting "too comfortable" at the MCG. "What have we won, 15 out of our last 18 games? I think we'll take that," he quipped. They've averaged 15.6 goals across six games at the MCG this season and just 12 at other venues; two of three games that have resulted in losses and the other a narrow win over North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium. For the record, eight of their remaining 13 games are at the MCG.

  5. Can their pressure game be dismantled by the better sides?
They're renowned for swarming the opposition in order to force turnovers and it was that famous pressure that deserted them on Sunday. Going into the game, they were ranked second on average in the competition in pressure points with 802.9. Their tally against the Eagles was 649.6, which placed them 16th in the League for round nine. Credit goes to Adam Simpson's men for the way they managed to separate their swarm and force them wide, control the ball and dominate with uncontested marks, and to the Crows for smashing them in contested ball back in round two. 

6. Players and their individual battles. 
Trent Cotchin gave away a silly 50m penalty in the third quarter and was kept to just 14 disposals, Alex Rance was denied the chance to be the influential interceptor he flourishes as, Dan Butler and Jason Castagna were down on pressure, and Nathan Broad has been in decline for two weeks and had just five touches on Sunday. Brandon Ellis hasn't earned his spot back since being dropped in round five, Dion Prestia keeps picking up soft tissue injuries, and Reece Conca hasn't been as effective lately after his impressive start to the season. Still, Anthony Miles continues to dominate at VFL level, Corey Ellis has developed his inside game and Ivan Soldo is ready to go when Toby Nankervis needs a rest, so they've got options to change things up that will also include Daniel Rioli after a few more hit-outs at the lower level. 

So, while it's a long way from crisis time at Punt Road, there are certainly some minor points to keep an eye on as they look to recover this Saturday. 

"We've got some work to do, and that's the exciting thing for us," Hardwick said.

"With these sorts of losses it can go one of two ways - post-traumatic stress or post-traumatic growth."

Just what that growth will be and how it unfolds with their fixture and personnel challenges will be interesting to watch.