HAS RICHMOND shown the value in staying the course?
Almost four years ago, a side that has since proven near-invincible was humbled. In fact, 'humbled' might be too light a word to describe the hiding it receiving from a rampant St Kilda outfit underneath the roof at Docklands back in 2017.
The Saints kicked 15 of the game's first 16 goals that Saturday night and led by a staggering 82 points at half-time, holding the Tigers to a meagre score of just 1.4 (10) at the main break.
A truly remarkable second quarter performance did the bulk of the damage for St Kilda. It kicked 9.5 (59) to Richmond's 0.1 (1) in that second term, creating a buffer that would eventually balloon to 95 points late in the third quarter.
For all money, a rare triple-figure margin appeared on the cards. Only for the Tigers to finally produce some fighting spirit in the final quarter, rallying to kick six of the last eight goals to reduce the deficit to a more respectable 67 points by the full-time siren.
It seems crazy to think about now, but just 84 days later Richmond would be premiers. Just over three years later, the Tigers would be celebrating their third premiership in four seasons at the Gabba.
What's even more surreal is that the club's playing list – and the 22 from that seemingly fateful night – hasn't really changed much in the aftermath. The Tigers and coach Damien Hardwick stuck fat, and his group has repaid the faith.
Of the 22 to play that night, 18 have since become premiership players. Taylor Hunt, Sam Lloyd, Connor Menadue and Tyson Stengle were the only ones omitted from that team for future Grand Final appearances.
What's more, 15 of the 22 have become multiple premiership players and 14 remain on the club's list. The aforementioned four players have since departed, Dan Butler and Brandon Ellis have moved to rival clubs, while Shaun Grigg and Alex Rance have retired.
But everyone else is still there. And, for the most part, everyone else will be running out for the Tigers ahead of their Thursday night clash with the same opponents at Marvel Stadium this week.
All three of the club's best and fairest winners from their three premiership years – Dustin Martin (2017), Dion Prestia (2019) and Jayden Short (2020) – all featured in that devastating loss.
Triple-premiership players like Martin and Prestia, as well as David Astbury, Jason Castagna, Trent Cotchin, Shane Edwards, Dylan Grimes, Kane Lambert, Toby Nankervis, Jack Riewoldt and Daniel Rioli all played.
In stark contrast, St Kilda has undergone major change ever since. Just 11 of the 22 that played in that morale-boosting victory remain on the club's list, while only eight featured in last Saturday's rousing win over West Coast.
Seb Ross was given the three Brownlow votes that night, while Tim Membrey kicked five goals and Jack Steele racked up 29 disposals. Jack Billings, Jake Carlisle, Jack Lonie, Dan McKenzie and Jack Sinclair also featured.
The other 14 have been switched around, making way for gun draftees like Hunter Clark, Nick Coffield and Max King, as well as high-profile recruits such as Butler, Bradley Hill, Dougal Howard, Zak Jones, Jack Higgins and Brad Crouch.
That's not to say St Kilda's own journey isn't working. Last season, an exciting young squad secured the club's first finals win since 2010. Meanwhile, Saturday's victory over West Coast showed its lofty ambitions for this season might still be realistic.
But after that night, it's fair to say the trajectories of both sides looked completely different to what they would prove to be. The Saints had drawn level with the Tigers at 9-6 inside the top-eight, reducing the percentage gap from 13.4 percent to just 1.3 percent in the process.
But while they sat almost dead even on the ladder, the seismic nature of that result appeared to have them both heading in different directions. What's followed since, no one could have predicted.