RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick has slammed an umpire non-decision in Sunday's elimination final as "diabolical" after Shane Edwards was not rewarded for a tackle on Ben Cunnington at a pivotal point in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers were less than a goal behind halfway through the final term and enjoying a brief period of momentum when Edwards wrapped up Cunnington deep in the Tigers' forward line.
No free kick was paid, however, and the Kangaroos rebounded, with Lindsay Thomas snapping an important goal at the other end that gave his team breathing space before running out 17-point winners.
"It was a diabolical decision, really," Hardwick said after the match.
"I can understand one guy being blindsided but there's probably two other blokes and I reckon 80,000 people here could see the decision."
Hardwick stressed that his team only had itself to blame for Sunday's loss at the MCG after getting "beaten up around the contest", losing the contested ball 149-115.
There were also crucial errors in the last quarter, with key forward Ty Vickery missing an open shot on goal from 30m directly in front.
"He should've nailed it (and) he had Miles open in the goalsquare," Hardwick said.
"We back him in to make the right decision but unfortunately he missed the shot on goal.
"We just turned over the ball with a couple of really horrible turnovers where we looked like we were out to score."
Richmond rolled the dice with tall forward Ben Griffiths after six weeks out with a finger tendon injury, but he was substituted with four possessions and 0.2.
Midfielder Reece Conca also played after four weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury and started as the substitute.
"We thought if we got him (Griffiths) through two-and-a-bit quarters and bring Conca on, like we did, it would be OK," Hardwick said.
"I would have thought he (Griffiths) would have played better.
"We probably left out the 21st and 22nd players in (Sam) Lloyd and (Ben) Lennon and we brought in two players who we thought had more upside.
"You take risks. We put all our cards on the table, so to speak, and the reality is we lost."
The Tigers face a "long six months" before the start of next season, Hardwick said, after being eliminated from finals in the opening week for the third straight year.
The coach, who now has a 0-3 record in finals, urged supporters to "hang in there with us".
"We know we can play better than that. Today wasn't our day and we were beaten by a better side on the day," he said.
"We accept responsibility as leaders and coaches that we didn't get the job done.
"It's a tough six months to sit there and battle through and realise a lot of our better players didn't play to their expectation."
On the performance of captain Trent Cotchin, who was held to nine possessions by tagger Ben Jacobs, Hardwick said: "'Cotch' is an elite midfielder of the competition and sometimes you've got to fight your own battles".
He referred to West Coast's long run of finals losses between 1999 and 2004 – before making the Grand Final in 2005 and winning the premiership in 2006 – as a beacon of hope for the Tigers.
"The fact of the matter is we put ourselves in a position to contend, but we failed today," he said.
"Unfortunately it's a long road back and there's no guarantee you're going to get back into finals next year.
"You've got to work your backsides off to earn that right."