TWO MONTHS ago the idea was folly but with just one match left in the regular season, Richmond has entered the top eight with a 26-point win over St Kilda.
While next week's trip north to play Sydney Swans will determine whether the Tigers stay there, Richmond's best streak in 34 years was cause for celebration in itself.
Led by a six-goal haul from Jack Riewoldt, the Tigers made short work of St Kilda for their eighth straight victory, winning 15.8 (98) to 10.12 (72) at a wet MCG on Sunday.
Having restored parity in their win-loss record last weekend in Adelaide, Richmond improved to 11-10 with their demolition of the hapless Saints.
"I just wish we had it earlier in the year. It wasn't through lack of trying, we just couldn't quite get the belief and confidence back up to last year's level," Hardwick said.
"We certainly were taking the game on, which is when we play our best footy and most sides do. We made a couple of errors today which drove me a bit insane in the box there towards the last quarter, but the thing is you've got to dare to be bold.
"From our point of view, we'll continue to play that way. Sometimes it will come off, sometimes it won't, but that's when we play our best footy."
The rout was on early, with Riewoldt's first-minute conversion followed by Ben Griffiths' impressive running checkside in the second minute.
When Brett Deledio stole the ball in midfield soon after, shrugged a tackle and goaled from the top of the 50-metre arc, the roar of the Tiger faithful told the story.
Richmond had six goals before the Saints had their first, all but ending the contest.
Chris Newman and Bachar Houli powered Richmond from defence, with the re-signed Anthony Miles and Shaun Grigg doing the grunt work in midfield.
Up front, Riewoldt raised eyebrows by opting to kick around the corner instead of lining up traditional drop punts from the pocket.
But it didn't affect his output, with 6.2 his best return since an 11-goal bag against Greater Western Sydney in May.
After Richmond's electric start, St Kilda did rally with two unanswered goals either side of quarter-time.
Nick Riewoldt's fine goal started from a run-up on the MCG fence reduced the Tigers' lead to seven points but Richmond responded.
The Tigers kicked the next seven goals to open up a 50-point lead, taking their foot off the pedal late to leave St Kilda with a flattering scoreline.
"We played two good quarters of footy and I think St Kilda probably showed us a little bit up at certain stages," Hardwick said.
"We've got a big challenge."
David Armitage and Riewoldt were St Kilda's best on another learning curve for the young side.
First-gamer Spencer White showed strong ability, kicking three goals in a promising debut.
"The first 15 minutes we were off the pace. Richmond were certainly dominating every facet of the game, marking it, scoring when they went forward," Richardson said.
"But at the end of the game we were five less on (inside 50) entries, we had one less scoring shot and won two quarters of footy.
"There's no doubt there were some positives, but there were periods where they were just a bit too good.
"It was really pleasing the last quarter. There have been times this year when we fought ourselves back into the contest and then dropped away.
"So to win some really important statistics, to lay 20 tackles late in the game, to score 5.3 to 2.3 in the last quarter was a positive."
Tough defender Steven Morris taking no chances with a double-fisted spoil. Picture: AFL Media
RICHMOND 6.0 8.3 13.5 15.8 (98)
ST KILDA 2.2 4.7 5.9 10.12 (72)
Richmond: Riewoldt 6, Deledio 2, Griffiths 2, Batchelor, Maric, Foley, Petterd, Ellis
St Kilda: White 3, Riewoldt 2, Shenton, Fisher, Armitage, Newnes, Murdoch
Richmond: Riewoldt, Miles, Houli, Deledio, Rance, Maric, Newman
St Kilda: Armitage, Riewoldt, Dempster, Steven, Montagna
St Kilda: Nil
Richmond: Ben Lennon replaced Chris Newman in the third quarter
St Kilda: Brodie Murdoch replaced Rhys Stanley at three-quarter time
Umpires: Dalgleish, Burgess, Mollison
Official crowd: 47,188 at the MCG