FOR SO long, Manchester United sent teams through the ringer in 'Fergie Time'. For over a decade, Lewis Hamilton has put the foot down in 'Hammer Time'. And now, with the AFL season reaching its most crucial point, the League is about to enter 'Tiger Time'.

Richmond is, once again, hitting its post-bye peak. In all three of the club's recent premiership campaigns – 2017, 2019 and 2020 – the Tigers began hitting their straps after a mid-year week off. This season may be no different.

Damien Hardwick's side went 11-3 after the bye in 2017, winning nine of its last 10 games on its way to a drought-breaking flag. It then went 12-0 after the bye in 2019 to emerge as the most dominant side in the competition. In 2020, the Tigers went 5-1 after the bye but enjoyed nine wins from their last 10 games.

Captain Trent Cotchin and coach Damien Hardwick lift the premiership cup. Picture: AFL Photos

This season, Richmond has only gone 2-0 since the bye. However, for a larger sample size, it has six wins in its past seven games and is undoubtedly one of the form teams in the competition. The profile of its performance also suggests there is more to come.

In every key Richmond-centric metric accumulated by Champion Data, the Tigers are replicating their '17, '19 and '20 best. It's the clearest indication yet that the 'Dimma Dynasty' might not be over.

In three important categories central to Hardwick and Richmond's recent premiership success – territory, scoring and defence – the Tigers have dominated the competition over the past two months.

In each of 2017, 2019 and 2020, Richmond ranked top four in the League for territory indicators including inside-50 differential, time in forward-half differential and the underrated stat of handball metres gained. From round seven onwards, the Tigers rank No.2 for inside-50 differential (+14.1), No.1 for time in forward-half differential (+11.57 minutes) and No.1 for handball metres gained (390.8m).

TERRITORY

2017

2019

2020

Rd 7-14, 2022

Inside-50 diff.

#4

#3

#2

#2

Time in fwd-half diff.

#3

#4

#1

#1

Handball metres gained

#1

#1

#1

#1

In each of its three premiership seasons, Richmond has also ranked top five in the AFL for scoring indicators including scores from turnover differential, forward-half possession gains and scores from forward-half possession gains. In their past eight matches, the Tigers rank No.1 in all three categories.

They also rank No.1 for points scored in that same time period (104.7 points per game) and No.5 for scores per inside-50 entry (44.4 per cent), significantly improved numbers even when compared with their trio of premiership seasons.

SCORING

2017

2019

2020

Rd 7-14, 2022

Scores from turnover diff.

#5

#2

#1

#1

Fwd-half possession gain

#2

#3

#2

#1

Scores from fwd-half possession gain

#5

#2

#5

#1

Then there's crucial defensive indicators including intercept marks and scores against per inside-50 entry, in which Richmond ranked top three in the League in two of three premiership seasons. This year, in its past eight games, it ranks No.2 for intercept marks (18.4) and No.6 for scores against per inside-50 entry (40.6 per cent).

DEFENCE

2017

2019

2020

Rd 7-14, 2022

Intercept marks

#3

#7

#2

#2

Scores against per inside-50 %

#1

#2

#6

#6

But there are also areas of Richmond's game, which weren't necessarily a strength of the Tigers throughout their recent premiership campaigns, that have drastically improved during the current season and in the past eight weeks in particular.

Not a proven ball-winning team – particularly in 2019 when the side ranked bottom four in the League for disposal differential, contested possession differential and clearance differential – Richmond has grown considerably in those areas throughout this year.

Led by Dion Prestia, since round seven the Tigers have ranked No.5 in the AFL for disposal differential (+14.4), No.6 for contested possession differential (+5.9), No.6 for uncontested possession differential (+7.9) and No.5 for clearance differential (+3.0). Never has that been more important than in their last game, when they overwhelmed the Blues' star-studded midfield on their way to another victory.

Richmond's Dion Prestia celebrates a goal against Western Bulldogs in R4, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

If you combine the ever-improving statistical comparisons to the continually shrinking injury list – Richmond's injury report featured just one player last week, an unwell Dustin Martin – then every signpost is pointing in the right direction at Punt Road.

And, once Martin returns – which could happen as soon as this week's crucial encounter with Geelong – focus will then shift to ensuring the triple Norm Smith Medal winner can build his loads in time for another September burst.

That, in itself, is yet another daunting prospect with 'Tiger Time' only just beginning.