Road to glory: How gutsy Tigers defied odds
From its shock loss in last year's preliminary final to a Grand Final demolition in little over 12 months, Richmond has overcome the odds to climb the AFL's Everest for the second time in three years.
Jamie Tate charts the key events in the Tigers' rise from a side whose finals spot was in jeopardy midway through 2019 to premiership glory.
2018 preliminary final, September 21
THE SHOCK LOSS
Richmond enters the preliminary final a raging $1.38 favourite against Collingwood. The Tigers had won 18 home-and-away games and sat on top of the ladder for 15 rounds. They looked destined for a second-straight flag.
Collingwood ignored the script. The Magpies were electric, leading by 44 points at halftime and winning by 39. The football world was stunned.
The Tigers' pain cut deep.
"To bow out the way we played was really disappointing," coach Damien Hardwick said. "It was an un-Richmond-like performance."
October 8, 2018
The Tigers get their (big) man.
Tom Lynch, 25, joins Richmond after Gold Coast elects not to match the Tigers' seven-year offer for the restricted free agent.
"I had a walk through just then," Lynch said at Punt Rd. "'Dimma' showed me around and it will be awesome … black and gold everywhere, yellow and black, sorry. It's great."
RANCE'S CRUEL BLOW
Richmond beats Carlton by 33 points in the season opener, but no one is talking about the result. It's all about Alex Rance.
The five-time All-Australian defender injures his right knee in a marking contest. The ACL requires surgery and he doesn't play again this year.
"The initial signs don't look too good," Rance said on the night. "But I'm in a great team, we've got a great team culture and I don't have too much to be sad about."
YELLOW & BLEAK
Collingwood opens old wounds by demolishing the Tigers by 44 points.
But there are bigger problems than the result. Jack Riewoldt has a ruptured ligament in his right wrist, Bachar Houli has a hamstring issue and fellow defender Dylan Grimes cops a one-match suspension for striking Jamie Elliott.
The wheels aren't off, but the nuts are extremely loose.
Dustin Martin loses the plot as the Giants beat Richmond by 49 points in Sydney.
The Tigers lose more players to injury.
Martin is suspended for one match for striking GWS's Adam Kennedy, fined $1500 for striking tagger Matt de Boer and another $7500 (with $5000 suspended until the end of the 2020 season) by the AFL for his "cocaine snorting" gesture towards GWS ruckman Shane Mumford.
Hardwick was livid about the umpires' treatment of his champion.
"Why do you reckon he might give away that free kick?" Hardwick said. "At the end of the day, blokes come to watch the No. 4 play. Let the bloke play the game. Protect the ball carrier is what I'm saying. Don't get me wrong, De Boer did a terrific job, but geez … Well, I'm certainly frustrated."
The Tigers also lose captain Trent Cotchin (hamstring) and Jayden Short (dislocated elbow) to injury.
WORTH EVERY CENT
Tom Lynch stars with six goals against Port Adelaide to land a stirring seven-point win at the Adelaide Oval.
Debutant Jack Ross has 25 disposals, second-gamer Sydney Stack stars and veteran defender Grimes marks everything in a performance that earns his first Brownlow Medal votes.
"To see these young blokes come out here and have a fair dinkum crack, I think the Richmond people at home will just love the way they played," Hardwick said. "I'm incredibly proud. I'm like a proud dad."\
DOGS BITE HARD
The Tigers are toothless as they fall to a rampant Western Bulldogs by 47 points at Marvel Stadium.
The result, inspired by Dogs teen Aaron Naughton's 14 marks and five goals, leaves Richmond's win-loss record at 4-3. Nick Vlastuin (ankle) and Daniel Rioli (thigh) join the casualties.
"A bit of luck along the way would be nice," Hardwick said of the club's bulging injury list.
DUSTY BACK TO HIS BEST
Richmond completes a three-match winning streak with victory in the Dreamtime Game against Essendon.
Dustin Martin thrives in the rain at the MCG with 35 disposals, but Bachar Houli (37) is awarded the three Brownlow Medal votes.
Stack performs in the pre-game indigenous war cry, which Hardwick says is a sign of how much Richmond has developed as a club.
"We embrace who he (Stack) is," Hardwick said. "That's the one thing our club does well under Trent and the leaders. Probably three years ago we're saying, 'Nah mate, you're not doing that', but it's who we are and it's what we do.
"We want to make the guys feel really comfortable and express themselves."
The win lifts Richmond into the top four for the first time in 2019.
Adelaide beats Richmond by 33 points at Adelaide Oval and the mid-season bye arrives at a good time.
The loss is a third in a row after falling to North Melbourne (37 points) and Geelong (67).
The Tigers are 7-6 and sit eighth on the ladder with a percentage of 92. Hardly the profile of a premiership contender.
But Houli can see a very bright light at the end of the tunnel.
"I'm proud of the playing group the way we handled ourselves for the majority of the game. "We were four points down (in the last term)," Houli said. "It's a great effort, not good
"Hopefully we can get a few back, a few leaders. Obviously you lack a little bit of that.
"You have young kids who are full of energy, enthusiastic out there … when you have
solid leaders back in the team, they just really settle the group down and make good, solid
decisions at the right times."
THE RUMBLE GROWS
Richmond beats GWS by 27 points at the MCG and leapfrog the Giants into fifth on the ladder.
While the Giants lament star midfielder Stephen Coniglio succumbing to a knee injury in the first five minutes, Hardwick enthuses about his list growing healthier by the week.
"We're in a good place at the moment with personnel coming back," Hardwick said.
Emerging talent Shai Bolton is best afield.
IT'S A ROAR
The Tigers win their fifth game in a row and take Collingwood's place in the top four.
Martin is best afield in the 32-point win against the Magpies and Tom Lynch bags five goals, but injuries are never far from Richmond's story this year and Cotchin has hamstring trouble again.
The captain finishes on the interchange bench with his third hamstring episode of the season.
"Losing players at this time of the year is always tough," Hardwick says.
The Tigers firm to $3.50 premiership favourites with the TAB after blowing out to $17 after the Round 13 loss to Adelaide. Get on!
Richmond overcomes an early 29-point deficit to beat West Coast in one of the best matches of the year.
The six-point, MCG triumph in the wet extends the Tigers' winning streak to eight matches.
"It's the best win we have had this year, and obviously it's against the reigning premier, so it was pretty special to be out there today at a packed MCG," Lynch says.
Stepping into the Lions' den is no problem for these Tigers.
After finishing third on the ladder, the Tigers take a massive step forward by disposing of Brisbane by 47 points at the Gabba.
Martin makes every possession count with six goals from 14 disposals, Edwards is superb and Grimes keeps Charlie Cameron under wraps for the second game in a row.
"I was probably happy that we'd absorbed their best punch," Hardwick says. "We challenged our players to get better in a couple of areas and they lifted.
"That's the great thing about our side - I consistently challenge those players in Trent and our leaders to get better in certain areas of their game and they respond. That's why they're a pretty good side."
It further vindicate Richmond's hard pursuit of Tom Lynch when he decided to leave the Suns.
He bags five goals as the Tigers defy Geelong's hot start to win by 19 points at the MCG.
Lynch and Houli are the standouts, while Dion Prestia continues the outstanding form that defines his second-half of the season with 28 disposals and two goals.
"It was amazing. The fans all came out and the Tiger Army really got behind us and really
got us over the line in the end," Lynch says. "Words can't describe it right now. It's every kid's dream to get there on Grand Final day."
But the win comes at a cost. Tackling machine Jack Graham bravely plays on, despite dislocating his right shoulder four times.