Richmond coach Damien Hardwick believes the Tigers are better placed going into this year’s finals than last season, after they clinched eighth spot with another extraordinary effort in a three-point win over AFL leaders Sydney on Saturday.
The Tigers, who notched their ninth straight win, scored the first 33 points and five goals of the game at ANZ Stadium and held on to record a 10.8 (68) to 9.11 (65) victory.
Sydney kicked seven goals to two to briefly hit the front in the third quarter but the Tigers would not be denied.
Jack Riewoldt finished with four goals, three of them in the Tigers’ furious early onslaught.
Brett Deledio kicked three goals and got 27 touches, while Trent Cotchin logged 29 possessions.
Down back, Troy Chaplin and Alex Rance were immense, while Ivan Maric dominated the hitouts,
Sydney had their chances in the final quarter, twice getting within two points in a tension filled finale.
“It’s been 74-75 since we made back-to-back finals series and the way we’ve done it has been hard, but it’s built a steely resolve,” Hardwick said.
“Our boys have got unbelievable belief and faith in what they are doing, so however they go (in the finals) will be entirely up to them.
“But the way they play, the spirit they show; the tenacity to fight back when you’ve been headed in the last quarter three, four weeks in a row, is testament to how far they’ve come.
“Without being disrespectful to last year, I reckon we would have lost those games.
Hardwick said it seemed like Richmond’s 3-10 start was a lifetime ago.
“It’s been an enormous journey. Since then the momentum the guys have gained and the way they are playing, it’s terrific,” he said.
“I think we’ve turned the corner and started to lay the foundations of sustained success for us.”
The Swans suffered a blow before the game when star forward and Coleman Medal leader Lance Franklin withdrew with knee soreness.
Sydney coach John Longmire expected all of his injured players – Franklin, Josh Kennedy, Ben McGlynn, Craig Bird and Mike Pyke to train during the week.
“We didn’t start the way we’d like to the first quarter and probably ten minutes of the second. I thought our effort after that was pretty good,” Longmire said.
“We had a go, our blokes wanted to win, you can’t knock them for that,” Longmire said.
He was delighted that his side still finished as minor premiers.
“To be able to get off to a slow start (1-3) that we did and be able to sit here now at the end of the home-and-away season and go into a home final next week is what you want,” Longmire said.
“But we also know the work is very much in front of us now.”
Dan Hannebery secured 33 disposals and Tom Mitchell 30 for Sydney who had just one multiple goalkicker in Sam Reid, who finished with two majors.