The hype surrounding Richmond’s pre-season form has been nothing short of farcical.
Again, as with previous years, the media and key figures within the club itself have managed to brainwash the majority of the football public into believing that the Tigers are finally the real deal.
All before a proper game had even been played.
Only days before Richmond’s season opener, President Gary March was quoted saying that “the Tigers have enough star power and depth to topple the top eight sides, including the Blues.”
He followed this up with the comparison of Damian Hardwick to four-time Richmond premiership coach Tom Hafey.
Last week it was Hardwick himself who proudly told of the Richmond goal-kicking power of Jack Riewoldt and Tyrone Vickery.
Last night Riewoldt was reasonable. Vickery was by far the worst player on the ground. He seems to have that title every time he plays Carlton.
Every year it’s the same. Delusions of grandeur have become as much a part of the Richmond pre-season as tipping competitions, Dreamteam and Supercoach. It’s no wonder the fans are let down year after year.
However, the false dawns are not just from within the club. The Richmond fans, so easily sucked in by the hype every year, have this incredible habit of talking themselves up, in such an unrealistic fashion that any loss is devastating.
You only had to listen to talk-back radio over the past two weeks to hear every man and his dog predicting the Tigers to be world beaters, starting with knocking Carlton off last night.
Admittedly, it’s hard to be patient after so many years in the wilderness. But good sides – very good sides – takes years to build and the Tigers are still years away.
It was foolish of the club and the fans to go into last night’s game thinking that turning up to the ‘G would be enough.
Richmond finished 12th last year, and on Thursday faced a side that had been a couple of points from a preliminary final. Yet all the talk from the club, fans and media for the past month was about how much they would beat Carlton by.
The Blues did some talking too. They have made no secret of their aim of finishing in the top four and challenging for a flag in 2012.
The difference however, is that when you are only a kick away from a preliminary final, you have every right to be bullish about your chances and expectations.
Richmond’s talk and expectations going into this season have been baseless. Yes, their NAB Cup form was good, but they played and beat third-string sides and allowed themselves get carried away by the results.
NAB Cup games are glorified practice matches at best. Good sides use those games to play kids and experiment with structures. Winning or losing is for the most part irrelevant.
Not for the Tigers.
Suddenly, after some solid practice match form Richmond, would be propelled into the eight and, according to the president, matching it with the best sides in the comp.
In time, Richmond’s midfield will challenge the top. Make no mistake, Cotchin and Martin will be guns. But not yet.
They are young, and consistency and fitness is something that will come. But going toe-to-toe with the calibre of Murphy, Judd, Simpson, Gibbs and Carrazzo is easier said than done.
Ivan Maric was a handy pick-up but was forced to play a lone hand in the ruck against Kreuzer and Hampson. Kreuzer, a former number one draft pick and arguably the best player on the ground, made Maric look second rate.
For most of the night, it was the same Richmond as last year. Fumbling, missing targets and choosing the wrong option far too often is not something you can just get right in one off-season. It takes time.
Richmond will get there but they need to be patient. By the time they are actually good enough to compete with the best sides they won’t need to do any talking at all.
The really good sides, and for the most part their fans, remain quiet in good times. That’s something that hopefully the Tigers will learn.
There is a simple lesson in life and it’s about time the Tiger army learnt it.
When you are good, you don’t need to tell anyone. When you’re good, they will tell you.