Richmond's Ben Cousins lies injured on the ground during the AFL Round 21 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Hawthorn Hawks at the MCG.
Richmond fans, as passionate as they are, should not get too excited about their team’s win over reigning premier Geelong on Saturday.
If only it was a regular season game, and not a meaningless practice match, there would be cause for celebration. A win over the Cats, no matter when it is, should mean something. For many teams, it could. But not in the tricky case of the Tigers.
But, given Richmond has not played finals since 2001 – the longest drought of any club – the aim of new coach Damien Hardwick and his assistants, to lift the Tigers back up the ladder, won’t be reached overnight.
It will take a minimum of three years – maybe more. A poor draft record, coupled with the departures from last season, means there is plenty of hard labour to be done.
But Hardwick has never been one to shy away from a challenge. It’s how he made his name as a player.
He must be given time to fix the mistakes of those who have gone before him. In the cut-throat AFL industry, time is of the essence, but if anyone deserves an extra year or two to achieve their goals, it is Hardwick.
Since 2001, the Tigers have finished 12th, 13th, 16th, 12th, 9th, 16th, 9th and 15th. By any measure, it has been a barren period.
Hardwick has said there will be no short-cuts at Richmond this year, and there can’t be. But as effective as may be as a coach in the long-term, the initiation will be as tough as they come.
The blame is always placed at the feet of the senior coach. In Richmond’s case, no one has been able to find that magic potion to make the team.
So labelling Hardwick too harshly, too early would be unfair – especially given the unsuccessful tenures of those before him.
Some Richmond supporters may argue they have been patient enough already. Not many fellow football supporters can relate to the agony they have experienced, on a consistent basis, in recent season.
But, due to the club’s poor recruiting, the Tigers have not had a chance to rebuild their list.
Brett Deleido has been one of the success stories from the draft in recent seasons. Trent Cotchin looks to be a long-term player, and there are big wraps surrounding new draftee Dustin Martin.
Besides that, however, there is not much else. Will last year’s crop of Richmond draftees be able to develop quickly? They may need to or it is destined to be a long season.
The season starts with games against Carlton, Western Bulldogs, Sydney and Melbourne.
If the Tigers can emerge from the first month at 2-2, it will give their fans some hope. Last season began with a thumping at the hands of the Blues – let’s hope, for Richmond’s sake that history does not repeat.
So, it is time for more patience, Tiger fans – as excruciating as that may be.
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