Finally Tiger Time is here, but Richmond must again rise to the occasion

Tim Lane Columnist

By Tim Lane, Tim Lane is a Roar Expert

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    It’s surely a heady time for Tiger supporters. Even more so for the Richmond Football Club itself. Not only is the monkey off the back, but now the unthinkable appears possible. First, there’s an opponent to be determined. Then there’s a match to win on Saturday week. And then?

    Whichever team becomes its Preliminary Final opponent, Richmond has beaten it on the MCG this season. And the Tigers are now playing better than ever. So, the gate to the MCG on the last day in September is tantalisingly ajar. Next stop: The Gates of Heaven.

    Everyone knows it. Administrators, coaches, players, supporters, every man, woman and their dog. And, of course, there’s the dreaded media!

    Which is why I’m worried for the Tigers. Two weeks is a long time to wait while the world is in public rapture about you.

    Josh Caddy Richmond Tigers AFL 2017

    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    The Tiges are being widely compared to the Western Bulldogs of this time last year, but there are significant differences.

    For starters, the Dogs did an apprenticeship in 2015, making the finals and learning from disappointment and experience. Yet, even after they went to Perth and beat the Eagles on the first weekend of last year’s finals, no one was imagining the Bulldogs as potential premiers.

    Also, once the finals were underway, the Dogs didn’t get a week off to wallow in their success. They had to keep their eye on the ball through every day of the campaign. The Scraggers went into each game as a serious underdog.

    Neither did they cop a team that has been stung and had to think and fight its way out of a corner as the GWS Giants will be seeking to do, first this week, then – they hope – in a Preliminary Final.

    Of course, the Giants have a couple of huge outs due to injury, which only heightens the belief that Richmond has them covered.

    All the experts have been giving GWS a kicking. Even Denis Pagan has been prompted to put his head up and deliver an old-fashioned spray, the like of which frightened the hell out of Wayne Carey and Glenn Archer back in the day.

    The prevailing view is that the Giants have big heads and the future of this group of prodigiously talented players is at the crossroads. Yes, the whole venture into western Sydney is on shaky ground because a bunch of young punks got ahead of themselves. That’s what they’re saying.

    And what a good place that is for a club with high ambition as it prepares for a tilt at redemption! And what a concerning prospect it should be for teams about to confront GWS!

    Not that it guarantees a thing. And if it’s not the Giants it will be the Eagles who take on the Tigers.

    Of course, the football world knows the boys from the west are hopeless when they travel east of Adelaide. Not only that, they’ve twice escaped from situations in which Harry Houdini himself might have struggled. Dead-set lucky to have come this far is the general view. The Tigers would be happy to have them as their opponent.

    If it wasn’t for the game being played late in the day, they would have the Eagles on toast with avocado and feta for breakfast.

    Mmmm… if the Eagles don’t have a point to prove over the next couple of weeks, I’d be surprised.

    But Richmond has been spoken of as a potential premier since 10:30pm last Friday night. The lid flew off, clean out of the MCG, over Swan St, and was last seen crossing South Gippsland, headed for Mallacoota. Fifteen days of that as preparation for a Grand Final eliminator and who knows what might happen.

    Are the Tigers as good as the 2016 Bulldogs? Certainly, their quartet of champions puts them ahead: Martin matches Bontempelli, Cotchin is better than the Dogs’ next best midfielder, Rance is way ahead of any Bulldog key defender, and the same can be said for Riewoldt at the other end.

    Trent Cotchin Richmond Tigers AFL 2017

    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Yet the Dogs were more even. And in 2017 they were sprinkled with some rare magic dust, inspired like no team in living memory.

    It remains to be seen whether the young men of Richmond, too, will be lifted to a higher plane by the opportunity now before them. Or whether they melt under the spotlight. Collapse under the weight of expectation they now carry.

    Whatever, as our beer-drinking, baby-loving, footy-convert of a Prime Minister might say: there’s never been a more exciting time to be a Tiger.

    Tim Lane
    Tim Lane

    Tim Lane is one of the most respected voices in Australian sport, having gained a strong following for his weekly AFL column in The Age. Tim has also called 32 AFL/VFL grand finals and was behind the microphone for Cathy Freeman's memorable gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. You can catch him on Twitter @TimLaneSport.

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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • September 14th 2017 @ 9:18am
      tibor nagy (big four sticks) said | September 14th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      It sure is tiger time. The Richmond phoenix has risen from the ashes. The return of the big bopper Neil Balme to Tigerland has reignited self belief and confidence. We are on the brink of a Richmond dynasty. Even his Lordship can hear the roar from the ski lodge, as his beloved Fuchsias wilted once again.

    • Roar Rookie

      September 14th 2017 @ 10:05am
      Lord Dunsborough of the MCC said | September 14th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

      the mighty Fuchsias will bloom again – your so-called Tiger time is just a dead cat bounce. You surely don’t think Richmond are actually going to win the premiership? The football gods are capricious and cruel – they are simply elevating you up so you have a lot further to fall. I have been sustained by the hangdog expressions of the Richmond fans shambling out of the G with hollow eyes and grim faces back to their Punt road hovels for decades, surely that is not all about to come to an end

    • September 14th 2017 @ 10:05am
      Milo said | September 14th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

      Good article Tim. Id like to think the only segment getting ahead of itself is the Melbourne media. Seems everyday for the last week or two when I walk into my coffee shop there’s been a pic of a tiger player on the front page of the Melb tabloid rag. Sure there’s lots of fans so the theory is to sell papers but FFS…there’s this huge swell (and swill) of media and talking head nobs that seems to love talking Richmond up so high that they CAN only fail whatever and whenever a ‘test’ is put in front of them.

      Eg if we somehow win through to the last dance and manage to miraculously win that, the swell will only be postponed until the Carlton game in Rd1 2018. Nothing like keeping on building someone up until they fail and in a game where teams fail every week because you’re playing a competitive game, its like shooting fish in a bucket.

      Lets just focus on this weekend’s games and see who plays whom. Far as Im concerned we’ve won one post season game as have three other teams this year. That’s it. Move on.

    • September 14th 2017 @ 12:13pm
      Bolt1493 said | September 14th 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

      Tigers to walk it in, that’s what the opposition want them to think.

      • September 14th 2017 @ 12:53pm
        truetigerfan said | September 14th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

        Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, the old reverse psychology! Nup . . . not buyin’ it!

    • September 14th 2017 @ 1:02pm
      JD said | September 14th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

      I used to have a soft spot for Richmond.

      Not anymore because the air of tragi-comic “finished ninth or got bundled unceremoniously out of an elimination final” that made them so enticing is gone.

      It’s all very depressing, really.

      • September 14th 2017 @ 2:48pm
        David C said | September 14th 2017 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

        Melbourne might have tragically taken over 9th, maybe you can support them instead.

    • September 14th 2017 @ 5:51pm
      Brayden Rise said | September 14th 2017 @ 5:51pm | ! Report

      I’m sorry but the AFL deliberately conspiring and coaching umpires to deliver their chosen premier conspiracy theory is simply ridiculous.
      Just for a moment imagine it…a recently retired umpire comes out to the media in a few years with “yes it’s true, Gill had a chat with us all before the 2016 finals and said fellas it would be good for the competition to see a Doggies flag this year, let’s see what we can do”….? Really? Come on….the entire integrity of the competition and its history would be destroyed. This theory that the AFL conspired to deliver the Dogs fairytale is just that…a fairytale.

      What is possible of course is that umpires are human (oh yes they are!) and will react to crowd noise, emotion and stresses. Do they have favourite teams? You bet most will though they aren’t allowed to say they do. They can and will affect a result too as we saw in the West Coast v Port final. Not saying the decision was bad but one umpire pays it maybe one doesn’t….different result. Let’s just hope there’s not a contentious decision in the Grand Final that does indeed impact AFL history forever because they do have that power in the dying seconds of a close Grand Final.

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