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Richmond closing in on unprecedented AFL first

Daniel Rioli and Shaun Grigg celebrate during the 2017 AFL grand final. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Roar Rookie
8th May, 2018
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1624 Reads

Damien Hardwick and his club have almost become accustomed to breaking records and making history.

Of course, in 2017, Richmond became the first club to win a premiership after finishing 13th the year prior.

Superstar Dustin Martin became the first player to win a Brownlow Medal and Norm Smith Medal, while playing in a premiership team.

Peggy O’Neal became the first female AFL President to lead a club to a premiership.

And the coach joined elite company when by winning a premiership at his third club as a player or coach, accompanying greats Ron Barassi, Leigh Matthews and Mick Malthouse.

However, once again the Tigers are in a position to re-write the history books for an entirely different reason.

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The AFL dates all the way back to 1897 and throughout this time, the 22 players who have taken the field to win a flag for their club have never all played together again after the grand final.

It seems difficult to believe at first, but a combination of trades, injuries, retirements, suspensions and form have prevented a coach from selecting their identical premiership side in any of the following seasons.

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However, Richmond could very well be the first club to break this odd trend.

The 22 Tigers who ran onto the MCG on September 30 2017 to claim Richmond’s 11th premiership all remain on the club’s list. And, for the most part, the club have only been one or two players short of achieving the remarkable feat.

Richmond have had a clean bill of health, allowing the club to be at near full-strength during the 2017 finals tilt, continuing into this season.

After playing three games in 13 days through Rounds 5-7, Trent Cotchin, Dion Prestia and Shaun Grigg have sustained minor injuries leading to a cautious approach in selection.

Daniel Rioli is the only premiership Tiger to miss a significant chunk of the season, due to a broken foot sustained in the dying moments of the 2017 grand final.

But his return is nearing and he aims to play in the Dreamtime at the ‘G match against Essendon in Round 11.

Daniel Rioli Richmond Tigers AFL 2017 tall

Daniel Rioli (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Form has largely been a non-issue, with Brandon Ellis and Jacob Townsend the only premiership players to have been omitted – both prior to the Round 6 victory over Collingwood.

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Nathan Broad has returned in solid form after serving a three-match suspension earlier in the year. But it will be hard to drop young gun Jack Higgins after kicking seven goals in his first three career games.

Perhaps the biggest dilemma in achieving this historic feat will be the unlucky Tigers who just missed the opportunity to play on the last day in September.

Sam Lloyd, Anthony Miles, Corey Ellis, Jayden Short, Reece Conca and Shai Bolton all played in Richmond’s VFL grand final loss, but have featured in Richmond’s 2018 AFL side.

They are hungry for success and eager to break into a team that looks to be a contender once again.

It’s optimistic, as the slightest injury could crush this idea. And even more so, to have the same group of players be at their best form at any given time considering the selection headaches the coach must face every week.

But to see a premiership side play together again for the first time ever would be unique and simply special.

Perhaps it would be fitting to see the 2017 premiership team play in Round 12 against Port Adelaide, or Round 18 against St Kilda. Richmond, as the away side, will be forced to wear their inverted clash guernsey, much like they did to win the premiership.

Dustin Martin Richmond Tigers AFL Grand Final 2017 tall

AAP Image/Julian Smith

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Or maybe against the very team they beat in the grand final, in Round 16 against Adelaide, at the MCG. A game that would shape to be a fiery clash, regardless of who takes the field.

If the stars align, ‘Dimma’ must pick those players who are now life members of the Richmond Football Club, just for a single game, to create a historic moment that has never happened before and may never happen again.