If five years ago you had suggested Richmond would one day be mentioned in the same sentence as the great dynasties of the AFL era – Brisbane, Geelong and Hawthorn – you would have been laughed out of whatever room or even building you were in.
But on the eve of the 2020 season, these Tigers have the opportunity to immortalise themselves in that group.
Already the resume is impressive: two flags sandwiching a minor premiership, six finals series in seven years, two Brownlow medallists, a multiple-time Coleman medallist, at least five future hall of famers (including coach Damien Hardwick) and a truckload of All Australian selections.
Those elimination final failures of 2013-15 are now but a memory, growing pains on the way to greatness. The terrible Ninthmond jokes buried under a mountain of premiership medals.
In perhaps the truest testament to sporting success, what was once a likeable, endearing, long-suffering supporter base has become a bloated, arrogant, entitled horde the likes of which even Collingwood and West Coast would envy.
In terms of talent, they’ll probably never be held in the regard of those almighty Lions or Cats sides, but the results are the results, and a third flag would deservingly award them dynasty status – and back-to-back premierships would give them something those Cats never achieved.
However the names may stack up on paper when compared to those powerhouse sides of what was a 16-team competition, these Tigers certainly have enough ability to defend their title.
Dustin Martin will feature at the very pointy end of The Roar’s Top 50 in coming weeks.
Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt are a frightening key forward combination backed by a fleet of dangerous and disciplined small and medium forwards.
The defence is stable, experienced, capable and connected, and Nick Vlastuin, Dylan Grimes, Big Game Bachar Houli and co. have already proven they can stand up without the retired Alex Rance.
Dion Prestia, Trent Cotchin, Kane Lambert and Shane Edwards are the core of a deep and versatile midfield.
There’s even scope for improvement with the likes of Sydney Stack, Marlion Pickett, Patrick Naish, Jack Higgins and Liam Baker still in the very early stages of their careers.
And there’s plenty of excitement about big-bodied midfielder Riley Collier-Dawkins, who will almost certainly debut this season – the Tigers are the competition’s 11th oldest list, which is not the profile you’d expect of a team chasing a third flag in four years.
Their coach is confident and their game style has shown it can stand up when it matters.
Things can change quickly in footy, but for now everything at Punt Road seems to be humming both on and off the field – bookies unsurprisingly have them as the team to beat.
Regardless of how this season unfolds, Richmond’s lasting legacy could be one of hope.
Much like the Swans of the past two decades have left their ugly duckling image in the past, the Tigers are an example for long-suffering clubs such as the Saints, Dockers and Demons that you can rewrite your story – and in a hurry – if things come together at the right time.
Maybe yellow and black army will continue to rule, or maybe it’s the right time for someone else to rewrite their story.