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Opinion

Four burning questions for Richmond ahead of the AFL restart

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Editor
4th June, 2020
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When you’ve won two premierships in the last three seasons – with both grand finals being blowouts – you can’t have too much to worry about.

Sure, Richmond were kept honest at times by Carlton in Round 1, but they come into 2020 with barely a care in the world.

As such, it was a challenge to come up with four burning questions for the Tigers, but I did my best!

1. Do we still have the hunger?

Yep, we’re clutching at straws here.

Whenever you’re the reigning premier, everyone else is gunning for you. Whether it’s the fellow finalists you knocked off or sides on the rise looking to test their mettle.

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It can be hard to get back to the summit when every club you play rises to the occasion and the comfort of having a medal in the cabinet back home tempts some players into relaxing a little.

But that probably won’t be an issue for Richmond for two reasons. One, they’ve had essentially a second pre-season to miss football and rekindle their passion for the pursuit of another premiership.

Two, the disappointment of 2018 likely won’t stop burning for many until they’ve retired.

Former Geelong captain Cameron Ling was lucky enough to lift the cup in 2007, 2009 and 2011 but to this day he still speaks of how the shock grand final loss in 2008 haunts him.

With that pain still raw for many current Tigers players, you can bet the hunger won’t be going anywhere.

Jack Riewoldt of the Tigers celebrates kicking a goal

Jack Riewoldt and the Tigers are still the team to beat. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

2. Can we win away from the MCG? Will we even need to?

As insanely dominant at the MCG as Richmond have been over the last three seasons, their record almost everywhere else has been poor.

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They have a ridiculous 41-5 record at the MCG since the beginning of 2017 (fun fact: that’s just one fewer game than Port Adelaide have played at the venue in history), but it’s nowhere near as good elsewhere.

They’re 2-4 at the Adelaide Oval, 1-1 at Optus Stadium, 0-3 at Giants Stadium and 0-1 at GMHBA Stadium. Even just down the road at Marvel Stadium (7-4) they haven’t been as consistent. Only the Gabba (2-0) and Metricon Stadium (3-0) have been happy hunting grounds.

With West Coast the current favourites for the minor premiership, an away final in Perth is what many see as the biggest potential banana peel to a Richmond repeat.

While they’ve been handed a huge reprieve by the fixturing gods in having their ‘away’ game against the Eagles on the Gold Coast, they may be forced to travel to Geelong to play the Cats this season.

Then there’s the (increasingly unlikely) possibility of this year’s grand final being moved away from the MCG.

As unfair as it seems, it’s likely Richmond won’t have to address their awful interstate record at all. This year’s just as likely to exacerbate that problem as it is to gloss over it completely.

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3. Are we a touch light on depth?

Again, another grasp here.

Richmond’s reserves side won the VFL premiership last season too, and as you may have heard once or twice (a day for the last six months), Marlion Pickett made his debut in the grand final and didn’t look at all out of place.

Clearly they’re a deep team.

But they still have lost some depth in the latest off-season, with Brandon Ellis heading to Gold Coast via free agency, Dan Butler joining St Kilda via trade and Jacob Townsend being drafted by Essendon after being delisted.

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The latter two of that trio combined for just eight games in 2019, but all three were 2017 premiership players. Last season, the Tigers were crushed by injury at times and found themselves outside the top eight as late as Round 14.

It wasn’t just Tom Lynch’s heroics that kept them afloat either, it was having enviable depth to call on and plug the holes.

Ellis is something of a big deal. The Richmond midfield now only has four 100-gamers in Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin, Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy. They’re still more than good enough without him, but if one of those four go down it could get a bit harder.

I’d cringe to think what would happen if Dylan Grimes or David Astbury were to succumb to injury.

Dylan Grimes of the Tigers is tackled

Dylan Grimes has been critical since Alex Rance retired. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

4. How many more premierships does this list have in it?

The real question Richmond fans will be asking themselves.

Despite sitting at the competition’s summit for the better part of three seasons, the Tigers show virtually no signs of slowing down.

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Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt, Shane Edwards and Bachar Houli are the only players on the list over the age of 30 and nobody else joins that group until next year. Astonishing.

So much of the list is still in their prime, while they’ve got plenty of promising under-24 talent coming through, headlined by Jason Castagna, Daniel Rioli, Jack Graham and Jack Higgins.

To cap it all off, they have barely anything to worry about in the contract department this year as well.

It will be a long while until this Tiger train pulls into the station.