The number of times we’ve all heard “teams just haven’t been able to cope with the Tigers”, and “the Tigers are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition”, and “the Tigers back their system and it stands up” has been in the hundreds in the last four seasons, maybe thousands.
That all ended on Saturday afternoon. But for how long?
Personally I’ve continually challenged the media sensationalism about Richmond, holding the view that they’ve never been miles ahead of the competition but rather just a whisker.
They’ve won three flags in four years but not, as the experts would have us think, at a canter. Rather, they’ve done it by the tiniest of margins.
I’m not questioning their quality as a top side or their status as multiple premiers; I’m merely stating that they’ve never been anywhere near as far in front as a lot of the experts have time and again put them.
In 2017 Adelaide won the minor premiership from Geelong, with the Tigers third. Most people expected Adelaide to win the Grand Final but they were well beaten by Richmond. The point is that nobody had the Tigers miles ahead.
In 2018 Richmond won the minor premiership by a couple of games but Collingwood hammered them in the finals. Collingwood went on to have a bit of wood on them for a while afterwards, too (when the Pies were fully fit).
In 2019 Geelong and Brisbane both headed the Tigers in the home-and-away season and Geelong well and truly blew their prelim final, being comfortably in control up to half time and then not turning up for the third quarter.
Richmond won, and huge credit to them for doing so, but they weren’t miles ahead (and they got hammered by Geelong in the home and away match by over 10 goals).
In 2020, Port Adelaide were the best team all year, won the minor premiership, and outplayed Richmond for most of the prelim but failed to get the one extra goal they needed. Brisbane beat the Tigers in the first final but didn’t make it to the Granny to have the chance of doing it again.
In that Granny, Geelong’s older side faded after half time and the Tigers ran over the top of them.
None of that reflects a team that is miles ahead of the competition. In actuality, the Tigers have come through some incredibly close contests by the skin of their teeth.
The fact that they’ve won their Grand Finals by a big margin come the final siren has fooled a lot of people into thinking they’re far better than the competition. They never have been. They’re solid in finals and have the best finals player ever, and they’re winners, but overall they’ve come out on top by small margins.
On Saturday they and their system were well and truly taken apart by Sydney. It was a total annihilation from the first siren to the last. No wonder Dimma and the coaches all looked like Jurgen Klopp after Liverpool suffered similar treatment by Aston Villa in the Premier League.
Liverpool haven’t been the same since. Will Richmond? A consummate thrashing like that has to send shockwaves through to their core. And give the rest of the competition a rousing wake-up call.
In previous seasons the Tigers would have been able to point to excuses for their early season losses, injuries to key players being the main one. On Saturday there was no excuse. They’d come into the season fit and firing. Sure, they have a couple of players out but nothing affecting the team’s performances too much.
On their fortress home ground, they were destroyed by a young Sydney team without Buddy. Many of the Richmond players looked to have given up well before the end of the third quarter, such was the Swans’ superiority.
Most people will likely put this down to an aberration. It wasn’t an aberration. An aberration is an abnormality. There was nothing abnormal about the Tigers going in.
They were on their game. They and their game plan were just totally inferior to what Sydney came at them with.
The Tigers may well get back to winning ways quickly but it will be fascinating to see how they move forwards from here.