Damien Hardwick says now is the time for Richmond to make their move if they are to qualify for the AFL finals and win a third successive premiership.
Richmond acknowledge they have reached a critical juncture in their quest for a premiership hat-trick as they prepare to take on St Kilda at the MCG.
A narrow defeat to fellow flag hopefuls West Coast left the Tigers sitting eighth at the conclusion of the bye rounds, just one win clear of the chasing pack.
They are also two wins and a significant percentage outside the top four but will start hot favourites against the struggling Saints.
“The whips are starting to crack, so we’ve got to get our best footy up and about,” Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said.
“We’re hanging tough at the moment, we’re 7-6, we’re in the hunt…we’re not where we want to be and we know our best footy is certainly in front of us.
“But we’ve got to start playing at the level that we think we’re capable of.”
Star midfielder Dion Prestia’s return from a hamstring injury will be a boost against St Kilda, but key defender David Astbury (achilles) and tall forward Tom Lynch (knee) are still at least another week away.
First-choice ruckman Toby Nankervis (knee) is listed as a “medium-term” prospect.
“We’ve ebbed and flowed with the personnel that have come in and out of the side, but we think that will start to solidify from here on in,” Hardwick said.
“We look forward to those guys gelling and playing a better and more consistent brand of footy across a longer period of time.”
Friday night’s match will be the first played in front of a crowd in Melbourne since May 23 because of COVID-19 restrictions.
It will also mark the Tigers’ return to their home ground for the first time since May 7.
“It’s great to have fans back,” Hardwick said.
“We were fortunate to play in Western Australia with some fans over there but it’s good to be back at home…we love playing at the ‘G and it seems like an eternity since we’ve been here.
“It’s great to have our organisation back on the hallowed turf, so we can’t wait.”
Richmond have won six of their past seven meetings with St Kilda, including victories in Round 5 (86 points) and last year’s semi-final (31 points).