The Roar
The Roar


The dynasty is far from over: count Richmond out at your peril

Richmond legend Jack Riewoldt. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Roar Pro
2nd March, 2023
1391 Reads

Before Damian Hardwick’s arrival twelve years ago, the Richmond Tigers were continuously bewildered and lost for true identity, trying to keep their head above water and remaining relevant amongst their competitors.

Since 1994, the club had finished 9th on the ladder six times and missed a top-eight berth on 14 occasions.

Mediocrity was an obvious reality for Richmond and a need to navigate out of it and plan for a future their loyal supporters and members could finally be proud of was desperate.

Hardwick, a former player known for his toughness and tenacity, was targeted by the board as the right man to pull the yellow and black out of the doldrums.

Damien Hardwick

Damien Hardwick (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Successfully implementing ideas and an overall project takes considerable time in any sport. Luckily in Hardwick’s case, influential people at the top, including Executive Director Brendon Gale, recognised the vision for the club’s future and stuck with their coach after a few disappointing seasons.

37 years of heartache came to a remarkable halt, as the Tigers added their eleventh premiership to their cabinet in 2017. That year, they set the standard for the rest of the league to follow.


What did that identity look like? Explosive, fast-paced, intense, and endless pressure would be polished off by incredible talent to convert the hard work off the ball, into goal scoring chances.

This incredible dominance would be continued when the club won back-to-back flags in 2019 and 2020, creating one of the most compelling dynasties the AFL has ever witnessed.

Richmond’s talisman was Dustin Martin who would deservedly grab all of the headlines. Defensively they would produce a masterclass week after week by forcing quick turnovers from the opposition.

Team unity has always been the most admirable strength of Hardwick’s sides, but the most important area for their recent success has been through the midfield; the catalyst for the well-oiled machine that Richmond was in transition. That intensity and pressure we have all come to admire flowed seamlessly along with quick combination play.

Last year was nothing short of an underwhelming campaign by the Tigers considering their high expectations, compounded by their failure to make a finals appearance the year before and resulting in one question lingering on everyone’s mind – Has Richmond’s dynasty come to an end?


One of the biggest problems over the past couple of years that Hardwick has had to solve was his team being second-best around the contest, resulting in losing the clearance battles which had them struggling to assert themselves throughout matches.

Toby Nankervis and Ivan Soldo have been the go-to options in the ruck in seasons past, but one player who would be unknown to many is 23-year-old Mate Colina.

Toby Nankervis and Dustin Martin celebrate.

Toby Nankervis and Dustin Martin celebrate. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Standing at 213cm tall, the former basketball college product has his sights set on making his debut this season and challenging for the ruck position. The signs have looked positive throughout pre-season as Colina gains fitness, experience and form.

The additions of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper from the GWS Giants add a new dimension for Hardwick to work with. It’s no secret that Richmond is not getting any younger, and those two players will provide the fresh legs necessary to rediscover some of that lost intensity and work rate which has recently gone astray. Above all, it paves the way for the forwards to play more aggressively.

An ageing squad can be a negative, but on the contrary, experience could prove even more vital for a team that understands what it takes to go all the way in September.

A tough first six rounds could well slow down momentum and force the Tigers to play unwanted catch-up. Yet if they can navigate around that, there is every chance of Punt Road coming to life in September, as the Richmond Tigers make another tilt at the flag.