Ladder Position: 12th
From the very first home-and-away match last year we knew we were seeing a different Tigers outfit to those that received a regulation spanking at the hands of Carlton to kick off the season, leading by 20 points at one stage, despite eventually losing, and then forcing a draw with the Saints the next week without vital forward Jack Riewoldt for the majority of the match.
There were the ups and downs that you come to expect from sides so young and inconsistent, but there were some impressive signs, with a victory over Essendon in front of over 83,000 people and an three-week undefeated run late in the season over Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in Adelaide the definite standouts.
Players such as Trent Cotchin, Tyrone Vickery, Robin Nahas and Dustin Martin proved their worth on the field, having fantastic years and unveiling a bright future ahead for the Richmond faithful and the AFL, with a hard-edged yet intelligent coach in Damien Hardwick at the helm.
Now, what Hardwick would surely want – continued improvement. They jumped from 15th to 12th in 2011, and there’s no doubt he’d be pleased with that.
But Richmond’s goal, alongside the development of their youth, would be to rise up the ladder, and to a further extent, make the finals. It’s that hurdle they’ve only cleared twice since 1982 and it’s something their supporters desperately crave and have done so for years, and with their list, it’s not out of the question.
Trent Cotchin: He is no longer one with the youth. As shown by his weeks of captaincy after Chris Newman’s injury, he is a fantastic leader, and the captain-in-waiting. With a full pre-season his game stepped right up in 2011, matching the best and making his mark on the AFL, and there’s no doubt this determined Tiger has the goods to become an elite footballer.
Brett Deledio: Entering his eighth season it’s almost impossible to believe that he’s already clocked up 150 AFL games, especially given Richmond haven’t reached the finals, but Deledio’s done it. He’s remarkably consistent and his versatility makes an opposition coach’s life difficult as he continually marks and finds the footy and knows where to go with it, and given more midfield opportunity (or even forward) he should thrive.
Jack Riewoldt: ‘Jumping Jack’ is only 23 yet he is one of the very best forwards going around, with his marking ability in a contested situation second to none and a great kicking boot at goal making sure he doesn’t miss often. Despite being given more of a team role to spread the workload after the he made the 2010 Coleman Medal his, he kicked 62 goals last year, and with the side’s improvement he should push 70 again and give a second Coleman a real chase.
Brandon Ellis: There’s a reason Richmond picked this kid up in the first round of the draft – it’s because he’s perfect for them. His will to attack the footy yet his sublime kicking skills will allow Deledio to move up the field to wherever he pleases and allow Ellis to forge his own career in the backline. He’s already well and truly part of the back six according to his pre-season and is fully equipped to excel there.
Dustin Martin: The man-child at the Tigers, Martin is only 20 but has a stronger physique than most in the AFL, with the so-named ‘Dustin Martin fend-off’ becoming somewhat of a hit amongst supporters. He’s got undoubted talent and he knows how to win the footy, burst through a pack and either score or help score. Already, after only two seasons, he’s a fearsome player.
Dylan Grimes: Richmond’s backline stocks – at least, their key positions – at this stage look thin. This is where Grimes comes into play. The younger brother of Melbourne co-captain Jack is known for his shutdown defensive work, and provided he bulks up a bit, which going by his training ethics, is well and truly possible, he will have the size and ability to become Richmond’s top key defender that they lack.
Final Words: Richmond have some real talent in development down at Punt Road. How well it all gels together is the key to where they finish – a few places outside the eight, or potentially inside.