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Post-premiership rewind: Season review

Nathan Schmook, AFL Media  December 20, 2017 11:52 AM

Season review Matthew Lloyd, Gary Lyon and Damian Barrett dissect the glorious 2017 season in the Wash-Up.

Relive the Tigers’ 2017 premiership through the re-running of articles richmondfc.com.au published in the glory days following the tremendous Grand Final triumph.

In a nutshell

Richmond rose from 13th to first, winning a fairytale premiership just 12 months after the club's board and coach was under threat. The remarkable turnaround saw the Tigers reach their first Grand Final in 35 years and break a 37-year premiership drought. 

What they said in the pre-season  

The AFL.com.au team had little faith in the Tigers after a horror 2016 and predicted a 14th-placed finish. The pressure on Damien Hardwick was at "boiling point" and we said he needed to let an attacking game style flourish to make 2017 a success. A premiership hero in his fifth game, Jack Graham was the recruit we backed to have the biggest impact.

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What worked 

A small forward line that came about by accident but became the team's "one wood". Jack Riewoldt played as a sole marking target and was surrounded by small forwards who forced turnovers inside 50 with their relentless chasing and tackling. The structure relied on Toby Nankervis carrying a massive load in the ruck and Josh Caddy chipping in as a marking target when Riewoldt was injured.    

What failed

Stoppage and kick-in structures late in games during a run of close losses in the first half of the season. Against Fremantle in round eight, the Tigers couldn't defend a four-point lead from a centre bounce with 21 seconds remaining. One week later, Greater Western Sydney went coast-to-coast to snatch a three-point win after Nathan Wilson was allowed to play on from a kick in. 

Overall rating: A+

The Tigers found a magic formula on-field and off, playing their best football in September and on Grand Final day. They were deserved premiers. 

Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt celebrate with Damien Hardwick at the club's family day. Picture: AFL Photos
dimma players 740.JPG

The coach

Damien Hardwick sparked the Tigers' revival when he returned from the off-season intent on focusing on relationships at his club. Through that inspired decision, he built a close-knit group that played with a commitment to each other. He admitted to his flaws and changed, loosening the shackles and telling his players to "just play". Out of contract at the end of 2018, he was named the AFL Coaches Association coach of the year and got consistent performances out of his role players.      

The leaders 

Like Hardwick, captain Trent Cotchin inspired his players to open up to each other and grow closer. By leading in an authentic way and just being himself, his football has flourished. He set the tone with his tackling and attack on the ball and was a star throughout the finals. A re-worked three-man leadership group, with Riewoldt and Alex Rance as joint vice-captains, was hailed as a success.    

MVP

Dustin Martin: The superstar midfielder put together what Leigh Matthews called the finest individual season in the game's history. He was recognised as the season's best players by the coaches, players and media, and became the first player to win a premiership medal, Norm Smith Medal and Brownlow in the one season. All while a new contract was negotiated amid feverish speculation. 

Surprise packet

Jacob Townsend: Looked to be on his way out until he was selected as a replacement for the injured Josh Caddy in round 22. Picked as a defensive forward, he kicked six goals and another five the following week to cement his finals spot. His competitive work through the finals was important and he must still be pinching himself.

Townsend's meteoric rise from VFL forward to premiership star was astounding. Picture: AFL Photos
townsend pumped 740.JPG

Get excited

Jack Graham: A hard-nosed midfielder who looks built for the finals stage, the first-year Tiger earned a vote in the Norm Smith Medal after booting three goals. Injured for the first half of the season, expect big things from the 19-year-old after a full pre-season.

Disappointment

Reece Conca: Looked destined for a career-best year in the early rounds as a rebounding defender before injury struck yet again. Sidelined between rounds seven and 21 with a foot injury, he returned in the VFL but couldn't break back into a settled team. 

Best win

Grand Final: Richmond 16.12 (108) def Adelaide 8.12 (60) @ MCG

The Tigers saved their best for last, standing up on the big stage and dominating contested ball to outmuscle their more fancied opponents. They became heroes to a fan base that has been through so many lows.

Low point

St Kilda wiped the floor with Richmond in round 16, kicking 9.5 to 0.1 in a staggering second quarter. The theory went that a team that lost in that fashion, eventually by 67 points, could not win the premiership. However, the Tigers treated it as a wake-up call.  

Season in a song

The Killers ft. Jack Riewoldt (live) – Mr Brightside 

WATCH: Jack's cameo with The Killers

Premiership window

Wide open: They will only get stronger in 2018

Early call for 2018

Back-to-back premierships is the goal. They have found a formula that works and will be picked apart by the opposition. Will they handle being the hunted?