Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has now been involved in enough Round 1 blockbusters against Carlton not to get distracted by all the hype.
When the Tigers tackle the Blues in the 2015 season-opener next Thursday (April 2), Hardwick will be keeping it all in perspective.
“I think early days in my coaching career, obviously being a young coach, it’s like if you lost that first game, it was season over,” Hardwick said on SEN.
“For us, it’s all about that (opening) four-week block (v Carlton, Western Bulldogs, Brisbane and Melbourne).
“We look at that four-week block and you might go three and one, hopefully you go four and zip, you might go two and two.
“The season’s so long, it’s all about the management of your players and that longer-term plan. But understand, we also want to win every game we play and most coaches would be the same.
As much as we feel as if it’s a be-all, end-all, it’s only one game of 22.
“They’re all worth four points, although they seem like they’re worth 16 in that first round.”
Hardwick isn’t fazed by the expectations placed on his team by the Tiger Army, who are craving success.
“The one thing we love about our fans is the passion they exude . . . You’ve only got to come to an MCG game and get behind the goals and listen to that power of the Richmond roar.
“I’ve been part of some pretty big clubs, but I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite like it when those Richmond fans get on top note.
“Look, we harness the expectation, we know it’s there.
“We’ve got to improve, we know that . . . 17 other clubs would be saying exactly the same thing.
“We were relatively disappointing last year. We made finals, but it wasn’t the year we would like to have and we understand that.
“The big thing for us, going forward, is we know that incremental improvement is where it’s at.
“We’ve just got to start well, starting Round 1 Thursday next week, and go from there . . .”