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Eight times the Tigers looked gone in 2019

Hardwick on The Couch Damien Hardwick chats about the Grand Final on this week's episode of 'On The Couch'.

"NOTHIN' more Tigerish than a bloody Tiger, a wounded Tiger."

The quote from Tom Hafey, who coached Richmond to four flags, dates back to the 1975 preliminary final.

It also perfectly encapsulates the Tigers' 2019 season.

Unlike the smooth-sailing 2018, which came to an abrupt halt at the hands of Collingwood in the preliminary final, there have been numerous times this season where convention wisdom suggested they were gone. Season done. No way they can come back from this one.

But the Tigers kept fighting. An upset interstate win here, a close shave there, and a seemingly un-ending conveyor belt of replacement players, right up to Grand Final debutant Marlion Pickett.

Twelve straight wins later it culminated in a 12th VFL/AFL flag that, for so long, looked so unlikely.

The MCG holds its breath (round one vs Carlton) 

Richmond's season could have ended before it even began with one off-balanced landing.

Alex Rance, the five-time All Australian defender, leapt to intercept a ball but his right knee buckled underneath him.

The star full-back, so crucial to the Tigers' defensive structure, having saved the side so many times before in dying stages of matches, ruptured his ACL.

There was a brief ray of hope that maybe, his healing powers and incredible work ethic may see him make an unlikely comeback towards the end of the year, but he pulled the pin in early August.

In his place, Dylan Grimes filled the fulcrum role of the Tigers' triangular defensive structure so well, he earned his own Virgin Australia AFL All Australian blazer. 

The Greater Western Sydney implosion (round three v GWS)

Round three was the Tigers of old, and not of the good kind.

Trent Cotchin suffered his first hamstring injury, Dustin Martin got so rattled he elbowed Adam Kennedy in the head behind the ball and was suspended for a match and Jayden Short suffered a gruesome dislocated elbow.

To make matters worse, Giants spearhead Jeremy Cameron took young defender Ryan Garthwaite to the cleaners, kicking seven goals, while Jeremy Finlayson (up against second-gamer Noah Balta) booted five.

The Tigers lost by 49 points, and were well behind the eight-ball just three weeks in.

Injured Riewoldt and Lynch the "liability" (rounds six/seven v Melbourne/Western Bulldogs)

Jack Riewoldt had already endured a frustrating start to the season, suffering a wrist injury in the round two loss to Collingwood and missing three games.

And his comeback game wasn't one to remember, suffering a 10-week PCL injury.

To make matters worse, star recruit Tom Lynch was battling, coming off virtually no pre-season due to a knee injury, with Essendon great Matthew Lloyd labelling him a "liability".

But Riewoldt returned to fitness, and Lynch fired, kicking 63 goals for the year.

Anyone but Nankervis (round eight v Fremantle)

Last season, Richmond would have been in serious trouble if ruckman Toby Nankervis was unavailable for a stretch of time.

And that's just what happened when the big man lunged for a ball at a throw-in, losing his footing and tearing his adductor off the bone.

Nine straight weeks of rehab meant it was Ivan Soldo time. 

Soldo, a former Category B rookie from a basketball background with just eight AFL games to his name, impressed, although things looked dire when 19-year-old Callum Coleman-Jones was forced to face veteran Tom Bellchambers while Soldo was suspended.

After a false start (a further two weeks out with soreness), Nankervis came back into the line-up and rucked alongside Soldo, in a very different look for the Tigers. 

Well off the pace (round 12 v Geelong)

The loss to North Melbourne preceding this game could have been chalked up to the "new coach bounce", with Rhyce Shaw taking the reins for the first time, but the Geelong loss really signified the Tigers were struggling.

It was an understrength line-up to begin with (father-son Patrick Naish made his debut) but the young Tigers held the ladder-leading Geelong to just two points in the first term.

However, it all went downhill after that with the Cats kicking an astonishing 16 goals in three quarters to gallop away to a 67-point win.

Richmond was left to lick its wounds, adding Nick Vlastuin to an ever-growing injury list. 

The tipping point (round 13 v Adelaide)

What a nightmare of a week for Richmond.

One by one, the players dropped like flies. First Shane Edwards, then Trent Cotchin, succumbed to hamstring injuries, and Ivan Soldo pulled out ill.

All in all, eight of the top 13 of the club's best and fairest in 2018 were sidelined with injury (including the likes of important role players Kane Lambert and David Astbury), and Dustin Martin was named captain.

Mabior Chol and Noah Balta, who had one AFL game between them before this year, held down the ruck, and while the Tigers battled hard, they faded in the fourth and the Crows broke free comfortably to win by 33.

It left the Tigers sitting in ninth position after their bye with a 7-6 win-loss record and a percentage of just 92. 

The rains are here (round 22 v West Coast) 

Coming into this match, Richmond had to win to stay in touch with the top four.

At quarter-time, down by five goals, that seemed a distant possibility.

But the Tigers ground their way back into the game, nearly level by the time the rain came.

After recording win after win in soggy conditions, the Tigers were back on familiar territory, holding out for a season-defining victory against a fellow top-flight opponent thanks to a winning goal by Jack Riewoldt.

It's happening again (preliminary final v Geelong)

At half-time in the preliminary final against Geelong, it would be fair to say Tiger fans had a sinking feeling in their stomachs.

The margin was 21 points, the Cats were scoring easy goals over the back, and it was all feeling a bit familiar after last year's loss to Collingwood at the same stage.

A renewed focus on winning the ball out of the middle, a season-best performance from Tom Lynch and 8.8 to 2.4 in the second half got the Tigers into their second decider in three years, before taking out the 2019 premiership.

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